Monday, June 13, 2011

Dems expected to succeed in placing "insurance" candidate on ballots

Democrats expect to be successful in their effort to recruit an additional Democratic candidate on many Senate recall races statewide.

The weekend has been bizarre - across the state, activists are scrambling to collect signatures for this effort, all the while having to explain to a confused electorate exactly what is going on here.

The best I can make of it: Democrats are explaining to their confused signatories that they are responding to a GOP effort to place "fake" Democrats on the ballot so the "real" Democrat candidates will have to face a primary. These GOP efforts have two implications: one, the GOP can pull their candidates and put the date of the election in flux, exercising control over election day will occur statewide; and two, GOP voters could vote in a Democratic primary against the establishment Dem candidate.

Rather than recruit "fake" GOP candidates and respond in kind, Democrats are instead recruiting what in some elections is a third candidate for a primary election. The strategy seems to be that they hope for some kind of detente with GOP, or at the least, to force all the elections to occur on the same day regardless of what the GOP does. It's a valiant decision from Mike Tate and the Dems - if you have a full understanding of the decision made here, they really are responding to an aggressive, and really abusive, tactic from the GOP.

Here's to hoping everyone can just calm down and let this thing play out the way it's supposed to.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Recall efforts turn ugly - 9 races at once

It appears that Dems and Republicans will all try to field false candidates to run against one another in primaries before recall general elections are allowed to happen.

Republicans announced their plan first, and after a few days of discombobulation and shock, Dems and their allies are now scrambling to gather enough signatures to put primary opponents up against Republicans to even the score. One caveat: the same circulators can't gather signatures for two people. There's a mad scramble to get people signed up to circulate within each camp. 

The GOP has forced the Dems into this action - if the Dems don't field candidates in response to the initial GOP move, GOP voters would be able to vote en masse in the primary against the real Dem candidate. We Are Wisconsin has a good outline of what this all means on their website.

My opinion: this is the next level. Just when you think things won't get crazier and more intense in this fight, something like this happens - and the repercussions will be significant. I'll be out in the field watching the events unfold this weekend and will update more afterwards.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Dave Obey's role in the Harsdorf/Moore recall race

This video posted at Uppity Wisconsin got me thinking. How involved is Dave Obey in supporting educator and education activist Shelly Moore in her bid to replace Sen. Sheila Harsdorf?

Think about it. He's newly retired and has visited Madison quite a few times since January. He's a politician by nature, and surely in this climate he wants to be involved somehow. I doubt anyone knows northern Wisconsin's politics better than him. If anyone can bring Moore's candidacy to within striking distance of Harsdorf, who hasn't been considered vulnerable, it's Obey. It will be interesting to see how much more comes of his surrogacy for the Moore campaign.

It's factors like these I see coming together to mean good things for the Dems.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Kapanke call confirms Republicans agree with Dems

...on which races are the most competitive in the upcoming July 12th recall elections.

The Journal Sentinel has the scoop on a "secretly recorded" talk at an in-district meeting among GOP activists and the Senator.

He said that along with his race, the Hopper and Darling recalls are the most likely to be successful. He goes on to talk about the possibility of defending every Republican seat, and taking down a Democrat or two, with the possibility of the Senate GOP caucus growing to 21 members.

I don't see that as even a remote possibility.

What seems more likely to me is that Darling will succeed in defending her seat, but Hopper and Kapanke will lose, especially after comments like these becoming public and provoking the public employees Kapanke denigrated in his talk. I think Luther Olsen could go down, though, and if not him, Sheila Harsdorf. The quality of the candidates Dems have come up with in these two races can't be overstated.

I seriously doubt Kapanke believes that the Senate GOP could come out of this with 21 seats.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Let them eat brats

It's Memorial Day weekend, when people across the state celebrate the arrival of warm weather by spending the weekend grilling food and enjoying the outdoors. What is the activist community generated by Governor Walker's actions on collective bargaining up to? It's busy organizing not one, not two, but four alternatives to Bratfest, the annual celebration put on by Johnsonville Brats (whose executives have provided backing to recalled Senators) that raises millions of dollars for charity.

