Special election moves Republicans closer to Assembly supermajority

Republican Paul Melotik, an Ozaukee County supervisor from Grafton, beat Democrat Paul Tatterson, a retired engineer from Mequon, in a special election to represent Wisconsin’s 24th Assembly district Tuesday night. 

Melotik’s win gives Republicans a 64-35 majority in the Assembly, just two seats short of a two-thirds supermajority that would allow them to override vetoes by Gov. Tony Evers.

Republican Paul Melotik, in addition to serving on the Ozaukee County board, is a supervisor for the town of Grafton and a small business owner. (Photo courtesy of Paul Melotik campaign)

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said shortly after Evers signed the 2023-25 state budget that Republicans would try to override some of his vetoes, which included extending school revenue limit increases for over 400 years and gutting Republicans’ tax cut plans, though he acknowledged it would be difficult to achieve. Since Republicans hold a two-thirds supermajority in the Senate, a temporary supermajority could be achieved if two Democrat representatives are absent while every Republican is present.

Republican Party of Wisconsin Chair Brian Schimming called Melotik’s victory a “huge win for conservatives” on Twitter, and said that winning two additional seats could help the party work around Democrats in office. 

“After flipping several Dem seats last Nov, just 2 more Republicans in Assembly [and] we put the brakes on much of the Evers/Dem 400-year tax increase, wrestle schools back from Left, save kids, get Wis back on track,” Schimming tweeted. 

If Republicans secure a two-thirds supermajority in both the Senate and the Assembly in future election cycles, they will have the power to override any Evers veto.

Melotik, in addition to serving on the county board, is a supervisor for the town of Grafton and a small business owner. He has said that he is a “fiscal conservative” and that his biggest priorities in the Assembly will be providing tax cuts to Wisconsinites, ensuring public safety and law enforcement have sufficient resources and increasing support for education funding. He also told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he would be interested in serving on the state’s powerful Joint Finance Committee, which is responsible for writing the state’s two-year budget.

Melotik received 6,455 votes — 53.6% — while Tatterson received 5,568 votes — 46.3% — in the district that represents parts of Washington, Ozaukee and Waukesha counties including Germantown, Grafton and Menomonee Falls. Melotik succeeds Sen. Dan Knodl (R-Germantown), who left the Assembly seat open after winning election to the Senate in April. 

Tatterson conceded in a post on Facebook, saying “although I do not believe the results are in the best interests of this district, I completely respect the democratic process and the will of the voters.” 

“Our state and country needs unity, that is why I am rooting for Representative-elect Melotik’s success even though we may disagree on how to address some issues facing our district and state,” Tatterson continued. “Our loss in this election does not mean that I will be leaving the fight for the values I believe in. I still believe the best days of our state are ahead of us. I will do everything in my power to continue to work towards that future.” 

Despite not flipping the seat, Democrats said the results of the Assembly special election are a sign of progress for Democrats and represented an overperformance in a gerrymandered and heavily Republican-leaning district. When Tatterson ran against then-Rep. Knodl in November 2022, he received just 38.8% of the vote. 

Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Ben Wikler — called the results on Twitter a “big flashing red light for the GOP.” 

Rep. Alex Joers (D-Middleton) said on Twitter that the results of the race are a sign that Democrats “can and will compete in every part of WI.” 

“Democracy happens when people show up, and the volunteers that brought this district closer than ever before proved there is energy in our movement,” Joers tweeted.

Throughout the campaign, Tatterson significantly outraised Melotik, reporting raising $103,612  through July 3. Melotik reported raising $37,251 over the same time period, though he also received some last-minute in-kind donations of $20,434 from the Republican Party of Wisconsin and the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee.

The results also come as Democrats and liberal groups are hoping to see Wisconsin’s election maps challenged ahead of the 2024 election cycle once the Wisconsin Supreme Court flips to a liberal majority. Judge Janet Protasiewicz, who called the current maps “rigged” during her campaign, takes her seat on the bench in August. One liberal law group has said it plans to challenge the voting maps based on the argument that partisan gerrymandering violates the Wisconsin State Constitution. 

Melotik told WisPolitics that he is planning to run for a full term in 2024, and that he’s not going to worry for now whether an expected redistricting lawsuit could alter the district significantly ahead of that election cycle. 

Melotik said a full campaign next year would allow him to get to know voters better and that ads throughout the cycle falsely portrayed him as extreme. One ad from Tatterson called Melotik “dangerously out of touch” and said he would keep banning abortions in Wisconsin. Melotik has said he is pro-life, but thinks the Legislature needs to wait to see what happens as the issue makes its way through the courts. 

“I hope to meet more of the voters and have them understand what I’m really about,” Melotik said of a run next year. “It’s not about the things they saw in those ads.”



originally published at https%3A%2F%2Fwisconsinexaminer.com%2F2023%2F07%2F20%2Fspecial-election-moves-republicans-closer-to-assembly-supermajority%2F by Baylor Spears

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