Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Racine County Senator(s)

Lehman Widens Lead, is Senator-Elect

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For those of you waiting for official Wisconsin recall news, here’s a news flash for you: John Lehman is still the Senator-elect from Racine’s state Senate District 21.

On Tuesday, June 12, 2012, the official canvass re-ran the numbers from the June 5, 2012 election.  The only thing that changed is that former Sen. John Lehman (D-Racine) widened his narrow lead over incumbent Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) to 834 votes instead of the previous 779.

Please see this link from the Racine Journal-Times for further details:

Here’s a brief quote from that article:

The results totaled Tuesday increased Lehman’s lead by 55 votes, but Wanggaard as of Tuesday afternoon had not conceded and had not ruled out a recount, with his campaign manager citing reports of voting irregularities.

The final total was Lehman with 36,351 votes and Wanggaard with 35,517 votes, Racine County Clerk Wendy Christensen read Tuesday after finishing the canvass for the 21st Senate District at the Racine County Courthouse, 730 Wisconsin Ave.

Of course, the Democratic Party is calling on Wanggaard to concede, especially due to the analysis done by this Journal-Times article from June 6, 2012, that proves Lehman, a Democrat, won the Senate district while Scott Walker and Rebecca Kleefisch, Republican incumbents, won the races for Governor and Lieutenant Governor.  Here’s the first three paragraphs from that article, which describes what happened:

While it appears Democratic challenger John Lehman led state Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, in the 21st Senate District, in those same wards Republican Gov. Scott Walker won over his Democratic challenger Tom Barrett.

Walker had 36,505 votes to Barrett’s 35,744, and, in total, 916 more people in the senate district voted in the governor’s race than in the senate race, according to unofficial results.

Lehman said he couldn’t really explain the difference in the votes. But he said possibly he is better known in the 21st Senate District than Barrett. For instance, some voters may have had him as a teacher, Lehman said. Also he said, “I really think a lot of people have questioned Sen. Wanggaard’s representing them and the way he has gone about it.”

My analysis of this occurrence is simple: Wanggaard, as I’ve said before, is a past City of Racine policeman and a police union representative.  Everyone who votes in the City of Racine knew that, which is why Wanggaard lost there by a 2-to-1 margin; in the county, Wanggaard needed to win by a substantial margin to make up that difference.  Wanggaard couldn’t do it.

Now, what has to be extremely difficult for Wanggaard to swallow is this: going back to his vote on SB 10 last year, had Wanggaard voted with Dale Schultz of Richland Center to oppose that bill, the likelihood is that Wanggaard would not have been recalled despite the many other things the district did not agree with Wanggaard about (such as Wanggaard’s signing of the non-disclosure agreements regarding redistricting, or Wanggaard’s agreement with the rest of the sitting Republicans in the Senate that state education funding should be slashed, which substantially hurt the Racine Unified School District).  Wanggaard did support, along with Schultz, a proposed amendment that would have allowed for collective bargaining to be reinstated after two years — a “sunset” provision under the law — but procedural moves by the Republican leadership in the Senate kept that amendment from ever going to the floor.  Schultz’s opposition to SB 10 was largely due to the refusal of the R leadership to hear his amendment, which is why if Wanggaard had followed Schultz’s lead and voted against SB 10 — which would’ve meant the R Senators would’ve won the day with a 17-2 margin instead of 18-1 — Wanggaard likely would never have been forced to this recall election.

Ultimately, Wanggaard was done in by his own inexperience.  My guess is that he didn’t really know what was going on when he took that vote — at least, he didn’t realize the district would recall him over it (even though I, and others, wrote to him and told him bluntly that this would be the result).  And his own leadership, which perhaps forgot about the fact that former Sen. George Petak (R-Racine) was recalled in District 21 in 1996 for far less than this, may have believed that everything would “blow over” — if so, they were plain, flat wrong — or may have believed that due to redistricting, had Wanggaard just been able to get to November of this year, he’d be in a “safe” Republican seat that would not recall him.

But I have news — people in Racine County were upset with Wanggaard, too.  Not as many of them as in the City of Racine, demonstrably — but enough that Wanggaard could not make up Lehman’s lead.  And with this split-ticket voting (where some people voted for Walker/Kleefisch on the one hand and Lehman on the other), along with some people either writing their own names in or refusing to vote for Senate at all due to their disgust with Wanggaard’s hypocrisy, it’s obvious there were more than enough people in the entirety of District 21 to recall Van Wanggaard.

So, what does Wanggaard do now?  His options are two: request a recount by Friday, June 15, 2012, something he’ll have to pay for himself as the margin of Lehman’s apparent victory is large enough that the state of Wisconsin will not pay for the recount.  Or concede.

My belief is that Wanggaard will request a recount, which is sensible from his context.  He probably wants to know, for a certainty, the  hard data that backs up this “split ticket” phenomenon from a hand recount.  And he also probably wants to know, for a certainty, that the voters of Racine really did reject him, personally — especially as they retained Walker and Kleefisch.

