Martha Laning

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Martha Laning
Chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party
In office
June 6, 2015 – July 1, 2019
Preceded byMike Tate
Succeeded byBen Wikler
Personal details
Born1962 or 1963 (age 60–61)[1]
Political partyDemocratic
EducationUniversity of Wisconsin, Madison (BA, MBA)

Martha Kniess Laning (born 1962/1963) was the chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. A businesswoman, activist, and politician from Port Edwards, Wisconsin, she was elected Democratic chairwoman on June 5, 2015 and was succeeded by Ben Wikler on July 1, 2019.

Life and political career[edit]

Laning received her undergraduate and master's degrees from the University of Wisconsin.[2] She was employed by Target Stores and Kraft Foods before moving to Plymouth, Wisconsin, where she worked as executive director of the Plymouth Intergenerational Center.[3] She was also one of the founders of the organization, which was started in 2009.[4] While she was at the organization, she helped raise around $4.7 million to build the center.[5] She resigned as director "for personal reasons" in 2013.[4]

In 2013, Laning announced that she would challenge state Senator Joe Leibham, a Republican, for reelection to his 9th District.[6] This would be her first time running for office as she had no prior political experience.[7] However, Laning felt that her fundraising skills would give her an advantage in the race.[5] Leibham did not seek reelection, instead pursuing the Republican congressional nomination for Wisconsin's 6th congressional district, so Laning faced Sheboygan County Board Chairman Devin LeMahieu in the 2014 general election.[8] Laning was defeated in the election, losing by about 20 percentage points.[3]

In 2015, Laning announced her candidacy to succeed outgoing Democratic Party of Wisconsin chairman Mike Tate. The campaign for the chairmanship was crowded and contentious; Laning faced former party chair Joe Wineke, Milwaukee consultant Jason Rae, and former state representatives Jeff Smith and Stephen Smith.[9] Prior to the party convention in Milwaukee, Jeff Smith controversially offered Laning the party's executive directorship if she exited the race; she declined the offer,[9] while Smith ultimately dropped out of the race and endorsed Laning. On June 5, 2015, she was elected chairwoman at the party's annual convention in Milwaukee receiving 721 votes to Rae's 428 and Wineke's 191.[9]

Laning was a super-delegate, and pledged support to whoever won the presidential primary in Wisconsin.[10] Despite this statement, the primary was won by Bernie Sanders and Laning cast her vote for Hillary Clinton.[11]

In July 2017, Laning was re-elected to the head of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.[12] She had three challengers for the seat of head of party.[13]


  1. ^ New chair promises to unite Wisconsin Democratic Party
  2. ^ "Martha Laning's Biography". Project Vote Smart. One Common Ground. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  3. ^ a b Smathers, Jason (18 June 2015). "Laning: Less Walker, more issues for state Dem Party". Sheboygan Press. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  4. ^ a b "Laning Resigns from Plymouth Intergenerational Center Post". The Sheboygan Press. 2013-04-05. pp. A8. Retrieved 2017-10-30 – via
  5. ^ a b "Political Newcomer to Challenge Wisconsin State Senator". The Examiner. 23 October 2013. Archived from the original on 2018-11-19. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
  6. ^ Rochester, Chris (14 November 2013). "Senator Joe Leibham to face Martha Laning: 9th Senate District". Morning Martini. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  7. ^ Kabbes, Justin (2013-10-24). "Laning Predicts Tight 9th District Contest". The Sheboygan Press. pp. A1. Retrieved 2017-10-30 – via
  8. ^ Mathews, Charlie. "GOP's LeMahieu captures 9th Senate seat". HTR News. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  9. ^ a b c Kissinger, Meg (6 June 2015). "Martha Laning elected state Democratic Party chairwoman". The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  10. ^ Bauer, Scott (2016-02-16). "Clinton Racking Up Powerful Supporters in Wisconsin". The Daily Tribune. Associated Press. pp. A2. Retrieved 2017-10-30 – via
  11. ^ Carlson, Steve (2016-11-15). "Why Martha Laning should resign as DPW Chair". Blogging Blue. Retrieved 2020-04-06.
  12. ^ "Laning Re-Elected Head as of Wisconsin Democratic Party". The Des Moines Register. Associated Press. 2017-06-04. pp. A14. Retrieved 2017-10-30 – via
  13. ^ Bauer, Scott (4 June 2017). "Wisconsin Democrats Regroup after 'Gut Check' Election". Telegraph-Herald. Archived from the original on 2017-11-07. Retrieved 30 October 2017.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by Chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party
Succeeded by