AMAC Exclusive – By Shane Harris
While most analysts and pundits are predicting major Republican gains in the midterm elections this fall, that “red wave” may have already started in dozens of local elections last week. Despite relatively little coverage from the mainstream media, the GOP had a strong showing in key areas on April 5 ahead of the main event on November 8. Although polls have been notoriously unreliable predictors of actual outcomes in recent elections, these early contests provide some real results to support survey data suggesting that Democrats are in serious trouble.
With corporate media outlets practically ignoring the elections altogether, most coverage came from local newsrooms and Twitter accounts like Election Wizard (@ElectionWiz), which provided frequent updates throughout the night.
Results in swing states like Wisconsin proved particularly encouraging for Republicans right from the start. In several key school board contests, conservatives flipped seats previously held by liberals, a sign that K-12 education remains a top concern for many voters. In Waukesha, for example, three candidates endorsed by the Wisconsin Republican Party defeated three candidates endorsed by the state teachers’ union. In Kenosha, two other conservative-backed candidates also defeated liberal incumbents for school board seats, while three Menomonee Falls candidates who described themselves as “moms on a mission” to counter “divisive ideologies” in schools won as well.
But Wisconsinites didn’t limit their dissatisfaction with liberal policies to just education and school board officials. Although judicial elections in Wisconsin are nominally nonpartisan, Maria Lazar, who had the endorsement of several prominent state Republicans, ousted incumbent Lori Kornblum, an appointee of incumbent Democrat Governor Tony Evers, for a seat on the District II Court of Appeals. Republican Samantha Kerkman also defeated Democrat Rebecca Matoska-Mentink in the contest for Kenosha County Executive, becoming the first woman and first Republican to hold the post.
Those results are undoubtedly good news for both Republican candidates hoping to unseat Evers this fall and incumbent U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, who is a top Democratic target heading into the midterms. Many races where conservatives did well were in the densely populated Milwaukee suburbs, key areas that any candidate needs to win in order to do well statewide.
Rebecca Kleefisch, a Republican hoping to secure the GOP nomination to take on Evers, had an especially big night. Kleefisch has made education issues a top priority throughout her campaign, coming out strongly against Critical Race Theory and promising to keep politicized curriculum out of classrooms. Last November, Kleefisch became the first candidate in the race to sign ‘The 1776 Pledge’ from 1776 Action, in which signers promise to promote curriculum in accordance with traditional American values and keep divisive ideologies out of classrooms. She also endorsed 48 school board candidates throughout the state, 34 of whom went on to win last week.
Conservative school board candidates also fared well elsewhere in the country, as the Republican-led movement to bring greater transparency to education continues to enjoy major support from voters. In Lee’s Summit, Missouri, two “anti-CRT moms” won election to their local school board, while Kelly Byrne and Steve Makoski, two other anti-CRT candidates, were the top vote-getters in a Springfield, Missouri school board race. More conservatives won in Kansas City-area school districts by calling for removing age-inappropriate material from classrooms and returning to “traditional American values.”
Several other results from around the country were also noteworthy. In Norman, Oklahoma, a constituency that favored Hillary Clinton by 2.5 points in 2016 and Joe Biden by 9 points in 2020, voters handed a comfortable victory to conservative candidate Larry Heikkila in the mayoral race. Breea Clark, the incumbent mayor who lost her reelection bid, was hammered throughout the campaign for strict COVID-19 lockdown policies and for pushing for a “reallocation” of police funding following Black Lives Matter riots in 2020.
With prominent House Republican Devin Nunes resigning from Congress to become the CEO of former President Donald Trump’s media and technology company, voters in California’s 22nd Congressional District also headed to the polls last Tuesday for a special election. Although Democrats had hoped that a concentrated effort in the district could flip the seat, the GOP had a strong showing. With several Republicans in the field, no one cleared the necessary 50% threshold to avoid a runoff, meaning Republican Connie Conway and Democrat Lourin Hubbard will face off in a final election in June. But the four Republicans in the race garnered 66.3% of the vote, far outpacing the 54% of the vote that Nunes received in 2020. It was another sign that Republicans are energized and eager to turn out to the polls.
In short, there was much to celebrate last week for the GOP. While Democrats had hoped that a pattern of strong performances by Republican candidates in other elections since the 2020 general would fade as the midterms approached, the opposite seems to be happening. And with Democrat officials at all levels of government only doubling down on unpopular policies, the likelihood of a strong and potentially historic showing for the GOP this November continues to grow.
Shane Harris is a writer and political consultant from Southwest Ohio. You can follow him on Twitter @Shane_Harris_.
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