Here and Now 2022

What you need to know about Wisconsin's 2022 midterm elections

'Here & Now' has closely followed candidates and issues leading up to the Nov. 8 vote — explore reporting about the state's political conditions and movement since the primary.

By Kristian Knutsen | Here & Now

November 8, 2022

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A sandwich board sign with a U.S. flag and the words Vote Here stands next to a masonry wall alongside the walkway to a building entrance.

(Credit: PBS Wisconsin)

The 2022 midterm elections have shaped up to be yet another close and contentious political contest in Wisconsin. Here & Now 2022 has followed the issues, candidates and campaigns that have stood out in the final three months of the race, from the partisan primary on Aug. 9 to the eve of Election Day. To learn more, explore “Here & Now” reporting along with items from partners at Milwaukee PBS and PBS NewsHour about the 2022 election.

The race for a U.S. Senate seat is the highest-profile race in the state at the national level, and its outcome will be a factor in determining control of this chamber of Congress. Republican incumbent Ron Johnson, who was first elected in 2010 and is seeking a third term in the seat, is facing Democratic challenger Mandela Barnes, who was elected to the office of lieutenant governor in 2018 and previously served in the state Assembly.


The race for governor is the topline statewide race that has become the most expensive political campaign in Wisconsin’s history. Its outcome will determine whether the past four years of divided government will continue, or whether the statehouse will return to complete Republican control. Democratic incumbent Tony Evers, a former state superintendent who was elected in 2018 and is seeking a second term in the seat, is facing Republican challenger Tim Michels, who previously ran in a U.S. Senate primary in 2004. Several issues have been central to this race, including education, abortion and the relationship between the governor’s office and state Legislature.


The candidates for governor are accompanied on the ballot by their running mate. Sara Rodriguez, who was elected to the state Assembly in a suburban Milwaukee district in 2020, is the Democratic candidate. Roger Roth, who was first elected to the state Senate in a Fox Valley district in 2014 and served two terms as president of that chamber, is the Republican candidate.


Another high-profile statewide race is for the office of attorney general. Democratic incumbent Josh Kaul, who was elected to the seat in 2018 and is seeking a second term in the seat, is facing Republican challenger Eric Toney, who has served as Fond du Lac County District Attorney since 2013. Crime and abortion are among the major issues in this race.


One race that has typically been lower in profile but has attracted more interest in 2022 is for secretary of state, one office that has few official powers but is at the center of new Republican interest in changing how elections are administered. Democratic incumbent Doug La Follette, who has served in the seat for more than four decades, is facing Republican challenger Amy Loudenbeck, a state representative who was first elected to the Assembly in 2010.


The statewide race for state treasurer in Wisconsin remains very low in profile. This seat is open, with the Republican candidate John Leiber, a lawyer based in the Madison area, facing the Democratic candidate Aaron Richardson, the mayor of the Madison suburb of Fitchburg.


Most of the races for Wisconsin’s eight seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are not competitive, and there is one that is even uncontested. However, the race for the 3rd Congressional District, which covers swaths of western and central portions of the state, has attracted significant attention. The long-time Democratic incumbent, Rep. Ron Kind, is retiring at the end of the term, leaving this seat open. Running in the race are the Democratic candidate state Sen. Brad Pfaff, who was elected to a state Senate district in 2020, and the Republican candidate Derrick Van Orden, who ran for the same seat in 2020 and was narrowly defeated.


Three months have passed since the partisan primary on Aug. 9, which marked the start of the final stretch of the 2022 midterm election cycle. That vote helped establish the contours of the general election, and polling has shown that Wisconsin’s highest profile races are close, a familiar situation in the state.


As candidates have sought to build interest in their campaigns, the administration of elections in Wisconsin itself has been at the forefront of state and national politics since the 2020 presidential vote.


Wisconsin’s electorate is continuously shifting and candidates are always maneuvering to adapt, but the pace of change and increasingly diverse voters are attracting more interest among campaigns, particularly in the state’s largest population center of Milwaukee and its suburbs.


The 2022 election has more registered voters than any previous midterm election in Wisconsin, and turnout is on track to be comparatively high for a non-presidential year.


Every election brings a new cohort of young votes, and high school students in Appleton, Black River Falls, Minocqua and Wauwatosa shared their thoughts on issues related to their civic aspirations and the 2022 election in collaboration with PBS Wisconsin Education and PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs.


Election Day is on Nov. 8, with polls in Wisconsin opening at 7 a.m. and closing at 8 p.m. More information about candidates and races, the basics of voting, and election results as they are updated can be found at Wisconsin Vote.

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