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With the G.O.P. in control of a majority of statehouses, Democrats are fighting for seats in battleground states. Is it too late?
Leah Spicer, a first-time Democratic candidate running for State Assembly, in Argyle, Wis.Credit...Angie Smith for The New York Times
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By Jonathan Mahler
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Wisconsin’s 51st Assembly District lies in the southwest part of the state — part of the larger Driftless Area, so named because it was mysteriously spared the drift of the glaciers that flattened much of the Midwest during the last ice age. The resulting landscape is forested and hilly, arable but not easy to farm on an industrial scale. As a result, many of the farms in this region are still small and independently owned, which explains in part why the area is less reliably Republican than many of the state’s other rural regions. Presidential races in the 51st tend to move back and forth between the two parties.
On the local level, though, the district has remained a stubbornly elusive target for Wisconsin’s Democrats. Todd Novak, a Republican, has served as its state assemblyman since 2014. In 2016, Novak’s Democratic challenger lost by 723 votes, or less than 3 percent of the total; in 2018, the margin shrank to less than 1.5 percent; then, in 2020, it widened to more than 4 percent.
Last spring, as the filing deadline for the 2022 midterms approached, Wisconsin’s Democrats were struggling to find a candidate willing to run for the 51st. It was just one seat, but it carried national implications. Gerrymandering has effectively ensured a G.O.P. majority in the state’s 99-seat Assembly, and the Republicans are only five seats away from establishing a supermajority that would allow them to override the Democratic governor’s vetoes. This would enable the G.O.P. to pass virtually any legislation it wants, even rewriting the most basic rules governing the administration of federal elections.
Francesca Hong, the Democrat who represents the 76th District in Wisconsin’s Assembly, sent a message on Instagram to Leah Spicer, gauging her interest in representing the 51st. Spicer, who is 29, had recently been appointed municipal clerk in Clyde, a town of just a few hundred people, filling a vacancy created by an unexpected resignation. She had never run for office, but she had an attractive profile for a local political candidate. She was a small-business owner with deep roots in the district and young children, one of whom attended school in its chronically underfunded system. Spicer grew up in Clyde and moved back home from North Carolina a few years earlier to help her mother and father run their small farm and age in place. She and her husband had just opened a restaurant in a former schoolhouse in the nearby town Spring Green, calling it Homecoming.
Spicer’s interest in running for the seat turned out to be nonexistent. Between the farm, the restaurant and her children, she was already stretched thin. So the Democrats called in some bigger guns to try to persuade her. A voice mail message from her district’s representative in Congress, Mark Pocan, was followed by a phone call, late at night, from Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who was himself running for the U.S. Senate against the Republican incumbent, Ron Johnson. Tammy Baldwin, who holds Wisconsin’s other Senate seat, tried next. “She was like, You grew up there, so you have a real understanding of what it’s like there,” Spicer told me on a Sunday in mid-September. We were on her family’s farm, in the kitchen of a small house built by one of her brothers, where she lives next to her parents with her husband and their three children. The sleeves of her work shirt were rolled up just high enough to reveal a large image of two cows, a reminder of Wisconsin that she got tattooed on her right forearm when she was managing a restaurant in North Carolina.
Spicer again declined. But a few days later, she abruptly changed her mind. By then, a draft of the Supreme Court’s forthcoming opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson had leaked; the court was planning to overturn Roe v. Wade, leaving it up to states whether to allow or ban abortions. Wisconsin could soon be reverting to an 1849 law criminalizing abortion in almost every instance, including rape and incest. “I was like, Jesus Christ, who’s going to fight for this?” she said. “It’s really hard to stomach going backward instead of forward.” She was one of 19 women who committed to run for Wisconsin’s State Assembly in the weeks after the news broke.
The state’s Democratic Party immediately went to work, helping Spicer quickly gather the 300 signatures she needed to get on the ballot, and giving her $2,000 in seed money to build a website and produce yard signs and campaign literature. Because her district had been identified as a battleground, the Democratic caucus inside the State Assembly also gave her the money to bring on a full-time campaign manager at an annualized salary of $48,000. She hired Matthew Jeweler, a 28-year-old line cook at the restaurant she managed in North Carolina who had since worked as a digital organizer on Michael Bloomberg’s brief presidential campaign in 2020. Jeweler and his dog, Murphy, moved in with Spicer and her family on the farm, and he received training from state Democrats in running a political campaign, which included how to canvass in rural areas, where people can be suspicious of strangers knocking on their doors. (First lesson: Try to call first, to give voters a heads-up that you might be stopping by.)
By mid-September, Spicer had already raised over $40,000 and personally knocked on more than 2,000 doors. After she introduces herself to whoever answers, she likes to ask what issues they care about most, a question that might just as easily lead to an extended conversation about the safety of the local tap water — a pressing issue in the region because of the agricultural runoff from manure and pesticides — as to an emotional discussion about abortion. When no one is home, Spicer hangs a leaflet on the doorknob with her personal cellphone number on it, inviting residents to call or text her. Some actually do.
The state’s Democrats were pleased with how Spicer’s campaign was going, but they were still not sure whether to devote any additional money to the 51st. The party’s resources are limited, and in Wisconsin, these midterms are thick with high-stakes contests, including a well-funded challenge to the state’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers; the hard-fought Senate campaign between Barnes and Johnson; and a race for attorney general that is likely to determine at least the near-term future of abortion in Wisconsin.
Decisions about where to invest the party’s resources rest largely in the hands of Wisconsin’s 41-year-old Democratic Party state chairman, Ben Wikler. Over a late beer and fried cheese curds at a bar near his home on the west side of Madison not long after I left Spicer, Wikler told me that he learned a hard lesson in the 51st in 2020. The polling had been encouraging from the start, and so the Democrats made the district a top priority, pouring more than $500,000 into it, only to be defeated once again. “Leah’s doing a great job, but it’s really on the edge of, ‘Is this one we should prioritize?’” Wikler said.
Strictly speaking, the 51st is not a race the Democrats need to win in order to preserve the governor’s veto, as long as they don’t lose five of their existing seats in the Assembly. But what if they do lose five seats, and they hadn’t invested in a race that they perhaps could have won? When it comes to state politics, the Democrats are once again playing defense in the 2022 midterms.
