Monday, November 20th, 2017

Nygren story does not inspire confidence


Republicans have chance of holding state Senate

Nygren story does not inspire confidence 

Can we dispense with the obvious? Democrats were already spinning Tuesday’s election results as “building momentum” in the recall elections. It’s a clear example of “say anything and hope it sticks.”

Democratic state Sen. Dave Hansen defeated recall organizer David VanderLeest rather handily Tuesday. VanderLeest has a history of legal trouble, including an allegation he abused his ex-wife. The old “when did you stop beating your wife” political joke was thoroughly put into practice on Tuesday and VanderLeest never stood a chance.

There is one lesson for would-be political candidates. If you have to put court documents and affidavits prominently on your website, you are probably not a good candidate.

The “good” candidate was the one that didn’t run because he couldn’t get himself on the ballot. Republican state Rep. John Nygren probably would have defeated Hansen rather handily but his campaign failed to get enough nomination signatures.

The Nygren story is frustrating considering the role Madison Republicans played in running the campaign. It’s even more frustrating when the VanderLeest candidacy was used by the Democrats to raise money to use against the Republicans in other races.

Now Democrats are spinning Tuesday night’s win by Hansen as a sign of future success for other Democratic candidates in this recall season. The reality is that Hansen was in an even better situation than running unopposed – he had Vander-Leest.

That said, two qualified Republicans advanced in their primaries on Tuesday.

In the far north woods of Wisconsin, tea party organizer Kim Simac will be taking on Democratic state Sen. Jim Holperin. Simac’s campaign is showing pretty good organizational strength and Holperin should be vulnerable in that district. During my recent trip to Vilas County, I saw a lot of organizational strength for Simac, but I confess it’s really anecdotal evidence.

Democrats are already trying to use Simac’s personal life against her. Simac divorced and remarried, and Simac’s ex-husband remarried Simac’s current spouse’s ex-wife.

At least everyone is married. In these times that’s saying a lot. It’s a small world up there.

In the Kenosha area, attorney Jonathan Steitz will take on Democratic state Sen. Robert Wirch. It’s a tough district for a Republican to win in, but Kenosha County has a growing tea party movement. On the other hand, Steitz may be put on the defensive early over his business issues.

If the elections are referendums on the Democrats and their run into Illinois to avoid their responsibilities in Madison during the budget fix fight, then the Republican Party has a fair shot at both races. The trick of any recall election is to keep the focus on the candidate being recalled. In both cases, that would be the Democrats.

In the case of the six Republican state senators that are being recalled, they will need to put the focus on the Democrats’ track record in screwing up Wisconsin fiscally, forcing the drastic budget cuts this year.

That will probably be impossible for two of the Republicans. State Sen. Randy Hopper has a messy divorce complicating that race. State Sen. Dan Kapanke has issues with his Northwoods baseball team. (My advice to any politician is to stay away from that league.)

However, the other Republicans can hold out if they define the Democrats in those races as being part of Wisconsin’s fiscal mess. This is especially true in the race closest to us, where Republican state Sen. Alberta Darling is taking on Democratic state Rep. Sandy Pasch.

Darling faced a much tougher opponent in 2008, Democratic state Rep. Sheldon Wasserman. Wasserman ran as a moderate and had the election advantage of it being a very Democratic year. Having President Barack Obama at the top of the ticket also helped Wasserman. Still, Darling hung on.

Now Darling faces a much more liberal Pasch. Darling should win, and Republicans should hold onto the Senate when the recalls are done.

However, the Nygren disaster reminds us just how good the Republican Party is at finding a way to lose when victory is at hand.

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


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