Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

The Kramer challenge

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State Representative Bill Kramer has gained his first Democratic challenger for the 97th Assembly district in Waukesha. Disgraced former schoolboard member Roger Danielsen will be seeking the Democratic nomination this September. Danielsen was forced to resign from the Waukesha School Board after he forwarded personal information to the press regarding the family of a referendum opponent in 2005. Had he not resigned, he likely would have been forced out in an ugly recall, possibly taking other members of the school board with him.

More details about Danielsen’s attempt to return to politics are expected in tomorrow’s Waukesha Freeman, well worth the 75 cents for the Saturday edition.

Danielsen could have competition for the Democratic nomination.

Steve Schmuki was Kramer’s Democratic opponent in 2006. Schmuki will have learned from his previous run and would be an interesting opponent. However, Schmuki does not quite have the taste for the jugular, a necessary character trait if someone is going to knock off the incumbent in the normally Republican district. Also, Schmuki is actually to the left of Waukesha Mayor Larry Nelson on development and water issues, limiting his appeal to the base of the Democratic Party.

Speaking of the mayor, Waukesha Mayor Larry Nelson would be another potential candidate. On the one hand, Nelson seems to love being the mayor and all the attention on him. Can such a character be content to be one of the 99 in the assembly? On the other hand, Nelson is passionate about the education issue and as mayor he is largely on the education issue sidelines. One drawback for Nelson is that he would be stuck on a ballot with a (D) next to his name. After the flap over his support for Barack Obama, a failed partisan run in November may be just what is needed to stir up a real opponent for him when he runs for re-election as mayor. Look for him to sit this one out.

Another education advocate and potential candidate would be Project ABC leader Ruth Page Jones. Jones would have WEAC just dying to see her in Madison. Unfortunately for WEAC, Jones is also head of the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools, currently calling for a 42% increase in state spending. She also is an advocate of tinkering with the state educational funding formula which even Democratic State Representative Sondy Pope-Roberts admitted would result in less – not more – state funding for Waukesha schools.

Ruth Page Jones also served as the campaign treasurer for former Democratic candidate for Congress Bryan Kennedy in his runs against Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner. Kennedy’s campaign became quite controversial in 2006 when he began to pay himself a salary from his campaign funds. As treasurer, Ruth Page Jones would have been involved in the candidate paying himself a salary from donations to his campaign.

Kramer is unlikely to have any opponent in the Republican primary.

Although the district is considered to be Republican, Democrats can point to the surprising strength of the Democratic turnout in the district in the Presidential primary on Tuesday. Senator Barack Obama alone captured more votes than all of the Republican candidates combined. Democrats start the campaign season with a working list of Democratic voters to build on. Wisconsin also does not have any races in November other than the presidential election and the legislative races, meaning Republican turnout in the district may be subject to forces beyond local Republican control. Finally, while the Democrats are unlikely to invest in any race in Waukesha County, WEAC and other groups may back the Democratic challenger to Kramer if they feel strong enough for their candidate. That’s why education may not be as important as an issue as it might be in keeping a Democratic challenger funded and viable.

Kramer’s strengths in the race will be his dogged determination to win, his ability and desire to campaign door-to-door, the advantages of incumbency, the support of the Republican Party, and his likely ability to out-fundraise his opponents. Kramer will have all of the typical Republican special interests behind his campaign. If he draws a tough challenger, it is likely he will be the only Republican in the Waukesha area to do so, enabling the party to focus their resources to protect him. Most importantly, he will not have to expend resources in a primary. Kramer is not to be “misunderestimated” as an opponent, and to defeat him will not only take an excellent candidate but a lot of luck. As Jack Woltz would say, he ain’t no band leader.

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