And the Candidates Are…
A preview of the September primary matchups
tough call right now because we still don’t know who will be on the ballot in
the November election. The party primary elections, to be held Sept. 14, will
determine the candidates to represent each party in the November general
election. A candidate who can win a primary because the party faithful loves
him or her might also be a weak candidate in the November general election.
Wisconsin Democrats hold an advantage on elected positions: both U.S. senators
are Democrats, a Democrat is in the governor’s mansion, five of the eight
congressional members are Democrats and the Democrats have a majority of both
houses of the state Legislature (18 Democrats to 15 Republicans in the state
Senate, and 52 Democrats plus one Independent to 46 Republicans in the state
Assembly). The margins in both the state Senate and Assembly are very slim for
Democrats in this mid-cycle election. Historically, the midterm election of a
president’s first term sees losses for his party in Congress and down the
ticket, so this will be a more difficult year for Democrats.
districts, the balance of power will not be affected—even in open seats, like
Ted Kanavas’ Brookfield Senate district, which will remain safely in Republican
hands, or state Rep. Annette (Polly) Williams’ district in Milwaukee, which will definitely stay Democratic.
challenges in safe partisan districts also will not change the balance of
power. In these districts, all of the action is in the primaries, among fellow
partisans. And when incumbents are challenged—for example, Milwaukee County
Supervisor Chris Larson’s campaign to unseat state Sen. Jeff Plale, on the
county’s east side—the primary is all-important.
interesting element in fall primary elections as compared to spring primary
elections or the general elections is that voters can only cast a ballot for
one party. Primary elections are intra-party affairs. That means there are no
ticket-splitting votes, as there are in general elections. So voters who, for
example, want to vote for a Democrat for governor can’t also vote for a
Republican for Assembly. Voters must make a choice: Vote in either the Democratic
or the Republican September primary.
the most difficult choice are conservative Democrats, especially in Milwaukee County, many of whom we predict would
like to vote for a Republican candidate for governor (Scott Walker or Mark
Neumann) and a Democrat for sheriff (David Clarke). This decision is also going
to affect other races on the ballot—if you decide to vote in the Republican
primary for governor you can’t vote for the conservative Democrat in a
Democratic primary for Senate and Assembly. That would strengthen liberal
Democrats in their primaries and perhaps skew the Republican races as well in
ways that are hard to predict right now.
preview of selected races in our area:
other race in the state bears the stamp of the tea party more than the campaign
to unseat Sen. Russ Feingold. The thing is, even tea party activists haven’t
decided which candidate they’ll support. Republican Party-endorsed businessman
Ron Johnson came out of nowhere while counting on his alleged tea party—and
right-wing talk radio—support. But tea partiers aren’t sold on him and the
Republican endorsement he received isn’t necessarily helping him with the tea
party crowd, which generally distrusts both established parties. Plus, Johnson
will spend millions and millions of dollars on his race. In contrast, organic
farmer David Westlake is running a grassroots campaign that’s more in tune with
the movement, and tea partiers in his part of the state like him. Whether
that’s enough to push him over the line is anyone’s guess, but grassroots
activism plus multiple Johnson slip-ups on the campaign trail may hand the
nomination to Westlake.
Stephen Finn is also on the ballot as a Republican.
One of the
most intense races in the state is the Republican campaign for governor pitting
party favorite Scott Walker against Mark Neumann. In a normal year, Neumann
would be a dream candidate for the Republicans—he’s conservative, a former
congressman who had spent much of his career in the private sector and
currently runs a successful home-building business. But this isn’t a normal
year, and Walker
isn’t a normal candidate. Walker
has been running for governor for the past six years. This year, unlike 2006,
he has much of his party’s support. But that may not work for him in a year
that favors outsiders like Neumann. We also believe that Walker’s record as county executive will give
voters pause—there are simply too many budget holes, pieces of crumbling
infrastructure and slippery rhetoric for him to gain the public’s trust. Any of
the early polling in a race like this is often just name recognition because
the two candidates have not yet defined themselves and their positions, so this
will be a very interesting race to watch. Scott Paterick and John Schiess are
also on the Republican ballot.
actually is a primary on the Democratic side of the governor’s race.
Front-runner Tom Barrett has the experience, gravitas, and campaign
infrastructure to mount a serious campaign this year, while grassroots
candidate Tim Johns is raising issues on the campaign trail about social and
economic justice that can appeal to a Democratic voter’s strong sense of
fairness. That said, it’s Barrett’s year, and while this campaign isn’t drawing
the amount of attention given to the Republican candidates for governor, there
will be plenty of action in the fall after the primary.
five candidates on the Republican ballot for lieutenant governor, a position
that essentially has one mandated function: to step in as governor should
something happen that prevents the governor from performing his or her duties.
The Republican candidate roster includes a retiring state representative, Brett
Davis; a former TV newsperson, Rebecca Kleefisch; a scion from a well-regarded
Republican political family from northern Wisconsin,
Robert Lorge; a small-city mayor, Superior’s
Dave Ross; and Nick Voegeli.
Democratic lieutenant governor roster has four candidates. They are a state
senator from Milwaukee, Spencer Coggs; the
current majority leader in the state Assembly, Tom Nelson; a former candidate
for state Assembly from the Madison
area, Henry Sanders; and James Schneider. Voters will know very little about
the candidate that they vote for in the lieutenant governor’s race in either
party because the office has a very low profile, candidates will get little free
media coverage, and there will be little money to buy campaign advertising.