But the hand recount won’t change the facts: Wanggaard has lost this race to Lehman. 

And ultimately, even though I do feel sorry for him as he’s the first one-year Senator in Wisconsin’s history to ever get recalled, Wanggaard has no one but himself to blame.  Because no matter what the Republican leadership in Madison told him last year, he should’ve remembered what happened to Petak in 1996 as he lived in Racine at the time and was active in Republican politics, and avoided this result by casting his vote with Schultz against SB 10.  Period.

Sen. Wanggaard Recall News: Wanggaard will not debate former Sen. Lehman

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Last week, former Senator John Lehman (D-Racine) said he would take on current Senator Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) in an upcoming recall election.**   Lehman, who lost to Wanggaard in 2010, says he wants a series of public debates; however, Wanggaard says he has “no interest” in debating Lehman whatsoever and will “stand on his record.”

Please see this link for further details:

About the best Wanggaard says he’s able to do is this; if Lehman is willing to attend one of Wanggaard’s weekly town halls out in the Town of Yorkville (a very small, rural part of Racine County):

“If (Lehman) wants to attend one of my town halls, he can sure ask questions,” said Wanggaard.
This doesn’t seem extremely forthcoming, to my mind; worse yet, it seems a tad bit cowardly on the part of Wanggaard.  But to Lehman, apparently this is par for the course:
In Lehman’s announcement Tuesday that he will run against Wanggaard in a likely recall, he said when he ran against Wanggaard in 2010, and was defeated by him, “Mr. Wanggaard never once would agree to an on the ground debate in Racine.” 

There was a television debate and The Journal Times hosted an online forum, but no public debates where people could ask questions in person. 

“They just avoided a discussion,” Lehman said in his announcement. 

Lehman said he would like to see a series of debates. “I think people deserve that,” Lehman said. 

When Lehman ran against former County Executive William McReynolds in 2006 for the Senate, he said there were about 10 debates.

. . . which just goes to show you how much McReynolds respected the public, and how much Wanggaard disrespects the public now.

Look.  There are good Republicans in Wisconsin who currently hold high office (Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, is one such Republican), and there are good Republicans who’ve held office in the past, including McReynolds.  These are responsible people who believe in public debates, and want the public to be well-informed as to the nature of the decisions facing them.

For that matter, all six of the Republican state Senators who faced recall in 2011 allowed for public debates; one, Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay), didn’t have a debate, but that’s because his opponent, Nancy Nussbaum, had to deal with funeral arrangements due to the death of her mother on the day the debate had been scheduled.  For obvious reasons, the debate was called off.  (Let the record state, however, that Cowles was willing to debate.  Wanggaard is not.)

So why is it that the 2011 Rs were willing to debate the D candidates who were running in recall elections against them, but Wanggaard is unwilling to debate Lehman now?  (And for that matter, why was Wanggaard unwilling to debate Lehman back in 2010?)

Methinks Wanggaard knows that debates or no debates, he will be out on his ear — the first one-year Senator in the history of Racine politics.  (Former Senator George Petak, R-Racine, held office from 1990-6, and was successfully recalled during the middle of his second term.)  And that’s why his public stance — i.e., “No debates!” — is so wishy-washy at absolute best. 

Were I Wanggaard, I’d want to go down fighting, so the constituents I’d represented knew that I’d at least tried to do my best by my own lights.  But nothing says he must be smart or courageous, now, does it?

Anyway, as I’m one of Wanggaard’s constituents — not that he’s ever listened to me before, mind you — I want to say this to Senator Wanggaard:

Senator, it’s time to stop ducking the issues.  Debate former Senator Lehman in a public forum.  Take questions from your constituents.  And be prepared to explain why, oh why, you voted against collective bargaining when you, yourself, have benefitted handily from collective bargaining in the past (and continue to benefit from it in the here-and-now due to your police retirement).

It’s not that you’ve benefitted that’s so upsetting, Senator — it’s that you don’t want anyone else to benefit now that you have.  (Otherwise known as, “I have mine, so who cares about you?”)  That, sir, is hypocrisy at its finest, and that is why we are so upset with you.

We don’t like hypocrisy in Racine, Senator.  We don’t like it at all.

But you’re still allowed to explain yourself, and your actions, in a way that makes more logical sense than you’ve done thus far.  So do yourself a favor, and debate Lehman; it can’t hurt, might help, and will at least make those of us who oppose you appreciate your willingness to stand up and face the music.


**Note that while Wanggaard’s upcoming recall election isn’t a 100% lead-pipe cinch, I would put it at 99.9% likely due to the fact that over 24,000 signatures were turned in while approximately 15,400 were needed to recall Wanggaard.  Not all of those signatures will be valid, but most will be; Wanggaard is headed to a recall election and he well knows it.