You can bet that the GOP doesn't mind this one bit. Rather than having activists in their districts this weekend, speaking with people who could potentially vote against them come July 12th, they'll be left alone to enjoy the weather with their families and constituents.

I recall hearing about alternatives to Bratfest as recently as the first week of the protests back in February. While it's important that activists set up something to get their message out on this, the focus by the Wisconsin State Journal and others makes the activist community look ridiculous. They are working to oppose not only Johnsonville but Metcalfe's, a union employer and heavy backer of Democratic candidates including Senator Jon Erpenbach. Frankly, activists need to get a clue and go knock on some damn doors if they want to stand any chance of winning a majority in the State Senate this July.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Date Set

As you've probably heard by now, July 12th will be the big day, officially. I had doubted it earlier, but the GAB has done a great job of addressing complaints and issues raised by all parties concerned and it appears everything will go as planned.

What are your thoughts? Predictions? Hopes and dreams?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Democrats sure in the 18th

I'm told that internal polling conducted on behalf of DPW in the 18th Senate district shows that Randy Hopper is a lock to lose his recall election.

The state's largest newspaper is covering his opponents criticisms. His opponent is also also raising a pretty large amount for an Act Blue fundraising campaign, and it should be only a substantial amount of what she's raising on her own. The next deadline comes in June.

The SSDC is so sure about this that they've not yet committed full resources to this race. Originally, the plan was to have a full staff of 8 set up in Fond du Lac and Oshkosh, but so far only 3 have been committed.

More gossip after the jump.

Monday, May 16, 2011

...Nusbaum to take on Cowles

Nancy Nusbaum, former Brown County executive and a 2006 congressional candidate who lost in a primary to former Rep. Steve Kagen, will run to replace Rob Cowles. Nusbaum is a strong candidate, maybe one of the strongest that could come out of Cowles' district.

I wonder if Langan dropped out to avoid a primary.

Sen. Cowles needs an opponent

Sen. Robert Cowles of the Green Bay area will no longer face County Supervisor Rich Langan due to an unexpected family problem arising in the last few days.

There's not an obvious candidate in the Green Bay area who hasn't declared. For Dems, it's too bad Tom Nelson isn't still around. He could have picked up this seat, which may be the most difficult target for recall, and then he could have led the Dem caucus in the Senate with Chavala-esque ability.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Rep. Nygren to take on Sen. Hansen in Green Bay area recall

Rep. John Nygren, representative from the 89th Assembly district since 2006, announced that he would challenge 10-year Senator Dave Hansen of Green Bay for the 30th Senate District Seat. This makes him the 2nd candidate to be challenging Hansen, the first being Brown County Board supervisor Mary Scray. It's my assumption that Rep. Nygren will dispatch Scray pretty quickly, but this means that the primary election for the republican recall nomination will be held July 12.

The District is decidedly right-leaning. All its Assembly districts are held by Republicans, including District 88, where two-term Democratic Rep. Jim Soletski was defeated by John Klenke by a 300 vote margin last fall.

However, Sen. Hansen is a moderate and a leader in his party, having served as the Assistant Majority Leader behind Russ Decker, and usurping Sen. Decker as a figurehead Majority leader when he voted to oppose contracts with state workers last December 15.

This is the district where rumors have circulated heavily that as many as 30-40% of signatures may eventually be ruled ineligible due to sloppy or fraudulent work by out-of-state canvassers. In a recall election that will be a referendum on the policies of Governor Walker, just as in the race that will play out between Sen. Jim Holperin and tea party candidate Kim Simac, its entirely possible a message about Sen. Hansen having left the state may not drive Republican turnout the way many on the right would hope.

One last thing to keep in mind is that this is means a primary in the 30th District. If we have a bunch of elections on July 12th and an odd number (1 or 3, I'd guess) of primaries, there's a chance things could come out to a tied Senate, where the balance hangs in races which held July 12th primaries. That's when things could get really interesting.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Weakness of Holperin opponent stands out

With what we've seen so far, the GOP seems to be unable to field candidates with the same qualifications and political experience as the Dems who have already announced.

With State Assembly Dems lining up against 3 different GOP recall candidates, the tea party activists and county board supervisors that have so far announced they will run against recall-eligible Dems should have a much harder time turning seats (which is not to say it will be easy for Dems).