Years ago, the Democratic Party took the fateful step of separating national and local politics, increasingly prioritizing federal races while all but ignoring state contests. State parties atrophied, and the Democratic grass roots withered, making it that much more difficult for the party’s candidates to compete for seats like the 51st today, at a moment when state governments like Wisconsin’s are exerting a historic degree of influence over American political life.
The choices Wikler makes — how to allocate money and organizing muscle, when to saturate local media markets with ads — will affect more than individual candidates or races, or even the midterm cycle as a whole. Wisconsin was central to President Donald Trump’s effort to overturn his defeat in the 2020 election, an effort that continued well into this year. The administration of the state’s elections is currently overseen by a bipartisan group, the Wisconsin Elections Commission, which upheld President Biden’s victory over Trump’s objections a few weeks after the election. But the commission’s future is in jeopardy: Many members of the state’s G.O.P. have been speaking openly about disbanding it and transferring its authority to the Republican-held Legislature or the secretary of state. In Wisconsin, the coming midterms are as much about 2024 — and every subsequent presidential cycle, for that matter — as they are about 2022.
For most of the 20th century, the Democratic Party dominated state and local politics across America, and the Republicans had no competing organizational infrastructure to speak of. Then, in 1973, a young conservative activist named Paul Weyrich — a Wisconsinite, as it happens — came up with a scheme that would challenge the liberal hegemony in state governments, helping to found the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. At the time, the Democrats controlled 56 state legislative chambers and the Republicans 38, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. To achieve its goal, ALEC needed conservatives to win control of more of these chambers. Progress was slow. During the presidency of the widely popular Ronald Reagan, the Democrats held even more of America’s statehouses, with 68 legislative chambers in 1988, compared with the Republicans’ 28.
A major breakthrough came during the 1994 midterms, when Representative Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America unified Republicans up and down the ballot around a single, national message. Not only did they have control of the House of Representatives for the first time in four decades; they also recorded striking gains in America’s statehouses, flipping 20 chambers, while not losing any.
Fifteen years later, with President Barack Obama ensconced in the White House, the G.O.P. doubled down on local politics, seizing on the Tea Party uprising and turning it into a media phenomenon. Republican strategists recognized that they did not need the White House to exert their influence and advance their agenda — state power was national power. And by that point, the G.O.P. had the sprawling infrastructure — right-wing radio, Fox News, gun clubs, church groups — to spread and amplify the party’s message among its base.
In 2010, the Republicans unveiled their Redmap campaign to flip state legislatures across the country. The timing was deliberate: 2011 was a decennial redistricting year. Whoever held these legislatures would soon have the opportunity to redraw the congressional and legislative lines in their states. The goal wasn’t just to win control of more statehouses but also to make it as difficult as possible for the Democrats to win them back. Money, mailings and political ads poured into sleepy Democratic districts around the country, and the Republicans soon occupied 56 of the country’s chambers, their highest number since 1952.
The G.O.P. followed through on its plan the following year, locking in and expanding on its legislative majorities with new electoral maps that densely packed Democrats into a minimal number of often urban districts, while spreading Republicans across a maximal number of more rural ones. The plan worked: Even in election cycles when Democrats won at the top of the ticket, they continued to lose down ballot. After the 2016 election, Republicans held 67 of the country’s legislative chambers, more than twice as many as the Democrats and a greater number than at any point in at least a hundred years. Heading into the 2022 midterms — after the blue-wave midterms of 2018 and the electing of President Biden in 2020 — the G.O.P. still has 61 chambers, and the Democrats have just 37.
It is a stunning political success story. But there’s a less discussed, parallel narrative that played out alongside the Republicans’ takeover of the states: The Democrats’ protracted neglect of them. While national Republican groups and donors were shoveling money into local legislative initiatives and down-ballot races and cultivating their base, the Democratic Party was becoming increasingly Washington-centric, dominated by a closed circle of political consultants, interest groups and megadonors who viewed state and local politics as largely inconsequential. Investments dried up, and the state parties that are responsible for the unglamorous, nuts-and-bolts work of ground-level politics languished.
In recent years, a number of young Democratic leaders have sought to redirect the party’s attention toward the states and re-energize the grass roots. Stacey Abrams, the former minority leader of Georgia’s House of Representatives, built a coalition of activists and organizers to register more young voters and voters of color. Amanda Litman, the email director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, founded a group that recruits progressives around the country to run for local office. Daniel Squadron stepped down from the New York State Senate to create a political action committee that is spending $60 million to support Democrats in state legislative races in the 2022 midterms.
But the Democrats are starting from way behind. Mike Schmuhl, who managed Pete Buttigieg’s 2020 presidential campaign, was elected chairman of the Democratic Party of deep red Indiana in March 2021, and he has been traveling around the state nonstop since then, trying to generate interest in the Democratic agenda and enlist volunteers. It’s been slow going, especially in rural areas. “We’re just kind of pushing away the cobwebs,” he told me.
Wikler, at least, has the advantage of working in a perennial battleground state; four of the last six presidential elections in Wisconsin were decided by less than a percentage point, and it was the tipping-point state that put the winner over the top in the Electoral College in both 2016 and 2020. “As I often say to voters and volunteers, being in Wisconsin you have a superpower,” Wikler told me over the summer. “Your vote for no good reason has more power in this moment to shape the future of the entire United States than the votes of people anywhere else.”
Raised in Wisconsin, Wikler ran his first political action when he was 14, a campaign to pressure the Madison school board into canceling an exclusive marketing agreement with Coca-Cola. He objected to the idea of a public-school system going into business with a for-profit corporation and to the terms of the deal, which required a lot of students to buy a lot of soda. His interest in politics continued to deepen from there. After graduating from Harvard in 2004, he helped create and produce a radio show for the future (and now former) Senator Al Franken of Minnesota and worked for the online petition site Change.org in New York. But like many ambitious and well-connected Democratic activists, Wikler inevitably gravitated toward the Beltway, becoming Washington director of the progressive advocacy group MoveOn.org in 2014.
By that time, Wisconsin had become ground zero for the Republican takeover of America’s state governments. The location made sense, as the writer Dan Kaufman detailed in his book, “The Fall of Wisconsin.” The state had both a strong Republican base and an enduring progressive legacy, including powerful public-sector unions that bargained aggressively for their members’ wages, benefits and pensions and thus formed a reliable Democratic voting bloc. In the run-up to the 2010 midterms, national groups backed by conservatives like the Koch brothers spent millions of dollars to flip the state’s Legislature and elect as governor the Tea Party hero Scott Walker, who pledged to cut government spending and make Wisconsin more pro-business.
The Republicans won the trifecta in Wisconsin in 2010, sweeping the State Assembly and the Senate and electing Walker. The following year, the new G.O.P.-led Legislature redrew Wisconsin’s electoral maps to protect the Republican majority and set about decimating its labor movement. First came the legislation now known as Act 10, which severely curtailed the power of public-sector unions to bargain for their members, significantly reducing their membership and thus their political clout. Then, four years later, came the so-called right-to-work law that made it illegal for unions to require private-sector workers to pay dues, weakening their power even further.
Walker’s agenda ignited a strong backlash among Wisconsin’s Democrats, who collected nearly twice as many as the 540,208 signatures required to force a recall election in 2012. But Walker survived, and the Democratic energy soon dissipated. A state that had once been a laboratory for progressive policies became an incubator for conservative ones: A number of states followed Wisconsin’s lead, enacting similar anti-union laws.
Wikler flew home occasionally during this period to protest Walker’s policies and campaign for Democratic candidates. He was knocking on doors for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016, when Wisconsin’s Democratic Party truly bottomed out. Even after the Republican sweep in 2010, Obama easily won Wisconsin two years later, and Clinton’s advisers viewed it as a sure thing. Clinton opted not to visit the state after the primary to rally supporters, and the campaign put minimal resources and energy into Wisconsin despite the increasingly desperate pleas of longtime field organizers and party activists. “Wisconsinites were all screaming, ‘Hey, this is a crisis here,’ and the campaign basically said, ‘There are other priorities we’re going to focus on,’” Wikler told me. Many of the voters he canvassed in the days before the election — identified by the Clinton campaign as motivated Democrats — were in fact undecided. Trump won Wisconsin by fewer than 23,000 votes.
After Trump’s inauguration, Wikler was consumed by the monthslong effort to block Republicans from repealing the Affordable Care Act in his role at MoveOn, helping to lead regular protests outside the U.S. Capitol and organizing hundreds of thousands of voter calls to congressional offices. In late 2018, with the A.C.A. secure, he and his wife packed up their house on Capitol Hill, loaded their three small children into their battered Toyota Highlander and moved back into his childhood home in Madison. It was clear to Wikler that the most important battles now needed to be fought outside the Beltway. He had always dreamed of raising his family in Wisconsin, and he finally had a compelling reason to do so.
At the time, Wikler’s predecessor as party chair, Martha Laning, was starting to rebuild the state’s network of Democratic activists, using Obama’s model from 2008, which entailed hiring organizers to recruit local volunteers who would engage voters in their own communities. After years of brutal defeats, Wisconsin’s Democrats had just logged a big victory. Tony Evers, the longtime state superintendent of public instruction, had defeated Walker in the governor’s race by a razor-thin margin of 1.1 percent. “It was as though as we were sliding down the cliff face we grabbed a single branch and then managed to pull ourselves up to a fingernail grip on the edge,” Wikler told me.
Laning soon announced her intention to step down. Wikler met with local Democratic leaders across the state to ask what they thought of his running to replace her, and he ultimately invited two veteran grass-roots leaders, Felesia Martin and Lee Snodgrass, to join him on the ticket as vice chairs. He was elected in June 2019, about a year and a half before the 2020 election.
In a sense, Wikler embodies the tension between the Washington establishment and the Democratic base. More insider than outsider, he has a large Twitter following, appears regularly on MSNBC and is adept at wooing Democratic donors. As the campaign heated up, he transformed Wisconsin’s Democratic Party — WisDems, as it became known in Democratic circles — into a national brand, leveraging the state’s strategic importance to raise large sums to underwrite the party’s efforts to deliver Wisconsin to Biden. Unable to hold in-person fund-raisers during the pandemic, he organized a virtual reunion and script reading by the cast of “The Princess Bride” that brought in more than $4 million. Thousands of Democratic volunteers around the country signed up for phone banks to get out the vote in Wisconsin. Polls showed Biden winning the state by as much as 17 percent. In the end, he won it by less than 1 percent, or fewer than 21,000 votes, basically the same margin by which Clinton lost it four years earlier.
Wikler and WisDems are facing what may be an even bigger challenge in this year’s midterms. Even if the Democrats can prevent the Republicans from establishing a veto-proof supermajority in the Legislature, they also need to hold on to the governor’s office in order to block the G.O.P. from advancing its statewide agenda. Over the course of his four years in office, Governor Evers has vetoed almost 150 bills that among other things would have further suppressed voting rights in Wisconsin — for instance, limiting the sites where voters can return absentee ballots — and loosened restrictions on bringing guns onto the grounds of schools. It’s always tough to mobilize voters in off-year elections, and midterms tend to break hard against the party in power in Washington. Not since 1962 has a Democrat won the race for governor in Wisconsin while his party held the White House.
Having established a seemingly irreversible majority in the State Legislature, Wisconsin’s Republicans have moved on to a new frontier in the 2022 midterms: the secretary of state’s office. The position is currently held by a Democrat, the 82-year-old Doug La Follette. A distant descendant of Robert La Follette, a celebrated Wisconsin governor and Progressive Party senator known as Fighting Bob, he has been in office for nearly four decades. Name recognition has insulated him from any serious Republican challenges, so the G.O.P. has instead stripped his office of all but its most ceremonial duties. It was Governor Walker who delivered the final, most humiliating blow. In 2015, he and the G.O.P. literally banished La Follette to the basement, moving him into a windowless office with drop ceilings and linoleum floors in the state’s majestic Capitol building in Madison. His primary and nearly only remaining responsibility is to stamp the state seal on official government documents. But just as power can be taken away, it can also be given. If the Republicans are able to unseat La Follette in the midterms, they may very well put the secretary of state’s office in charge of Wisconsin’s elections.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission played a critical role in preventing Trump from remaining in office after the 2020 election. After Biden won Wisconsin, Trump falsely claimed that many of Biden’s votes there had been cast illegally, and his campaign paid for a recount in the state’s two most heavily Democratic counties. The recount upheld Biden’s victory — in fact, it widened his winning margin — and the elections commission refused to overturn the results.
