Happy to be back on board
Election night always finds me glued to my computer keyboard with the television on, following bunches of races from all over the place. Of course, nothing makes election night more exciting than to be involved in a race myself and that has been the case in April of every even-numbered year since 1998, although I think I recall having an uncontested cakewalk back in 2000 or something, when I ran unopposed. (For some reason, I never seem to have much trouble finding opponents.)
This year found me running as a challenger instead of an incumbent for Marathon County Board, since I left the seat in the summer of 2010 to join Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton’s staff in Madison for the last six months of her term. It was an unusual opportunity and I’m glad that I took it. Happily, the voters in my district didn’t hold that sabbatical from local office against me and they were kind enough to let me pick up where I left off on the county side.
For the first time in 14 years, I left the city side of politics alone. The most interesting development of the night was challenger Keene Winters taking out incumbent alderman Gary Lee Klingbeil in District 6 on the northeast side. Winters captured more than 63 percent of more than a thousand cast in that district. This was not as much of a surprise as it might seem to be, at first blush. Just eyeballing things, it was obvious that Winters spent thousands of dollars to win the seat, which is pretty much of unheard of in Wausau. That said, it looks like the former leader of the local chapter of the Grover Norquist founded Center Right Coalition will be on his own. A de facto running mate on his conservative slate in District 4, Duane Maatz, executive director and lobbyist for the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association, lost to incumbent Alderman Jim Brezinski by nearly the same lopsided percentage margin as Winters was able to win by.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I find all of this pretty interesting. First, why would Winters spend all that money to become an alderman and second, what was the deal with an experienced Madison lobbyist trying to be part of that palace coup? It should be fun to watch the positioning continue over the coming term.
For their part, the local TEA Party group decided to try to shine a light on everyone who signed the recall petitions, as if that was some kind of unethical act. This kind of stuff doesn’t bother me personally, since anyone who reads this blog wouldn’t be surprised to find out where I land. Moreover, the nature of extremism – and make no mistake, these are extremists – is that there are low numbers when you get out to the margins on either end of the political spectrum. I will give them credit for one thing, however: having the most totally paranoid disclaimer I’ve ever seen on a website to date. I was looking for a tinfoil hat before I was halfway through it.
Also of passing interest locally is that Rick Santorum was the top choice in Marathon County for the GOP presidential primary by a fairly wide margin. Romney managed to take the state with a plurality. And Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus managed another election night operation that was good enough to get her an editorial in the state’s largest newspaper calling for her to step down:
While the turnout was very decent in some Wausau districts, including my own, the overall turnout in the city wasn’t all that great, considering that the mayor was up for re-election and there were some hotly contested city council and county board races, along with the GOP presidential primary. Jim Tipple easily won re-election, but his vote total wouldn’t have been enough to win in a big turnout year. (That said, there’s nothing to say that the same percentages wouldn’t have prevailed anyway.) Ed Gale, returns to the Wausau City Council and the Marathon County Board seats; races for which he was unopposed.
The most welcome change: not getting a half dozen or more robocalls daily from the Romney and Santorum campaigns – but don’t expect the peace to last long. There are recall primaries in May and the final recall vote in June. Walker and his allies have millions of dollars to spend over the next eight weeks and the Republicans have rolled out their fraudulent Democratic candidates for the four Senate recall races. (No, they’re not “protest” candidates. They’re brazen frauds. Wisconsin’s GOP doesn’t see any problem with sponsoring that kind of cynical mockery — just like the local TEA Party group thinks that freedom of speech and the right to petition for redress of grievances are constitutional rights that should only be afforded to people who agree with them. They’re also fine with chipping away at the fundamental right to vote, although courts now seem to be seeing things differently than our Republican legislators in Wisconsin, along with their union busting adventures.)
Following the recall elections, there are state legislative primaries in August and then we head toward November. In short, don’t look for the din of political campaigns to let up any time soon.