Patty Schachtner
Photo: Steven M. Leonard/Penny for Senate

In a major upset for Wisconsin Republicans, Democrat Patty Schachtner bested Republican state Rep. Adam Jarchow for an open Wisconsin Senate seat Tuesday in a conservative district.

Republican Sheila Harsdorf had represented Senate District 10 for 16 years before resigning last November to join Scott Walker’s administration as agriculture secretary. Barack Obama lost the district by 6 points in 2012, and Hillary Clinton lost it to Donald Trump by 17 percentage points last year.

Every county in the northwest district voted for Trump last year, and. Jarchow, who is in his third term representing part of the area in the Assembly, had a strong base of support.

The right-wing corporate group Americans for Prosperity and the Republican State Leadership Committee each ran pro-Jarchow ads. Republican state Sen. Leah Vukmir, a darling of the religious right who is running for the U.S. Senate, campaigned for Jarchow in the district.

Schachtner, the St. Croix County medical examiner and a Somerset school board member, was clearly the race’s underdog.

Democrats view the victory, the latest in a nationwide string of Democratic upsets, as evidence that a backlash is building against Trump, one that augurs well for them in this year’s all-important mid-term elections.

"In just 2016, Republican incumbent Sheila Harsdorf won this same seat in northwestern Wisconsin with 63 percent of the vote on a night Donald Trump won every county within it," said Democratic state Sen. Chris Larson in a press statement. "But yesterday ... the impossible happened: the vote swung 19 points when Democrats showed up and gave Patty Schachtner, the St. Croix County medical examiner and a Somerset school board member, a 55 percent to 44 percent win over an experienced three-term Republican state representative."

Schachtner's victory doesn't change the balance of power in the Senate, where Republicans maintain an 18-14 majority.

In the state’s other special election on Tuesday, Republican Rick Gundrum of Slinger defeated Democrat Dennis Degenhardt for an open seat in eastern Wisconsin's solidly red 58th Assembly District. The seat opened up in October after incumbent Republican Bob Gannon died.

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