Tommy’s Vindication

Former Governor Tommy Thompson wasn’t on the ballot Tuesday, but he emerged as one of the primary night’s biggest winners, vindicating him after possibly the most disappointing loss for Wisconsin Republicans in 2012.

Thompson supported two big winners Tuesday, including long-shot-for-re-election Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke and Tony Kurtz in the 3rd Congressional district.

Thompson was most active in his support for Clarke, who faced long odds as an uber-conservative icon in the heart of liberalstan, Milwaukee County. The former governor urged Republicans to cross the aisle to support Clarke, technically a Democrat.

Engineering such a cross-over vote is tricky. Even loyal Republican voters may have been unaware that Clarke is actually a Democrat. Others didn’t know that voting in a Republican and Democrat primary at the same time would invalidate their ballots. Some tried to write in Clarke on their GOP ballots, useless to Clarke. Though Milwaukee talk radio spent weeks explaining this to voters, confusion still pervaded, surely making Clarke’s team bite their nails all night.

Clarke faced that challenge and a face-melting landslide of special interest money from Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun PAC and hundreds of thousands of dollars from other high-dollar leftist groups, totaling $650,000 – a shocking figure for a sheriff’s election.

The election was a rematch of 2010 when Clarke defeated the same opponent, police lieutenant Chris Moews, by six points. Milwaukee talk radio host Mark Belling railed on Moews as a squish who would take the hard edge off the sheriff’s department under Clarke. Belling was especially animated by Moews’ pledge to far-left group Voces de la Frontera that he wouldn’t work with the feds in the arrest of illegal aliens who commit crimes.

In other words, Moews would select which laws he would enforce based on which leftist client groups supported his campaigns.

The whole matter is moot; Clarke pulled victory from the jaws of defeat Tuesday night, winning 52-48, earning nearly double the quantity of votes over the 30,539 he got in 2010 and proving money alone doesn’t buy an election.

Gov. Thompson’s support, which included a letter to Milwaukee conservatives and appeals to moderate Dems, was a cornerstone of Clarke’s victory.

Tuesday was a colossal smackdown for Bloomberg and his elite club of haters of the Second Amendment whose penthouse existence bears little resemblance to the experience of people in inner city Milwaukee who deal with pervasive gun crime in their neighborhoods. Bloomberg and his anti-gun entourage don’t believe Milwaukee residents deserve the basic right to defend themselves, their homes, and their families in a city ever more overrun by gun-wielding criminals.

Thompson also endorsed Army veteran and Republican for the 3rd Congressional district Tony Kurtz, who also won big last night with 57 percent of the vote in a three-way race. Thompson, along with former state Sen. Dan Kapanke, was early and active in his support of Kurtz, who will go on to face Ron Kind in November.

Thompson, of Elroy, is still well-respected throughout western Wisconsin, especially among the rural voters who Kurtz will need to win and the donors who he will need to support his campaign financially.

It’s also been a tough stretch personally for Gov. Thompson, having lost two brothers to cancer in almost as many years.

Thompson showed he came through these challenges as strong as ever and that he still has muscle in Wisconsin politics.

About the writer: Chris Rochester has worked in communications and finance for a state Senate and congressional campaign, consulted on numerous Assembly and local races, and has held leadership roles in his local Republican Party. He's communications director for the MacIver Institute. Commentary here is strictly his own.