As I heard the prediction that roughly 15% of the Wisconsin electorate would come out to vote on Primary Day 2014 I tried to think of ways that dismal number might be improved upon over time. The best idea I can offer is simple and admittedly will take time for its impact to be felt. Yet we need to try to make a difference.
Voting needs to be seen by the newest generation as something that is done with pride and a dose of civic responsibility. As such I think it important that parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles take their kids, grandkids, nieces, and nephews with them when they cast a ballot. Have a chat with that young person about the role that voting plays in our nation, and the power that comes with such an action. There is no way that anyone can be proud to hear or read that only 15% of the state can find the time to do their duty as citizens.
When it comes to the races that are dotting the state one thing is clear. Politics is never dull. There have been a host of truly interesting people trying to make a point about why they should be elected. With the power that comes from the people there is a good chance that in some cases the chaff will indeed be winnowed from the wheat.
While there is no doubt that Mary Burke will be nominated as the Democratic candidate for governor there is the question of what words might challenger Brett Hulsey use after the race is over. While there are no voters that Hulsey can bring with him to the cause of electing Burke, and there is no credibility that Hulsey has to offer for the fall campaign I still am old-fashioned enough to want–even with all the cheap theatre we have witnessed from Hulsey–a few words of support and good cheer for the fall race. I still want our politics to resemble something akin to the way it once was in this state. Let that come about in some classy ending to the Hulsey campaign with a concession speech that aims for the high road.
The seat that Brett Hulsey is vacating has produced a truly engaging election between Lisa Subeck and Mark Clear in the 78th Assembly District. I started out thinking that Subeck might have a smoother time of winning, but found her campaign aimed more for the partisan nature of the contest, and while that is fine for the campaign I am not at all certain she has what is needed when it comes to working under the dome with folks from the other side of the aisle. I have had differences with positions taken with Clear while serving on the Madison City Council, but I always found him able to cross over and work with others when the job demanded that to happen. While I like those with political spunk such as Subeck has in spadesful I also understand the need for compromise and the need for working coalitions in the assembly in order to make government function. Clear will win the election.
I have hope for Dodgeville Mayor Todd Novak when it comes to the 51st Assembly District for the strangest of reasons. He has a long backstory as editor of the Dodgeville Chronicle, and there are some nostalgic notions that I still want to be true about a candidate with such a platform who can bring the needs of his constituents to Madison and work to make government more responsive. He is also the first openly gay Republican candidate for the assembly in our state’s history. Several weeks ago I sat down with his campaign manager on my front lawn and discussed this race. I liked the upbeat can-do energy that was displayed, and think it bodes well for the GOP, and also for the rest of us. If anyone still needs to be convinced that society is changing let them pay attention to the vote tally Tuesday night from this assembly district. At the end of the evening when Novak wins all can be proud of the progress we are making.
State Representative Jon Richards will win the nomination for attorney general in spite of the last minute television blitz from Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ. I like Happ and think she has an interesting story to tell and does so in a very attractive way. But I still feel that old-style organizing is the best route to secure a nomination in a low-voter turnout and as such consider Richards well positioned to win. He has a strong county-by-county operation and is poised to pounce on his Republican opponent with vigor in the fall election. There is no doubt Richards is best suited to present the state with a key Democratic pick-up in November. Dane County D.A. Ismael Ozanne left me underwhelmed and never once made me feel he was really in the ballgame.
There is only one person who can win the 17th Senate District for the Democrats this fall, and that is Ernie Wittwer. He is experienced and seasoned in that way which takes time after living in an area and knowing the people and the way of the electorate. Wittwer spent 24 years with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation as budget director, division administrator and chief of staff. While Pat Bomhack is politically aggressive and clearly desiring office there is no way not to feel that he has political handlers in Madison. That is not the way to win in this district. Wittwer needs to win this primary if Democrats are to win this seat in November. Period. I predict Wittwer wins.
In the 21st Senate District there is a contest to see if Republicans really eat their own. It has been ugly to watch as Van Wanggaard has had to defend his already conservative credentials from an even harder-right-edged Jonathan Steitz. Democrat John Lehman had won the seat in the 2012 recall election over incumbent Van Wanggaard, but with redistricting now making the contest uncompetitive called it quits. Therefore Wanggaard wants his old job back, and I hope he gets its over the red-meat anger that has come out in this contest. But in a low turn-out election the angry ones seem to always vote, and so I predict Steitz wins.
When it comes to congressional primaries the one that gets the most ink is the 6th Congressional District where three legislators are competing to replace Tom Petri. Sens. Joe Leibham and Glenn Grothman and Rep. Duey Stroebel played fast and furious and aimed for the red-meat crowd with impeachment talk and failing to talk issues at League of Women venues. The hearts of the voters may be with Grothman as he talks like many of them think, but somewhere pragmatism will force the hand in the ballot box and Strobel will win. I had once thought Leibham could prevail but I am thinking money is playing more of a role in the final days of this race and that is going to make the difference in a low turn-out race.
Meanwhile in the 4th Congressional District Gwen Moore will secure a solid win over disgraced Gary George who was convicted in 2004 of one felony count of conspiring to defraud the government. He spent four years in federal prison. I do believe in the power of redemption. But I was also not born last month.
Two Democrats are running for Wisconsin State Treasurer, and I predict Dave Leeper will defeat David L. Sartori. I have no thoughts on the Republican Primary. Meanwhile I do think Garey Bies defeats Julian Bradley as he seeks to become the Secretary of State. Doug La Follette is ready for the fall race.
Now go and do your duty wherever you live, and take a kid with you and explain why it matters.