It has been rumored for a while that State Senator Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) was going to get a primary challenger in his next election. Representative Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) announced this week he will run for Schultz’s seat next year.
Republicans around the state have grumbled about Sen. Schultz since 2011, when he was the lone Republican in the Senate to vote against the bill that became Act 10. They grumbled even louder when Schultz refused to go along with the mining bill in 2012, and when he rejected an idea to force the 2012 recalls into the new district maps created by Republicans.
Marklein is a Certified Public Accountant and came into office during the tea party wave of 2010. He is only in his 2nd term, but is already viewed as a rising star by GOP insiders. He is extremely conservative and has now won twice in an Assembly District that leans Democratic at the top of the ticket. If he beats Schultz in the August primary in 2014 he will attempt to win a senate seat that leans Democratic at the top of the ticket. But insiders say Marklein is well set to hold the seat if he wins because he can partially self-fund his own race and he’s been able to raise money as well. Add in the amount of third party interest group cash that would flow into the race and he would not be at a disadvantage.
Dale Schultz has been in office since 1982 and was even elected Senate Majority Leader less than a decade ago. But he’s seen his party move more to the right over that time and his willingness to work with Democrats has irked many Republicans. Schultz has continually rejected offers to join the Democratic Party, the most recent offer coming after Marklein announced against him. Schultz points to his voting record, which he says matches Sen. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald’s 98% of the time.
Schultz is extremely popular and well known in his district. His home turf of Richland County also knows how to back a winner. They have correctly chosen the winner of the Gubernatorial and Presidential elections dating back to the 80′s.
Schultz says he will decide later this year if he will run again, but this announcement does make it easier for Democrats to find a candidate. Insiders have been telling me the best candidates were not eager to run against the well liked Schultz, but the prospect of running against the more conservative Marklein in a swing district has them feeling more confident they can take the Senate seat and Marklein’s old Assembly seat.