May 23, 2018

Primaries held in open legislative seats; winners advance to June 12 general election

When two former state lawmakers left the Legislature at the beginning of 2018 to take positions in Gov. Scott Walker’s Administration, Walker chose not call a special election to fill their seats. That decision was challenged in state court, where a judge ultimately ordered special elections to be held to ensure voters had representation in the Legislature.

As a result, the elections were eventually called to fill the seats in the 42nd Assembly District and the 1st Senate District. The general election is scheduled for June 12. Primaries, which were needed on the Republican side of the ticket in both races, were held on May 15.

In the GOP primary in the 42nd Assembly District, which includes portions of Columbia, Dane, Dodge and Fond du Lac counties, Jon Plummer handily won a four-way contest. Plumer, a Lodi Town Board member and owner of a chain of karate schools, will face Democrat Ann Groves Lloyd in the June 12 general election. Groves Lloyd, who did not have a primary opponent, is an academic advisor at UW-Madison and a member of the City of Lodi Common Council.

The winner will replace former GOP Rep. Keith Ripp who held the seat since 2008 before accepting a position at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture in January.

In the 1st Senate District Republican primary, State Rep. André Jacque (R-De Pere) defeated businessman Alex Renard, capturing 52% of the vote. Jacque will face Democrat Caleb Frostman in the June general election for the right to represent the district, which includes Door and Kewaunee Counties, as well as parts Brown, Calumet, Manitowoc and Outagamie Counties.

Frostman, a political newcomer, is the former executive director of the Door County Economic Development Corporation. He resigned his position in April to focus on the Senate race. Frostman is also a former WEDA member.

The senate seat was vacated in January when former Republican Sen. Frank Lasee was appointed by the governor to a post in the Department of Workforce Development. The GOP has held the 1st Senate District, in its current or previous forms, since 1977.

Both races are being watched closely, as political observers believe the outcome could be a indicator of how voters are feeling heading into the November elections.

State Legislature sees significant turnover as lawmakers retire; seek higher office

Fifteen states have term limits for legislators. Wisconsin is not one of them. But that doesn’t mean the Badger State hasn’t seen its fair share of turnover in the State Capitol.

Nearly twenty lawmakers who were sworn in to office at the beginning of the 2017-18 legislative session will not be seeking re-election to their current office. The reasons for leaving their current posts are varied. Some are seeking higher office, others took jobs in the Walker Administration, and there are those who simply want to move on from public life.

In the Senate, the following senators who served this session will not be in office when the next session begins in January 2019:

  • Sen. Frank Lasee (R) – Took a position in the Walker Administration
  • Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R) – Was appointed as Wisconsin agriculture secretary
  • Sen. Terry Moulton (R) – Not seeking re-election
  • Sen. Leah Vukmir (R) – Running for U.S. Senate against Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D)
  • Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D) – Running for Governor

In the Assembly, these lawmakers will be serving in a new office or enjoying “legislative retirement” in 2019:

  • Rep. Terese Berceau (D) – Not seeking re-election
  • Rep. Kathy Bernier (R) – Running for state Senate
  • Rep. Ed Brooks (R) – Not seeking re-election
  • Rep. Eric Genrich (D) – Running for Mayor of Green Bay
  • Rep. Andre Jacque (R) – Running for state Senate
  • Rep. Adam Jarchow (R) – Not seeking re-election
  • Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R) – Not seeking re-election
  • Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R) – Running for state Senate
  • Rep. Jesse Kremer (R) – Not seeking re-election
  • Rep. Cory Mason (D) – Left office and is now serving as Mayor of Racine
  • Rep. Lee Nerison (R) – Not seeking re-election
  • Rep. Keith Ripp (R) – Took a position in the Walker Administration
  • Rep. Dana Wachs (D) – Running for Governor
  • Rep. Tom Weatherston (R) – Not seeking re-election

While the turnover is significant, it’s not necessarily outside the norm, as Wisconsin typically has a good amount of “legislative shake-up” with each election cycle. However, there is no question there will be many new faces in the State Capitol next year.

