Wisconsin governor & lt. gov.: Your guide to the 2022 election & the candidates
What does Wisconsin’s governor do?
Wisconsin’s governor is elected on a combined ballot with the lieutenant governor. They are elected for four-year terms. The governor is the state’s chief executive who reviews all bills passed by the Legislature; appoints most of the heads of major state agencies like the Departments of Health, Transportation and Revenue; and can veto an entire bill or parts of a bill that deals with spending. However, the state Legislature can override a governor’s veto by a two-thirds majority vote. The governor can also call the Legislature into special session to deal with specific legislation.
What’s at stake?
The governor’s race is one of two in the upcoming years — the other is next year's Wisconsin Supreme Court race — that could either prevent or ensure that Republicans have near-total power in the state.
If a Republican governor is elected in Wisconsin, the GOP-led Legislature would be able to pass bills restricting voting access, expanding access to guns, criminalizing abortion as well as other issues in line with a conservative agenda — and then it will be likely to have them signed into law. On the contrary, Democratic Gov. Evers has vetoed many of those bills during his tenure.
However, even if Evers prevails, Wisconsin could take a sharp conservative turn after November. According to the Associated Press, Republican may be able to win enough seats in the Legislature to override vetoes — they need to flip five states in the Assembly and one in the Senate to reach the two-thirds majority they need.
READ: In Wisconsin, 2 Huge Races Stand Between G.O.P. and Near-Total Power
Who are the candidates?
Biography: Tony Evers was elected as governor in 2018. Previously, he was elected state superintendent from 2009 to 2017. He is also a former teacher, principal, school administrator and deputy state superintendent of schools. During his term as governor, Wisconsin has had record-low unemployment and the state’s budget surplus has risen to $5 billion. Evers wants to spend a large portion of money on public schools while also cutting income taxes for middle and lower-income earners. Evers also supports repealing the 1849 Wisconsin law banning abortions, legalizing marijuana and expanding Medicaid.
Select endorsements: National Security Leaders for America, Giffords PAC, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, Wisconsin AFL-CIO. Additional endorsements can be found on Evers' website.
Biography: Tim Michels is a millionaire conservative who grew up in Brownsville, Wisconsin and co-owns the Michels Corporation, a construction business. Michels waged unsuccessful bids for Wisconsin state Senate in 1998 and for U.S. Senate in 2004. He then moved his family to Greenwich, Connecticut and returned with his family to Wisconsin in 2022 to run a largely self-funded campaign for governor. He’s a veteran of the U.S. Army. Michels says he wants to “drain the Madison swamp,” and that his priorities are crime, education, the economy and “election integrity.”
Select endorsements: President Donald Trump, Wisconsin Troopers Association, Tavern League of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Dairy Alliance. Additional endorsements can be found on Michels' website.
Articles worth reading: A non-interview with Tim Michels: Where he stands on the issues and the questions that remain, Republican Tim Michels pours nearly $8 million into self-funded run for Wisconsin governor, GOP candidate Tim Michels reasserts view on marriage as 'between a man and woman' as public opinion on same-sex unions shifts
Where do the candidates stand on key issues?
Evers: In June, Tony Evers issued an emergency order barring price gouging for sales of gasoline and diesel. He also supports cutting income taxes and other forms of relief for middle- and lower-income wage earners. Evers has proffered ideas on how to redistribute Wisconsin’s budget surplus. That includes a 10% tax cutfor single tax filers making less than $100,000 or married joint filers at or below $150,000. He has also proposed increasing the income limit for the state’s homestead tax credit and adding a caregiver tax credit, among other proposals.
Michels: Tim Michels has said it’s tough for a governor to control inflation. On the economy, he has what he calls aWisconsin First Economy Blueprint. He wants to compete with neighboring states by reducing corporate and individual income taxes to attract and retain more talent in Wisconsin. He wants to eliminate the personal property tax. He says he supports increasing American energy production and distribution to provide low cost and reliable energy for families and businesses across the state. He also wants to make Wisconsin a manufacturing hub for the military defense industry.
