Candidates start to file for Wisconsin Senate 13 Special Election

Scott Fitzgerald
Scott Fitzgerald

As prohibitionist Scott Fitzgerald moves onto a federal congressional seat, we have to keep the pressure on him and that congressional district. Serving Wisconsin since 1995 in this Senate Seat, he has been unhappy and unhelpful when it comes to reform of cannabis laws.

Fitzgerald graduated from Hustisford High School in 1981 and earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1985.

Fitzgerald worked in the newspaper business for nearly ten years. Fitzgerald purchased and ran the Dodge County Independent News, Juneau, WI, in 1990 and sold it in 1996 to the Watertown Daily Times, where he was retained as an associate publisher for a number of years.

Fitzgerald’s father, Stephen Fitzgerald, was Sheriff of Dodge County for 14 years and served as the U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Wisconsin. His brother, Jeff, was an Assembly Representative from Dodge County.

In 2018, Democrat Michelle Zahn challenged the Republican Leader Fitzgerald. Zahn (D) lost the election by over 15,000 votes, ending up with only 40% of the vote.

In 2012, Democratic Lori Compas that lead the effort and successfully recalled Senator Fitzgerald and when she ultimately ran against Fitz, she lost by nearly 15,000 votes and garnered just over 40% of the vote.

I came into activism in 2009 as a board member for the now defunct Wisconsin / Madison NORML chapter and in 2010 Senator Fitzgerald ran unopposed. Long time activist and friend Mark Kelderman lived in this Senate district and as long as I can remember, he made sure Fitzgerald heard from him and the cannabis conversation never died in that district because of the work Kelderman did daily.

But who will take over his Wisconsin State Senate seat in the 2021 special election. Whoever the Democrat challenger is, they will have another shot as this Senate seat is up for election in 2022. I covered the upcoming 2022 Senate Election in a blog article entitled MARIJUANA REPORT ON THE SENATORS UP FOR ELECTION IN 2022. In the article we learned 16 of the 33 Senate Seats were up for election in November 2020 and the other half will be up in 2022. Starting in January 2021 after newly elected or re-elected officials take their oath of office the overall structure of the the Wisconsin State Senate will change. With Republican Senator Fitzgerald moving onto his congressional seat, the dynamics have a chance to change under the new Republican Leadership. The Republican Joint Finance Committee Members consists of past Republican co-sponsors of medical and decriminalization. We have some encouraging percentages of support on the issue of medical cannabis from the Senate and even the former Fitzgerald Senate District 13 early bird candidate Don Pridemore was positive with a signal of support for medical marijuana reform.

Don Pridemore (R) Stance on Marijuana Reform
Don Pridemore (R) Stance on Marijuana Reform

The Pridemore campaign did contact me to definitely let me know their opposition to “recreational marijuana”. I prefer the term adult use cannabis and after a few messages about the issue, I followed up with his campaign with a link to the 2019-2020 Wisconsin Senate Bill 507, the bi-partisan medical marijuana that allowed home / caregiver growing and allowed use of smoking products and asked if that is the type of legislation he would support. I will let you know if he answers.

Pridemore, 74, served in the state Assembly from 2005 to 2015 when he retired. He has not authored or co-sponsored legislation on marijuana while in office. He made some news in 2007 when proposing a resolution limiting state officials to a dozen consecutive years in the same office.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission on Jan 15th, 2021 voted to allow on the ballot of Pridemore, former lawmaker running for a vacancy in the state Senate, rejecting a challenge that he doesn’t live in the district.

Former state Rep. Don Pridemore, a Republican, filed to run for an April 6 special election to fill the state Senate seat that is vacant due to Scott Fitzgerald’s election to Congress. But Pridemore’s filing was challenged by someone who alleges the Hartford address Pridemore put on his nomination papers is not where he actually lives. The complaint alleged that Pridemore lives outside of the Senate district.

Pridemore told the elections commission that the address on his nomination papers is an apartment that he rents in the Senate district. He provided a copy of his rental lease.

The commission, split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, voted unanimously to allow Pridemore to be on the ballot.

I thought maybe we would see an Assembly Representative from the 37th, 38th or 39th District to take a free shot at this Senate seat without taking much risk. But it seems Rep. Born from the 39th District passed and has a nice seat on the Joint Finance Committee, Rep. Dittrich from the 38th District daughters just got arrested for marijuana and more, so that leaves former media star John Jagler to shine again.

Representative John Jagler Assembly District 37 (R - Watertown)
Representative John Jagler Assembly District 37 (R – Watertown)

Rep. John Jagler has been “swayed” on the issue of medical marijuana, noting that 60 percent of people in his district were in favor of legalizing it for medical purposes. “That opened my eyes to it,” said Jagler. He did sit on the committee for the 2019-20 that medical marijuana bills.   As a Republican he did not officially co-sponsor any medical marijuana legislation, but he did express the need for a public hearing on adult use / recreational marijuana and with a little work he could easily be an A+ legislator on medical marijuana and lead the conversation on cannabis reform within the Republican Party.

While he said there is a case to be made for medical marijuana, Jagler does not support full legalization of it. He said he believes it is a gateway drug. Silbernagel took issue with that, explaining that there was no scientific research that backed up that notion.

“I’m open to having discussions, but it’s not time yet on full legalization,” said Jagler, noting the issue was a non-starter in the Legislature.

Todd Menzel (R)
Todd Menzel (R)

Republican Todd Menzel (Campaign Facebook Page) of Columbus has announced that he is running for the 13th State Senate District seat. Menzel is a business owner with 20 years of leadership experience, serving as the Chief Executive Officer of Menzel Enterprises, Inc. He says he is seeking office because he has real-life experience as an entrepreneur, rather than a longtime politician, to negotiate and bring common-sense solutions to Wisconsin. Campaign focuses will include the economy, helping small businesses, workforce development, education, police training and transportation.