This was just the beginning of Trump’s attempt to reverse Biden’s results in Wisconsin. He then shifted his attention to the courts, suing to have ballots in Democratic counties thrown out. Wisconsin’s Supreme Court rejected his lawsuit, 4-3, shortly before the Electoral College was scheduled to meet in mid-December to certify Biden’s victory. The winning party of a state’s popular vote is responsible for sending electors to the Electoral College, but Wisconsin was one of several battleground states that also sent a slate of illegitimate Republican electors to try to subvert the certification process.
Even after the electoral votes had been certified, Trump continued his effort in Wisconsin, pressing the state government’s most powerful Republican, Robin Vos, the speaker of the Assembly, to investigate its administration of the election. In June 2021, Vos appointed Michael Gableman, a conservative lawyer and former State Supreme Court justice, to head up the effort. Gableman was not a neutral arbiter; he had already accused the Wisconsin Elections Commission of stealing the election. His 14-month, $1.1 million, taxpayer-funded investigation involved numerous subpoenas, and his demands for closed-door testimony from local officials stoked conspiracy theories about Wisconsin’s electoral process. Gableman’s “second interim investigative” report, issued in March 2022, recommended that the Legislature consider decertifying the 2020 election and abolishing the Wisconsin Elections Commission. A number of local G.O.P. officials also attacked the commission, including Christopher Schmaling, the sheriff of Racine County. Schmaling accused five of the commission’s members of breaking the law by allowing 42 residents of a nursing home to vote absentee during the pandemic without the supervision of an outside election official, even though visitors were barred from the facility at the time.
Following Gableman’s report, Trump pressured Vos both personally and privately to decertify Wisconsin’s election results as recently as this past July. Vos declined, saying that it was not legally possible, and so Trump turned on him, blasting him for refusing “to do anything to right the wrongs that were done” and endorsing his opponent in the Republican primary. After Vos narrowly won the Republican nomination in August, he finally fired Gableman. But a number of state Republicans have made clear their intention to follow Gableman’s recommendation to dissolve the elections commission.
La Follette was intending to retire this year, but he changed his mind last spring when he decided that he was the Democrats’ best chance to prevent the Republicans from transferring oversight of Wisconsin’s elections to the office he would be vacating. His Republican opponent, Amy Loudenbeck, has repeatedly criticized the elections commission and has called for its elimination. A member of the State Assembly, she is the first serious candidate that the Republicans have run for the position in many years. As of the end of August, she had raised nearly $200,000, far more than La Follette. Her donors include the billionaire Liz Uihlein, who along with her husband, Dick, founded the Uline packing supply company; in recent years, the couple donated more than $4 million to the Tea Party Patriots Fund, a political action committee for one of the organizers of the “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6 in Washington.
The Republicans have a number of candidates running in secretary of state races around the country who are part of Trump’s “Stop the Steal” movement, claiming without any evidence that he rightfully won the 2020 election. National Democratic donors are sending tens of millions of dollars into these races, largely through online platforms like ActBlue, in an effort to stop them from being elected. But because in Wisconsin the secretary of state’s office is currently powerless, only a little bit of this money has found its way to La Follette, sometimes seemingly at random. He recently received a pair of $20,000 donations from Steven Spielberg and his wife, Kate Capshaw. “I’m not a super big movie historian, so it took me a while to register,” La Follette told me, sitting on a bench outside the Capitol in September. He has at least been able to hire a campaign manager for the first time as secretary of state, and while he can’t afford to advertise on TV, he has filmed a couple of digital campaign ads that are posted on his newly created Facebook page.
Wikler has made the call not to invest in La Follette’s race, deciding that it’s not the best use of the party’s resources. “Every State Assembly candidate who loses by 100 votes would notice if we diverted money from the legislative races and gave it instead to Doug,” he told me. “We are on the brink of a crisis of democracy if the Republicans win the governorship or get supermajorities in the Legislature, and my job is to prioritize.” It is a tactical decision, born out of financial necessity, that could have serious implications if Loudenbeck wins.
To understand how the Democrats have found themselves in a defensive posture in states like Wisconsin, it’s necessary to go back some 50 years, to when the social upheaval of the 1960s and the 1970s was spurring a major political realignment across America. Many conservative rural voters were abandoning the Democratic Party — which, in turn, abandoned them, focusing its energy instead on urban areas. And if the Democrats took anything from the civil rights movement, strategically speaking, it was that progress was best made via federal legislation and the courts, not via state governments.
During these same years, the party’s center of gravity started shifting toward Washington. With the rise of television, a new breed of media-savvy pollsters and consultants — people like Patrick Caddell, the 26-year-old pollster for Jimmy Carter’s 1976 presidential run — were calling the shots. They were shrewd and calculating in their pursuit of their only goal, which was to advance the prospects of the politicians paying their salaries. Elections became candidate-driven. Rather than trying to expand the party’s base, strategists carved the country into winnable and unwinnable areas, blanketing urban centers and suburban areas with TV ads and mailers. After Al Gore was trounced across rural America in 2000, Democratic consultants grew more convinced than ever that it was a waste of resources to organize in large swaths of the country, and thus to invest in state parties.
Increasingly isolated from the national party and its big donors, some states set out to strengthen their Democratic parties on their own. A group of wealthy Coloradans came together to bankroll legislative candidates and create progressive think tanks and public-interest law firms that helped move the formerly red state into the Democratic column. In 2004, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, then the minority leader, unified environmental and pro-immigration groups and unions to not only secure his re-election but also turn his state blue. But these individual efforts only underscored the reality that the Democratic Party had ceased being a national operation, with a national infrastructure that competed for every vote.
In 2005, the newly elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean, tried to rescue the Democratic Party from itself. At the time, Dean, a former governor of Vermont, was fresh off his insurgent campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. He had run as a Washington outsider, promising to wrest power away from the Democratic establishment and return it to the people. His campaign had ended, ignominiously, with the infamous Dean Scream — his protracted yelp on the night of his caucus defeat in Iowa — but in the preceding months he ignited passionate support across the country and raised a fortune in small-dollar donations with his pioneering use of the internet.
