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Tommy and Tammy


Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:Oct 4, 2012; Section:Opinion; Page Number:8A

Tommy and Tammy
Accomplishments make Tommy the choice

State Representative Mark Pocan, the Democratic candidate for congress in Madison, was recently asked how he would be different than the current incumbent, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin. Pocan told Mike Gousha on the program “Up Front” that he would not be different from Baldwin in philosophy, but would be different in his ability to reach across the aisle to Republicans to get things done.

“In the Legislature I was there for 14 years. I served on the Joint Finance Committee. Had to work with both parties to get things done. Got a lot of things done while I was there and I think, I look at Dave Obey and how he ran his office and what he was able to do for Wisconsin.”

It was an unintended revelation by Pocan to really underscore one of the major flaws of Baldwin, the Democratic candidate for Senate. In contrast to Baldwin, Pocan was someone who could actually get things done, he claimed.

It verifies criticisms of Baldwin by the Republicans, who have labeled Baldwin as an out-of-touch Madison liberal with no more significant legislative accomplishments than getting a name change for a post office.

After six years in the state Legislature and 12 years in Congress, Baldwin does not have much of a legislative record to show for it. If it were not for the special interest money pouring into the race, much of it from gay and lesbian groups hoping to elect the first openly lesbian senator, Baldwin’s campaign would be the charge of the lightweight brigade against a nationally recognized figure like former Gov. Tommy Thompson.

Ironically, while it’s only Baldwin’s ability to attract special interest money to the race that has made her campaign competitive, she and her allies have used that money to attack Thompson as beholden to the special interests.

There is no doubt that after Thompson left the Bush Administration for the private sector that all of his years of contacts paid off financially. It would have been near impossible for Thompson not to make money, given the important role he played as Wisconsin’s most popular governor and as secretary of Health and Human Services in the second Bush Administration.

That said, it’s been disappointing to see Thompson’s campaign not match until now the barrage of attack ads by Baldwin. Fellow Waukesha Freeman columnist Mark Belling was absolutely correct in saying that had the Republicans chosen Eric Hovde instead, he would have been able to go directly after Baldwin without having to wait for more campaign money to be raised.

But as the debate showed last week, that if the campaign for Senate becomes an issue-based campaign, focused on what the candidates believe and what they have accomplished, Baldwin will stand no chance against Thompson.

I was recently asked if I was planning on voting for Thompson or against Baldwin. After dancing around the question, I explained that it’s a little of both.

For all of the talk about the supposedly moderate Thompson, the real record of Thompson in Wisconsin is one of bold reforms and thwarting left-wing radicals like Baldwin.

Under Thompson, Wisconsin became a leader and a model for welfare reform. Democratic President Bill Clinton would later use the Wisconsin program as the model for the federal government, Clinton’s lasting achievement until President Barack Obama’s administration began attacking the work requirements.

Wisconsin was a leader on education reform, too. With bipartisan support that also cut across racial lines, Thompson created the Milwaukee school choice program.

Also during the Thompson era, he fought the teachers union and created the first caps on teacher salaries and how much school districts could raise taxes. These caps remained largely intact until late in Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle’s second term and saved the taxpayers millions of dollars. The caps also set the stage for what Gov. Scott Walker did last year with Act 10 in bringing teacher benefit costs and school costs under control.

So in Baldwin we have a lightweight congressman with no real accomplishments and a radical philosophy. On the other side we have former Governor Thompson with real accomplishments at the national and the state level.

Before Walker, we had another governor that drew national attention to Wisconsin. Thompson is back, and he’d make a great senator.

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


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