Democrat Steve Doyle and Republican John Lautz will square off in next month’s special election for the 94th Assembly District seat. Cheryl Hancock, who made unsuccessful runs for the seat in the past two elections, lost to Doyle, the La Crosse County board chairman, who took 53 percent of the votes in the Democratic primary Tuesday.
Lautz, a 59-year-old West Salem home builder, defeated a field of five Republicans vying for the chance to succeed Mike Huebsch, who stepped down in January to become secretary of the Department of Administration.
Making his first run for office, Lautz got 48 percent of the votes in the Republican primary. On Tuesday night he was already promoting his campaign message of fiscal responsibility and reconciliation.
“The state needs to tighten its belt and balance its budget,” he said. “The way things have happened in the last month, we need to start building bridges.”
Among the Republican challengers: Shelby town board chairwoman Lynetta Kopp had 27.7 percent; sandwich shop owner and former West Salem school board member Jon Hetland 15.9 percent; Steve Freng 5.3 percent; and sign printer and tea party organizer Jake Speed 3 percent.
Doyle and Lautz led their respective parties in fundraising.
In separate races, Kopp lost her position as chairwoman of the Shelby town board to challenger Timothy Candahl, who took 59 percent of the votes, while Speed lost his bid for a spot on the town of Onalaska board.
Doyle, 52, has served on the county board since 1986 and has been chairman for the past 10 years.
He said the unusually heavy turnout — more than 40 percent in La Crosse County — bodes well for his chances in the May 3 special election. Turnout was heavier on the Democratic side.
“If that enthusiasm continues, the Democratic candidate has some real momentum,” he said.
Hancock, 54, is executive director of the local American Red Cross chapter and president of the Holmen school board. She twice ran against Huebsch, pulling in about 46 percent of the votes in 2008, a good year for Democrats, and just 41 percent last year, when Republicans won big.
Hancock said she would ask her supporters to back Doyle in an effort to win back a seat that has been in Republican hands since 1994.
“We’d like to bring it back on that side of the aisle,” she said.