Why outside money is pouring into local state Senate special election

NORTHEAST WISCONSIN (WBAY) - After being inundated with political ads for months, voters will cast ballots Tuesday in the special election for state senator.

Republican State Rep. Andre Jacque is running against Democrat Caleb Frostman for the open seat in the 1st State Senate District.

The district covers Kewaunee and Door counties, and parts of Manitowoc, Calumet, Outagamie and Brown counties.

Click here for coverage of a debate between Frostman and Jacque.

The election has drawn high interest and a lot of money from outside the area.

"The Senate is actually pretty evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, so if you see a shift tomorrow, and again--it may not be a permanent shift--but this would potentially allow for a more easier road for Democrats to regain control of the Senate," says David Helpap, associate professor of political science at UW-Green Bay.

Helpap says that's why big money is pouring into Northeast Wisconsin.

"I think the role you're seeing for statewide and national level groups is pretty unique, especially since it is a special election," Helpap says.

Action 2 News searched records submitted to the FCC by the four television stations in Northeast Wisconsin. We found the candidates spent nearly $200,000 on advertising.

That's only a portion of the money being spent on this race.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a state organization that tracks spending, shows a half-dozen outside groups have spent more than $500,000 on ads.

"You're seeing a lot of spending by a few groups, especially state groups that don't normally spend this type of money," Helpap says. "And you're also seeing spending from Eric Holder's [former attorney general under President Barack Obama] group, who actually was really responsible for getting these special elections called in the first place" (see related story).

Helpap says Jacque has name recognition, but Frostman, the former Door County Economic Development executive director, could benefit from the "Blue Wave."

"I think he would capture some of that incumbency advantage, even though he's not the incumbent," Helpap says. "But at the same time, if there really is this blue wave coming, that could benefit Frostman, too."

Tuesday's outcome could be an indicator for November general elections, in which this Senate seat will again be on the ballot.

The winner of the special election won't even get to work on laws before the next election.

Helpap says it's hard to predict what voters will decide in November.

"It's all about motivation and who can get their base out," Helpap says.

The 1st Senate District has been without representation since late December, when Republican Gov. Scott Walker appointed incumbent Frank Lasee to a post in his administration.

A judge ordered the governor to schedule a special election.

A special election will also be held Tuesday for Wisconsin's 42nd Assembly District.

Polls open Tuesday at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

We welcome comments and civil discussions. powered by Disqus