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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Fake Democrats

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A right-wing Republican from West Allis has been recruiting conservative candidates and promising them big money to challenge incumbent Milwaukee legislators in the Democratic primary. But former state Sen. Tom Reynolds, whose right-wing extremism is far beyond where the buses run, has not developed a sudden interest in Democratic politics or improving the lives of people living in the city.

Threateningly, Reynolds calls his front organization Clean Sweep Wisconsin, though he’s already suffered some losses in his attempt to sweep incumbent Democrats out of office. Last week, the Government Accountability Board removed from the ballot two of Reynolds’ candidates— Nicholas Cosey and Deon Price, who tried to challenge state Sen. Spencer Coggs and state Rep. Jason Fields, respectively—for failing to submit enough valid signatures on their nomination papers.

However, Clean Sweep succeeded in putting fake Democrats (none are members of the Democratic Party) in primary races against North Side incumbent state Reps. Annette Polly Williams, Barbara Toles and Leon Young. Clean Sweep is also running challengers against South Side state Rep. Christine Sinicki and West Allis state Rep. Tony Staskunas.

Smear Campaigns
Anyone has a right to run for public office in a democracy. No incumbent leg islator should ever be immune from challenge. In fact, election challenges help assure that elected representatives stay on top of concerns in their districts.

However, there’s nothing democratic about an outsider virulently opposed to the interests of people living in Milwaukee pouring anonymous money into the districts of elected representatives to smear them.

Even before the challengers filed their nomination papers—or failed to file valid signatures in two cases—districts were being flooded with expensive, full-color brochures attacking the incumbents. The brochures are virtually identical in each dis trict, with different names and photographs inserted. And they are chock-full of inflam matory charges, nonissues and half-truths.

The attacks are heavy on the hot-button “family values” issues right-wing Republicans have tried to use in past elec tions to inflame voters.

You may recall that when Reynolds was in office he was so extreme on such issues that he questioned unmarried potential employees about their virginity, participat ed in an anti-gay hate rally in Milwaukee and opposed abortion even in cases of rape and incest or to save the life of a mother.

Unless a Wisconsin legislator is appoint ed to the U.S. Supreme Court, his or her position on abortion is irrelevant. A woman’s right to choose is the law of the land. There’s nothing a legislator can or should do to violate the law.

The same goes for the issue of gay marriage, a horse so dead in this state it’s turn ing to dust. Gay marriage has long been illegal in Wisconsin. During the last gubernatorial race, in hopes of turning out a large conservative hate vote to defeat Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, Republicans put an amendment on the ballot to make gay marriage unconstitutional as well.

So let’s see. Gay marriage is now both illegal and unconstitutional. How many other ways can we outlaw it? Maybe we could revive capital punishment and put to death any gay people who even think about it.

Many Democrats voted against the constitutional amendment either because it was unnecessary or because they correctly believed a constitution should guarantee rights, not take them away.

Clean Sweep smears any incumbent who voted against the constitutional amendment as an opponent of so-called “traditional marriage,” marriage for people who aren’t gay. When did any incumbent legislator ever vote to ban that?

Many other nonsensical interpretations of isolated votes are used to dishonestly paint incumbent legislators as anti-family. Did you know, for instance, that a vote against concealed carry was a vote against family values? Apparently, many families highly value the ability to pack deadly weapons and blow each other’s heads off.

Anyone who voted at any time against tax vouchers to send children to private schools also is dishonestly portrayed as an enemy of families. Unbelievably, Rep. Annette Polly Williams, the mother of school choice, is attacked in Clean Sweep lit erature as an opponent of her own program.

That is because Williams has opposed recent conservative efforts to expand vouch ers with the ultimate goal of raising income limits to require taxpayers to finance all pri vate school education instead of limiting the program to poor children.

Reynolds owns a printing business, but he’s not independently wealthy. Big money is being put behind the Clean Sweep candi dates, so one major question we should be asking: Where is that money coming from?

It’s difficult enough these days getting real Democrats to stand up for social justice, equal opportunity and the Constitution.Imagine how much worse it would be if right-wing Republicans succeeded in replacing all of the incumbents with fake Democrats.

What’s your take?

Write: editor@shepex.com or comment on this story online at www.expressmilwaukee.com

 

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