Neumann-Walker race could have domino effect
Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:Aug 19, 2010; Section:Opinion; Page Number:10A
Neumann-Walker race could have domino effect
Other races around area might feel impact
Primary elections are tricky elections to predict because the smaller they are, the less likely anybody will do any polling. You have to go by “feel” and what you see for campaign activity. You should also look to see how candidates score on key issues relevant to the party’s base of support who are usually more liberal or more conservative than the general public.
This is a very unique year in Waukesha. We have Republican primaries in nearly every single Assembly seat, and a primary in the open state Senate seat. We also have a primary in the sheriff’s election as well.
Republicans hate primaries. They like to pick the next candidate in line and tend to frown on those that upset the pecking order. However, this year is the year of the tea party and, as we have seen nationally, the designated heirs are being upset everywhere.
The biggest Republican primary is the race for governor. Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker is squaring off against former Congressman Mark Neumann.
Neumann’s campaign has been ridiculously negative, even falsely accusing Walker of being a bigger spender than Governor Jim Doyle. The ridiculousness of the charge has caused some backlash. All signs point to Neumann being unable to attract any support, explaining the negative campaign so far.
Walker has been campaigning since he lost the Republican nomination to then-Congressman Mark Green four years ago. As I mentioned before, the party loves the next person in line.
But the conservative base of the party and the tea party movement also loves a candidate who has a history of remaining firm against increased spending. Walker has also been able to seize the high-speed rail issue to symbolically represent the wasteful spending he is campaign against. Neumann, also opposed to the highspeed rail train, just hasn’t been able to seize the issue like Walker.
Neumann’s campaign has held off the negative attacks in recent weeks. This is more typical of a Neumann campaign, and it’s a welcome sign. However, it’s also a sign he may have thrown in the towel.
There is a domino effect of the Walker-Neumann race. Milwaukee conservatives will likely vote in the Republican primary. That means two moderate Democrats, state Sen. Jeff Plale and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, are more exposed to the wrath of the Democratic Party’s left wing.
Plale faces a strong challenge from Milwaukee County Supervisor Chris Larson, while Clarke is challenged by Milwaukee Police Department Lt. Chris Moews.
Larson has the support of most of the party’s left wing, which is especially grateful for Larson acting as an annoyance to Walker on the County Board.
Clarke has long been considered by Democrats to be a closet Republican, and Moews was unanimously endorsed in the primary by the Milwaukee County Democratic Party. Clarke may be saved by the African-American vote. Plale does not have that advantage.
The other big Republican primary that’s being seriously contested is the race for lieutenant governor.
Waukesha County’s Rebecca Kleefisch, a former television news anchorwoman, has attracted national attention for her campaign. She is running as a solid conservative and it’s fair to say she has the support of southeastern Wisconsin talk radio. Kleefisch also has the advantage of the strong presence of both the Neumann and Walker campaigns in southeastern Wisconsin.
Geography counts, as Superior Mayor Dave Ross is going to learn the hard way. While a strategic voter might consider Ross for geographic balance to the ticket, that is offset by Kleefisch providing balance as a female candidate. Ross has not excited anyone in southeastern Wisconsin, where most of the votes in the Republican primary will come from.
Unfortunately, Ross may attract enough conservative support to divide the party’s right wing and allow state Rep. Brett Davis to squeak through.
Davis has been campaigning for lieutenant governor longer than almost everyone. He’s bright, experienced, and great on education issues. He also voted for one of Doyle’s budgets and is considered a moderate.
The question will be if Kleefisch can pull enough regional support from the state’s most Republican county to pull it off. Watch Walker’s turnout efforts to see the effect on the lieutenant governor’s race.
(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at http://www.wigderson.com and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)