Next up in my attempt to handicap the races for the State Assembly are two districts I know well. The 43rd District takes up the Northern and Western townships in Rock County - as well as the City of Whitewater - and the 45th District is the one I ran for in 2008 and comprises the Southeast part of Rock County and the City of Beloit.
First, we'll take up the 45th. This is one that I could spend a lot of time on and break it down by ward in Beloit and in the outlying Townships, but I'll try to keep it brief.
I've met both candidates in this race and know the Republican, Amy Loudenbeck, well. I endorsed Amy in the primary and was thrilled when she pulled off a narrow victory. Amy has worked very hard throughout the race and been extremely good at fundraising since the primary. She had literally no money the day after the primary and has raised almost $22,000 in this reporting period. Amy raised more than 2.5 times her opponent did in individual contributions. Can you say enthusiasm gap?
Still, the Democrat in the race, Roger Anclam, had $20,000 in the bank just before the primary. Add that to the radio ads from unions and the Greater Wisconsin Committee in the district - more on that tomorrow - and Amy is going to get outspent by quite a bit when all is said and done.
The numbers in the district are pretty tough, but it is not insurmountable. The 45th district is split between the 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts and if you look at the partisan breakdown between them, the total Republican votes for that race outnumber the total Democrat votes in 2002, 2004, and 2006. Even in 2008, the numbers are not out of reach. There is a majority in the district willing to vote for a Republican if they are given a compelling reason to do so.
Now, this requires the Republican candidate to run up huge numbers in the rural areas, but it is not impossible. The City of Beloit is a huge boost to the Democrats, but both Anclam and Loudenbeck are from the townships, Anclam from Turtle and Loudenbeck from Clinton, so there shouldn't be a huge advantage in Beloit for the Democrats. On the flip side, this also makes it tougher for Amy to run up the total in Turtle Township, where Anclam is the Town Board Chair.
If any Republican can do it, it would be Amy with all the hard work she has put in. It goes without saying that I think Amy Loudenbeck is the candidate who would be best for the Stateline Area. Her work at the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce gives her unique experience with the business community, yet as a Clinton Town Board member she also has to deal with important agricultural and land-use issues.
I'm really not betting on a huge Republican year - and I don't think the GOP will pick up more than a few seats in the Assembly - but if there is going to be a surprise upset, this is the race. The feeling I get from my friends and family in the district is that there is a ton of energy on Amy Loudenbeck's campaign and that she has been really hitting the trail hard. If she wins, it won't be by much, but I've got a gut feeling that Tuesday will be a good night for Amy.
Now, on to the 43rd.
In 2006 and 2008 this was one of the closest races in the state, with only 10 votes making the difference in '06 and a little over 700 in '08. This is certainly a district that has been trending Democrat over the last three elections, but it isn't a lock for Rep. Kim Hixson to keep his seat. There are a couple of reasons I see this as a toss-up, but the biggest one comes down to UW-Whitewater. I think the huge turnout among young voters in '06 because of the marriage amendment, and in '08 because of President Obama's campaign were a huge asset to the Democrats in this race.
Even so, Hixson drastically underperformed the top of the ticket in huge election years for the Democrats. Without a major turnout on campus, I'm not certain that he can win on his own - that is, without coattails. If the recent polling on the gubernatorial race and the Senate race are right, the coattails will swing the other way.
Hixson's Republican challenger, Evan Wynn has been running an aggressive race and though he actually raised more money this reporting period, he sits at an almost 4 to 1 cash disadvantage. Hixson has amassed a sizable warchest and will undoubtedly use it to flood the airwaves and mailboxes in the district. The political mood in the state might be enough to turn this to a Republican seat - and I think it requires big wins by Walker and Johnson - but it is going to be another close one and a pure toss-up. I won't be surprised by either candidate winning.