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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

 12:40 AM 

Fitzgerald: 'Top of the ticket matters'

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, with Republicans guaranteed to retain their majority and in position to possibly expand it, said Donald Trump generated a national wave in rural areas that helped drive some GOP wins.

"That's why I thought it was important early on for leadership to get on board with the whole Trump deal," said Fitzgerald, R-Juneau. "Top of the ticket matters."

Republicans went into Tuesday expecting a dogfight in the 18th SD, which covers the Fond du Lac-Oshkosh area. But Dan Feyen, of Fond du Lac, won with 56 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, became a late target for Dems. But he was at 57 percent of the vote with all but two precincts in.

Some operatives questioned Fitzgerald's decision to play in the 24th SD, particularly in a presidential year when Dem turnout was expected to surge. But Republicans were feeling confident Pat Testin would pull off the upset of Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point. With 92 percent of the vote in, he had 40,247 votes, or 53 percent, while Lassa had 35,647, or 47 percent.

Former state Sen. Dan Kapanke's challenge of Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, also was considered a longshot by many, considering the district usually has a strong Dem lean in presidential years. But with 71 percent of the vote in, Kapanke was at 25,506 votes, or 53 percent, while Shilling was at 21,140, or 44 percent.

Fitzgerald said the key in both races was the two Republicans ended up with strong name ID. He said Kapanke began high because of his two terms in the Senate before losing a recall election in 2011 to Shilling and Testin built his. The Committee to Elect a Republican Senate invested six figures in Testin to help his bid.

"The formula is still the same," Fitzgerald said. "You've got to make sure their name ID is up there."

Fitzgerald declined to say what the GOP agenda would be in the next session, particularly if it has a larger majority in the Senate. But asked if expanding school choice, making additional changes to prevailing wage and cutting taxes were likely topics, he said all of that and more could be on tap.

"I gotta get a handle on that as much as anybody on where the caucus wants to go and what it wants to accomplish," Fitzgerald said.

-- By JR Ross


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