By the time Dean ran for D.N.C. chairman, the state Democratic Party chairs had grown tired of being ignored by the national party. They told Dean that they would support his candidacy only if he committed to investing heavily in all 50 states. After running a presidential campaign that had revealed, above all, that there were enthusiastic Democrats all over the country, Dean eagerly agreed. He called his plan the “50-state strategy,” and it involved moving resources into places long since written off by Democrats. In many of these places, the goal wasn’t necessarily to win races, at least at first; it was to begin the long process of re-establishing an official Democratic presence there, and to make Republicans fight at least a little bit harder for every vote.
Democratic strategists thought Dean was mad. Steering resources away from poll-tested “battlegrounds” and into solid red states seemed like a delusional and quite possibly catastrophic folly. Rahm Emanuel, then chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, tried to bully Dean into reversing course and investing instead in a targeted list of upcoming House elections. He mocked the young organizers whom Dean was empowering around the country — “They couldn’t find their ass with both hands tied behind their back,” he said, as Ari Berman reported in his 2010 book “Herding Donkeys” — and fed the media negative stories about the 50-state strategy. But Dean held his ground. “I knew I could raise a ton of money, and I wasn’t beholden to Washington,” Dean told me recently. “If you don’t play in every single congressional district and every single Senate district, you’re never going to get anywhere in the future.”
The 50-state strategy seeded the country with volunteers who helped lay the foundation for Barack Obama’s historic field operation. Obama’s election in 2008 galvanized an army of Democratic foot soldiers across the country who were ready to transition to campaigning for local candidates. The Democrats seemed poised to again prioritize state-level politics. But that’s not what happened. Instead, Obama, exercising his prerogative as the new leader of the party, appointed Tim Kaine to replace Dean as chairman of the D.N.C. Dean, for his part, wanted a cabinet position in the new administration, according to Berman. But Emanuel, who was now serving as Obama’s chief of staff and was still nursing his grudge against Dean, helped make sure he didn’t get one. As for Obama’s vaunted field operation, it was rechristened Organizing for America and merged into the D.N.C., where its main priority was to promote the president and his agenda.
With Obama in office, the Democrats returned their focus to Washington, leaving local politics to the Republicans, who took full advantage of the opening. Between 2008 and 2016, the G.O.P. flipped nearly 1,000 state legislative seats. This was partly a result of the Republicans’ 2011 gerrymander, but it was also a byproduct of a top-down Democratic strategy. “When I became chair in 2015,” says David Pepper, former chairman of Ohio’s Democratic Party, “the big debate at the D.N.C. was whether they should give state parties $5,000 per month or $7,500. I’m thinking, ‘If this is the front line of democracy and that’s the debate we’re having, we’re in a lot of trouble.’”
During her 2016 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton acknowledged the problem and vowed to address it. She teamed up with the D.N.C. and 32 state party committees to form a joint fund-raising group, the Hillary Victory Fund, promising to rebuild the Democratic Party from the ground up. “When our state parties are strong, we win,” she said. “That’s what will happen.” The fund tapped Democratic megadonors for big checks at glamorous fund-raisers, collecting an impressive $142 million in less than a year. But a majority of this money was directed to Clinton’s presidential bid and the D.N.C. Less than $800,000, or 0.56 percent, went back to the states, according to an analysis at the time by Politico.
Since then, the D.N.C. has increased its support for state parties. When Tom Perez took over as chairman following Clinton’s defeat, he raised their monthly allowance to $10,000, made additional funding available through separate “innovation” awards and upgraded the party’s badly outdated voter database, which was putting Democratic organizers at a significant disadvantage. “We were a little late to the dance,” Perez told me, understating the matter. His successor, the current chairman, Jaime Harrison, gave the parties another modest bump, to $12,500, and created a “red-state fund” for Republican-dominated states. Yet some state party leaders continue to feel neglected by the national party and its donors. They complain privately that Harrison is too beholden to the White House, and thus to the party’s short-term interests, which once again means focusing on the battlegrounds at the expense of expanding the party’s base.
Nebraska’s party chairwoman, Jane Kleeb, who gained national acclaim seven years ago after she brought together an unlikely coalition of local ranchers, farmers and environmental activists to block the arrival of the Keystone oil pipeline, told me that she still doesn’t have enough money to do her job full time, let alone start the arduous process of building a robust Democratic operation in her deeply red state. “If I had the money, I would have organizers blanketing every small town,” she said. “But I can only afford four full-time staff members, and I’m not paid.”
For most people, partisan politics consists of a series of national contests that take place every two years — or, for many voters, every four years. But as an organizational matter, winning those contests requires year-round attention. That is where the parties are supposed to come in. Politicians do the work of governing, and parties organize voters, working daily to build the infrastructure and community-based relationships that in the scrum of the election can deliver more wins so the politicians can do more work.
Political professionals make a distinction between organizing (the year-round work) and mobilizing (the short-term work that takes place once the voting starts). And just as Democrats have focused on national politics at the expense of local politics in recent decades, they have focused on mobilizing at the expense of organizing, furiously stepping up fund-raising and get-out-the-vote drives as Election Day approaches and then abruptly pulling back the moment the votes have been tallied. Republican candidates, too, move into overdrive during the run-up to elections, but they’ve spent decades building durable ideological institutions that ensure that the party’s larger agenda outlasts each individual election cycle.
The small-dollar digital fund-raising strategy that Dean pioneered in his 2004 presidential run is now pervasive and vastly more sophisticated, enabling both parties and their candidates to raise huge sums of money with hair-on-fire, 11th-hour appeals to donors. Thanks to its recent technology upgrades, the D.N.C. is now able to access detailed consumer data about voters — What cars do they drive? What magazines do they subscribe to? — that it uses to assign a “partisanship” score to every voter, rating how likely a person is to vote Democratic. The more accurate this information, the easier it is to microtarget a desired demographic, pummeling people with hysterical texts and emails.
The Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United, which ruled that limiting political spending by corporations was tantamount to restricting their free speech, was a boon for Republicans. But it also led to the proliferation of super PACs, which empowered a new class of Democratic megadonors to play a more influential role in their party. Like corporate chief executives forever chasing quarterly earnings to juice a firm’s stock price, these big donors are generally disinclined to support infrastructure-building efforts whose success can’t be measured in the short term. They would rather give to high-profile progressive organizations, or to individual candidates taking on G.O.P. archenemies.
