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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

He’s Back!

Tom Reynolds attempts to field primary candidates

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Former state Sen. Tom Reynolds—the kooky right-wing legislator who allegedly asked his staffers if they were virgins, and who superimposed the faces of his family on Mary and Joseph on their Christmas cards—is attempting a comeback.

While he hasn’t officially declared as a candidate, Reynolds has started up a new political action committee (PAC), Clean Sweep Wisconsin, which is attempting to run “everyday working people…willing to run for office against incumbents of both political parties, and to do that when and where they are most vulnerable: the Sept. 9 party primary elections.”

This anti-incumbent PAC is attempting to run candidates in both Republican and Democratic primaries, although its platform is clearly ultraconservative. According to the PAC’s Web site, the Reynolds-approved agenda includes: health care reform that embraces a “free-market consumer-driven health care model”; implementing “a universal education tax credit that promotes complete parental choice of schools, public or private”; preventing “any further increases of property taxes, income taxes and any other taxes or user fees”; capping college tuition increases; and keeping “Wisconsin from being an illegal alien magnet state.”

Clean Sweep Wisconsin’s latest campaign finance report filed with the state shows a cash balance of $450. The PAC took in $860 from individuals and received $600 from the Citizens for Tom Reynolds committee. According to a voice message Reynolds left for an alleged supporter, the former state senator said Clean Sweep Wisconsin is hoping to run 12 candidates in Milwaukee—“eight on the North Side and four on the South Side”—and has already found “eight or nine” candidates.

Reynolds said that he had a candidate to run against South Side Reps. Christine Sinicki and Tony Staskunas, “and we’re still working on [Josh] Zepnick and [Pedro] Colon.” All of these legislators are Democrats. None of their districts has a Republican As of this writing, only Sinicki has a registered challenger in the Democratic primary, Steven Sutherland of Cudahy. Since no Republicans have registered for that race, it could allow that district’s conservative voters to oust Sinicki by voting in the Democratic primary.

But Sinicki is a moderate Democrat and her district is solidly blue-collar Democratic. A Reynolds-backed candidate touting a free-market platform will likely have a difficult time winning over these voters.

Still, Sinicki said she’s going to work hard to win the primary. “I will take the race very seriously,” she said. Reynolds did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

Getting Attention
Reynolds was elected to the state Senate in 2002 after defeating fellow Republican Peggy Rosenzweig in the primary election. This came after multiple attempts to oust longtime Democratic Congressman Gerald Kleczka. Reynolds then lost his seat in the state Senate in 2006 to moderate Democrat Jim Sullivan. Voters in Wauwatosa and West Allis were fed up with Reynolds’ headline-grabbing antics and hard-line right-wing political views that turned off mainstream Republicans.

In office, Reynolds was rigidly pro-life, anti-stem-cell research and anti-tax. He had proposed building a pay-as-you-go, speed-limit-free Autobahn parallel to I-94 after he got a speeding ticket in Illinois. He asked for a tax break for homeschooling parents—perhaps because he just happens to be a parent of home-schooled kids. Reynolds also took aim at illegal aliens and advocated for capital punishment.

Reports also surfaced that he asked potential employees if they were virgins and didn’t hire female staffers because his wife wouldn’t allow it. Reynolds always made for good copy. In addition to posing as St. Joseph with his wife the Virgin Mary on their family’s Christmas cards, Reynolds attended the notorious 2003 International Conference on Homo-Fascism. After being embarrassed when video appeared on YouTube.com showing him talking about his son sticking “his finger up his sister’s butt,” Reynolds became camera-shy during the 2006 campaign.

He refused to show up for debates with Sullivan, before finally agreeing to highly controlled debate at his church. Sinicki chuckled at the thought Reynolds getting back into politics, especially in a year when conservative Republicans are either retiring or expecting to lose representatives at all levels government.

“Republicans are dropping like flies,” she said. “It seems like they’re getting little desperate.”

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