- Views & Opinions
If April 3 voter turnout is an indication, Wisconsin Republicans could be in trouble come November.
With 98 percent of the state’s precincts reporting, about 720,000 votes were cast in the hotly contested Republican presidential primary. That’s about half the 1.4 million Wisconsin voters who turned out for the Democratic presidential primary in 2008.
Mitt Romney’s win in the Badger State, combined with his April 3 wins in Maryland and Washington, D.C., should help seal the deal for his up-and-down struggle for the GOP nomination. But the 43 percent of the vote he amassed in Wisconsin over Rick Santorum’s 38 percent compares dismally with Barack Obama’s 58 to 40 percent win over Hillary Clinton four years ago.
Meanwhile, spending for Romney’s campaign in Wisconsin was 55 times higher than for Santorum.
Overall voter turnout in the state also signaled an unenthusiastic electorate. Only about 23 percent of eligible voters participated in the April 3 elections – far short of the 35 percent voter turnout predicted by the Government Accountability Board.
About 290,000 people voted in the Democratic primary, which was not contested.
Some of the difference can be attributed to the rescheduling of the presidential primary election from February to April– after the race was further along.
But the GAB had predicted that competitive local races on the ballot in this year’s presidential primary and the do-or-die aura surrounding Romney’s Wisconsin bid would compensate for the difference.
Local races also boded poorly for Republicans in the state, who face an historic recall election of Gov. Scott Walker in June. The animosity toward the governor percolated down to the grassroots level, where three Walker-appointed judges were voted off the bench in Milwaukee, Dane and Racine counties.
Carolina Stark, an administrative law judge, won a commanding victory for Milwaukee County Circuit Court over incumbent Judge Nelson Phillips III, who was appointed by Walker last October. Stark, with no name recognition and meager funding, took 56 percent of the vote.
“She just ran right at Scott Walker,” said Wisconsin Democratic Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski. “This is unusual for a judicial race, but it’s kind of a canary in the coal mine.”
Zielinski said Walker’s absence in the media in recent days shows the GOP is aware of how tarnished the governor’s political brand has become in the state.
“(Walker) loves prancing around in front of the national cameras comparing himself to Reagan and talking about how bold he is,” Zielinski said. “But we had the national media focused on Wisconsin Republicans, and suddenly Scott Walker was nowhere to be found.”
Zielinski noted that Walker appeared to disappear from public view around the time of the bombing of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Outagamie County. Santorum condemned the act of domestic terrorism, but neither Walker nor Romney did.
A man was arrested in Grand Chute on April 3 in connection with the bombing.
In other races, candidates endorsed by the Fair Wisconsin PAC scored strongly at the polls, said executive director Katie Belanger.
One of the shocking thisgs is how caroline stsr did. Dhe just ran right at scot waler. This is unusual for a judicial race but it’s kind of a canary in the coal mine.
Last night I thought you saw really mediocr turnout for Republicans in an election that was basically do or die for two of the candidatews.
The R camapgin left n oinfratstructure here. Obama left some of his field offices after the 2008 primary.
The planned parenthood bombing and what effect that had. All the candidates including scott wlake rhave talked about p and we had an act of domestic terrorism right here in Wis. It was something that was meant to indtimidate a whole class of people. O don’t give Rick Santor for much but he came out and condemned this attack right awa. Sco walerk and Mitt Romney have been totally silent on this
The attitude among women toward Republican. Given in Wicons the alst tday of the legislate sessin they massed all these nutty bills about rprproductive health, the gap between women and the rpublian Party is going to go.
Scto Walker absolutely disappeared. I do’t know if it was before or after the pp boming. He’d been par tof the stump speeches for Sant and ronney. If sw was such a great po9litial brand, he would have been everywhere. He loves pracibg aorudn I front of the national cmeras comparing himself to Reagan and talign about how bold he is. But w ehad the national media focusee on Wis for republicans and ‘scott Walerk was nowhere to be foud
Instead the GOP trotted out Ryan
I thnk on th presidential front we had a February prewisdnetila primary and Wisconsin was early in the past and more state s have had their say before we got to wisconsi. I wonder how that impacted thr ce
The sign is that the people of Wisocn want different leadership and they want people who are going to focus on the things that matter to them and those are jobs, the ecoomy and invetting in our communities. Those are the thigs that ra=are really hitting hoe with them;
The story coming out of Apleton is jstu so powerful where mayor Hanna won by 67 percent of the vote and all of the pro-fiarness people runinig for reelction on the ity council won all of the peole who voted for domesti parter benefits o=won their faces. . That really changes the landscape. Tyey faced the strongest backlash of the communituies we’ver worked in for taking a step and beocoigni an inlusive comm. And they own overwhelming.