However, it is important to note that two of the last six lieutenant governors
took over as governor during their term.
Milwaukee County Sheriff—Democrats
Democrats get another chance to kick Sheriff David Clarke off the ballot.
Clarke, who masquerades as a Democrat during election season but actively
supported President Bush and Scott Walker and has ties to Karl Rove—yes, the Karl Rove—is being challenged by a
real Democrat: Chris Moews, a lieutenant with the Milwaukee Police Department,
where he is the late-shift supervisor of the homicide division. We think Moews
has the credentials to be a great sheriff and the support among activists to
make Clarke nervous. Plus, many Clarke supporters also support Walker, and they won’t be able to split their
vote. They’ll have to decide to either vote in the Republican primary for
Walker or vote in the Democratic primary for Clarke—a choice they didn’t have
to make four years ago when Walker dropped out of the Republican primary for
governor. The winner will face Steven Duckhorn in November.
State Senate District 7—Democrats
East Side, Bay View, St. Francis, Cudahy, Oak Creek and South Milwaukee
Jeff Plale is looking more vulnerable than he has in the past. His move to
squelch debate on the Clean Energy Jobs Act and his uncritical support of the utility
companies as well as his advocacy for utility deregulation and nuclear power
have upset many activist Democrats and allied groups, who are targeting him in
a big way. Plus, conservative constituents who usually put him over the edge
may wind up voting in the Republican primary, canceling out his advantage. His
challenger, Supervisor Chris Larson, is running a progressive campaign to save
mass transit and jobs. He’ll get a heavy turnout on the East
Side and Bay View, his home turf. The winner will face Republican
Jess Ripp in November.
State Senate District 33—Republicans
and Washington Counties
This is a
safe Republican district and no Democrat interested in actually winning even
dared to get on the ballot, so whoever wins the Republican primary becomes
of Sussex Trustee Tim Dietrich
is facing state Rep. Rich Zipperer. Both candidates are running fairly
mainstream conservative Republican campaigns, although Zipperer has more
experience in state politics.
Assembly District 7—Democrats
Peggy Krusick, who has represented this district since 1983, is being challenged
in the primary by Scott Dettman, a hospital and health care researcher who’s
making his first run for the Legislature. Again, the Republican primary may be
a spoiler in this race. Conservative Democrats may vote for Walker, leaving Krusick to fend for herself.
Whoever wins this primary will face former Libertarian candidate Brad Sponholz,
now running as a Republican.
Assembly District 8—Democrats
State Rep. Pedro
Colon has represented this heavily Democratic district since 1998, and with his
departure this vibrant South Side neighborhood (with chronically low voter
turnout, unfortunately) will elect a new representative. On the ballot is Laura
Manriquez, board president of Esperanza Unida, who challenged Colon in 2008. Angel Sanchez, owner of
Sanchez Construction, represented the neighborhood from 2000 to 2004 as
alderman. JoCasta Zamarripa, an educator and community outreach coordinator for
Planned Parenthood, ran for Common Council in 2008. Zamarripa already has the
endorsement of AFT Local 212, SEIU, Planned Parenthood Advocates, adjacent
district state Rep. Josh Zepnick and Milwaukee County Supervisor Marina
Dimitrijevic, an early advantage. Ramona Rivas is running as an Independent in
the general election.
Assembly District 10—Democrats
Democrats with deep roots in the community have stepped in to replace Rep.
Annette (Polly) Williams, who’s decided to retire. Milwaukee County Supervisor
Elizabeth M. Coggs comes from a respected political family and is chair of the
county’s Audit and Finance Committee. AFSCME District Council 48’s Stephanie
Findley will no doubt earn a chunk of her support from organized labor. Sherman
L. Hill is the newly retired executive director of the Harambee Ombudsman Project
Inc. (HOPI). The primary winner will face Independent candidate Ieshuh Griffin.
Assembly District 14—Republicans
Wauwatosa, Brookfield, Elm Grove and West Allis
Leah Vukmir is vacating this seat to take on Democratic Sen. Jim Sullivan in
November. No less than six Republicans are on the primary ballot—David Coon,
Dennis Kaun, Dale Kooyenga, Chris Maurer, Michael Olen and Ryan Shulander. No
Democrats are in the running, so this Assembly seat will remain Republican.
District 16 will pit incumbent Leon Young against James Dieter. District 17 will see incumbent Barbara Toles face Michael Erdmann. Barring something unusual in either of the above races—like the challenger mounting a vigorous door-to-door campaign, which should have started four months ago and which hasn’t—the incumbents should sail to a very comfortable victory.
Assembly District 82—Republicans
Greendale, Greenfield and Franklin
Incumbent Jeff Stone—not
exactly a moderate Republican, although he's in the mainstream—is being
challenged by Franklin's Larry Gamble, co-founder of the Wisconsin GrandSons of
Liberty, a tea party group. No Democrats have declared in the race, so the
primary winner will coast to victory in the fall.
Assembly District 84—Republicans
Berlin and Hales Corners
State Rep. Mark Gundrum is now a Waukesha County Circuit Court judge, and four Republicans are vying for this open seat—Perry Grutza, Mike Kuglitsch, John Marek and Dave Swarthout. The winner will face Democrat Don Vanpool in November.