Wisconsin secretary of state race: Candidate comparison
What does Wisconsin’s secretary of state do?
Wisconsin’s secretary of state oversees the acts of the governor and the state Legislature, manages public records and serves on the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands. The SOS would act as governor if the current governor and lieutenant governor were removed from office or unable to serve.
What’s at stake?
The race for secretary of state could determine the future of the Wisconsin Elections Commission. Governed by six commissioners — shared evenly between the Republican and Democratic parties, the WEC was created by Republicans in 2016. This commission provides support to local clerks and monitors compliance with election laws and accuracy. The WEC chairperson is responsible for certifying state and federal election results, excluding the presidential race, which follows a different set of rules. The commission faced heightened criticism after the 2020 presidential election. If a Republican SOS is elected, they may attempt to abolish the WEC and potentially seek to transfer its duties to the SOS’s office.
Who are the candidates?
Biography: Neil Harmon joined the Libertarian Party in 2016 and is a former Democrat and Republican. He has worked in health care for over 25 years. Harmon serves as the vice chair of the state Libertarian party.
Select endorsements: Libertarian Party of Wisconsin
Article worth checking out: Meet The Candidates For Secretary Of State: Neil Harmon (WORT)
Doug La Follette
Biography: Doug La Follette has served as Wisconsin's secretary of state for 44 years. La Follette started Clean Wisconsin and has focused on renewable energy since the 1970s. He helped Gaylord Nelson, a former Wisconsin governor and U.S. senator, organize the first Earth Day in 1970. La Follette was also appointed by President Jimmy Carter as the assistant director to the Mid-American Solar Energy Complex. He earned a PhD in organic chemistry from Columbia University and later became an assistant professor of chemistry and ecology at UW-Parkside.
Select endorsement: Our Wisconsin Revolution
Article worth checking out: What to know about Doug La Follette, the Democrat seeking another term as Wisconsin secretary of state (Journal Sentinel)
Biography: Amy Loudenbeck was first elected to the Wisconsin state Assembly in 2010. Loudenbeck has served as vice co-chair of the Joint Committee on Finance, chairman of the State Capitol and Executive Residence Board, and is a member of the State Fair Park Board. She graduated from UW-Madison in 1991 with degrees in political science and international relations. In 2020, Loudenbeck attended the White House Summit on Human Trafficking and served on a panel to discuss human trafficking in Wisconsin.
Select endorsements: Former Gov. Tommy Thompson, U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany, state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, state Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu. Additional endorsements listed on Loudenbeck’s website.
Articles worth checking out: Wisconsin SOS hopeful wants election control, won't say how much (Associated Press), What to know about Amy Loudenbeck, the Republican running for secretary of state in Wisconsin (Journal Sentinel)
Biography: Sharyl McFarland is a decades-long advocate for social justice and human rights. Her work focuses on such issues as voter suppression, racial inequalities, mass incarceration and homelessness.
According to the Wisconsin Green Party, McFarland rallied to close down the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility, sharing an anecdote about the mistreatment of her at-the-time 17-year-old son.
Select endorsements: Wisconsin Green Party
Where do the candidates stand on the issue of election oversight?
Harmon: Harmon says elections oversight should be taken away from the Wisconsin Elections Commission and given to an elected, non-partisan body, according to an interview with WORT 88.9 Madison. He also believes the number of commissioners on that panel should be reduced from six to four, with the secretary of state serving as its leader.
“I think if there’s any kind of shenanigans or people having problems with access to voting that, that’s where the secretary of state should be the overseeing figure of that,” he told WORT.
La Follette: La Follette says the secretary of state's office “is coming into focus as the newest battleground to save democracy.”
On his website, La Follette writes: “Far-right politicians have proposed stealing power over elections in the hopes that they can use it to overturn any result they don't like. The state of Wisconsin has been a pivotal battleground in several of the past presidential elections.”
He hopes to keep the Wisconsin Elections Commission intact to continue its electoral duties.
Loudenbeck: Loudenbeck wants to abolish and replace the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
“This isn't a power grab,” Loudenbeck told the Associated Press. "The Legislature should explore a wide range of policy options to utilize this constitutional office that is directly accountable to voters and look at what other states are doing and talk about restoring some traditional responsibilities, including election oversight, if appropriate, to the office.”
According to the AP, Loudenbeck has been vague about her views on election fraud and whether she believes President Joe Biden is the legitimate president; however, she did say that the government is obligated to ensure a secure elections system — conceding that decertifying Biden's victory “is not an option.”
McFarland: McFarland says the integrity of elections is being questioned and people demand answers.
“The only way to have free and fair elections is to have hand-counted paper ballots, with routine post-election audits to ensure that every vote is counted equally and fairly,” she told the Wisconsin Green Party.
McFarland supports a non-partisan election commission “to end the WEC rampage of discrimination against independent politicians.” She also says the electoral college is a “system that does not represent the people” and that a winning candidate should be determined by the top vote-getter.
Wisconsin's midterm elections are Tuesday, November 8, 2022. If you have a question about voting or the races, submit it below.