Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The 10 percent solution

By Bill Kraus

I suppose the most important, and distressing, takeaway from the August 12 primary is that most of the races in the state Assembly and more than a few in the Senate were settled that day. They joined the large number of other candidates who had no opponent. To summarize: A majority of the state legislature was picked by 10 percent of the voters.

The fact that the primary is now held before the middle of August didn’t help. But, beyond that, wondering how important it is to require stringent identification standards to a process that doesn’t draw flies, it’s hard to figure out how to excite voters about being disenfranchised by gerrymandering. Or maybe that’s why they aren’t voting. Why bother when you and your votes don’t count? The voters are not stupid. They know that the game is rigged.

On the good news front, Susan Happ’s victory in the Attorney General primary was impelled to a not insignificant extent by the fact that she introduced and campaigned on the worthy idea that law enforcement is not a partisan occupation. Or shouldn’t be. We already vote for judges in the non-partisan spring elections. Has the time come to move the attorney general, district attorneys, and sheriffs to the spring as well? Let’s hope so.

Another reason to hope so was the sheriff’s election in Milwaukee County which was settled by partisan appeals as much or more than by anything to do with law enforcement. This race was reminiscent of the shameful Supreme Court election of 2011, which was more of a referendum on the governor than on anything having to do with the candidates’ judicial talents, wisdom, or suitability.

I’m hoping this primary had the desirable side effect of putting Gary George and Brett Hulsey into the dustbin where electoral oddities are collected.

The 6th Congressional District Republican primary is unsettled at this writing. What is even more unsettled is whether the voters in that seemingly safely Republican area might give Wisconsin one competitive congressional election in November. The “I’m more anarchistic than you are” character of the primary, the presence of a Libertarian on the ballot, and the precedent of the 1960s when a Democrat beat an unbeatable Republican incumbent could make this election less than a sure thing for the Republican primary winner.

As is often the case this poor excuse for an election provided additional proof that every vote counts when the margin in a state Senate primary in southwestern Wisconsin was two votes.

There’s usually a good election story in most elections. This year’s was a four-way primary in Portage County among the deputies of the retiring sheriff. The establishment favorite was a man named Kevin Sorenson. He had the endorsement of the retiring sheriff, the Stevens Point Journal, and many of the big Democratic names in Portage County. One of his opponents, a man named Michael Lukas, had something different. He had some campaign gray beards from years past who put together a door-to-door campaign of supporters and used ancient media like letters to the editor and radio endorsement ads to good effect.

The penultimate event in the campaign was a headline in the aforementioned paper announcing Sorenson’s victory. The paper went to bed at 3 a.m. When the vote count was finished a couple of hours later Lukas had won by 200 or so votes.

The story of the Lukas victory did not make the next edition of the chagrined or shameless paper, and the Sorenson forces are organizing a write-in campaign for November.

Politics is alive and well in a few places, especially in Portage County. Everybody else is missing the fun.

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