The 2020 election cycle provided a stark lesson in the ineffectiveness of this strategy. Democratic donors sent hundreds of millions of dollars to Senate candidates challenging longtime Republican incumbents. A big chunk of that money wound up in the pockets of well-paid political consultants; even more was steered to media buyers, which earn a large commission for every ad they place on local television or on Google or Facebook. Not only did most of these candidates lose, but some couldn’t even spend all that they raised. In Maine, Sara Gideon, a Democrat who was taking on Senator Susan Collins, raised $74.5 million from local and national donors and still had $14.8 million in the bank after losing by 8.6 percent. She has since been writing checks to local nonprofits and Democratic candidates, while raking in still more money by renting her prodigious fund-raising list to a Washington-based digital consulting firm that she employed during the race.
State parties can be an answer to this smash-and-grab approach to politics, but the year-round work they do is expensive and labor-intensive. Wikler devotes a lot of his time to fund-raising. Standing at his desk in WisDems’ office across from the state’s Capitol, he calls individuals who have made large donations to the party — the bar for a personal call is typically $1,000 — and asks them to consider making another, similarly sized donation. Every month, he and his team also run a social media campaign to encourage smaller donors to join the party’s 8,000 regular monthly contributors. The goal is to create a recurring source of revenue to fuel the party’s year-round activities. Much of the money the party raises goes toward individual elections, which take place every year in Wisconsin. But Wikler also wants WisDems to be a regular presence in people’s lives even when it’s not election season. To that end, he directs whatever resources he can to the local Democratic parties in all 72 of Wisconsin’s counties to help them rent out office space, advertise in their local newspapers and, above all, expand their network of volunteers.
The volunteers on the ground are the ones who connect issues and policies to the party and its candidates, and in so doing translate the Democratic agenda into electoral victories. To do this effectively, these volunteers can’t just show up at voters’ doors on the eve of an election. They need to earn voters’ trust, which means building relationships with them over time. In rural Wisconsin, the party has been nearly invisible for many years, allowing Republicans to fill the vacuum. Right-wing radio is still a powerful force in many of these areas, with popular hosts like Joe Giganti, who is based in Green Bay, providing a regular platform to guests to air unfounded claims of election fraud.
In late June, I attended a Democratic Party event in Wautoma, a rural town in Waushara County, hosted by a group called the Four County Coalition. The organization was founded about a decade ago by Bill Crawford, a third-generation Democrat from Chicago and former fire chief who retired to the area after getting injured on the job. Crawford was discouraged by the party’s anemic presence in his new home. So he reached out to the Democratic leaders in three of its neighboring counties — Marquette, Adams and Green Lake — to suggest that they all join forces to build critical mass and coordinate canvassing. “It lets Democrats see other Democrats, so you don’t feel like orphans in the middle of a red area,” Crawford told me.
Until recently, Democrats in these red, rural areas had trouble even getting yard signs. Wikler has created a new distribution network to make that easier. Yard signs fell out of favor years ago among Democratic strategists, who prefer to see campaign funds spent on digital ads, which enable them to quantify how many eyeballs they are reaching. But yard signs have their own value in places where Democrats are trying to re-establish themselves. They aren’t ads paid for by a candidate or party trolling for votes; they are affirmative statements of identity made by members of the community. “People say signs don’t vote, and that’s baloney,” Crawford told me. “Yard signs in rural areas do vote because your neighbors see the signs, and the more signs they see, the more inclined they are to consider why you have a sign out there. If they don’t see a sign, they’re going to vote the way they always voted, which is Republican.”
On Sept. 22, Wisconsin started sending out absentee ballots to hundreds of thousands of voters, marking the beginning of the actual election season. Whatever organizing could be done was essentially done. The priority now was to mobilize. In an effort to ensure that they didn’t miss any potential votes, WisDems began buying the updated absentee-voter list from the state every week (for $2,000) to keep tabs on and follow up with Democrats who had requested an absentee ballot. When early voting got underway in late October, the party started dispatching thousands of volunteers across the state to urge Democrats to make a plan to vote early or on Election Day.
For Democrats, the electoral picture had darkened with the arrival of the fall. In Wisconsin, an influx of donations from billionaires helped Senator Ron Johnson open up a small lead over Mandela Barnes. Worse yet, from Wikler’s perspective, the Republican businessman Tim Michels pulled even with Tony Evers in the governor’s race. Michels, who was endorsed by Trump, has echoed the unfounded claims of voter fraud in 2020 and has declined to say if he would certify the results of the presidential election in 2024. From the beginning, Wikler had viewed Evers’s re-election as the party’s top priority in 2022, and the race, which had become the most expensive gubernatorial contest in the country, was clearly going to be very close. “The risk profile is pretty real,” Wikler told me in early October.
By October, WisDems had pulled in more than $28 million in individual donations, about two-thirds of which came from outside the state. It was an unusually large amount for a Democratic state party; by contrast, the equivalent figure for Arizona was about $8 million. And yet WisDems’ cash needs as Election Day approached were seemingly bottomless.
Because the Senate contest is a federal race, campaign-finance laws prevent the state party from moving large amounts of money to the Barnes campaign. But in October, Wikler steered an additional $150,000 to the Democratic attorney general, Josh Kaul, whose opponent, Eric Toney, has said that if he is elected, he may permit doctors to be prosecuted for violating Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion ban. WisDems also directed an additional $2.5 million to the governor’s race, in addition to the $6 million the party had already given to support it.
Wikler and the leader of the Democrats in the State Assembly, Greta Neubauer, were making final decisions about which legislative candidates to back. They had updated their modeling on the 51st Assembly District — Leah Spicer’s district — and it appeared to be edging closer toward the Democrats. In early October, Wikler and Neubauer moved the district into the party’s potentially “flippable” column. Spicer would be receiving another $50,000 — $25,000 from WisDems, $25,000 from the caucus — to spend on advertising and billboards in the final weeks of her campaign.
After the election, fund-raising will taper off, and Wikler’s staff will shrink from 200-plus to about 70, which is still large for a Democratic state party. WisDems will need to quickly ramp back up for a State Supreme Court election in April, though. The race may not attract much attention outside Wisconsin, but it too has national stakes: The court played its own critical role in the 2020 presidential election, when it rejected Trump’s lawsuit and upheld Biden’s victory by just a single vote.
Even as Wikler was preparing for his last frantic push before the midterms, he was hopeful that no matter what happened, on Nov. 9 he would be able to say that the party had made progress. “The basic idea of organizing is that you should come out stronger whether you win or lose,” he told me over the phone from La Guardia Airport in mid-October, on his way back home from a final fund-raising swing in New York. “Every single year, Democrats in Wisconsin win some races that they’re not supposed to win. You don’t know where the forces will come together to make that happen. But if you are always organizing and investing everywhere, and cheering on the folks who are willing to put their names on the ballot and do the work behind the scenes, if you do all that, then you’ll be ready when the opportunity comes.”
Angie Smith is a photographer based in Idaho, Los Angeles and Mexico City.
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Is Wisconsin a swing state? ›
Areas considered battlegrounds in the 2020 election were Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine's 2nd congressional district, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska's 2nd congressional district, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin, with Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and ...Is Madison Wisconsin liberal or conservative? ›
Madison has long been a center for progressive political activity, protests, and demonstrations, and contemporary Madison is considered the most politically liberal city in Wisconsin.Who is the chair of the Democratic Party in Wisconsin? ›
Benjamin McDonald Wikler (born February 3, 1981) is an American politician and the chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin since July 2019.What is the difference between Northern and Southern Democrats? ›
Southern Democrats were generally much more conservative than Northern Democrats with most of them voting against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by holding the longest filibuster in American Senate history while Democrats in non-Southern states supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964.What political party is Wisconsin? ›
|Democratic Party of Wisconsin|
|Governor of Wisconsin||Tony Evers|
|Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin||Sara Rodriguez|
|Senate Minority leader||Melissa Agard|
Passed by Congress December 9, 1803, and ratified June 15, 1804, the 12th Amendment provided for separate Electoral College votes for President and Vice President, correcting weaknesses in the earlier electoral system which were responsible for the controversial Presidential Election of 1800.Is Milwaukee red or blue? ›
Given Milwaukee's status as a Democratic Party stronghold, all but three Senate and three Assembly districts in the city are represented by Democrats, with all six Republican seats falling in three small overlapping areas on the periphery of the city.Is Wisconsin good place to live? ›
Benefits Of Living In Wisconsin
Since home prices and rents are both quite reasonable here. Furthermore, adding to the Wisconsin quality of life are a few different things. Such as rural or city living options. Low crime rates, good health care, access to quality schools, and a chance to enjoy all four weather seasons.
Alongside Thomas Jefferson, he organized the Democratic–Republican Party in opposition to Hamilton's Federalist Party. After Jefferson was elected president in 1800, Madison served as his Secretary of State from 1801 to 1809 and supported Jefferson in the case of Marbury v. Madison.How many Republicans are in Wisconsin? ›
|Wisconsin State Legislature|
|Seats||132 33 Senators 99 Representatives|
|Senate political groups||Republican (21) Democratic (11) Vacant (1)|
|Assembly political groups||Republican (64) Democratic (35)|
|Authority||Article IV, Wisconsin Constitution|
What are the two types of Democrats? ›
The progressive faction supports social democracy and left-wing populism in addition to social liberalism. The conservative faction supports right-wing policies, though it lost much of its influence by the 1990s.Who is running the Democratic Party? ›
|Governing body||Democratic National Committee|
|U.S. President||Joe Biden|
|U.S. Vice President||Kamala Harris|
|Senate Majority Leader||Chuck Schumer|
In the 1860s, the Copperheads, also known as Peace Democrats, were a faction of Democrats in the Union who opposed the American Civil War and wanted an immediate peace settlement with the Confederates.What do you call a white Southern Republican? ›
In United States history, the term scalawag (sometimes spelled scallawag or scallywag) referred to white Southerners who supported Reconstruction policies and efforts after the conclusion of the American Civil War.What freed all slaves in the US? ›
President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war. The proclamation declared "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free."Is Wisconsin a woman's state? ›
Wisconsin is not a mother state. A mother state gives preference to mothers in custody cases. In Wisconsin's state statutes, it specifically says that, “The court may not prefer one parent or potential custodian over the other on the basis of the sex or race of the parent or potential custodian.”Is Wisconsin Republican Party? ›
Currently the Republican Party of Wisconsin controls one of two U.S. Senate seats and six of eight U.S. House seats, as well as majorities in both houses of the state legislature. The party holds one statewide executive office, State Treasurer.What is Wisconsin known for? ›
The state is one of the nation's leading dairy producers and is known as "America's Dairyland"; it is particularly famous for its cheese. The state is also famous for its beer, particularly and historically in Milwaukee, most notably as the headquarters of the Miller Brewing Company.What is the 16th Amendment? ›
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.What is the 8th Amendment? ›
Eighth Amendment Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
What does Amendment 21 say? ›
The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.
The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic slightly boosted the flow of people moving out of the Milwaukee metro area because they took a new job somewhere else. The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic slightly boosted the flow of people moving out of the Milwaukee metro area because they took a new job somewhere else.Why is Milwaukee so German? ›
The city of Milwaukee is closely connected to Germany. Many German immigrants moved to the city at Lake Michigan in mid-19th century. Although the citizens generally do not speak any German, the connections are still obvious.Does Milwaukee have a rat problem? ›
"Probably one of the most disease-carrying animals that we run into," said P.J. Winkelmann of Advanced Wildlife Control. "They are equal opportunist, and they will feed on anything and everything that you have." People who call Milwaukee home say they have all noticed the increase in rodent population.What is the safest town to live in in Wisconsin? ›
Safest Cities in Wisconsin
- Cedarburg. ...
- Lake Geneva. ...
- New Glarus. ...
- Mazomanie. ...
Marinette earns the title of most affordable city in Wisconsin. Located along the Menominee River and Lake Michigan, Marinette offers plenty of waterside views no matter where you go and is the perfect place to buy or build your dream home.
