Elections

Wisconsin's 2022 secretary of state race takes shape between La Follette and Loudenbeck

Longtime Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette won the Democratic primary for the office while the Republican primary was won by state Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, who is hopes to take the seat in the 2022 general election and is seeking for the state to bestow it powers over elections.

August 9, 2022

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On the left half of a two-part image, Doug La Follette speaks into a half-dozen microphones held by reporters in front of a door. On the right half of the image, Amy Loudenbeck speaks into a microphone while seated in a legislative meeting room.

At left, Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette speaks to reporters after a hearing on April 1, 2011, in Dane County Circuit Court in Madison. (Credit: Michael P. King / Wisconsin State Journal via AP, Pool, File) At right, Amy Loudenbeck speaks during a meeting of the Wisconsin Legislature's Joint Finance Committee on May 25, 2017. (Credit: PBS Wisconsin)


Logo of the AP Associated Press

By Christina A. Cassidy, Associated Press

 

Longtime Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette won his Democratic primary on Aug. 9, advancing to a general election in which Republicans hope to win back the seat and give it power over elections.

In 2022, races for secretary of state have drawn tremendous interest and money largely because of the 2020 election, when voting systems and processes came under attack by former President Donald Trump and his supporters. There is no evidence of widespread fraud or manipulation of voting systems occurring in the 2020 election.

In Wisconsin, state Rep. Amy Loudenbeck defeated two primary opponents to advance to the November election against La Follette, a Democrat first elected in 1974.

Unlike many states, the Wisconsin secretary of state is not the top elections official and the office's only duties are to sit on a state timber board and verify certain travel documents. But Loudenbeck and other Republicans have said they want to change that and dismantle the Wisconsin Elections Commission, an agency established just six years ago with bipartisan support.

Loudenbeck and her primary opponents have echoed Trump's false claims that fraud cost him the 2020 election and sharply criticized decisions made by the commission heading into the 2020 election, when the COVID-19 pandemic brought major challenges to running elections. They had argued that empowering the secretary of state would allow voters to hold someone accountable for important election-related decisions.

"Wisconsin voters have taken the first step forward in the effort to restore purpose and respect to the Office of Secretary of State," Loudenbeck said in a statement after winning the primary on Aug. 9.

To accomplish their goal, Republicans also would need to defeat Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who would block such a move, in November.

La Follette, 81, said he didn't think primary voters were focused on the issue of who runs elections, but they will be.

"That's what the election is all about now," La Follette said Aug. 9 in a phone interview. "My message is simple and very clear: I think we in Wisconsin want to keep partisan politics out of the election process the way we have for 50 years."

Associated Press writers Todd Richmond and Scott Bauer contributed to this report.

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