Republican Paul Melotik, an Ozaukee County supervisor, and Democrat Bob Tatterson, a retired engineer, are running in a special election on Tuesday to fill a Wisconsin Assembly seat.
The suburban seat was left open throughout the state budget cycle, one of the busiest times for the state Legislature. Republican Sen. Dan Knodl (R-Germantown) vacated the seat after winning election to represent the 8th Senate district in April, securing a two-thirds supermajority for Republicans in the Senate. He had represented the 24th Assembly district since 2008.
While a supermajority in the Assembly is not up for grabs in this special election, Democrats have an opportunity to flip the seat that represents portions of Washington, Ozaukee and Waukesha counties. Republicans will further extend their current majority in the Assembly if they hold onto it.
No primary was held in the race since Melotik and Tatterson were the only candidates to register. The winner will complete the remainder of the term, serving through the end of 2024.
Tatterson: Retired engineer who hopes to flip seat in Republican-leaning district
Tatterson, a Mequon resident and retired engineer, says both his passion to serve and his belief that the Republican-led Legislature and Knodl in particular don’t represent the values of district residents compelled him to run for the seat
Democrat Bob Tatterson, a retired engineer, is hoping to flip the Republican-leaning Assembly district. (Photo courtesy of the Bob Tatterson campaign)
“We’ve made some progress, but ultimately, we need legislators like myself, who are going to Madison to truly work for the people, not to play politics, but to make positive steps — perhaps incremental, perhaps more than incremental — toward delivering services and well functioning government,” Tatterson said.
Tatterson, who served as a volunteer firefighter for many years, says funding local services including police, fire and emergency medical services are a top priority for him. He says the recent progress made with shared revenue was a step forward on the issue but thinks that the state will still be underfunding local governments.
“I certainly applaud the compromise that was struck and the fact that we were able to achieve progress on the shared revenue piece,” Tatterson says. “That’s positive, but it doesn’t go far enough.”
That shared revenue deal reached by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Republican lawmakers includes boosting state aid to most Wisconsin local governments by at least 20%.
Tatterson also says he is concerned with providing tax cuts for middle class Wisconsinites, though he didn’t give specifics and says he will have to evaluate new bills as they come up.
“The bottom line is, you know, we need more dollars going into the hands of the true middle class and the middle class is exactly those words, it’s the middle classes, not the folks that are making over $400,000 a year,” Tatterson says.
Recent estimates from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau say that Wisconsin will be left with a $4 billion budget surplus at the end of 2023-25 after Gov. Tony Evers vetoed the majority of Republicans’ tax cut plan. Evers has urged the Republican-led Legislature to return in the fall and continue work on the budget, and Republicans have said that they will continue to work on cutting taxes.
“The reality is we still have a budget surplus, and I’d like to see that reinvested in community services and reinvested back into the hands of middle class taxpayers,” Tatterson says.
Tatterson says repealing the state’s 1849 abortion ban and working to implement fairer legislative maps in Wisconsin are two of his other top priorities.
Wisconsin’s current map makes it a challenge for Democrats to flip the 24th Assembly district, which became more Republican-leaning compared with previous election cycles under maps implemented in 2022.
The current map runs north to include the town of Grafton and other parts of Republican-leaning suburban counties. Previous maps of the 24th district included the Glendale and Brown Deer communities in Milwaukee County, but those communities were drawn out of the 24th district during the redistricting process.
The results of redistricting could be seen in 2022 when Knodl won by a wider margin than he had in previous cycles. Tatterson ran against Knodl for the seat in the fall of 2022. Knodl won that race by 7,086 votes, garnering 61.1% of the vote to Tatterson’s 38.8%.
Under earlier maps Republican candidates also won, but by slimmer margins. During the 2020 election when parts of Milwaukee County were still part of the district, Knodl beat the Democratic candidate by 51.45% to 48.5%.
Tatterson says “the maps are the maps,” and he’s taking the same approach to the campaign that he took last time he ran by listening to voters to understand their needs and concerns and relying on grassroots support to help get his message out.
Melotik: Fiscal conservative with local government background
Melotik, in addition to serving on the county board, is a supervisor for the town of Grafton and a small business owner. He said in his campaign announcement that he was “proud of the conservative reforms” that he helped advance on the Ozaukee County Board and that he is “ready to take that same focus and determination” to the Assembly.
Melotik serves on the county board’s finance committee and told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he hopes to serve on the powerful Joint Finance Committee, which is responsible for writing the state’s two-year budget.
“This state faces a challenge. After eight years of bold conservative leadership from Gov. [Scott] Walker, we must continue to navigate divided government,” Melotik said in the announcement. “It’s not easy, but we must be able to clearly articulate a positive conservative vision for the future.”
Melotik added that less regulation and a robust private sector will position the state for future success.
Melotik recently waded into discussion about Gov. Tony Evers’ veto of Republican lawmakers’ $3 billion income tax cut plan that would have condensed the state’s tax brackets from four to three. The plan would have cut the tax rate for Wisconsin’s wealthiest taxpayers — individuals making over $304,170 and joint filers making over $405,550 — from 7.65% to 6.5%.
Melotik said in a statement that it was “utterly incomprehensible” to him why Evers would gut the tax plan and the issue represents a “fundamental difference” between his own perspective and Tatterson’s.
“[Republicans] think you know best how to spend your hard-earned dollars,” Melotik continued. “My opponent and the Wisconsin left think you’re rich. They think the government knows best.”
Melotik told the Washington County Daily News that providing tax cuts to Wisconsinites will be one of his top priorities in office.
Other priorities of his include ensuring that public safety and law enforcement including EMS, fire and dispatch units have sufficient resources and increasing support for education funding, while promoting accountability in schools.
Melotik did not return requests for an interview.
Throughout the campaign, Melotik has been significantly outraised by Tatterson, reporting raising $37,251 through July 3. Tatterson reported raising $103,612 over the same time period.
However, Melotik recently received some last-minute, in-kind donations from the Republican Party of Wisconsin and the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee (RACC). He reported $12,236 on his late contribution form from the state GOP and $7,500 from the RACC, totaling about $20,434.
Melotik also reported receiving a $1,000 donation from U.S. Rep. Scott Fitzgerald.
Tatterson reported one contribution in the same 72-hour report: $1,000 from Lisa Kohl of New York.
The special election for the 24th district takes place on Tuesday. Check MyVote.WI.gov for more information on voting.
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originally published at https%3A%2F%2Fwisconsinexaminer.com%2F2023%2F07%2F17%2Fspecial-election-for-assembly-seat-tuesday%2F by Baylor Spears