Legislative Candidates Amass Record War Chests

Most primary candidates who spent more won their races

September 18, 2006

Madison - Legislative candidates had a record $5.1 million in their campaign accounts with incumbents holding a $6 to $1 cash advantage over their challengers a little more than two months before the November 7 general election, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review shows.

The latest figures show legislative candidates, particularly incumbents, continue to conduct unbridled fundraising from wealthy contributors despite widespread public disgust over the ethics and job performance of elected public officials who often put special interests ahead of public interests, and the convictions of five former legislative leaders in the last year.

The latest data was taken from preprimary campaign finance reports filed earlier this month that cover fundraising and spending between July 1 and August 28 by legislative candidates in 99 Assembly and 17 Senate races, and it shows:

  • The $5.1 million sitting in legislative campaign accounts at the end of August was striking because legislative fundraising generally takes a dip in election years where legislative candidates have to compete for contributions with candidates for governor, attorney general and other statewide offices.

    Instead, their war chests are up 29 percent from the $3.96 million legislative candidates had at this time in 2004, a non-gubernatorial election year. The latest total was also 38 percent higher than the $3.69 million legislative candidates had in the 2002 gubernatorial election year and 96 percent higher than the $2.6 million they had on hand at this time in the 1998 gubernatorial election year.

  • In addition to the candidates’ fundraising committees, four fundraising committees controlled by Democratic and Republican leaders in the Assembly and Senate and heavily funded by special interests had an additional $312,404 on hand to spend on election activities.
  • Legislative candidates who had primary contests and had outspent their opponents through August 28 won 25 of those 31 races. Statewide candidates who outspent their opponents in the Democratic and Republican primaries for attorney general and the Republican lieutenant governor primary also won.
  • The 104 incumbent legislators up for reelection had $3.79 million in their war chests, a $6-to-$1 advantage over the $640,636 that 89 challengers had in their campaign accounts. Fifty candidates vying for open seats, which occur when there is no incumbent running for reelection, had $658,224 on hand August 28.
  • In the Assembly, 88 incumbents had $2.51 million in the bank and held a $9-to-$1 advantage over their 71 challengers who had $293,102 on hand. Forty-eight candidates for open seats had $355,779 in their accounts.
  • In the Senate, 16 incumbents had $1.28 million on hand and a $4-to-$1 advantage over their 18 challengers who had $347,535 in their campaign accounts. Two open-seat candidates had $302,445.
  • Legislative candidates raised $1.5 million in July and August – about 3 percent more than the $1.46 million they raised at the same time in 2004 and 39 percent more than the $1.08 million they raised in 2002.

Eleven legislative candidates sat on campaign accounts of more than $100,000 at the end of August (see Table 2 below). Three of the top five candidates always have high cash balances because they rarely ever face a serious reelection challenge. They are Republican Senator Mike Ellis of Neenah who had $211,793, and Democratic Representatives Sheldon Wasserman of Milwaukee with $191,802 and Spencer Black of Madison with $144,743.

Rounding out the top five legislative cash balances are the two open-seat candidates vying for the 21st Senate District seat representing Racine. This will probably be the most expensive legislative race this year pitting Republican William McReynolds, who had $169,155 in his campaign account, against Democrat John Lehman, who had $133,290 on hand at the end of August.

For a complete list of legislative candidates, the amount they raised and their cash on hand see the links below.

Primary Race Winners Top Legislative Cash Balances
Candidates by Total RaisedCash on HandAlphabetical
2004 Pre-Primary Fundraising2002 Pre-Primary Fundraising

Table 1
Primary Races In Which The Biggest Spender Won*

(Winners are in bold)

Office Party Candidate Total Spent
AG Dem Falk, Kathleen $847,695.54
Lautenschlager, Peg $443,883.36
Rep Bucher, Paul E $305,424.04
Van Hollen, JB $664,444.53
LG Rep Hundertmark, Jean $46,095.11
Voegeli, Nicholas J $0.00
A06 Rep Drengler, JP $602.96
McMahon, Scott D $3,231.95
Tauchen, Gary $25,352.23
Vannes, Dale R $3,772.63
A16 Dem Parker, Andrew $2,162.65
Young , Leon $21,154.54
A23 Dem Elliott, Bill $5,686.14
Ihler, Toni $1,723.35
Teplin, Stanley F $11,544.82
A29 Dem Kittel, Kerry $2,310.66
Mohn, Craig $815.42
A37 Dem Christensen, Walter M $1,623.31
Jorgensen, Andy $3,857.01
Rep Gasper, Greg $11,507.35
Hermanny, Joseph $1,993.12
Lund, Dennis $10,101.67
A40 Rep Lorge, Andrew David $2,428.72
Murray, Hyde H $3,199.72
Petersen, Kevin David $14,525.82
A49 Rep Loeffelholz, Gabe $15,486.81
Lundell, Dennis $9,668.67
A53 Rep Owens, Carol $10,728.80
Spanbauer, Richard J $2,570.99
A54 Rep Didlo, Larry L $500.00
Leschke, Julie Pung $26,595.60
A56 Rep Krueger, Jeanne A $1,563.08
Roth, Roger J Jr $14,625.59
Wallis, Bob $3,131.10
A73 Dem Boyle, Frank $6,168.38
Meyers, Bruce $1,407.22
A74 Rep LaBarre, Shirl A $4,258.45
Suminski, Dave $821.04
A80 Dem Fellows, Walter D $4,282.81
Ringhand, Janis $8,176.60
A81 Dem Sanders, Henry Jr $13,729.47
Travis, David $14,402.60
A83 Rep Gunderson, Scott $7,321.80
Richmond, David $799.97
A88 Dem Aude, Dan $3,451.81
Soletski, Jim $4,319.82
A89 Dem Berman, Bruce J $2,525.00
Koehn, Randy $4,567.58
Rep Drzewiecki, Gary $1,867.77
Nygren, John $9,608.30
A90 Dem Arnoldi, Carl $3,140.03
Froseth, Gary L $8,078.52
A91 Dem Gronemus, Barbara $3,049.18
Totty, Mark A** $0.00
A97 Rep Kramer, Bill $14,957.35
Lufter, Chris $4,639.14
A98 Rep Collison, Robert G $11,570.21
Goodwin, Frank $3,929.08
Maxwell, Mike $20,132.53
Schellinger, Thomas J $2,090.80
Zipperer, Rich $29,843.01
S23 Rep Anderson, Karen L $4,390.51
Zien, David $53,749.93
S31 Dem Danou, Christopher H $12,855.80
Vinehout, Kathleen $25,820.80

*In one race, Assembly District 87, a pre-primary report for the winning candidate was not available.
**Pre-primary report was unavailable.

Table 2
Top Legislative Cash Balances

Candidate Status* Party Office End Cash
Ellis, Michael I R S19 $211,792.78
Wasserman, Sheldon I D A22 $191,801.83
McReynolds, William O R S21 $169,154.99
Black, Spencer I D A77 $144,743.00
Lehman, John O D S21 $133,290.20
Leibham, Joseph I R S09 $132,850.97
Decker, Russ I D S29 $131,811.42
Kreibich, Robin I R A93 $125,002.63
Brown, Ronald I R S31 $117,922.46
Schultz, Dale I R S17 $117,524.74
Kreitlow, Patrick C D S23 $102,401.48

*I-Incumbent, O-Open Seat, C-Challenger