Saturday, August 24th, 2019

Incumbency helps Kapenga to victory


Waukesha Freeman 6/25/2015 Page A5 Opinion

Incumbency helps Kapenga to victory

Another special election is coming

Let’s go over just a few notes from Tuesday’s special primary election for state Senate before we let you return to the beach. As you may have read in the Waukesha Freeman, Brian Dorow lost to state Rep. Chris Kapenga.

Kapenga now faces Democrat Sherryll Shaddock in the July 21 special election. It’s a very Republican district and Shaddock is unlikely to improve on her previous race against current Sen. Paul Farrow.

Dorow just couldn’t overcome the advantages Kapenga had as a member of the Assembly. Kapenga was able to out-fundraise and out-spend his opponent after having a campaign fund head start. Kapenga had higher name recognition than Dorow, especially after the passage of right-to-work. Kapenga also had the advantage of already representing one-third of the district.

Kapenga was also able to deflect criticism by attacking his attackers. The left-wing organization One Wisconsin Now (OWN) made a clumsy attack on Kapenga accusing him of possibly benefiting from a nonprofit organization promoting a federal balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. The timing for Kapenga couldn’t have been better if he paid OWN to do it.

Two last-minute semi-anonymous mailers to the voters raised legitimate issues about Kapenga’s record. Kapenga did vote against the state constitutional amendment protecting transportation funds from being raided for general purpose spending. Kapenga did support “nullification” and the arrest of federal officials who would implement Obamacare in Wisconsin.

Because the mailers had no identifiable origin except an organizational name nobody knew, Kapenga was able to claim it was special interests out to get him. Yes, that was funny considering his campaign finance report looked like a “Star Wars” bar scene set in Madison.

My favorite line of attack on Dorow by Kapenga supporters (but not the campaign) was that Dorow was somehow the candidate of “the establishment.” Kapenga was endorsed by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke and former Department of Administration Secretary Jim Klauser, who served under former Gov. Tommy Thompson. Kapenga was also endorsed by former Waukesha County Republican Party Chairman Don Taylor.

I’m not sure who “the establishment” Republicans are, but that looks like a good list.

*** Now the question is who will get to vote on the budget, Kapenga or Farrow? Or will anyone from Waukesha be there?

When Farrow announced his resignation of July 17 it seemed like a safe bet that the budget would be wrapped up by then. But while Republicans are still hopeful they will wrap up the budget on time, the fight over transportation spending and the Bucks arena could push everything into July.

It won’t be a crisis. Unlike the federal government or even some other states, if Wisconsin doesn’t have a budget the government does not shut down. Life mostly goes on as before under the previous budget.

But if the budget is not decided until after July 17, Farrow will not be in the Senate to vote on it. If the budget comes to a vote between when Farrow leaves office and Kapenga’s likely victory on July 21 is certified, Waukesha will not have any representation in the Senate.

It also means Republican Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald could have one less vote in his margin of error, making everyone else’s vote more important. With Republican Sen. Steve Nass a “no” vote at this point, and if Sen. Duey Stroebel votes against the budget because of prevailing wage, Fitzgerald will need the vote from Waukesha County.

*** Voters in Waukesha County must like special elections. Barring a very unlikely win by Shaddock in July, we get to have another special election in the 99th Assembly District to replace Kapenga.

The eventual Assembly special election will probably be a little more crowded than the Republican field was for state Senate. There will not be a clear front-runner with the advantage of incumbency.

Among the likely candidates is Dave Westlake, who ran in the Republican primary for Senate against Ron Johnson in 2010. Westlake is wellliked by conservatives and has leftover support from his last run for public office. Mark him as the early front-runner, but he is beatable.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

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