Flickr/Creative Commons photo by blue cheddar
A Wisconsin flag flies outside the state capital in Madison during a labor rally in 2015. Democrats are optimistic they will make enough gains in the November elections to erase some of Gov. Scott Walker's policies.  

Labor and working families in Wisconsin got a boost on April 3 when IBEW members and labor allies racked up impressive victories in municipal and judicial elections, sparking enthusiasm they hope will carry into the November elections.

Eau Claire, Wis., Local 953 vice president and assistant business manager Brady Weiss, who recently was elected mayor of Mondovi, Wis.

Three IBEW members were elected or re-elected to their posts, including a surprisingly lopsided victory by Eau Claire Local 953 vice president and assistant business manager Brady Weiss, who beat a far-right member of the Wisconsin House to become the mayor of the town of Mondovi in west-central Wisconsin.

Other IBEW members who won elections were Dan Bukiewicz, a former Local 494 business representative and current president of the Milwaukee Building & Construction Trades Council, who was re-elected mayor of Milwaukee suburb Oak Creek; and fellow 494 member and current business representative Curt Brauer, who was re-elected supervisor in Sheboygan County, about 50 miles north of Milwaukee.

Weiss’ victory, however, was seen as the most significant. He knocked off incumbent Treig Pronschinske 457-256 in Mondovi, a town of about 2,800 near Eau Claire. Pronchinske also is a freshman member of the state House and has consistently supported Gov. Scott Walker – a regular antagonist of unions over his nearly eight years in office – and proposals that harm working families, although the mayoral race was non-partisan.

“People are common sense voters in my town,” said Weiss, a power lineman making his first run for public office. “They’re not necessarily politically affiliated. They’re candidate voters. They selected me, and I’m very grateful.”

Mondovi has a higher percentage of union voters than in many areas, Weiss said. Local 953 represents about 70 employees at the Dairyland Power Cooperative in nearby Alma. Pronschinske’s attitude toward labor probably helped Weiss’s campaign, but he said he made sure all working families in the area were heard.

“You have to constantly be trying to find common ground with people,” he said. “If you take an adversarial position on every topic along party lines, nothing will be accomplished and nothing can be gained.”

Even though Weiss’ primary motivation was to serve his community, he hopes his success will encourage other IBEW members to run for local offices. He currently has no plans to run for the state legislature and instead will concentrate on his plans for Mondovi.

“Brady has been and will continue to be an integral part of Local 953’s team as we continue the fight for all of our members and for working families in Wisconsin,” Local 953 Business Manager Martin Sandberg said. “With his beliefs and values on supporting all working families, Brady will be a major asset to the community of Mondovi as he takes on the role of mayor. Congratulations to him on this big win.”

The IBEW in Wisconsin also worked with other groups to elect Rebecca Dallet to the state Supreme Court. Dallet, a Milwaukee County Circuit judge, won a seat that had been held by a conservative justice not seeking re-election.

Her victory cuts the conservatives edge on the seven-member court to 4-3. Walker and his allies have been emboldened by knowing the state’s high court likely won’t overturn their most controversial measures.

“We are proud of our work to help elect these fantastic candidates,” Local 494 Business Manager Dean Warsh said. “Local 494 endorsed candidates who strongly support working families, job creation and using our tax dollars to make investments in our communities.”

Earlier this year, the Democrats picked up a state Senate seat and got another momentum boost when Patty Schachtner won a special election in District 10 by 11 percentage points. President Trump won the district by 17 points in 2016.

The GOP still holds an 18-14 advantage in the state Senate and 63-35 in the State House. Walker, who led the charge in Wisconsin adopting a right-to-work law in 2015 and eviscerating public employee unions in 2011, also is running for a third term in November.

“You can sense the tide is turning here in Wisconsin, but it’s still an uphill battle,” Warsh said. “Most voters understand the Walker era has been a disaster, but that means nothing if we don’t get them to the polls in November. That is the challenge for all of us in the months ahead, and it’s one I am confident we will meet.”