Evers: Evers has funded policing and courts, but also supports police reform. He allocated $56 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to policing and courts, with the largest share of the money going to Milwaukee. In August 2020, he proposed a special session on police reform, of which the Legislature gaveled in and out. His bills would have banned chokeholds and no-knock warrants and provided more transparency on officer use of force policy.
Michels: Michels says he “backs the blue.” He wants to hire more police officers, reduce state aid for localities who attempt to defund the police, and create new mandatory minimum penalties for felons possessing guns. Michels also wants to remove Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and “expose weak prosecutors and judges through greater access to public information.”
Evers: Evers supports curtailing gun access and has vetoed GOP-authored bills expanding such access. He proposed universal background checks in Wisconsin and extreme risk protection orders, otherwise known as red flag laws. The red flag law would allow judges to seize guns from someone they determine to be a threat. Evers has said he would consider assault weapons buyback, which would require gun owners to sell their assault weapons back to the government.
Michels: Michels supports more gun access and has pledged to lift restrictions on firearms. He opposes an assault weapons ban and said he will not support red flag laws. He supports allowing 18 year olds to buy AR-15s with no waiting period.
Evers: Evers supports abortion rights. He has said he will fight to defend reproductive freedom, “including access to safe, legal abortion in Wisconsin.” Before the Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade, Evers asked the Legislature to repeal the state’s 1849 abortion ban. The 173-year-old law bans abortion in Wisconsin, even in cases of rape or incest.
Michels: In September, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Michels said "he would sign legislation creating exceptions to Wisconsin's abortion law for rape and incest." Previously, Michels had said he wanted to criminalize abortion, even in cases of rape or incest. On UpFront, he said the 1849 ban on abortion that doesn’t include exceptions for rape or incest is “an exact mirror” of his position. And, Michels had said it was “not unreasonable” for the government to force rape victims to give birth.
Evers: Evers supports additional funding for public schools. He has called for tapping into some of the state’s $5 billion surplus and spending an additional $2 to $2.5 billion on K-12 public schools. His priorities are increasing revenue limits, funding for mental health support in schools and special education aid.
Michels: Michels says he wants to prioritize parents and end “the iron grip” of teacher’s unions. He has called continuing to increase education funding “the definition of insanity.” He says he would consider abolishing Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction. Michels supports universal school choice — allowing families of any income to use taxpayer funding for private schools.
Evers: Evers supports voting access. He has said he will veto any bill that makes it more difficult to vote. In 2021, Evers vetoed several GOP-authored voting bills — these bills would have placed more restrictions on absentee voting, and taken power from the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) and put it into the hands of the GOP-led Legislature.
Michels: Michels falsely claimed the 2020 presidential election was rigged, a lie former President Donald Trump has pushed in an effort to overturn his loss to President Joe Biden. Michels has said that “everything will be on the table,” in response to decertifying the 2020 election, which legal experts say is not possible. Michels is on board with eliminating the WEC and limiting absentee voting, which could include signing into law some of the more than a dozen bills passed by the state’s GOP-led Legislature to change voting laws in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor
What does Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor do?
Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor is elected on a combined ballot with the governor. The lieutenant governor is the state’s second-ranking executive officer, similar to vice president of the United States. The major role of the lieutenant governor is to step in and serve as active governor if the governor isn’t able to serve either because of impeachment, ailment or absence from the state.
Who are the candidates?
Biography: Sara Rodriguez was elected to the state Assembly in 2020 and serves as the representative of the 13th Assembly district. It covers the western suburbs of Milwaukee County and eastern Waukesha County. She is a nurse and public health professional, with master’s degrees in public health and nursing from Johns Hopkins University. As a state legislator, Rodriguez has prioritized public health, education, the economy, reproductive freedom, and climate and the environment. In the Assembly, she co-authored legislation to repeal Wisconsin's 1849 law criminalizing abortion.
Select endorsements: Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Black Leaders Organizing for Communities, Emily's List, AFSCME People. Additional endorsements can be found on Rodriguez's website.
