Ruth Conniff

Evers Ad Responds to Recall Effort

Law allows target of recall to raise unlimited funds. Ad touts his handling of pandemic.

By , Wisconsin Examiner - Oct 21st, 2020 12:57 pm
Screenshot from intro to Tony Evers' campaign's anti-recall ad

Screenshot from intro to Tony Evers’ campaign’s anti-recall ad

A recall effort against Gov. Tony Evers opened a window for the Evers campaign to raise and spend unlimited money. It is taking advantage of that opportunity with a six-figure ad buy blaming Republicans for their inaction on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reports that the recall drive had gathered the nearly 670,000 signatures necessary force a recall election against Evers were called into question this week, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on Facebook posts by recall organizer Misty Polewczynski of Burlington, who bragged that she was deliberately misleading media outlets about the number of signatures gathered and planned to “make up some crap” in an interview in order to make the media “look dumb.” The Facebook posts have since been deleted.

Plewczyncksi launched the recall effort against Evers in late August, and has until Oct. 27 to collect the required number of signatures, which must equal 25% of the total votes cast in the last gubernatorial election, or 668,327 valid signatures.

Evers, who had an overall 52% approval rating in the latest Marquette Law School poll and a 56% approval rating for his handling of the pandemic, has taken advantage of a state law allowing the target of a recall to raise unlimited funds to defend against a recall effort. His campaign is taking the opportunity to shore up support for his leadership, which Republicans have been seeking to undermine since they began a lame-duck session to reduce his powers in Dec. 2018, before he even took office.

The TV ad, titled “Steady Leadership,” begins with a voiceover: “Lawsuits and gridlock,” over pictures of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and a judge’s gavel coming down.

Ominous music plays over photos of Vos, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and President Donald Trump. “Republicans are playing politics with our pandemic response,” the voiceover continues.

The music becomes more upbeat over scenes of a masked Evers out in the community and consulting with doctors. “Gov. Tony Evers is taking action. He’s listening to medical experts to combat COVID-19. The governor is expanding testing and medical supplies. He’s requiring face coverings, fighting for more protective gear and providing millions of dollars in relief.”

The text highlights Evers administration efforts including:

  • 1,244,575 in new testing kits and lab supplies distributed to communities in need;
  • 13,427,369 pieces of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) distributed to communities; and
  • $225 million in relief for Wisconsin’s farmers and small businesses.

The 30-second ad, part of a paid media campaign in the Green Bay, La Crosse/Eau Claire and Milwaukee media markets, concludes with a closeup of Evers saying, “As governor, I’ll never play politics with your health.”

Evers has criticized Republican legislative leaders for failing to come into session or propose any plan to combat the pandemic, even as they have pursued a series of lawsuits to try to block his public health orders, claiming that he is overstepping his authority.

Beyond responding to the possible recall threat, the ad is part of Evers’  effort to push back against Republican attacks and promote his public-health leadership. It also takes aim at legislators who are on the November ballot.

“Despite seeing record-breaking days of COVID-19 positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths, Republicans and their allies have repeatedly sued Gov. Evers and his administration to prevent his efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 in Wisconsin,” the Evers campaign stated in a press release announcing the ad buy, which barely mentions the recall.

“Republicans in the Legislature have not passed a bill in more than 180 days. They are now indicating they may come into lame-duck session after the November election to end the governor’s public health emergency and strike down an order requiring face coverings in public places.”

It would be “remarkable” if the recall group managed to gather as many signatures as they have claimed, says Barry Burden, a University of Wisconsin political science professor, “especially against a governor who has a favorable approval rating.”

“The ad from Tony Evers is a way to demonstrate his resolve against this kind of effort and rebuff any backlash among voters who are inclined to turn out for Republican legislative candidates this year,” Burden says. “But it also appears to be an effort to regain control of the narrative around the pandemic in the state.

“Media coverage is often focused on lawsuits and controversy rather than the less visible actions the Evers administration has been taking to deal with the virus,” Burden adds. “As governor, Evers can only do so much to control public discourse, so a campaign ad is a way to circumvent the usual ways people get news by communicating directly to diffuse criticism.”

Evers and the Democrats have apparently concluded that Republican inaction on the pandemic is unpopular with voters, and they are seeking to turn that to their advantage in November.

“Republicans and their allies have failed to take this virus seriously from the beginning — they’ve consistently put politics before the health and safety of the people of our state,” Mitch Wallace, executive director for Tony for Wisconsin, said in a statement announcing the ad. “We’re not just working to save the veto this November, we’re coming for Republican seats in the Legislature.”

Reprinted with permission of Wisconsin Examiner.

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