The Sideshow in the 17th Senate

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Pat “The Big Hack” Bomhack

What was a disappointing and insulting attempt by the state Democrat Party to insert carpetbagger Pat Bomhack into the election against grassroots progressive Ernie Wittwer for the seat being vacated by Dale Schultz has turned into a circus sideshow, complete with vanishing ballots and a recount that saved the day for the state party’s imported candidate.

Bomhack, a slick, lawyerly transplant from the Waukesha area who I’ve rightly pointed out as just another aspiring Democrat politician in vitro with the political joie de vivre of a denizen of Madame Tussaud’s, had the full support of the state Dem Party and minority leader Chris Larson, very much to the chagrin of local Dems and even progressive rebel du nord Kathleen Vinehout.

Challenger Ernie Wittwer, the strong preference of the grassroots who have known him for years as an area activist, was given the cold shoulder at every opportunity by the state party. Larson even flipped the bird to Wittwer, figuratively sort of, by giving Bomhack a shout-out at the diatribe of re-heated liberal failures that was their party’s state convention.

Ernie "This District Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us" Wittwer
Ernie “This District Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us” Wittwer

Democrats might offer only failed Johnson-era policies that have been microwaved for a new generation, but even they deserve a clean primary and out of it a representative who will actually look out for their interests, rather than toe the line of the party that brought them to the dance. This primary has instead been a parade of failures.

Despite Bomhack’s statewide support, the election was close. The results have been fluctuating around the tie mark by just handfuls of votes as new recounts keep coming in.

At first ahead by two votes, then ahead by seven, Ernie Witter is now down by 33 votes after a recount requested by Bomhack turned up an extra stash of ballots in his favor. Adding to the chaos, 110 ballots went missing prior to the recount in a twist reminiscent of the fate of Joe Pesci’s character in Casino. Perhaps one day they’ll turn up in a burlap sack stabbed full of holes washed up near Peck’s Landing.

According to the Juneau County Star Times:

Bomhack…won the recount by picking up a difference of 30 votes in Green County, five in Grant County, three in Richland County, two in Sauk County and one in Iowa County. Wittwer picked up one vote in Lafayette County.

Which means that officials in six counties botched the initial canvas. But the caboose to the locomotive of incompetence occurred in Monroe, where those 110 ballots vanished – using the unofficial canvas from election night because the actual ballots were probably destroyed by the county in violation of the law, Bomhack would still be ahead by 5 votes if those were counted.

Despite the irregularities, Bomhack has been declared the winner and Wittwer is prepared to take legal action. On Capitol City Sunday Wittwer declined to say whether he would support Bomhack, and in fact offered a rather punchy soundbite on the question of party unity behind the cause of defeating Howard Marklein, stating that the election shouldn’t just be about beating someone, it should be about electing someone. After several months, he still can’t pinpoint exactly what Bomhack stands for, Wittwer told host Greg Neumann.

I wrote about the foolishness of Chris Larson and the dolts of DPW getting involved in screwing a grassroots guy by importing a fungible candidate-wannabe lawyer like Bomhack when the story first emerged. The insertion of a carpetbagging toadie would engender resentment, divide the Demo grassroots, and weaken whichever Democrat emerged victorious, I claimed.

“Whoever wins that primary will go on, battered and bruised, to face Republican Howard Marklein,” I wrote. I was even more correct than I thought I would be.

Bomhack and Wittwer will now go on to continue clubbing each other during the erstwhile general election season rather than turn their attention to Howard Marklein who, despite his sizeable warchest and well-known name, would otherwise not simply waltz into the very moderate seat.

The folks in the Marklein camp are probably rather pleased.

Note: this story has been updated with new information and revised to correct my previous statement that 110 missing ballots turned up. It was a little more complex than that, and the ballots have not turned up.

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.