Wisconsin Republicans veto-proof supermajority within reach

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has vetoed bills on issues like abortion, guns, schools, and elections. In this fall's election, Republicans could capture a supermajority that would allow the GOP to bypass the governor – and pass the bills despite vetoes.

Gov. Evers set the state record for full vetoes in a single legislative session - 126 in 2021-2022. The Legislative Reference Bureau reports the previous single session record was Gov. Fred Zimmerman's 90 full vetoes during the 1927-1928 session.

Evers is short of the total lifetime veto record set by Gov. John James Blaine, who served from 1921 to 1927. He fully vetoed 167 bills, while Gov. Evers's number is at 146.

If reelected, the Democratic governor's veto power might be neutralized, if Wisconsin Republicans win a two-thirds majority in both chambers of the state legislature.

"Six months ago, I would have said there’s almost no chance that there could be a Republican supermajority in the Assembly. But now, I would say, there is a real chance, perhaps even up to a 50-50 chance that there could be a supermajority in both houses," said Joe Handrick, Republican analyst and former state lawmaker, now with Common Sense Wisconsin.

Joe Handrick

Of the Wisconsin Senate's 33 seats, Republicans held 21 to Democrats' 12 this year. Republicans need to pick up just one more for the supermajority.

"In the senate, I think it’s going to happen. There’s an open seat up north, it’s a district that has been Democrat for a long time, but it’s been trending Republican. It’s now open, it does not have an incumbent. Donald Trump carried it," Handrick said.

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"In the senate, I think it’s very likely that the Republicans will get a supermajority, you have Senate Majority Leader Janet Bewley, who is retiring at the end of this session, she represents a district in the far northwest of the state, bordering Lake Superior, that’s a district that has been trending towards Republicans in recent elections. I believe Donald Trump won it by about 10 points," echoed Dan Shafer, "Recombobulation Area" columnist.

Dan Shafer

Of the Wisconsin Assembly's 99 seats, this year Republicans held 61 to Democrats 38. The GOP needs to pick up five more Assembly seats for the supermajority in that chamber.

"I think that’s a little bit less likely, but it’s not out of the question," Shafer said. "Republicans historically, with a Democratic president, have the advantage in the midterms. There’s a chance for Republicans to pick up a couple seats."

Both Shafer, a progressive, and Handrick, a conservative, point to the Superior and Ashland areas. They both have open Democratic-held Assembly seats in an area trending Republican – which Donald Trump won.

"There are a number of places where Republicans could pick up those two more seats to get them to that 66-seat threshold, which, I think could open up Pandora’s Box for all kinds of problems in the state legislature," Shafer said. "It would be very difficult for Democrats to have a say in the state legislature, if they [Republicans] reached that supermajority threshold. That silences the ability to meet in the middle, and find common ground."

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"I think the biggest impact would be it would moderate the governor. He would not be able to veto very popular legislation anymore, because he would know 66 or 67 or at that point, maybe a bunch of Democrats, too, willing to override the veto," Handrick said, pointing to vetoed bills like one to expand school voucher eligibility to all students.

The Republican-drawn legislative maps, which will be used in this November election, give more of an advantage to the GOP – like in the 5th Senate District in Brookfield and Elm Grove. It now extends further into Waukesha County, including New Berlin. It was a 50/50 district, but now it becomes more Republican.

Wisconsin State Capitol

The 13th Assembly District, also in Brookfield, is one Democrats flipped in 2020, but now it too becomes much more Republican. 

In just six weeks, you will decide if Republicans will gain the supermajority of the Wisconsin Legislature, and you will decide whether the governor who will sign or veto their bills is a Republican or Democrat.