What Happened Last Night and What’s Ahead This Fall

Aug. 13, 2014
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susan happ
Have you recovered from a low-turnout election that turned out to have some pretty dramatic results? I’m still digesting the primary returns, but it’s safe to say that zombie Republican votes—sorry, votes by "one day only" Democrats—definitely had an impact on at least one race. (And, even though Sheriff Clarke and the Journal Sentinel are trying to paint him as an underdog, he certainly wasn’t.) 

Moving on:

Governor’s race: This is going to be very tough. Walker has a built-in money machine and he’s shown that despite having no charisma he can fire up a crowd. Mary Burke won strongly last night, but many are puzzled about her campaign’s decision to keep it low key, only sending out a statement and sticking with a fundraiser Up North. Face it: Burke is not a typical politician who will stomp over anyone to get in front of a camera. I think that she is holding her powder until it’s really necessary. She’s run a very conservative campaign already, is campaigning on ending political division, and is tied with Walker in the polls. Walker has given her plenty of material to work with if she wants to go negative. I’m not sure that’s her style. Her surrogates’ style, sure. But I think she is going to try to remain above the fray. Walker, of course, will show up anywhere to get attention.

Lieutenant governor’s race: John Lehman won last night, but only with 55% of the vote against a virtual unknown. This could be GOP shenanigans or a protest vote by Dems against the establishment. No matter what, the Burke-Lehman ticket balances nicely, adding his southeastern Wisconsin to her Madison base, and he's a strong advocate for public education and the environment who understands the Legislature well.

Attorney general’s race: This is going to be fascinating. Susan Happ should rightly be proud of her commanding victory in this race, which drew three highly qualified Democrats. She jumped into the race late and didn’t have the fundraising apparatus, name recognition or obvious urban base as her opponents. But she set herself apart by being a female prosecutor in a rural area who rides a Harley and owns a gun. I wonder how much of her victory was due to her relatively moderate stance on drunken driving as well. In November she’ll face Waukesha DA Brad Schimel, who has engaged in some pretty partisan deals while in office (like letting Scott Jensen get off with a slap on the wrist). The Democrats’ statewide ticket now has two very strong women at the top of it. Both are relative outsiders who balance each other out. Burke is more reserved and running on her business experience; Happ is your gun-toting neighbor who can kick your ass in court. And, yes, they’re Democrats.

Congressional races: No real surprises here: Gwen Moore and Rob Zerban won their primaries handily. I won’t comment on the general insanity of the Republican race in District 6—the candidates or the ballot counting.

Assembly races: As predicted, incumbents JoCasta Zamarippa and Leon Young won last night, but the open seats were much more volatile. The low turnout combined with multiple candidates, including spoiler candidates recruited by Chris Abele, made AD 10 and AD 19 hard to pin down. Congratulations to David Bowen (AD 10) and Jonathan Brostoff (AD 19) for winning decisive victories in very tough campaigns. (Brostoff still needs to face Pirate Party candidate Joe Klein in November.) Both Bowen and Brostoff are strong progressives who have tons of energy and ideas and will serve their constituents well. Many are surprised by Brostoff’s win over Marina Dimitrijevic, but I’m not. The Shepherd consulted with AD 19 leaders for our endorsement and the clear choice was Marina. But Brostoff had strong support within that endorsement panel and I can’t tell you how many people pulled me aside while I was out and about during the day to let me know that they were supporting Brostoff. He worked hard for this win and should be proud of it.  

County races: If you need more confirmation that Republicans voted in the Democratic primary for sheriff, take a look at the ballots cast. The sheriff’s race generated 113,740 votes. The other county-wide race, between David Cullen and Dawn Marie Sass for treasurer, generated just 72,221 votes—a difference of 41,519. Clarke’s already inflated ego has just stretched further with this win. But, apparently, that’s what Milwaukee County wants—unless independent candidate Angela Walker defeats him this fall.

On to November.

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