My initial chat with Todd Menzel about cannabis reform and adult use legislation was positive, his immediate response was Makes sense. The time has come.”

Mr. Menzel followed immediately by answering the “Candidate Cannabis Questionnaire” which he stated “By legalizing and regulating responsible use of marijuana Wisconsin will generate revenues that will be utilized to better serve our State’s needs as it pertains to infrastructure, education property tax relief and more. Regulation must be well thought out in order to take marijuana off of street corners. Thousands of good paying jobs would be created and ultimately filled by marijuana consumers! From growing plants to retail sales we can tap into a whole new industry where many expunged individuals may thrive in a business of opportunity.” (Link to completed questionnaire)

Give the Campaign of Facebook Page of Todd Menzel a like/share, visit his website at todd-menzel.com and if in the district, give him some help grassroots style!

Republican Primary was held on February 16th, 2021: Jagler 57.1%, Pridemore 31.6%, Menzel 11.3%


Melissa Winker (D)
Melissa Winker (D)

The Democrat Melissa Winker we know would be much more supportive of cannabis reform then the Republican.

Melissa Winker is a 3rd generation Oconomowoc resident. Her grandfather opened up his dentistry practice in this district over 80 years ago. She is proud to be raising her family in the natural beauty of lake country.

I had the chance to ask Melissa about her stance on marijuana reform and her reply was “I support medical marijuana, like 83% of my fellow Wisconsin voters. Many patients finding relief from chronic medical conditions would benefit from this legislation.

Melissa Winker also completed the NORML 2020 Candidate Survey and supports all the fundamental key issues about marijuana reform and has also indicated her support for the 2019-202 Assembly Bill 220. Winker was awarded an A+ grade and endorsement from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws NORML).

Winker receives NORML Endorsement
Winker receives NORML Endorsement in 2020.

For more information about the Melissa Winker campaign, please visit her website at https://www.winkerforwisconsin.com/ or facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pg/winkerforWI


Third Party Alert! Two third party candidates have filed to run in this special election also.

Spencer Zimmerman
Spencer Zimmerman

Spencer Zimmerman (Trump Conservative Party) (Campaign Website)(Campaign Facebook) Zimmerman ran for elected office as both a Republican candidate and Democratic candidate prior to 2019.

Zimmerman was a candidate in the special election / Democratic primary for Wisconsin State Assembly District 64 on April 2, 2019 and received 5% of the vote. During that election he provided this statement:

As the Evers administration explores the outcomes of the legalization of medical or recreational marijuana, the candidates gave their opinions on how they view the controversial topic.

Zimmerman said the state should allow medical marijuana and be able to tax it.

“It’s estimated that the legalization of medical marijuana would bring in $130 million a year in additional tax revenue,” Zimmerman said. “And right now we need to look at different possibilities of additional revenue so we can balance our budget.”

Zimmerman was a candidate in the Republican primary for Wisconsin Secretary of State on August 14, 2018 and received 28.6% (101,818 votes).

Zimmerman was a candidate in the special election / Republican primary for Wisconsin State Assembly District 42 on May 15, 2018 and received 5.8% of the vote.

Zimmerman was a candidate in the special election / Republican primary for Wisconsin State Assembly District 58 on December 19, 2017 and received 1.2% of the vote.

Zimmerman as a Trump Conservative candidate in the 2016 for US House Rep – District One – against Incumbent Paul Ryan. Zimmerman garnered 2.7% of the vote.

Zimmerman rand as a Republican in a special election for the position of Wisconsin State Assembly District 99 on September 1, 2015. He received 4.4% of the vote.

Zimmerman ran as a Republican in the 2012 election for the U.S. Senate, representing Nebraska and received less then 1% of the vote.

Zimmerman ran was a Republican and was the only Republican on the ticket in the General Election for Assembly District 48. He lost to to Democrat Joe Parisi by a 3 to 1 margin.

Zimmerman earned his B.S. in business administration from Edgewood College in 2006 and a degree in information systems technology from the Community College of the Air Force. His professional experience includes working as a tanker driver and as a chauffeur for a limousine service. Zimmerman served as a computer systems operator for the United States Air Force from 2000 to 2004.


Ben Schmitz
Ben Schmitz

Ben Schmitz (American Solidarity Party) (Campaign Website)(Campaign Facebook). Ben Schmitz was born in Platteville, Wisconsin. He has served in the United States Army since 2014. Schmitz earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of St. Thomas in 2012. His career experience includes working as a software developer and an officer in the Wisconsin National Guard. According to his Campaign Facebook page: Ben Schmitz believes that the either/or rhetoric of the two main parties has failed. He knows our community needs both/and solutions to heal and sustain growth.

I had a chance to to briefly chat with Ben Schmitz and he provided this statement to be about his stance on marijuana reform:

Here’s my general stance on drug regulation:

Drug regulation and enforcement policies must be compassionately geared toward helping those trapped by drug addiction. All too often, those most in need of help are ostracized and imprisoned, leading to higher crime rates and an epidemic of overdoses.

Regarding the legality of various substances, the proper authority for determining the health and safety of substances is the FDA. The FDA’s role is to protect consumers from unsafe food and drug products. The FDA must carefully study the health implications of substances and warn consumers or regulate substances where necessary.

I support repealing Wisconsin marijuana laws and relying upon the FDA to properly regulate substances.”

Evers ordered the special election to be held on April 6, 2021, coinciding with the statewide 2021 spring election.

The district includes parts of northeast Dane County, Northern Jefferson County and much of Dodge County.

Republicans hold a 20-12 majority in the Senate with this one vacancy.

Wisconsin Senate District 13 Map
Wisconsin Senate District 13 Map

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