Saturday, August 24th, 2019

At least one Oconomowoc Democrat unhappy with the local party


As the Democrats gather in Oconomowoc this weekend (you’ll be able to tell by the number of government license plates), at least one local Democrat who ran for office is still unhappy with the way his party treated him. Scott Michalek, who ran for state assembly against Joel Kleefisch, says he was told by Jeff Christensen to drop out of the race.

On October 1 2012, I was asked by Jeff Christensen to suspend my campaign. The reason why is because 14 years ago my ex wife made the allegation during our divorce that I had physically abused my daughter and pet dog. Those allegations were false and proven to be so in a court of law, and the charges were dropped 14 years ago. Jeff told me that I should suspend my campaign because this would hurt me and the party in the court of public opinion. I told him that I was innocent and proven to be in a court of law. So much in fact that my ex wife signed custody of 2 of my 3 girls 2 years after our divorce. What ensued after I told Jeff I refused was disgraceful. I was shunned from going to party events, including a time that me and my mother being told we couldn’t attend a Tammy Baldwin event in my district .My 75 year old mother, a life long Democrat who only wanted to get a picture of her son with a senator. I was told to go home from an Oconomowoc Dems meeting. I will never forget the tears from my mothers eyes the day we were told to go home. The Watertown office called other donors in my district to get funding for other Dem assembly candidates. A special expert in this field was assigned by the party who looked into our case and interviewed my wife, daughter, and mother and found no reason why I couldn’t continue my campaign. The only thing I am guilty of is a terrible first marriage and messy divorce. Jeff Christensen, Erin Sievert you made my family and my life a living hell in October 2012.

I asked Jeff Christensen for a response. He sent the following:

Tonight I was made aware of a Facebook post by Scott Michalak accusing me of doing wrong by him. It’s too bad that he chooses this public course, but let me state I stand by all of my actions in this situation.

First let me preface this by mentioning a process we use in the 5th Congressional District: checking the background of all candidates before the primary. We do this to remove risk of having candidates on the ballot who do not share our values. I ran this check in the spring of 2012 and Mr. Michalak came up clean. Even more so, he did not indicate to us that such an issue existed.

I also found out later that Portage County did not join the CCAP program until July of 2012, which is why the document did not appear on our first check.

In September I was notified by one of our county chairs of a potential issue for Scott on the CCAP system. We looked into it and saw a listing for a temporary restraining order (TRO) from 1999. Not wanting to judge, I had the actual case file pulled from Portage County. I received the file and immediately gave copies to the chairs of the counties in the district. A member of the DPW staff also received a copy of the file.

On the evening of September 30th, we held a conference call to discuss the case. The case is quite graphic in its descriptions of its accusations of domestic abuse. I will save you the grizzly details. Beyond the initial reaction, we noticed two key details: the TRO was put into place, and that the dismissal was not a clearance but rather was rolled into the family case.

If we had discovered this about a Republican candidate, we absolutely would have made it public. Even more so, is that this is an official document that indicates the individual does not share our values.

After an extremely fast discussion we came to a collaborative and unanimous decision to suspend all support for Mr. Michalak. It was also decided that I would be the one to explain this decision to Scott in person. We figured after putting his name on the ballot, he deserved an explanation to his face.

I met with Scott that week in Jefferson, with a third party observer in the room. I gave him a copy of the file and informed him that we were pulling our support. He attempted to plead his case, which I understood in that this is a domestic “he said, she said”. However politics is the court of public opinion, not the court of law and we were dealing with a court record. I read to him a paragraph from the case and explained how this could be used against him.

I encouraged Scott to suspend his campaign for Assembly, to minimize the risk to him and his family. The last thing I thought he needed was for him and his family to relive all of this via the press. I told him I thought it was a shame, as he was working extremely hard; which is something I always respect in a candidate. As we finished the conversation he became more combative and actually referred to Erin Sievert, the chair of Jefferson County as “C**t”. I’ll let you fill in the blanks on what he said.

If you want to see the case for yourself, you’ll have to pull it; as I’m going to save Mr. Michalak that indignity. I had spoken with all of the chairs and party officials at the time and again in post mortem and I am convinced more than ever that we made the right decision as leaders.  I stand behind it 100%.

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