Dem Grassroots Votes with its Checkbook

When carpetbagger Pat Bomhack was anointed by the state Democrat Party in a primary to choose who will vie for Dale Schultz’s State Senate seat, area Democrats were ticked off.

When Ernie Wittwer, a longtime activist in the district and the strong preference of local Democrat activists, was boldly snubbed by Senate minority leader Chris Larson at their party’s state convention, grassroots Democrats were insulted.

Even Kathleen Vinehout, progressive grassroots Democratic shepherd, spoke out against Wittwer being “Vineh-Outed” by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, like her ill-fated challenge of Mary Burke (leaving the Dem rank-and-file with the embarrassing weirdo Brett Hulsey).

When Bomhack and Wittwer, insider and outsider, started asking for financial support from the district’s Democrats, the party’s grassroots voted with its checkbooks. Wittwer outraised Bomhack 3-to-1 in the recent report. Most of Bomhack’s money came from outside the district. “Of the $9,045 he raised, only $1,175 came from individuals in the district,” the CapTimes reported.

I could’ve personally donated that in-district amount out of the scant earnings from my day job answering phone calls from angry customers (to the trolls: I religiously stash all the money the Koch Brothers pay me to contribute to this blog in a rainy day fund dedicated to building myself a living room shaped like the bridge of the starship Enterprise-D).

Money indicates support. It measures the number and intensity of supporters willing to get behind a candidate based on their confidence in the candidate and their assessment of their ability to win. Money raised isn’t evil, it’s an important expression of citizens in a democracy stepping forward to help give a voice to the candidate they’ve chosen to represent them in government.

The local leader leading in donations is good. Because even the Democrats – with whom I disagree on almost everything, who I believe persistently field hypocrites as candidates, and whose policies have caused sclerosis on the state’s economy – deserve to have an honest say in who runs for local leadership positions.

But this case study in Democratic strategy 2.0 exemplifies the divergence in strategy between the two parties in Wisconsin. While the state Republicans are busy moving around resources to help local Republicans win elections, the state Democrats are busy moving around candidates where they expect local Democrats to help in getting them to win elections. As it’s doing in the 17th Senate district, it will backfire.

There are not similar examples of the Republican Party proactively moving candidates into an area and expecting local soldiers to fall into line. As an example: Tracie Happel, a Republican elementary school teacher and longtime area pro-choice activist running against Steve Doyle for the 94th Assembly district, is being supported by the RPW. In the neighboring 70th Assembly district, Nancy Vandermeer is a longtime area business owner, not a carpetbagging hack who graduated from some school for female conservative candidates.

Candidates supported by the RPW – especially Republican women like Vandermeer and Happel – are simply more sincere than those supported by the DPW. While Wittwer is a Democrat, he’s certainly more sincere in his desire to represent his district than Bomhack, who I previously called “a prototypical embryonic Democrat politician in vitro,” an aspiring lawyer whose application to the King of the Sandbox Club is being pushed by the state Dems.

Suits in Madison should not decide who gets to represent Western Wisconsin.

Ultimately it’s a crick versus a river in flood season; Republican Howard Marklein reported $285,000 cash on hand in the same report. I’ve written about my thoughts on Marklein’s senatorial demeanor and thoughtful approach to important policy issues – I look forward to election day.

About the writer: Chris Rochester is editor in chief of Morning Martini. He’s an armchair politico, veteran of several campaigns, and communications specialist. He's the communications director for the MacIver Institute. Commentary here is strictly his own.