MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin Democrats managed to take one Assembly seat from Republicans in a low-key special election where the GOP held two other contested seats.
In District 94, which covers rural La Crosse County and parts of Monroe County, Democrat Steve Doyle beat Republican challenger John Lautz, 54 percent to 46 percent with all precincts reporting. Doyle, the current La Crosse County Board chair, will fill the vacancy left by Republican Rep. Mike Huebsch. Huebsch was first elected in 1994 and held the seat until early 2011, when Republican Gov. Scott Walker appointed Huebsch secretary of administration.
The race turned ugly in the last few weeks after outside interest group Jobs First Coalition sent out mailers claiming Doyle had not paid property taxes on time in 2009. Doyle and several others, including La Crosse County corporation counsel, confirmed the taxes were paid on time. The state Democratic Party has asked for a criminal investigation into the mailers.
The candidates' main disagreement was over Walker's bill to strip most public employees of collective bargaining rights. Doyle firmly opposed the move, while Lautz said it was needed to "get our fiscal house in order."
"I heard a lot of comments at the door with regard to Gov. Walker," Doyle said. "The people were in support of most of the goals, but definitely not at all the methods the governor had used. They're looking for bipartisanship, not dictatorship."
Despite losing the District 94 seat, Republicans managed to increase their majority in the state Assembly Tuesday night.
Duey Stroebel easily defeated Democratic challenger Rick Aaron for the District 60 seat, which represents parts of Ozaukee and Washington counties. Stroebel, a real estate agent and Cedarburg School Board member, won the race with 76 percent of the vote with all precincts reporting.
Stroebel will fill the seat vacated by former Rep. Mark Gottlieb, whom Walker appointed secretary of transportation in January.
The District 83 seat, which covers parts of Racine, Walworth and Waukesha counties, went to Dave Craig, who worked as an aide for U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan. Craig beat Democratic challenger James Brownlow, a retired librarian, with 74 percent of the vote. Craig said he would work with Walker to cut more from state government.
"I think this race has been in a large part a referendum on the policies of Gov. Scott Walker and the people of the 83 district made their voice loud and clear," Craig said. "We need to stop this spending spree in Madison and we have to stop it now."
Craig will take the seat formerly held by Republican Rep. Scott Gunderson, whom Walker appointed to a top-level post at the Department of Natural Resources.
With Tuesday's election, Republicans will hold a 59-38-1 split in the Assembly, with one independent and one other vacancy to be filled later this year.
Stroebel did not immediately return calls seeking comment.