An expensive Tea Party; much ado about little?
Reports from Saturday’s “Tax Day” event at the capitol in Madison point to a small turnout, with right-wingers handily outnumbered by counter-protesters opposed to Walker, the GOP and the Tea Party. The total crowd was estimated at 6,500 and the Tea Party share of that was reportedly only in the hundreds. That’s got to be disappointing, considering that somebody had to bankroll the appearance of former half-term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Such appearances cost tens of thousands of dollars. Throw in the bus transportation, big screen, sound system and miscellaneous expenses and it’s looking like this little exercise in astroturfing probably ended up with an imputed cost that fell somewhere between $100 and $200 per ticket. These are people who want us all to be more efficient?
Irony was thick, as out-of-state agitators including Palin and California blogger Andrew Breitbart – who came to Wisconsin to tell the locals to “go to hell,” – were drowned out.
We’ve talked about the challenge that Tea Party folks have with numbers in the past. A claim made by Kim Simic at the rally was that she would be back in Madison Friday to turn in petitions for the recall of 12th District Democratic Sen. Jim Holperin. I have to say that I would be surprised if sufficient signatures will actually be produced by Friday in that sprawling district. Pro and anti-Holperin TV ads have been running for weeks. Holperin faced and won a prior recall election as an Assembly representative during the Chippewa spearing controversy back in the 1980s and he served as Wisconsin Tourism Secretary from 2003-2007.
While all three Assembly seats in the 12th are held by Republicans, that’s been the case for a long time. Democrat Roger Breske left the seat to become Railroad Commissioner in 2008. It was in an appointment by Governor Doyle that many saw as an effort to advance Wisconsin’s indoor smoking ban, which had been languishing in Breske’s Senate committee. Doyle had to throw long-time Railroad Commissioner “Uncle Rodney” Kreunen under the train to do it, an appointee of Gov. Tommy Thompson who had held the job since 1996. (This gig might be something for Sen. Dan Kapanke to keep in mind.)
Like his predecessor in the Senate seat, which he was first elected to in 1990, Breske seemed neither fish nor fowl at times, in a political sense. The Congressional seats up north are Republican, but they only changed hands between the parties in 2010 and they will likely be national battlegrounds again next year. Some of the 12th Senate District is in the 7th Congressional District (Sean Duffy, formerly Dave Obey), but most of the real estate is actually in the 8th (Reid Ribble, formerly Steve Kagan.) I can’t remember the last Republican to represent the 12th. Lloyd Kincaid came close – speaking of neither fish nor fowl — having begun his legislative career in 1973 as a member of the GOP and then switching parties to become a Democrat somewhere along the way. He retired in 1990 and passed away in 2007, but Kincaid produced some of the more memorable statehouse floor quotes in recent history during his tenure:
“This is a good health-care bill. Take it from one who survived a terminal heart attack.”
“The people in my district do not want this highway bypass, no matter if it goes through or around the city.”
And my personal favorite:
“As long as I am in the Senate, there will not be a nuclear suppository in my district.” (Our crack research team informs us that this remains the case today.)
In short, it’s always a tough call in the Northwoods.
It’s anyone’s guess what will happen in Holperin’s district, if or when the recall petitions eventually come through with enough signatures. My money would be on him to prevail, but one would have to rank it as one of the most likely pickups for the GOP in the round of potential recall elections, along with Sen. Dave Hansen in the 30th. There is a very real possibility that the result of all of the recall fever going on right now in Wisconsin may be a rearrangement that ultimately produces no net difference in the makeup of the Senate. That said, it should continue to be entertaining.
UPDATE: Luther Olsen becomes third GOP senator with sufficient signatures to face recall election: