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Schachtner defeats Jarchow in special election

Patty Schachtner is the first Democrat elected in the 10th Senate District since Alice Clausing held the seat from 1993 to 2000. Her Senate bid was preceded by two terms on the Star Prairie Town Board and Somerset School Board, which she currently serves on. She has been the St. Croix County medical examiner since 2011. File photo

For the first time in 17 years, a Democrat claimed victory in the 10th Senate District when Patty Schachtner topped Rep. Adam Jarchow Tuesday in a special election to fill former Sen. Sheila Harsdorf's seat.

The Somerset woman who serves as St. Croix County medical examiner is the first Democrat elected in the district since Alice Clausing, who held the seat from 1993 until Harsdorf was elected in 2000.

Schachtner said Tuesday night that in spite of high expectations, even she was surprised by the results.

"Knowing the history ... there was always a strong Republican vote, so I wanted it to be close," she said. "I am super excited."

Schachtner topped Jarchow, a Balsam Lake GOP Assembly member, in St. Croix and Pierce counties. Jarchow edged her in less-populous Polk and Burnett counties, while Dunn County numbers had yet to be tallied by RiverTown Multimedia's press deadline. Libertarian candidate Brian Corriea, of Wilson, finished a distant third.

She said her personal connection with voters likely made the difference.

"At the end of the day, I really work hard at being nice and open and really reflecting Wisconsin values," Schachtner said, adding that when campaign materials against her went negative, "people were turned off by it."

She said she will continue on in her role as medical examiner, but likely with a more administrative focus and less emphasis on death investigations.

"My staff, we have been preparing for either-or, so we're ready," she said.

Jarchow announced on Twitter that he had called Schachtner to congratulate her on the win.

"It was a hard-fought campaign and she prevailed," he said in a news release. "I look forward to working with Patty in Madison and continuing to deliver results for the people of northwestern Wisconsin."

Republicans held an 18-13 advantage over Democrats in the Senate heading into Tuesday.

Schachtner's Senate candidacy was preceded by two terms on the Star Prairie Town Board and Somerset School Board, which she currently serves on. She has been the St. Croix County medical examiner since 2011 and has served as a leader on local mental health- and addiction-related initiatives.

Jarchow was the first to announce his candidacy after Harsdorf's ascension to the Walker administration. First elected to the Legislature in 2014, Jarchow has emerged as a vocal property rights advocate in the Assembly, most recently passing legislation that overturned a U.S. Supreme Court decision and unfroze land restrictions for a family of St. Croix County property owners.

Corriea's bid represented his first shot at elected office, but one he said he hoped to capitalize on — both as a candidate and as an opportunity to bring attention to the Libertarian Party, which is not represented in the Wisconsin Legislature.

According to campaign finance reports, Jarchow received about $43,000 in contributions on Jan. 10, led by more than $38,000 from the state Republican party. Those figures came in after a Jan. 1 report that showed Jarchow with an $81,416 war chest, bolstered by a $50,000 loan. He ended 2017 with about $271,000 in contributions.

Schachtner saw a $13,419 donation from the state Democratic party on Jan. 9. Her campaign ended 2017 with $196,000 in contributions and about $53,000 cash on hand.

The race came during signs of a rising wave of Democratic support in other elections around the country, with some observers calling Wisconsin's 10th Senate District race a possible bellwether for the fall elections. A conservative group sponsoring Jarchow — the Koch brothers'-backed Americans for Prosperity — said in the run-up that "the eyes of the nation will be on western Wisconsin as voters go to the polls in the first special election of 2018."

The seat had been occupied by Harsdorf since 2000 until the River Falls Republican was appointed by Gov. Scott Walker to lead the state's Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. In addition to service on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Harsdorf served on the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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