WEDA’s new Toolbox Newsletter provides overview of economic development tools

WEDA is excited to deliver the Toolbox Newsletter – a new publication to provide WEDA members and our economic development partners with an overview of available economic development tools and how they can be used to benefit communities across Wisconsin. Each edition will offer insight into the programs and policies used in Wisconsin to drive economic growth, providing readers with relevant information on new programs, updates to existing programs and best practices for implementation.

In the inaugural edition , the Toolbox focuses on Wisconsin’s Historic Tax Credit (HTC) program, which offers state income tax credits to leverage private investment for the redevelopment of historic buildings. The program has helped revitalize communities across the state, spurring economic activity, generating new tax revenue, and creating job opportunities. This edition of the Toolbox provides a look at how the HTC was used to transform a long-vacant property in downtown Oshkosh into a bustling multi-purpose complex with residential, commercial and retail space. Readers will also learn more about how the HTC process works and the program’s significant economic impact in both large and small communities.

Click here to view the Toolbox Newsletter on the WEDA website.

WEDA presents “Champion of Economic Development” Award to state lawmakers

WEDA has been traveling the state to present the “Champion of Economic Development” Award to a select group of legislators who supported pro-growth policies to advance Wisconsin’s economy during the 2017-18 legislative session.

The award was established this year by the WEDA Legislative Committee and Board to recognize state lawmakers committed to promoting economic development. “These lawmakers made it a priority to support policies that drive business growth and job creation in Wisconsin, and WEDA is excited to recognize them for their dedication to key economic development issues,” said Michael Welsh, WEDA’s Legislative Affairs Director.

The awards are being presented to legislators in their home districts at events hosted by local WEDA members and partners. Roughly half of the awards have been presented, and the remaining presentations have been scheduled. Thank you to the following organizations who have hosted an awards ceremony:

  • April 24 – La Crosse Area Development Corporation (Rep. Jill Billings-D)
  • May 7 – Portage County Business Council (Sen. Patrick Testin-R)
  • May 8 – Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce (Rep. Amy Loudenbeck-R; Rep. Mark Spreitzer-D; and Sen. Janis Ringhand-D)
  • May 15 – Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce (Rep. Mike Rohrkaste-R; Rep. Dave Murphy; and Sen. Roger Roth-R)

For more information on WEDA’s “Champion of Economic Development” Award, including criteria, recipients, press releases and photos, please visit the WEDA website.

Broadband expansion grant application period closes July 16

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin is now accepting applications for a new round of Broadband Expansion Grants. In total, $7 million in grants will be awarded for rural broadband expansion. Applications must be submitted by July 16, 2018.

Broadband Expansion Grant Details:

  • OVERVIEW: The PSC will award approximately $7 million in rural broadband expansion grants in FY 2019. The application process is now open.
  • APPLICATION DEADLINE: Grant applications must be uploaded to the PSC’s Electronic Regulatory Filing System by July 16, 2018.
  • MORE INFORMATION: Please visit the PSC’s Broadband Expansion Grant website for more information, including application instructions.

If you have any questions or would like more information on the grant program, please contact the WEDA office at You can also contact the PSC’s Dennis Klaila at (608) 267-9780 or by e-mail at

Historically low state unemployment rate continues to fall

In what has started to become commonplace, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate dropped again in April. The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) recently announced the state’s preliminary April unemployment rate fell to 2.8 percent, which is a new all-time low. The April rate was a slight improvement over the March rate of 2.9 percent.

In addition, DWD reported Wisconsin’s labor force participation rate increased to 68.9 percent, which significantly outperformed the national rate of 62.8 percent. DWD also reported the following information:

  • The number of people employed in Wisconsin also increased by 8,100 people, setting a new record for the state with 3,086,100 individuals employed. The year over year increase of 42,700 people employed is statistically significant according to BLS.
  • Based on preliminary data, Wisconsin has gained 11,000 total non-farm jobs and 8,800 private sector jobs over the last three months. Over the year, Wisconsin has gained 27,900 total non-farm jobs and 26,100 private sector jobs, including a statistically significant 13,700 manufacturing jobs according to BLS.

Click here to read the full release issued by DWD.