Appletoe taxpayers united ran some pretty conservative anti-equality candidates at the city council and the shcoll board level. The school borad race they ran a canddiat ethat wanted to ban any boksk that made freference to LGBT. That was his platform and he lost.
All of F@’s races were victories in Appleton. I just think that’s such a powerful narrative of peolel inveting in their future, standing up for fairness and being overhwlemingly relected
The same thing in Dance county and racien. Walkerappointees to judicial positions lost their reeelction. Altogoterh three candidates
\Bwt2wen the resultf of the presidential primary and the local elections and the three judges, it means the electorate is tired of the political game of division and they want peole to take action and foxcs on the rplblems at hand for thepeoell of Wisconsin”
“We expect turnout in this election to be similar to the February 2008 Presidential Preference Primary,” said Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the G.A.B. “The Republican presidential nomination is still very contested, just as the Democratic nomination was very contested when Wisconsin voted in 2008.”
With 98 percent of precincts reporting about 720,000 votes had been cast in Wisconsin’s Republican presidential primary. That’s about half the 1.4 million voters who turned out to vote in Wisconsin’s Democratic presidential primary in 2008.
Historically, the highest voter turnout in a Spring presidential primary since 1960 was 50.2 percent that year
The April 3 elections were should have been Our communities are unique, but across the state, gains for fairness have been made today. Our local elected officials are on the front lines, helping advance measures like domestic partner benefits and anti-discrimination laws in places like Appleton, Racine and Manitowoc. In the current political environment in Wisconsin, our elected officials are more critical than ever to advancing and protecting the civil rights of LGBT Wisconsinites. We are proud to have stood with these candidates during their campaigns.
Milwaukee City Council: Alders Willie Hines, Nik Kovac and Tony Zielinski,
Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judges, Lindsey Grady and Carolina Stark,
Dane County Circuit Court Judge, Ellen Berz,
Dane County Board Supervisors, defending four pro-fairness incumbents, picking up three open seats previously held by anti-fairness incumbents and three more anti-fairness incumbents defeated to help dramatically increase the progressive majority on the County Board: Supervisors McDonell, Zweifel, Richmond, Hendrick, Veldran, Bayrd, Hesselbein, Matano, Rusk, Erickson, Hampton, Pertl, Sargent, McCarville, Schmidt, Kiefer, Corrigan, Downing, Hotchkiss, Dye, Miles and Salov.
From Wisconsin State Journal
Liberals increased their majority on the Dane County Board in Tuesday’s elections after a year in which a bloc of conservatives twice halted borrowing resolutions that required a two-thirds vote.
County Board Chairman Scott McDonell said he had worried that the Republican presidential primary would bring out large numbers of conservatives to the polls and make it difficult for liberals to pick up two seats lost to conservatives in 2010 elections.
But it appeared that the number of liberals on the 37-member board increased to 28 from 23, McDonell said.
Conservative incumbents Jack Martz of Fitchburg, Don Imhoff of Madison and Mike Willett of Verona all lost to liberal challengers.
“This breaks the back of the Republican Party in Dane County,” McDonell said. “They are not competitive at the county level.”
The unpopularity of Republican Gov. Scott Walker in Dane County helped galvanize voters for liberal board candidates, McDonell said.
Liberal incumbents Paul Rusk and Matt Veldran of Madison, Patrick Miles of McFarland and Patrick Downing of Blanchardville won re-election.
Conservative Ronn Ferrell of Madison was the only conservative incumbent to survive a contested race.
Ten of the board’s 14 conservatives blocked $25.9 million in bonding in September. McDonell and others said the move put county finances at risk. The borrowing was approved three weeks later, but $2.6 million for such items as land acquisitions, a pedestrian bridge, computers and building renovations was removed. In December, the group blocked $937,000 to fix dams and locks.
A Dane County advisory referendum on collective bargaining was poised to pass by a wide margin with most wards reporting. Voters were asked “Should all Wisconsin workers have the right to seek safe working conditions and fair pay through collective bargaining?”
From our story:
Progressives are closely watching three Dane County Board races in which political newcomers are challenging right-wing incumbents.
