Winners and Losers
It was a good election for Scott Walker and conservatives but there were some bright spots for liberals.
Poor Tom Wolfgram. He seemed like the model lawyer, who served as the District Attorney of Ozaukee County and then was appointed an Ozaukee County Circuit Court Judge in 1994 by Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson. He won reelection three times and was named the Wisconsin Judge of the Year by the State Bar in 2008, for creating a model program for victims of crime.
But Wolfgram was crushed in Tuesday’s election, getting just 37 percent of the vote against attorney Joe Voiland. The challenger did not criticize any decision ever made by Wolfgram. The sole issue in the campaign was that Wolgram had signed the recall petition against the current governor. Voiland didn’t attempt to prove this had compromised Wolfgram’s decisions in any case. His mere signature was enough to trounce him.
It was a stunning result in an election that had many winners and losers, including some who weren’t on the ballot. The winners included:
Tony Evers: True, he faced a weak opponent, but he rolled up 61 percent of the vote, strengthening his position. He has been able to forge connections with Republicans even as he criticized Walker for freezing spending on public schools in his proposed budget. He’s a rare liberal who’s actually a player in the GOP-dominated state capitol.
State Supreme Court’s Conservative Bloc: The four-member majority won’t face another election until 2017, four years from now, when Justice Annette Ziegler will run for reelection. Meanwhile, Ann Walsh Bradley, one of just two liberals, will have to run in 2015, and is likely to face an opponent who will get millions in third party conservative dollars to run against her.
Milwaukee County Board’s liberal majority: In the last decade the number of conservatives on the county board has steadily declined. The most recent conservative who left (winning a job in the state assembly) was Joe Sanfelippo and his supervisor seat was just won by former state representative and moderate Democrat Tony Staskunas. In the other race for an open seat (vacated by Nikiya Harris, who won a state senate job), the winner was Khalif Rainey, an aide to congresswoman Gwen Moore. Rainey has already announced his opposition to downsizing the board.
County Board Chair Marina Dimitrijevic: She already had a veto-proof majority and Rainey and Staskunas are likely to join the group on most issues.
Republican State Senator Alberta Darling: For many years she was seen as a lightweight legislator, but she has tied herself to Walker with great success, winning a seat on Joint Finance, and proving a winner in this election by supporting Voiland against that heretic Tom Wolfgram.
Milwaukee School Board liberals: Tatiana Joseph, an instructor at the UW-Milwaukee, and Claire Zautke, an aide to County Executive Chris Abele, were both endorsed by the teachers union and push the board further left. This had Charlie Sykes predicting that current school board president Michael Bonds would be replaced and MPS superintendent Gregory Thornton might even leave. Bad predictions. A still rather unified board should reelect Bonds and and remains solidly behind Thornton.
And the big losers:
Don Pridemore: the Republican state representative couldn’t even win the support of some conservatives for his race for state superintendent. Pridemore could never shake his notoriety for telling a tea party group that he would back a law that would throw federal officials in jail if they tried to implement the Affordable Care Act in Wisconsin. This antiquated version of federalism, which was effectively ended by the Civil War, won scorn for Pridemore from Sykes, who predicted the Republican would get 32 percent of the vote. Wrong again, Charlie, it was 39 percent, but still an abysmal showing.
Don Pridemore II: To further stamp his candidacy as ridiculous, Pridemore sent a memo to an aide which got leaked, saying he would give no interviews to Mary Spicuzza of the Wisconsin State Journal, David Umhoefer (a Pulitzer-Prize winner) and Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jack Craver of The Capital Times and Scott Bauer of The Associated Press. That’s just about everyone covering the race.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court: As one expert has suggested, it’s become a national punch line since Prosser was accused of trying to choke a fellow justice. Its prestige is likely to continue declining unless the justices face up to their problems. But Roggensack was just rewarded with a victory for denying the court was dysfunctional, so where is the incentive to change?
WEAC: Sure, the state teachers union successfully supported Evers, but it basically sat out the Roggensack race, whose election makes it far less likely that Act 10 (which crushed WEAC) will be overthrown. Once the mightiest lobby in Wisconsin, WEAC is now a shadow of itself.
Chris Abele: a bigger majority for Dimitrijevic means even less power for the county exec, unless he improves his ability to win over board members.
Ed Fallone: His unsuccessful campaign means Wisconsin lost the chance to elect its first Mexican-American Supreme Court justice.
Bipartisanship: Bradley’s challenger for Milwaukee Circuit Court judge, Janet Protasiewicz, tried to make the election a Democrat-versus-Republican race and lost, largely because some liberals liked Bradley and didn’t like Protasiewicz’s nakedly partisan campaign. For a state rubbed raw by bitter partisanship, that was a good sign. But it was far outweighed by the thrashing Judge Wolfgram received in Ozaukee County, which shouted out the message that voters won’t tolerate any non-Republican thoughts by their judges.