Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

Some local Waukesha post-election thoughts

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Yeah, I know it’s a little late for this, but between email and some online commentary, I thought it might be wlorth doing a little revisiting of last week. Maybe there are some lessons going forward for local candidates.

For someone who has never worked on a political campaign (that I know of), our friend George does a halfway decent analysis of the city of Waukesha mayoral race. Here’s part of it:

Reilly was able to reach an agreement with Thieme for mutual support before the primary, which was very important. Nelson lost partly because he did not gather in all Enriquez voters. After the primary, it was apparent that Reilly+Thieme votes would be a landslide over Scrima.

Scrima did not start the campaign well, a lot of me, me, me stuff claiming undeserving credits made him an easy target. The Obama visit further exposed him to be his own worst enemy. FFNL card was pulled out early and the PR machine was in full force to create a false perception.

Where can Scrima find votes to make up the difference? He turned to Carroll/high school seniors and Hispanic votes. It was a bold non-move for Reilly to stay with his core support and not react to Scrima’s strategy. If Reilly can hold serve as the primary indicated, he knew he would be okay.

The Reilly/Running ticket also was more effective than Scrima/Congdon ticket. The inclusion of Wiesmueller to team Scrima created some ethical issue instead of helping the cause. For some, the stalking of Wigderson home was the breaking point.

If there were two points where this campaign was lost by Jeff Scrima, the first had to be the disastrous decision to not do any fundraising prior to January. As an incumbent, Scrima should have had a war chest heading into the campaign season. Instead, he was playing fundraising catch-up to stay even with Shawn Reilly. The last Thursday before the election was another fundraiser which most likely paid for the campaign mailer that I received in my mailbox on Election Day.

The second point where the campaign was lost was the visit by President Barack Obama. I think the Scrima’s team plan of everything is awesome in Waukesha (I forget the actual theme) was not a bad one. However, it was drowned out by the Scrima drama. Scrima needed the election to proceed as smoothly and as quietly as possible. The mantra should have been, “no drama.” Instead, Scrima deliberately drew attention to his skipping the visit by the president to one of Waukesha’s largest employers, an employer that Scrima bragged about in his campaign literature. Even if he hadn’t followed it up by insulting Governor Scott Walker, most people of conservative temperament would be annoyed at the idea of the mayor snubbing the President of the United States, just out of respect for the office. By following it with calling Walker an extremist and then the questionable behavior on the health care clinic, Reilly’s “No drama, just work” slogan was a welcome relief.

Meanwhile, Urban Milwaukee editor Bruce Murphy thinks the election of Reilly will bring better relations between the city of Milwaukee and the city of Waukesha.

Ironically, Scrima’s stance put him in agreement with some Milwaukee  environmentalists, who have long argued that Waukesha could solve its problems with a combination of well water, conservation and limits on growth in the county. There is likely to be continuing opposition to the proposed deal with Oak Creek, which must hurdle many obstacles, including gaining the approval of every governor of a Great Lakes state, before it can happen. But it has a better chance of succeeding with Reilly in charge.

Unlike the unseasoned Scrima, Reilly is a lawyer with specialties in municipal law and business law. Scrima was an oddball populist, and Reilly is a mainstream, establishment-approved candidate. Scrima was dramatic and mercurial while Reilly is a “calm, mild-mannered, very effective guy,” as Nelson describes him. Scrima was a sort of absentee mayor who rarely attended the meetings of various political bodies, as Nelson documented in a devastating op ed for the Waukesha Freeman, while Reilly seems likely to patch up relations with various local and regional officials.

“I’m sure Reilly will meet with regional leaders,” including those in Milwaukee, Nelson predicts. “I think his election will definitely improve Waukesha’s relations with Milwaukee.”

I think anyone in Milwaukee who assumes that Reilly will suddenly change course for Waukesha and endorse a regional tax to subsidize the Milwaukee Bucks or a regional transit authority building choo-choo trains everywhere is missing the point. Reilly is not going to go against the wishes of his own constituents like that. On the other hand, where there is room for cooperation that is beneficial to Waukesha, Reilly will not be an mindless obstructionist.

Now the ball is in Milwaukee’s court. If they want better relations with Waukesha, they can drop their opposition to Waukesha’s plan to divert Lake Michigan water. That would go a long way to healing relations between the two cities, but I suspect that isn’t going to happen due to the city’s own internal politics. It’s more important for them to prove who is the more authentic liberal than it is to support regional cooperation and economic growth in the region.

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