Sunday, August 25th, 2019

Savor victory, but not for long


Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:Nov 4, 2010; Section:Opinion; Page Number:10A

Savor victory, but not for long
Republicans must keep promises after historic gains

Wow. What a night for Republicans in Wisconsin. Not only did Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker win the election for governor, not only did Ron Johnson defeat three-term incumbent Russ Feingold, but Republicans took control of the state Legislature by amazing margins. reports that, depending on the outcome of possible recounts from Tuesday’s election, Wisconsin Democrats could have their lowest total in the state Assembly since 1957. Republicans will have a 19-14 majority in the state Senate.

Republicans not only won control of both chambers of the Legislature, they defeated the Democratic leaders, too.

Less than six months ago, Sen. Russ Decker was the consensus choice at the free-market MacIver Institute as the most powerful man in the state Capitol. His political career is now over. Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan, whose relationship with a lobbyist became very controversial, suddenly has plenty of time to deal with his personal life.

Republicans undid the injustice of four years ago when Dawn Marie Sass was elected state treasurer, and the Republicans even came close to beating someone named La Follette in the secretary of state office.

Best of all, voters chose two new Republicans to represent Wisconsin in Congress. One of them, Sean Duffy, is a future star of the party.

Remember that great moment in John Boorman’s “Excalibur” when Nicol Williamson as Merlin made King Arthur’s knights stand in a circle and savor the moment that England was united? Republicans should savor this moment because historical shifts of power like the one that occurred Tuesday don’t happen very often.

But don’t savor it too long. When state Rep. Joel Kleefisch was asked, “What now?” he replied, “We keep our promises.”

Kleefisch understands that this could all be reversed in the next election if Republicans fail to live up to their principles. It wasn’t that long ago Republicans had similar majorities that they squandered when the party failed to stop increasing taxes and spending.

Republicans will have the opportunity to keep their promises right away when Scott Walker takes over as governor and calls for a special session of the Legislature to address the No. 1 issue confronting Wisconsin: jobs.

So Republicans can savor Tuesday night’s results. Just not that long.

* * *

For Waukesha residents, Tuesday night’s results could make it easier for Waukesha’s water application. Waukesha can reasonably hope that Walker will appoint a DNR secretary that would be more sympathetic to moving Waukesha’s water application along. With Republicans winning governorships in Ohio and Michigan, the likelihood goes up that the application will get the approval of the Great Lakes states’ governors.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who was sympathetic to Waukesha’s application due to the assumption his city would benefit, stays in place in Milwaukee’s City Hall.

* * *

Will Republican victory Tuesday night mean more clout for Waukesha County?

While the county will have two new state representatives and a new state senator, it still has experienced representation in Madison. Look for state Rep. Bill Kramer to take a more prominent role in Madison, especially given the role Waukesha County played in pushing Republicans into state offices.

Look, too, to see Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas to have a more visible presence statewide on issues like public employee compensation arbitration laws.

* * *

With the rise and fall of political parties also comes the rise and fall of the party chairmen.

Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate was clearly overmatched by the problems his party faced in this election cycle. An open election for governor, an open election for Congress, two other extremely vulnerable congressmen, and fragile majorities in both chambers of the Legislature would be difficult enough for most party chairmen. While Congressman Ron Kind was protected, barely, the Democrats lost Sen. Russ Feingold, an incumbent previously thought safe.

Democrats must be wondering who they can find to replace Mike Tate, whose previous major campaign experience was running a failed effort to stop the marriage amendment two years ago.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin has another rising political star in Reince Priebus. Priebus was already being mentioned as the next possible Republican National Committee chairman. After the resounding victories Tuesday night and the masterful way Priebus courted the tea party activists, national Republican leaders have to be looking at Priebus.

When Priebus took over the state Republican Party, it looked as bad as the current Democratic Party. Such is how fortune’s wheel turns.

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


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