Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, said he is encouraged by a spate of Democratic victories in states like Virginia, Oklahoma and Alabama, but that Democrats in Wisconsin shouldn't expect to ride a wave in 2018 without offering an alternative to the state's Republican majority.
Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the victories in other states don't say much about what will happen in Wisconsin.
"We can’t just wait for the pendulum to swing," Hintz said in an interview. "We’re going to make sure our members are not just concentrating on the eight years of mismanagement at the state level but also are pushing an agenda that resonates with the public about what Assembly Democrats will do to enhance opportunity throughout the state of Wisconsin."
Recent elections in Virginia and Alabama both illustrated the importance of turnout, Hintz said. A recount completed on Tuesday gave Democrats a 50-50 split in the state's House of Delegates when the Democratic candidate resulted in a tie. The Virginia elections also demonstrated the importance of fielding a lot of candidates and raising enough money to compete, Hintz said.
Since the 2016 election, Hintz said, he's met with groups that didn't even exist a year ago, "and they are just people who don’t like what’s happening and want to get involved but don't fit into the traditional mold."
Hintz said he sees opportunity for Wisconsin Democrats in areas like southwestern Wisconsin, and even the traditionally deep-red Milwaukee suburbs. But he said the goal is to run candidates "in every seat."
But Vos remained confident in his party's ability to maintain a majority, currently at a historically high 64 seats.
"You look at what happened in Virginia, I think 14 of the 16 districts (that Democrats won) were carried by Hillary Clinton. Well, Assembly Republicans (in Wisconsin) only have three districts that were carried by Hillary Clinton. If you look at what happened in Alabama, I don’t think you’re going to see that in our state," Vos said, alluding to the widespread allegations of sexual misconduct against Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who lost to Democrat Doug Jones.
Both Hintz and Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, have said that while they believe a U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning the state's legislative maps would make Democrats more competitive, they are basing their strategies on the current reality.
Voters can expect to hear about the state's $3 billion incentive package for Taiwanese electronics company Foxconn from Democrats, who argue the money will divert resources away from things like education and transportation in the future. Hintz pointed to a recent Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo that found roads near the project could funnel $134 million away from other state highway projects.
"That (transportation) problem existed in 2011 and that problem exists in 2018, and so Democrats, we’ve said, we’re willing to come to the table and support sensible solutions that address the revenue problem that exists," Hintz said of the state's roads funding. "It’s crazy that the governor has gone four budgets without addressing this problem as our infrastructure has declined."
Vos said he is hopeful lawmakers will get "serious" in the new year about finding a long-term transportation solution, but commended Assembly Republicans for succeeding in arguing down the level of bonding included in the 2017-19 budget.
He argued Republicans have improved the state's economic picture.
"Will we see the same normal midterm issues that every governing party has? Probably, but I think Wisconsin is in a different place," he said. "We have low unemployment … a surplus, we put more money into education. So pretty much anything you could ask for, we’re doing."