Madison concludes that a small democracy cannot avoid the dangers of majority faction because small size means that undesirable passions can very easily spread to a majority of the people, which can then enact its will through the democratic government without difficulty.Is Madison for or against the Constitution Why? ›
Despite his commitment to individual liberties, Madison opposed making inclusion of a bill of rights a precondition for ratification of the Constitution. He also doubted that mere “paper barriers” against violating basic rights were sufficient protection.What political system is Madison describing? ›
Many of these essays rank among the best political thought ever produced. His Federalist writings allowed Madison to expand upon his vision of republican government and on his belief that the proposed Constitution would accommodate both the ideals and the political realities of the young republic.What is the biggest Republican state in the US? ›
Wyoming was the most Republican state, with 59% of residents identifying as Republican, and only 25% of residents identifying as Democratic.
What percentage of Wisconsin is black? ›
|Female persons, percent|| 49.9%|
|Race and Hispanic Origin|
|White alone, percent|| 86.6%|
|Black or African American alone, percent(a)|| 6.8%|
White: 84.3% Black or African American: 6.34% Two or more races: 3.35% Asian: 2.81%Are libertarians left or right? ›
Although libertarianism originated as a form of left-wing politics, the development in the mid-20th century of modern libertarianism in the United States resulted in libertarianism being commonly associated with right-wing politics.Can you be a conservative Democrat? ›
In American politics, a conservative Democrat is a member of the Democratic Party with conservative political views, or with views that are conservative compared to the positions taken by other members of the Democratic Party.What are moderate Democrats called? ›
New Democrats, also known as centrist Democrats, Clinton Democrats, or moderate Democrats, are a centrist ideological faction within the Democratic Party in the United States.What do the Democratic Party believe in? ›
Democratic platforms seek to promote social programs, labor unions, consumer protection, workplace safety regulation, equal opportunity, disability rights, racial equity, regulations against environmental pollution, and criminal justice reform.What does moderate Democrat mean? ›
A moderate is considered someone occupying any mainstream position avoiding extreme views. In American politics, a moderate is considered someone occupying a centre position on the left–right political spectrum.Who was the first Democratic president? ›
More nearly than any of his predecessors, Andrew Jackson was elected by popular vote; as President he sought to act as the direct representative of the common man. Born in a backwoods settlement in the Carolinas in 1767, he received sporadic education.What is a blue blood Democrat? ›
The modern Blue Dog Coalition remains the most conservative grouping of Democrats in the House, broadly adopting socially liberal and fiscally conservative policies and promoting fiscal restraint. Blue Dogs are mostly elected in Republican-leaning districts.What is a gold Democrat? ›
The National Democratic Party, also known as Gold Democrats, was a short-lived political party of Bourbon Democrats who opposed the regular party nominee William Jennings Bryan in the 1896 presidential election.
What is the Socialist Party called? ›
In its 1972 convention, the Socialist Party changed its name to Social Democrats, USA by a vote of 73 to 34.What are former slaves called? ›
A freedman or freedwoman is a formerly enslaved person who has been released from slavery, usually by legal means. Historically, enslaved people were freed by manumission (granted freedom by their captor-owners), emancipation (granted freedom as part of a larger group), or self-purchase.What is it called when you aren't a Republican or a Democrat? ›
Beginning in 2020, all voters will automatically receive a vote-by-mail ballot. If you are not affiliated with a qualified party, and would like to request a ballot for the Democratic Party, American Independent Party, or the Libertarian Party click here.
arch·con·ser·va·tive (ˌ)ärch-kən-ˈsər-və-tiv. Synonyms of archconservative. : an extreme conservative. archconservative adjective.What was the first state to make slavery illegal? ›
In response to abolitionists' calls across the colonies to end slavery, Vermont became the first colony to ban it outright. Not only did Vermont's legislature agree to abolish slavery entirely, it also moved to provide full voting rights for African American males.Which state was the last to free slaves? ›
It wasn't until more than two years later, in June of 1865, that U.S. Army troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas to officially announce and enforce emancipation. Texas was the last state of the Confederacy in which enslaved people officially gained their freedom—a fact that is not well-known.Which states allowed slavery? ›
States that allowed slavery included:
White: 77.49% Asian: 9.1% Black or African American: 6.58% Two or more races: 4.97%
Madison is in Dane County and is one of the best places to live in Wisconsin. Living in Madison offers residents an urban suburban mix feel and most residents rent their homes. In Madison there are a lot of bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and parks.Is Madison Wisconsin good to live? ›
Mad City is not only one of the best places to live in the Midwest, but it's also among the best cities in the country overall, thanks to its incredible outdoor recreation, great food and brews, and more!
Who runs Wisconsin? ›
Governor Tony Evers
With over three decades of public education experience, Governor Evers has dedicated his life to fighting for Wisconsin's kids and serving the people of Wisconsin.
Madison has one of the highest median incomes - just above $50,000 - in the country. But it is not a town that flaunts its wealth.What is the best area to live in Madison, WI? ›
- Hill Farms-University.
Safest Cities in Wisconsin
- Cedarburg. ...
- Lake Geneva. ...
- New Glarus. ...
- Mazomanie. ...
Madison and Dane County are home to some major employers with great-paying jobs. Epic Systems, Promega, Exact Sciences, American Family Insurance, and the University of Wisconsin, to name just a few. Job opportunities and economic advancement are two huge reasons why many choose to relocate to Madison.What is the best suburb of Madison, WI? ›
- Best Suburb for Buying Your First Home. Verona. Average age: 39. ...
- Suburb with the Easiest Commute to City Center. Fitchburg. ...
- Best Public School System. Middleton. ...
- Best Suburb when your Family is Ready to Scale Up. Maple Bluff. ...
- Best Suburb for City People. Monona. ...
- Best Suburb for Country Folks. Stoughton.
|0 Children||3 Children|
|Required annual income after taxes||$29,421||$105,951|
|Required annual income before taxes||$36,435||$131,209|
The cost of living in Madison is 8% higher than than the national average. The national average salary is $56,310, so a good salary in Madison is anything over $60,814 by this measure.Does Madison get a lot of snow? ›
Most days of snowfall in Madison leave just a skiff, amounting to less than an inch, of fresh snow on the ground. For 15 days a year on average, the amount of new snow totals at least an inch. Snowstorms of over five inches a day normally occur a couple times a year.