Election’s Winners and Losers
An insider's look at who's up -- and who's down -- as a result of the August primary.
What a strange election. Going to the polls in August seems all wrong. And the bizarre results of Republican redistricting (Fox Valley-based incumbent Tom Petri is now the congressman for the North Shore?) caused considerable confusion. The big winners included:
Tommy Thompson: It looked like wealthy businessman Eric Hovde was going to pass the Tomster, but all the distractions — the recall election, Sikh temple shootings and Ryan pick for V-P — made it harder for Hovde get out his message, and voters went with the guy they knew by his first name. And unlike the usual scripted performance from winning politicians, Tommy was warm and charming in his victory night speech. But can he win the general election?
Alternative Lifestyles: Three weeks before the election, South Side Democratic Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa publicly announced she was bisexual and won reelection anyway. Tammy Baldwin won an uncontested Democratic primary and hopes to become the first openly lesbian U.S. Senator in history. And Democrat and openly gay legislator Mark Pocan won the primary to succeed Baldwin. Does that make the Dane County congressional seat the state’s gay district?
Sandy Pasch: She’s one of the brightest Democratic legislators, and Republicans did everything to get rid of her, redistricting her out of her own seat, and making her look like a carpetbagger for running in the nearest district, which is now majority black. Pasch won anyway, with 61 percent of the vote.
Jeff Fitzgerald: Sure the Assembly Speaker took fourth in the race for U.S. Senate, but his main goal, insiders say, was to increase his name recognition and political connections as he moves to become a lobbyist. Odds are that’s just what he’ll be doing come January.
Progressive Coalition: It remains to be seen if this helps or hurts the Democratic Party, but for now the party has moved further left with the defeat of Democratic Rep. Jason Fields (who was pro-vouchers) and Rep. Peggy Krusick (who was anti-abortion). They were beaten by their more lefty primary opponents Mandela Barnes (over Fields) and Daniel Riemer (over Krusick). Riemer, by the way, is the son of longtime Democratic policymaker David Riemer.
Scott Walker: He didn’t quite endorse Tommy but sang his praises in a crucial Journal Sentinel story just a week and a half before the election. It makes him look like a kingmaker.
And the biggest losers:
Mark Neumann: After losing three straight state-wide campaigns, stick a fork in him. His political career is done.
Tea Party: Neumann was their man and failed miserably.
Conservatives: They divided the vote for U.S. Senate among three candidates, any one of which would have probably thumped the more moderate Tommy. Look at the top three conservative counties of Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington: Thompson actually got less than 33 percent of the vote there (just 29 percent in Washington County). That doesn’t bode well for Thompson in the general election.
The Coggs: For decades the Coggs family has been one of the most successful in state and local politics. But Elizabeth Coggs was a triple loser: she lost her bid to win an open seat for state senate. Her aide Tracey Dent lost to LaTonya Johnson in a race for an open assembly seat. And Coggs admonition to black voters to “vote for someone who looks like you,” presumably aimed at Pasch, back-fired, earning criticism for Coggs and sympathy for Pasch.
American Federation for Children: The pro-school choice advocacy group, whose senior advisor is former Republican legislator Scott Jensen, made a combined total of $100,000 in campaign contributions to five black candidates for the legislature: Jason Fields, his brother Jarret Fields, Millie Coby, Elizabeth Coggs and Tracey Dent. Every single candidate lost.
Black Power: Milwaukee dropped from eight African American legislators to five. It doesn’t necessarily mean the black community will get poorer representation, but from the standpoint of building black leadership in Milwaukee, this is a big blow.
Moderates: The defeat of Krusick and Jason Fields continues a trend of political purifying by both major parties, pushed along by a Republican redistricting plan that made swing districts like Congressman Paul Ryan’s more Republican, and Democratic-leaning legislative districts like Krusick’s more liberal. How partisan have things gotten? Progressive magazine columnist Ruth Conniff actually wrote a piece nostalgically recalling the good old days of the moderate Tommy Thompson. You remember him, the guy who was for Obamacare before he was against it.
– Political prognosticator Nate Silver rates the Wisconsin Senate race as a toss-up, with Thompson having a 55 percent chance of winning. “For my money, it may be the most interesting race of the cycle” of Senate races nationally, Silver says.
– If you’re confused about redistricting, you’re not alone. Petri and fellow Republican congressman F. James Sensenbrenner still have their old district maps on their websites.
– Jeramey Jannene offers a droll look at Ald. Donovan’s latest press conference: he’s now recruited prominent right-wing allies against the streetcar.
– And don’t miss it: there’s still time for you to name a Milwaukee street.