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Wisconsin (08) (Open Seat)

Outlook: Toss-up

This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Steve Kagen (D) defeated John Gard (R) with 51% of the vote.

July 13, 2006 Update:

For several reasons, the Crystal Ball sees fit to downgrade this race slightly from the perspective of July. First, current GOP Rep. Mark Green now has his party’s gubernatorial nomination all to himself, and although he’s currently down by double digits in the polls, it’s a safe bet that he’s well ahead in his home district, which is a certain boon for likely Republican nominee State House Speaker John Gard

Second, Democrats, who constitute a clear minority in this fairly conservative Green Bay-area district, continue to be treated to a tough three-way showdown for the House nomination. Left-leaning interest groups are divided between the candidates, and only personally wealthy allergist Steve Kagen could conceivably emerge from a bruising primary fight with a ready supply of cash. Democrats will certainly be targeting this open seat, but this race remains an uphill battle against the well-funded Gard and the relatively united GOP.


The late primary here could really be working against Democrats, as the State House Speaker John Gard continues to save precious dollars for the general election fight. This is one fairly moderate GOP open seat the incumbent party stands an excellent chance to hold.

February 2006 Outlook:

Much like Minnesota Rep. Mark Kennedy, Wisconsin Rep. Mark Green is vacating a safe seat in Congress to run for a different office in 2006 – only Green is mounting a bid against an incumbent governor while Kennedy is running for an open Senate seat. In the Green Bay-centered 8th district Green is leaving behind, the battle to fill the open seat could potentially get as frigid as Lambeau Field’s frozen tundra.

On the Republican side, state Rep. Terri McCormick and State House Speaker John Gard will compete for their party’s nod, with the early edge going to Gard. Across the aisle, former Brown County executive Nancy Nusbaum, businessman Jamie Wall, and independently wealthy, self-funding allergy clinic magnate Steve Kagen will duke it out for the Democratic go-ahead. So far, a poll conducted by EMILY’s List showing Nusbaum in a near dead-heat against Gard has given Nusbaum encouragement and has earned the race some media attention.

Although the strong Republican heritage of this district will make it exceedingly difficult for the eventual Democratic nominee to nab this open seat, the Crystal Ball has not forgotten the outcome here in 1996, when Democratic newscaster Jay Johnson bested a GOP nominee who emerged weakened from a fractured Republican field. Of course, Green easily sent Johnson packing two years later, but a similar scenario this decade would not be entirely out of the question. This race leans Republican.


Steve Kagen – Democrat – Total Raised: $437,257.48 | Total Spent: $2,139,207.99

John Gard – Republican – Total Raised:$2,104,421.91 | Total Spent: $2,028,258.58