It has been many a year since the April election in Wisconsin has had so many consequential races. From the presidential primaries that will determine who has added momentum and more delegates as the campaigns move east, to the future course of the state’s high court, or how the Dane County coliseum project unfolds, and last but not least how one community might retain its long and proud history all will come to a head at the ballot box.
Oh, and let us not forget that 54 school districts will have referendums seeking funding during these stressful times in our state.
Attempting to determine who or what has the advantage this year in the Badger State is challenging due to such vocal races and competitive candidates. With a heated Milwaukee County Executive race (Larson handily defeats Abele), or where followers of Bernie Sanders are determined to be heard, while Donald Trump supporters are making every effort not to be outdone it comes as no surprise that voter turn out will be high. A 40% turnout is expected–some 1.75 million of the state’s 4.4 million voters-are expected to cast a ballot. If that occurs it will be the highest turnout for a presidential primary since 1980. In this chaotic, ginned-up-angry electorate what that turn-out means for the end results are hard to predict.
I predict Ted Cruz wins the GOP primary–but not with the 10% spread over Trump that last week’s Marquette Law School Poll reported. Though Trump had the worst week of his race smack dab in the middle of the Wisconsin primary, and many in the party find him unacceptable, I feel a tightening of the top contenders will put Cruz ahead when the ballots are counted at only 5%. Playing to the polite mid-western values still seems like the best way forward from a personal perspective but John Kasich will not do what many of us privately hoped for–that is pull a win out by being likable and competent. Rather he will languish in third place on Election Night.
Bernie Sanders will win Wisconsin–but not in any blow out fashion. The spread will be no more than 5% over Hillary Clinton.
The hardest nail to bite for me with these predictions is going with my gut when calling Rebecca Bradley the likely candidate to win the Supreme Court race. The facts would seem to show JoAnne Kloppenburg the winner. Governor Walker has appointed Bradley to various jobs, his approval numbers are in the basement while Bradley is best known for writing hate-filled rants against gays, AIDS victims, and women. Yet my gut tells me when the totals for Sanders and Clinton are added together Tuesday night they will not match with the total for Kloppenburg. Too many enthusiastic voters for their favorite presidential candidate will not understand the gravity of selecting a justice for the court.
There are several county board races in Dane County but District One most intrigues me. While there is no doubt incumbent Mary Kolar will prevail, and rightly so, I am curious as to how many will actually cast a ballot for her opponent, Rob Franklin. I find him one of the least qualified local candidates this cycle and would truly be amazed if he received more than a smattering of votes. I admire all who step up and add their voice as candidates but being earnest is not the same as being qualified.
After having lived for 4 years in Door County while working in broadcasting I can say with first-hand knowledge there are many special places to escape as one travels north of Sturgeon Bay. From fish boils to romantic sunsets there is no better place in the summer or early fall than the peninsula. Ephraim is one of the great spots that brings back memories. This year, again, the idea of allowing alcohol sales in this dry community is making another go at the polls. I think it will be defeated. And for good reason. There is a rich tradition in this village founded in 1853 that has not ever allowed alcohol sales. I suspect the greed that some desire by removing the ban will be dealt a defeat. I predict 60%-40%.
In Deerfield, Wisconsin there is a contest for town board pitting the race for two town supervisor seats between incumbent Nick Brattlie, Ken Frejlich, and Brian Berninger. For clarity I need to note Berninger was a good friend during my days at the statehouse. I can attest to his sincerity, civic-mindedness, and resolve when committed to a cause. And there is no doubt one of his reasons for seeking office is due to the continuing concerns over quarry blasting in the town that has caused damage to homes, a historic Norwegian church and a cemetery. Berninger, who owns a home about a quarter-mile north of the quarry, has no doubt brought the consensus of opinion to his candidacy and will be a victor Election Night.
Finally, I am an optimist when it comes to our democracy. Elections thrill me. So I will predict that this state will out-perform the 1980 voter turnout. Put me down for 42% turn-out!
Now plan to undertake your civic responsibility by voting and then have fun watching the returns be counted!