Biography: Roger Roth was elected to the state Assembly from 2006-2008, and has been elected to the state Senate since 2014. He was elected president of the state Senate in 2017 and 2019. Roth started working in his family’s Appleton-based construction business as a teenager and would later manage its operations. Roth graduated from UW-Oshkosh and joined the Wisconsin Air National Guard, serving in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He’s still a captain in the Wisconsin Air National Guard. Roth’s priorities include minimizing taxes and limiting government spending. He proposed that Wisconsin eliminate the state income tax.
Select endorsement: Wisconsin Right to Life
Where do the candidates stand on key issues?
Rodriguez: Sara Rodriguez says she is focused on supporting the middle class and small business owners. She says that “family-supporting wages are the foundation for a vibrant middle class in Wisconsin.” She says as lieutenant governor, she will support investments in workforce development and investments in technical assistance.
Roth: Roger Roth is a fiscal conservative. He says he “knows that crushing inflation, runaway government spending and ever-increasing taxes cost families and business owners each and every day.” He has opposed tax increases by the Evers administration and supports capping both state and federal spending. Roth has proposed to eliminate the state income tax.
Rodriguez: Rodriguez sees public safety and gun violence through the lens of public health. A public health approach to curing violence focuses on prevention by providing people with the holistic resources or the interventions to decrease the likelihood of violence, whether that’s by making available housing, mental health or substance abuse treatment, child care, food, violence interruption and more. Rodriguez pushed to expand BadgerCare in the Legislature and says she “will continue to fight for affordable, quality health care access for all.”
Roth: Roth supports more police. He has authored legislation and constitutional amendments to help recruit, retain and train law enforcement. He says he will continue to fight for legislation that prevents any defunding of the police and for legislation that will guarantee that law enforcement funding goes directly to law enforcement and “not socialist pet projects.”
Rodriguez: Rodriguez supports gun safety legislation, according to Darryl Morrin, co-founder of the 80% Coalition, a non-partisan consort of advocacy, business, education, faith-based, professional and service organizations committed to convincing legislators at the state and federal levels to pass gun violence prevention legislation.
Roth: Roth supports expanding Second Amendment protections in Wisconsin. He says this will ensure that Wisconsin residents can “protect their families without fear." He says he has “worked tirelessly against liberal special interests from Wisconsin and Washington D.C. when others refuse to act.”
Rodriguez: Rodriguez supports reproductive freedom. She says the decision to start a family shouldn’t be made by a politician. She co-authored legislation in the Assembly to repeal Wisconsin’s 1849 law criminalizing abortion. She says, “As lieutenant governor, I will always protect the right of every Wisconsinite to make their own health care decisions and defend against attacks on reproductive rights.”
Roth: Roth is anti-abortion. He supports Wisconsin’s 1849 ban, which criminalizes abortion except to save the life of the pregnant person. The law does not have exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the pregnant person. Roth has tweeted that “all life is precious” and authored the Born-Alive Survivors Protection Act, which he says would “set forth requirements for providing life-saving care for children born alive following an abortion or attempted abortion.”
Rodriguez: Rodriguez supports Gov. Evers’ proposals to fund public schools. She says, “A fully funded public education system is critical to creating thriving communities.” She supports equitable access to education from birth through college along with access to social supports and mental health resources. She says, “We should treat Wisconsin educators like the superheroes they are and support students like our future depends on it — because it does.”
Roth: Roth says he supports parents and is an advocate of school choice. He is authored legislation to establish a parental bill of rights, break up Milwaukee Public Schools and expand school choice, all three of which passed the Legislature but were vetoed by Evers.
Rodriguez: Rodriguez has sponsored legislation to implement ranked choice voting in Wisconsin and facilitate automatic voter registration.
Roth: Roth says he supports “reinstituting election integrity.” He has authored legislation and constitutional amendments to change voting laws, including restrictions on absentee voting. He opposes private grants to Wisconsin municipalities to fund voting needs, such as grants from the Center for Tech and Civic Life in 2020, which he calls “Zuckerbucks.” Roth authored the constitutional amendment “guaranteeing that citizens, and only citizens, can vote in Wisconsin elections,” which he calls “protecting our state against the radical leftist trends of states like New York and California.”
Wisconsin's midterm elections are Tuesday, November 8, 2022. If you have a question about voting or the races, submit it below.