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Nullification stance will haunt Pridemore campaign

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Nullification stance will haunt Pridemore campaign

Waukesha Freeman, Opinion 12/6/2012 Page A6

 

Last week, I mentioned State Rep. Don Pridemore, R-Hartford, in my Waukesha Freeman column as one of the Republican legislators who actually endorsed the idea of arresting federal officials attempting to implement Obamacare in Wisconsin. This issue will follow Pridemore in the coming months.

Pridemore is running for state superintendent of Public Instruction in the spring election cycle. Currently, the only two candidates are Pridemore and the incumbent, Tony Evers.

Education reformers should certainly be skeptical of the incumbent, and I’ve been hoping another candidate from the right steps forward. So far, the only conservative challenger to Evers is Pridemore.

Conservatives should be proud of their strong agenda for and record of education reform in this state.

Despite Democrats and the unions attempting to bar the schoolhouse doors, school choice was started by Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson and has expanded because of conservatives ever since. One of the most successful choice schools is St. Anthony’s in Milwaukee, a victory for parents in a predominantly Hispanic area looking for an alternative to the Milwaukee Public Schools.

In addition to giving parents alternatives to failing public schools, conservatives have embraced technology in education and have protected public charter online education from the teachers unions. These public schools continue to grow in popularity across the state, allowing parents and students more flexibility in their education choices.

Finally, under Gov. Scott Walker, Republicans made public education more affordable by giving more flexibility to local school districts to control costs with the passage of Act 10. Act 10 also puts the control of running the schools back in the hands of the superintendents, the school boards and the taxpayers.

But Pridemore’s positions or his record on any of those issues won’t matter. By embracing an extremist “nullification” argument, including the odd position of arresting public officials, Pridemore has gone beyond the quirky to full-jacket crackpot. All anyone is going to talk about is if Pridemore will have teachers arrested if they fill out a federal form.

If you have any doubts, look no further than the Associated Press article announcing Pridemore’s candidacy. The very first sentence reads, “Conservative Republican state Rep. Don Pridemore, who supports arresting federal officials attempting to implement the health care overhaul law and has pushed for immigration reform similar to Arizona’s, registered Wednesday to run for state superintendent of schools.” Whatever campaign narrative Pridemore was hoping for, it’s already lost.

We can debate Pridemore’s policy position on immigration. Pridemore believes local law enforcement officers should demand proof of citizenship from anyone they have reason to believe might be in the country illegally. It’s a political non-starter in this state, and therefore a needless provocation to Hispanic voters at a time when Republicans need to reach out to them.

Education would be one of the issues that could help Republicans reach out to minority voters. However, minority voters are not likely to hear the education message if Republicans like Pridemore lead statewide campaigns with conservative support.

We can also be confident that liberals supporting Evers will bring up Pridemore’s state Assembly office issuing a press release praising Evers’ last opponent, Rose Fernandez, further clouding his own chances.

But neither of these issues will have the impact of Pridemore’s extreme position on the rights of state to “nullify” federal law. That issue will follow his candidacy all the way to the April election, if Pridemore makes it that far. Along the way, his candidacy will be used to tar the Republican record on education even if Pridemore’s actual positions on education are never debated.

Any conservatives supporting Pridemore’s candidacy are not going to be asked about education. They are going to be asked about Pridemore’s support of arresting federal officials. Holding up Pridemore as the conservative standard-bearer in this race will only hurt the conservative agenda.

I have heard from some conservatives who fantasize that “nullification” can work and can be a winning issue. Let the example of Pridemore put the issue to rest.

WTMJ’s Charlie Sykes predicted on Twitter that Pridemore will get 32 percent of the vote. That’s not a candidate to whom conservatives want to tie their fortunes or their agenda.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at http://www.wigderson.com and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

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