As politics is nationalized, April’s nonpartisan elections are looking more and more like November’s partisan ones.
Five months after the November 2020 presidential race, Wisconsin held a contest for state school superintendent.
The November election was close.
The April election wasn’t.
The November election attracted massive attention.
The April election didn’t.
The November election drew 3.3 million voters to the polls.
The April election drew about 912,000.
The November election was partisan.
The April election was nonpartisan.
But as different as they were, the two elections did have something in common. The geographic voting patterns were remarkably similar.
By and large, the counties that performed the best for Democrat Joe Biden last fall also performed the best for the winning and more liberal candidate in this month’s race for state school superintendent, Jill Underly.
And the counties that performed the best for Republican Donald Trump last fall generally performed the best for Underly’s more conservative opponent, Deborah Kerr.
This happened despite vast differences in turnout, spending and media attention in the two races and the fact that one office — the presidency — is the ultimate partisan prize and the other is a low-profile, nonpartisan office overseeing the state’s public schools.
“It’s an indication of the nationalization” of our politics, said University of Wisconsin-Green Bay political scientist Aaron Weinschenk, who has tracked the increasingly partisan cast of April election contests.