One candidate who jumps out as especially bad in these races is Northwoods Patriots tea-party group leader Kim Simac. Simac is a children's book author and mother of nine who helped to organize the recall efforts against Senator Jim Holperin. Her husband Butch owns Great Northern Water, a company that provides plumbing and water services and takes in between $500,000 and $1m a year, according to tax documents. While she may have the money, she doesn't appear to have the campaign experience - she's still got no website, 5 days after announcing, and she's never run for office in the past.

The real worry for her should be message - while there are many in Wisconsin who are angry that the 14 Democratic Senators left the state for a prolonged period, railing against this action is not likely to win the election for an extremist like Simac with no elected experience. These recall elections will be a referendum on Scott Walker and his action against public employees and collective bargaining, not a debate on whether or not the senators should have fled to Illinois. In that environment, I don't see any possible message Simac might try to convey really breaking through to an electorate.

Below, see some examples of Kimac in the public spotlight in recent years.

Discussing home-schooling and the separation of church and state:

Featured on Glenn Beck:

Speaking in Madison on the day of the tea-party rally:

Edit: Illusory Tenant has a post on Simac up at his (her?) informative blog.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign - great Campaign Finance Rundown

You can read about the big donors that are getting involved because of the special rules in place for recall elections here.

It's worth noting that the Dems don't seem to have any major financial backers, other than the state party, which is donating what I would assume is an aggregation of smaller amounts contributed by the rank and file in February and March in response to the Budget Repair Bill. It should be interesting to see if they can bring in any major money.

Holperin draws an opponent

WJFW in Rhinelander informs us that Kim Simac, leader of the Northwoods Patriots tea party group, will oppose Senator Jim Holperin in his upcoming recall election.

This is great news for Holperin. In the statement given to WJFW, Simac rambles without much focus, and videos of her announcement show a rag-tag group of supporters. Simac has no real political experience and, as the leader of a tea party group, is likely the kind of extremist candidate that Holperin will make quick work of.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The lineup

Here are the races we have so far, now that all filing deadlines have past (edit: except Julie Lassa!)

In the 18th Senate District, Republican Senator Randy Hopper v. Jessica King, Oshkosh alder and attorney.

In the 32nd Senate District, Republican Senator Dan Kapanke v. Democratic State Rep. Jennifer Shilling.

In the 8th Senate District, Republican Senator Alberta Darling v. Democratic State Rep. Sandy Pasch.

In the 10th, Republican Senator Sheila Harsdorf v. Shelly Moore, a teacher and WEAC representative to the NEA.

In the 14th, Republican Senator Luther Olsen v. Democratic State Rep. Fred Clark.

In the 2nd, Republican Senator Bob Cowles, who will face former Brown County Executive Nancy Nusbaum.

In the 12th, Democratic Senator Tim Holperin, who will face Kim Simac, head of the Northwoods Patriots tea party organization. See my analysis here.

In the 22nd, Democratic Senator Bob Wirch will face Kenosha County Board Vice Chairman Fred Ekornaa in the event of a recall. The late Judge Bill Pocan, father of Assemblyman Mark Pocan, was found to have signed a recall petition from beyond the grave. This is certain to draw attention to all the signatures filed.

In the 30th, Democratic Senator Dave Hansen hasn't yet drawn an opponent. Loud rumors abound that after a review of signatures is complete, as many as 40% of the signatures may be invalidated.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hopper campaign finance update

Randy Hopper is not sitting nearly as pretty as his colleague on the Committee for Joint Finance, Senator Darling (see last post). Though it's not fair to compare his district to that of Alberta Darling, who represents perhaps the most wealthy Senate district in the state, the Committee to Recall Hopper is also doing far better than its north-suburban partner.

Hopper has raised $130,000 in 2011, with only $40,000 of that coming in the latest reporting period.

Of that $130k on the year, and of the $40k in this period, there are two very big donations. In this period, we saw Jere Fabick give $20,000 to Hopper's campaign. He's the owner of  FABCO Equipment of Madison, which owns the license for Caterpillar equipment sales in Wisconsin and the UP. Last period saw Ralph Stayer of Fond du Lac donate $15,000. Stayer is the founder of Johnsonville Sausage. These gifts and another 9 donations larger than $1,000 in size account for 36% of Hopper's total.