Conservatives control only 14 seats on the board, while progressives hold 23. But despite their minority status, conservatives have succeeded at mustering the 10 votes necessary to block borrowing initiatives that have jeopardized the county’s ability to make road improvements, purchase vehicles and 911 equipment, manage land conservation projects and operate other vital programs and services.
“They’ve been able to procedural tricks to hold up funding for very important projects,” says Dane County Democratic Party chair Michael Basford. “Just like on the U.S. Senate, a small minority on the county board can grind things to a halt.”
Democrats believe the anti-Republican backlash against Gov. Scott Walker will help them eliminate the board’s 10-vote conservative bloc on April 3. Basford says that during his 25 years of involvement in county politics, “I’ve never seen this amount of excitement and interest among activists on our side.”
But Republicans will be drawn to the polls on April 3 to vote in a contentious presidential primary, while Democrats have no high-profile races on the ticket to generate turnout. Basford acknowledges the challenge this presents for Democrats. But he says the caliber of progressive candidates who’ve been inspired to run for the board this year is exceptional.
The county, which voted overwhelmingly Democratic in the 2008 presidential election and the 2010 U.S. Senate race, also has a new electoral map that favors Democrats, Basford adds.
Among this year’s Demcoratic challengers is out candidate Susan Bailey, an IT project manager who’s taking on Ronn Ferrell in District 15. Ferrell voted against domestic partner benefits for Dane County workers, against collective bargaining rights, against a voter’s rights resolution and in favor of a measure to eliminate county funding for Planned Parenthood.
Bailey describes Ferrell as “an aberration” in a district that has voted consistently Democratic in recent years in presidential and U.S. Senate races. She accuses Ferrell of winning – in 2010 by a margin of only 43 votes –by misrepresenting his record and hiding behind the façade of a moderate.
“He’s a very genial man, and when he goes out and talks to people, he tells them how moderate and independent he is,” Bailey says. “But when you look at his vote straight down the line, he’s strictly … Tea Party.”
“I want to see the district represented fairly,” Bailey says. “I’m a constituent of his, and I don’t feel like I’ve been represented. I don’t feel like he’s listened or paid attention to me. … Ronn’s values just don’t match the values of the people in this district.”
Ferrell is supported by the Republican Women of Dane County.
If Bailey wins, she will become one of only three out gay members of the 37-member Dane County board, joining openly gay supervisors Kyle Richman and Chuck Erickson. Madison, the county seat, ranks seventh among the nation’s mid-size cities in the number of same-sex couples per 1,000 households, according to the 2010 census.
In District 17, which includes the east side of Madison, equality ally Jeff Pertl hopes to unseat Don Imhoff, who’s also backed by the Republican Woman of Dane County. Imhoff beat a progressive incumbent in 2010. Since joining the board, he’s voted to delete county board funding for Planned Parenthood and opposed a board resolution to file a “friend of the court” brief on behalf of the state’s domestic partner registry law. He also voted “no” on a resolution to extend county contracts with union workers in order to keep their collective bargaining rights intact before Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial union-busting bill took effect.
“Don is part of a conservative gang of 10 that’s been hawkish on budget issues,” Pertl says. “He’s played politics with the debt. The debt really isn’t our biggest challenge. We spend about 3.5 percent of the county budget servicing the debt. By contrast, Walker’s budget spends five.
“This one-trick pony around debt, debt, debt is something they use to scare people. But you can be super progressive and still be really smart about the budget and use it to serve more people.”
Pertl has a master’s degree in public policy from the University of California – Berkeley. He works as a policy advisor on education issues and serves as federal funds trustee for Tony Evers, the state’s superintendent of public instruction.
Pertl managed out U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin’s 2006 congressional campaign.
Emhoff is a real estate appraiser who had no political or public policy experience prior to his election to the county board.
The third race that’s being closely watched by progressives is in District 32, which includes Verona, where progressive Erika Hotchkiss is challenging conservative Mike Willett.
Willett, who has the most right-wing voting record of the three supervisors, opposed Dane County domestic partner benefits and was the lead sponsor of the board’s resolution to eliminate county funding for Planned Parenthood. He has opposed resolutions to support both voter’s rights and union rights.
Hotchkiss is a small business owner and a mental health nurse at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Madison.
“These races are three of our best opportunities,” Basford says. “I think these new candidates are bringing that energy to the energy to their campaigns that give their districts a chance to elect people who more reflect their values.”