Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Waiting on Tarantino

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Waiting on Tarantino

Candidate needs to explain charges, experience

Waukesha Freeman 2/14/13 Page A6 Opinion

It was a moment most political campaigns dread.

At a candidate forum for the special election in the 98th Assembly District, the candidates were asked if they have ever been arrested or if they have ever lied under oath.

Pewaukee Police Chief Ed Baumann was the first to answer. He started with a simple “no” that drew chuckles from the audience. Todd Greenwald and Matt Morzy also answered “no.”

Adam Neylon, the former aide to state Rep. Bill Kramer and Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, confessed to an underage drinking ticket.

Then it was Jeanne Tarantino’s turn. She told the nearly 100 people assembled “no.”

During a recent divorce proceeding, Tarantino accused Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch of discriminating against her due to age and gender. Tarantino claimed she was transferred out of her job working for Kleefisch because Kleefisch wanted a younger man in the role.

The news of this allegation broke before the court records were sealed. In my own investigations, I discovered that Tarantino’s statement under oath was gossip fodder at the courthouse before the story broke.

The records are sealed now, but what is in them is now public knowledge. Tarantino has never denied accusing Kleefisch of discrimination, and has only said that she has apologized to the lieutenant governor. But she has not retracted her statement alleging discrimination.

Walker, Kleefisch, and Tarantino’s successor in Kleefisch’s office have all denied any discrimination.

Making matters more complicated, Kleefisch endorsed Tarantino in the Republican primary. This prompted one Madison source to quip, “What? Tarantino’s not good enough for the lieutenant governor’s office, but she’s good enough for the Assembly? Is that like Judge Smails? “But that hat looks good on you.”’ Kleefisch is in the awkward position of having endorsed a candidate who has publicly accused her of discriminating in employment for reasons of age and gender. This is a very serious charge.

When Tarantino was asked along with the rest of the candidates if she ever lied under oath, she had an opportunity to explain to the audience her side of the controversy. She could have taken that moment to clear the record of Kleefisch by retracting what she said in court.

Instead, in a one-word answer, Tarantino stood by her claim that she was discriminated against. If that was not her intention, then she lied to a room full of people.

The rest of the candidate forum for Tarantino was not much better. In response to the very next question, Tarantino touted her experience working for Kleefisch. As Rick told Ilsa in “Casablanca,” “I wouldn’t mention Paris if I were you. It’s poor salesmanship.”

Tarantino also staked out a more moderate position on Gov. Scott Walker’s latest reform, requiring more work training for welfare benefits. She said she was uncomfortable tying the requirement to food benefits.

Tarantino still has her defenders that tout her experience. Tarantino herself cited her government experience at Monday night’s candidate forum.

However, does Tarantino’s experience match the conservative nature of the 98th Assembly District?

She mentioned working for former state Rep. Joanne Huelsman, who was not considered a conservative. Tarantino has also volunteered for Congresswoman Gwen Moore when she was in the Legislature and former Democratic state Sen. Barbara Ulichny. WISN radio personality and fellow Waukesha Freeman columnist Mark Belling has reported Tarantino once worked for Democratic Sen. Carl Levin.

None of the above would qualify as conservatives, and they are certainly not in line with the values of the 98th Assembly District.

Ronald Reagan may have been a Democrat once, as Tarantino’s defenders are quick to remind us, but for his entire career in politics he had a ready explanation for his conversion.

We’re waiting for Tarantino’s “road to Damascus” story, just as we’re waiting for her to fully explain why she said under oath that Kleefisch discriminated against her.

We may have to wait until after Tuesday’s primary. Belling reported on his show Tarantino’s lawyer tried to get the radio station to stop talking about the divorce records now that they’re sealed, even though the contents are public knowledge and have never been disputed by Tarantino.

Most of us prefer our candidates to be more open, especially when they’re making serious allegations against a sitting lieutenant governor.

(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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