So far, Hopper's biggest expense has actually been to keep his Campaign Manager, DC import Jeff Harvey, in hotel rooms up and down the Fox Valley. He's spent nearly $5,000 on that so far. The rest is scattered around, paying for staff salaries, office supplies, and nothing else interesting.

Meanwhile, the Committee to Recall Hopper has raised almost $70k on the year, but has spent almost $50k of that. It should be interesting to see how Jessica King can do in her fundraising effort.

Darling campaign finance update

The Government Accountability Board (GAB) handles fundraising for these recalls in an interesting way - they required fundraising reports from earlier in the year to be turned in just last week, and required reporting from the last month up to April 18 to be handed in today. This gives us a rapid fire glimpse into how these campaigns are handling the fundraising challenges

Alberta Darling continues her fundraising rampage, raising more than $230,000 in the latest period. She's also spent nearly $190,000 so far. Of that, $65,000 has been spent on radio, $75,000 on direct mail, upwards of $20,000 on campaign consultants, $15,000 on polling, and she's not skimping on the hors d'oeuvres at her fundraisers, spending thousands of dollars on a few events.

Notable donations:

  • $7,000 from Albert Nicholas of Nicholas Funds
  • $2,500 from Donald Taylor of Waukesha State Bank
  • $2,500 from Ted Kellner of Fiduciary Management, and $20,000 from his conduit
  • $1,000 from Craig Leipold, Management of the NHL's Minnesota Wild
  • A second personal gift of $10,000 from Daniel McKeithan of Tamarack Petroleum
    • $20,000 for him on the year.
Rep. Sandy Pasch, good luck to you!

4/28: A helpful write up from the Journal-Sentinel is here.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Campaign Finance update

WisPolitics has an update on the campaign finance situation among Senators who will be facing recall.

Campaign finance limits do not apply in these elections, something which should be carefully noted.

Looks like Alberta Darling will be tough to knock off. She represents one of the wealthiest districts in the state (Mary Lazich represents the other, but she won't face recall) and has received a donation of $20,000 from just one very wealthy donor. Whitefish Bay, Mequon, and the other northern suburb communities certainly have more to offer to a wealthy GOP candidate. We'll have to see if Rep. Sandy Pasch can collect from the many doctors and health care executives who live in the area, some of whom have donated extensively to her and former Rep. Sheldon Wasserman in the past.

Also notable is the sizable amount of Money that Randy Hopper has accumulated. We should find out more tomorrow about how his fundraising efforts are coming along, as many campaigns are required to update their finances up to April 18th by Monday.

Outlook: Senator Randy Hopper

Of all five Republican State Senators who have had recall signatures filed against them so far, Senator Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac) is seen by some as the most vulnerable. His opponent will be Jessica King, a long-time city council member, deputy mayor, and attorney from Oshkosh. She lost the seat to Sen. Hopper in 2008 by a few hundred votes.

Hopper has had an undistinguished first term in office, but seems to have developed a good record of keeping in contact with constituents. He also has been chosen to serve as one of the Republican representatives to the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee, a real achievement for a senator with only two years experience. At one point, it's possible he may have been looked at as a candidate for future leadership.

That was before the details of an affair he had with 25-year-old GOP operative Valerie Cass became public, including accusations that he had helped place her in a job with the Walker administration. It was also before his estranged wife Alysia Hopper signed his recall petition and spoke out against him publicly, explaining that he lived in Madison, and not in Fond du Lac. It was before he directed constituents to a phone sex hotline, and before he told a room full of constituents at a listening session that he would not take questions or comment on their remarks, eliciting significant anger.

Hopper posing non-ironically with AFSCME supporters in 2008.
It's a lot for any opposition candidate to work with. To his benefit, it sounds like Hopper knows what he's up against; he's retained national talent to staff his campaign and was reportedly one of the beneficiaries of a major Washington fundraiser held in March to begin building a firewall against recall efforts.

After the jump, let's take a look at how Hopper was elected in 2008.