Democrats have "several candidates" considering a run for the now-vacant 42nd Assembly District, but none have made their intentions public yet.
Rep. Keith Ripp, R-Lodi, resigned last week from his seat to serve as assistant deputy secretary for the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. His district lies just north of Madison and covers most of Columbia County, along with parts of Dane, Marquette, Green Lake, Fond du Lac and Dodge counties.
"It says a lot that this announcement is coming between two holidays that have most of the state thinking of family and friends rather than politics," said Doug Hyant, executive director of the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee, in an email. "Keith Ripp is running away and leaving his constituents unrepresented rather than face the building Democratic wave."
Ripp was first elected in 2009 and most recently defeated Democrat George Ferriter by 17 points in 2016. He and his wife live and work on their family farm and also run a small trucking business.
Before Republicans redrew legislative districts in 2011, the 42nd Assembly District included parts of Adams, Marquette, Columbia and Sauk counties. Democrat Fred Clark held the seat for one term after ousting Republican J.A. "Doc" Hines, who had represented the district from 2001 to 2009.
The 42nd Assembly District contains two so-called "pivot counties" — counties that elected Democratic President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 before supporting Republican President Donald trump in 2016. Obama won Columbia County by a 14-point margin in 2012; Trump won it by a two-point margin in 2016. Marquette County swung from a 0.27-point Obama victory margin in 2012 to a 24-point Trump victory margin in 2016.
"Across the board we’re seeing very high interest in the state Assembly from Democrats around the state — from the very, very red 58th Assembly District where we have a fantastic, qualified candidate in Dennis Degenhardt to the strongly Democratic 66th where voters had two amazing candidates to choose from in the December primary," Hyant said.
Gov. Scott Walker has said he will not call special elections for Ripp's seat or for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Frank Lasee, R-DePere. Lasee also resigned last week to take a post in the state Department of Workforce Development. The seats will be on the ballot in November 2018.
Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, said last month he is encouraged by a spate of Democratic victories in states like Virginia, Oklahoma and Alabama, but that Wisconsin Democrats shouldn't "just wait for the pendulum to swing."
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said last month he is confident in Republicans' ability to maintain a majority, currently at a historically high 64 seats.