Editor's note: This story is part of a series looking back at some of the biggest stories of 2018. Find the rest of the series here: Top Ten 2018.

It was the election victory no one saw coming.

After the Republican primary between two Assembly members was sewn up, history suggested Balsam Lake Rep. Adam Jarchow was in the driver's seat to succeed Sheila Harsdorf in the state Senate. After all, Harsdorf's seat had stayed in GOP hands for the past 17 years.

Jarchow's opponent? St. Croix County Medical Examiner Patty Schachtner, a Democrat who had won school board elections in the past but had never before run for state-level office.

But something different happened on Jan. 16 when Senate District 10 voters went to the polls.

Schachtner pulled off a stunning win in the longtime Republican stronghold, besting Jarchow 55 percent to 44 percent.

The result generated national news, gave steam to the notion of a Democratic "blue wave" coming in 2018 and prompted Gov. Scott Walker to issue a "wake-up call" the following day to Republicans.

Even Schachtner was surprised.

"I felt like it was going to be close," she said last week, "but I didn't think I was going to win."

The election was targeted by outside groups, in addition to other donors, which dumped a total of nearly $80,000 into the campaigns' final run-up to the special election.

While Schachtner pinned the victory on her positive message in the face of negative opposition mailers, UW-River Falls political science department chairman Neil Kraus said voters were also influenced by President Donald Trump.

"He's kind of the elephant in the room here," Kraus said in January.

Since then, Schachtner has moved on to the business of representing District 10 in the Senate, where she said it's been a meaningful learning experience. She said she's constantly reminded that her role means serving the district - and "not just the thousands of people who voted for me."

"I serve everybody," Schachtner said, adding that she's had about 4,000 constituent contacts since taking office and held 10 listening sessions in the district. "We've worked really hard to be engaged with the people of District 10 and I'm proud of that."

The experience has also awakened her to the realization of others who are just as passionate about issues like transportation and clean water as she is about mental health issues and health care.

Schachtner said that's helped her embrace issues outside her "zone."

"It's a responsibility of all of us to expand our zones and what's important to us," she said.

Looking ahead to the 2019 legislative session, Schachtner said she hopes to meet with Reps. Shannon Zimmerman, Rob Stafsholt and Gae Magnafici - all Republicans who serve different portions of Senate District 10 - to find common ground on issues. She said things like funding for tele-psychiatrists in western Wisconsin courtrooms, regulations for E-cigarettes on young people and municipal road funding could yield bipartisan support.

"The voters have said 'work together,' so now we have to," she said.