John Smart

Replacing Dave Obey?

By - Oct 26th, 2010 04:00 am

It came as a major shock to all of us in May when Dave Obey announced his retirement from Congress.  An old friend phoned me excitedly: “How could Dave do this to us?”  The way I see it,  he’s been working hard for us for forty plus years — how long should he be required to stay in harness?

The state and national Republican Party must have been giddy when they heard of Dave’s announcement! They had already been scoping out former Ashland County DA Sean Duffy as an eventual GOP up-and-comer, and have been promoting him for well over a year already — but I doubt they thought that they’d get such a chance so soon.

Duffy is a handsome, personable young family man with some level of fame as an amateur lumberjack and a reality television “star,” and he seems like a natural for political advancement. His service as the Ashland County District Attorney was hardly distinguished, but he didn’t get into any serious trouble.

Regarding policy and opinions, he skews pretty close to the Republican Party creed, endorsing Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap for America’s Future,” which calls for privatizing Social Security, abolishing Medicare and Medicaid, negating the recently passed health care reform, and more nostalgic returns to the past.

So, the Democrats scrambled to identify a candidate to run for the 7th Congressional position, and they found State Senator Julie Lassa, ready, willing and able. Julie is a farm girl from Portage County with an interesting record in the state legislature. She is certainly not a “show-horse” like Duffy — no reality television appearances to her credit — but she has earned significant respect from her constituents and her colleagues for her quietly persuasive and frequently “across the aisle” work in both the assembly and the state senate.

Senator Lassa has been responsible for significant legislation that is creating jobs as we speak, including the C.O.R.E. Jobs Act, a comprehensive plan that provides training in entrepreneurship and business incentives to keep good jobs in Wisconsin. She is a leader in the “Farm to School” and “Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin” programs to support family farms in the state. Lassa also worked to create the Wisconsin Fraud, Waste and Mismanagement Hotline, allowing ordinary citizens to make their government more accountable. She works hard without blowing any horns.

But Mr. Duffy, using the stock Republican charge, calls her a “big spending career politician” — a particularly inept description in the case of Senator Lassa. He says she has voted for “major tax increases,” but doesn’t identify them.

The Democrats accuse Duffy of being all image and little substance, and he is trying to counter those charges.

It’s a fact that Dave Obey’s principled progressivism, his congressional seniority and his extraordinary influence have been a major benefit for those of us in the Wisconsin northwoods, and things just aren’t going to be the same hereafter. So let’s face it: nobody can “replace” Dave Obey. But we can elect a “work horse” instead of a “show horse” to our congressional seat.

Categories: Commentary, Politics

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