Republicans running candidates in 85 of 99 Badger State Assembly districts in 2010; largest number of districts contested by GOP since 1986

Buoyed by two candidates running in toss-up races at the top of the ticket who hope to take back the Governor’s mansion (Scott Walker) and a U.S. Senate seat (Tom Johnson), Wisconsin Republicans are poised to gain control of the State Assembly by lining up candidates to compete in more districts than the Party has challenged in a generation.

A Smart Politics analysis of Wisconsin historical election returns finds that Republicans are running candidates in 85 of 99 Assembly districts in 2010, which is the largest number of GOP-challenged districts in the Badger State since 1986.

The strong showing in the number of Republican candidates on the ballot this election cycle may finally begin to reverse a half-century long trend which found the Wisconsin GOP fielding candidates in fewer and fewer Assembly races across the decades.

In the 1950s, Republicans averaged just 3.2 uncontested Assembly districts during the five general election cycles held that decade.

But the GOP saw that number rise to 7.2 districts per cycle without a candidate in the 1960s, to 9.2 districts in the 1970s, to 13.2 districts in the 1980s, to 18.6 districts in the 1990s, and to 23.0 districts in the 2000s.

Overall, Republicans did not run candidates in 372 Assembly districts across the 30 election cycles from 1950 through 2008, or 12.4 seats per cycle, compared to just 307 districts for the Democrats, or 10.2 seats per cycle.

Number of Uncontested Wisconsin Assembly Districts by Party by Decade, 1950s-2000s

Decade
No GOP
No GOP per cycle
No Democrat
No Democrat per cycle
1950s
16
3.2
37
7.4
1960s
36
7.2
15
3.0
1970s
46
9.2
18
3.6
1980s
66
13.2
42
8.4
1990s
93
18.6
104
20.8
2000s
115
23.0
91
18.2
Total
322
12.4
307
10.2

Data compiled by Smart Politics. Source: Blue Book of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Republicans are seeking to reclaim the Assembly after the Democratic Party gained control in 2008 by winning 52 seats, compared to 46 for the GOP and one seat for an independent.

The ability for Republicans to field candidates in all but 14 Assembly districts in 2010 is yet another sign of high enthusiasm for the Party as it heads into the November elections. From 2000 through 20008, Republicans failed to run candidates in at least 20 districts each cycle, including a high of 25 in 2006 and then 24 in 2008.

This cycle the GOP did not field candidates in Assembly Districts #8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 16, 17, 18, 61, 64, 65, 76, 78, and 81.

Democrats, meanwhile, are not challenging Republicans in 17 districts this cycle, which is more than double the number of Assembly districts the Party left fallow in 2008 (7).

2010 is the first election cycle since 2002 in which Democrats have contested fewer Assembly districts than Republicans.

Democrats are not running candidates in Assembly Districts #3, 6, 14, 23, 27, 31, 33, 39, 53, 55, 56, 58, 59, 60, 63, 69, and 82.

Only once in the last 60 years have both major parties fielded candidates in each Assembly district across the state – 1970.

Number of Wisconsin Assembly Districts without a Major Party Challenger by Year and Party, 1950-2010

Year
No GOP
No Dem
Total
2010
14
17
31
2008
24
7
31
2006
25
14
39
2004
22
21
43
2002
24
28
52
2000
20
21
41
1998
18
27
45
1996
18
11
29
1994
19
27
46
1992
21
18
39
1990
17
21
38
1988
19
9
28
1986
5
16
21
1984
13
2
15
1982
12
1
13
1980
17
14
31
1978
15
6
21
1976
7
9
16
1974
21
1
22
1972
3
2
5
1970
0
0
0
1968
1
9
10
1966
2
3
5
1964
12
0
12
1962
7
3
10
1960
14
0
14
1958
4
3
7
1956
5
10
15
1954
4
3
7
1952
2
15
17
1950
1
6
7

Data compiled by Smart Politics. Source: Blue Book of Wisconsin. 2010 candidate data compiled from Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.

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