Recommendations for Tuesday’s Primaries

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Tomorrow is primary day; having spent countless hours and pixels researching, writing about, and working in Wisconsin politics, I’m making some recommendations based on what I’ve seen as this election cycle has unfolded.

The most interesting race is the race for Wisconsin Secretary of State. Lethargic Doug La Follette, the incumbent Democrat, is facing a challenge from one of two Republicans: Julian Bradley of La Crosse or Garey Bies of Sister Bay. While Bradley has worked tirelessly traveling the state since January, Bies has been completely AWOL at Republican events even in his own back yard, waiting until the eleventh hour to dump tens of thousands of dollars into a media-only campaign.

Bies won’t beat La Follette by buying billboards and newspaper ads; more importantly, Wisconsin does not need another lazy Secretary of State with no vision for the office whatsoever.

People who see Julian in their part of the state on a regular basis are usually stunned to find out he also maintains a full-time job as a manager at a major telecom company. If Republicans want an active Secretary of State, want to build a bridge to the future of the Republican Party in Wisconsin, and want to shatter the stereotype that the GOP is a party of old white men, Bradley’s their candidate.

For Wisconsin Secretary of State, vote for the candidate who has undeniably earned all the support he has in the lead-up to tomorrow’s election; Vote Bradley.

The other interesting statewide race is for State Treasurer. After Scott Feldt bowed out, Waukesha attorney Randall Melchert stepped in to advocate keeping the office. His opponent, Matt Adamczyk, favors eliminating the office. But outgoing treasurer Kurt Schuller, who ran on the “Eliminate” platform four years ago, has done a 180, now publicly touting the value of the office after witnessing the failed transfer of the Unclaimed Property program to the Department of Revenue; the program, successful under the Treasurer, is now mired in dysfunction.

I know Kurt; he didn’t change his mind because he’s weak-minded – quite the contrary. Read his mea culpa here.

Furthermore Adamczyk’s strategy has a fatal and blazingly obvious flaw: He’s pledged to be a watchdog for the taxpayer dollars. But if he somehow succeeds at getting rid of the office, how can he possibly fulfill that role? Adamczyk simultaneously acknowledges the potential of the office while demanding its elimination.

Vote Melchert for State Treasurer.

In the 3rd Congressional, 20-year U.S. Army veteran and farmer Tony Kurtz faces a retired contractor out of Mauston, Ken Van Doren, and Chippewa Falls attorney Karen Mueller. Van Doren has pursued a strategy of actively dividing the GOP with accusations that Kurtz is a war monger because of his military experience. To endorse Van Doren would be to endorse a strategy that weakens, not strengthens, the GOP in western Wisconsin.

Mueller has the support of the far-right, but not much else. No money, no campaign manager, and no discernable strategy against Ron Kind. On the other hand, Kurtz has everything it’ll take to bring a strong challenge for Kind – an excellent set of experiences and education, the campaign apparatus, the network, the money, and the grassroots support.

If you’re in the 3rd CD, vote for Tony Kurtz.

Down in the 6th Congressional, the GOP primary will almost certainly determine the next congressman for that area because the district is so heavily Republican that no Democrat can realistically win (also known as paradise). In this race state Sens. Joe Leibham and Glenn Grothman along with state Rep. Duey Stroebel are duking it out in a particularly contentious contest.

I can’t recommend a particular candidate – any of the three would serve their district well.

The 21st Senate district features a primary challenge by Jonathan Steitz against Van Wanggaard, who lost his job in a recall after voting for Act 10 but hopes to regain his seat. The race has gotten heated and both sides have thrown their share of barbs. Both men are good conservatives and either would make an excellent state senator for that district.

But combining the frownworthy tactics of those supporting Steitz, including some outright lies, and the courage demonstrated by Wanggaard in falling on the sword to make Act 10 happen – much like my own Senator Dan Kapanke, who also knew he’d lose his job – I’d support Van Wanggaard to reclaim his former seat.

We’ve also covered the Democrat primary for the 17th State Senate district with longtime area activist Ernie Wittwer facing an upstart challenge from Pat Bomhack, a commodity imported by the state Democrat Party like a bag of flour – and with less personality. Honest candidates are not fungible, regardless of what Madison Democrat power brokers want to believe; Wittwer ought to get the party’s nod in that race to go on and face Republican Howard Marklein.

Other candidates to support on Tuesday are:

Choose Shirl LaBarre for the 87th Assembly district; LaBarre has made several runs before, coming ever closer to victory while building name identification. She is a Navy veteran who is tough as a two dollar steak and would be a much needed no-nonsense northwoods leader in Madison, a city full of fluff;

Vote Justin Moralez for the 20th Assembly, taking on Morning Martini’s pet nutjob woman-child Democrat Christine Sinicki. It’s a tough district but Moralez is the right Republican messenger with a strong enough campaign to have a shot a Sinicki. He’s also around 30, so people like Moralez are the future leaders of the Wisconsin GOP;

Ashton Kirsch is the best pick for the 81st Assembly district. Kirsch is another young guy running an excellent campaign who can win the slightly-blue district;

Vote Romaine Quinn for the 75th Assembly district; though under 30 Quinn already has a record as mayor of Rice Lake and is another up-and-comer in the GOP;

Tiffany Koehler is the best pick in the 58th Assembly district; Koehler is an Army veteran and (though we dislike pointing out a candidate’s race and gender) she’s a black woman, an excellent campaigner, and she’s running a solid campaign. Koehler will bring the no-nonsense moral leadership that’ll refresh the Republican Assembly caucus;

Vote Ralph Prescott for the 59th Assembly district; Prescott is a businessman, a strong positive presence in his community, and a solid conservative. Prescott should prevail in this election.

Vote Scott Allen in the race for the 97th Assembly district; Allen faces a crowded field for the Waukesha seat formerly held by Bill Kramer, but he’s the best pick because he’s built a solid campaign, has a strong background in the private sector and the community, and has the leadership qualities that are called for in a good assemblyman. This is a tough pick; Vince Trovato is a very close second.

Whoever you choose to vote for tomorrow, the most important thing is that you VOTE – and bring friends and family with you tomorrow and on November 4th.

Disclaimer: I and business partner and co-author of this blog Nik Nelson have done and are doing work for some of these candidates. 

About the writer: Chris Rochester is editor in chief of Morning Martini. He’s a communication specialist with experience in the private sector and on various campaigns. He's the communications director for the John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy. Commentary here is strictly his own.