Barely a week after the 2013 election season ended, the 2014 election season began early this week.
State Rep. Howard Marklein (R–Spring Green) announced he will run for the 17th Senate District seat currently held by Sen. Dale Schultz (R–Richland Center).
Schultz has represented the 17th Senate District since a 1991 special election. Schultz most recently defeated Democrat Carol Beals of Platteville in 2010.
“I am announcing my campaign to ensure that we are able to continue to build on the good work we have done,” Marklein said in a news release issued Sunday night. “After growing up on a dairy farm in the district, I believe I will bring a fresh, common-sense perspective to the Senate. As a CPA with extensive private sector experience, I will continue to advance the belief that government’s role is to provide the tools private businesses need to grow, rather than create road blocks to economic growth. I will also continue to advocate for policies that benefit our communities by allowing the private sector to create good jobs for our hard working people.”
Marklein defeated Democrat John Simonson of Mineral Point to succeed Rep. Steve Hilgenberg (D–Dodgeville) in 2010. Marklein defeated Democrat Maureen May-Grimm of Mineral Point to win reelection in 2012.
Schultz was first elected to the 50th Assembly District in 1982. After state Sen. Richard Kreul (R–Fennimore) announced his retirement in 1991, Schultz defeated fellow Rep. David Brandemuehl (R–Fennimore) in the Republican primary, then defeated Democratic Lafayette County Clerk Steve Pickett of Darlington, with 59 percent of the vote, in the general election.
On the VoteDaleSchultz blog, Schultz described Marklein’s announcement as “not a surprise, but it was unexpected. After 30 years in the state legislature, nothing surprises me anymore. However, with a 98.7-percent Republican voting record, as compared to my Leader in the state Senate last session, I thought that would’ve been enough to stave off a primary challenge. …
“During my entire service in the legislature, I’ve always waited until about a year before my term is up to sit down with my family and a few close supporters to assess whether I should run for re-election. Then I make a decision sometime after the first of the year. I’ll use the same process this time regardless of the events of this past weekend.”
Schultz became a target of Republicans outside southwest Wisconsin when he was the only Republican to vote against a bill to reform the state’s iron mining laws so a proposed mine could be built in northwestern Wisconsin. The bill authored by Assembly Republicans lost 17–16, with Schultz and all 16 Senate Democrats voting against it. The group Citizens for Responsible Government announced a recall effort in 2012, but the effort failed.
Schultz also voted against Act 10, the public employee collective bargaining reforms, in 2011. The bill passed the Senate 17–16.
“Right now, I’m focused on doing what the people of the 17th Senate district sent me here to do — represent them, all of them regardless of party affiliation, on the issues that concern them most like job creation, education, and fiscal responsibility,” said Schultz. “I can’t remember when I’ve felt more engaged and had a better time doing what the folks of the 17th district have elected me to do — represent them and reflect their concerns.”
If Schultz decides to run, Marklein would be his first Senate primary opponent since his first 17th District election win in 1991. Schultz won his Senate races with 64 percent of the vote in 1994, 70 percent of the vote in 1998, 67 percent of the vote in 2002, 57 percent of the vote in 2006, and 78 percent of the vote in 2010.
The 17th Senate District is one of the largest Senate districts in Wisconsin in land area, extending from the Wisconsin–Illinois state line to the Juneau–Wood county line. The district includes all of Grant, Lafayette, Richland and Juneau counties, and southwestern Green, western and central Iowa, western Sauk and far eastern Monroe counties.