Cops “Nail” La Crosse Political Mini-Terrorist

Going back to the recall of state Senator Dan Kapanke, La Crosse area Republicans have become quite familiar with reports of property damage and even attempted acts of violence against supporters in the community.

Of course, damage to and theft of yard signs is pervasive and doubtlessly both sides are guilty of their share of this. However, during the Kapanke recall, swastikas were spray painted on several Kapanke yard signs. Numerous people – many times, the same ones – dropped by the GOP field office for new signs after theirs were repeatedly stolen. Clearly, the work of certain anti-Republican individuals.

King among such anecdotes is when Dan Kapanke’s wife, returning home late at night from her nursing job, stepped out of her car to find roofing nails in the Town of Campbell driveway. Well, a recent court case and admission of guilt finally put the problem at large in the black and white of news print.

The La Crosse Tribune reports:

A La Crosse man admitted throwing roofing nails into driveways of residents who supported Republican candidates after someone stole his lawn sign supporting a Democratic candidate, according to La Crosse police reports.

Martin Sellers, 59, of 2126 Hoeschler Drive, told police he “has done some stupid things” during his arrest Sunday for criminal damage to property and disorderly conduct, reports stated.

Five homeowners on Lincoln Avenue, Ward Avenue, Elm Street and Springbrook Way for three years reported nails in driveways. One homeowner reported eight incidents.

Sellers said he periodically targeted driveways of homes that displayed signs supported Republicans “out of anger for the political system,” reports stated. One homeowner stated the vandalism resumed after President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

A homeowner who installed a surveillance system caught Sellers’ vehicle on camera. One victim reported having to replace four tires on his car.

“Both sides do it…it’s just one person” someone ostensibly trying to defend the behavior might claim while simultaneously claiming to not be defending the behavior. No, both sides don’t spend their time throwing nails in their neighbors’ driveway, and no, it’s clearly not the behavior of just one guy. I can assure you that having worked in or spent considerable time in five different local GOP offices over the years.

This one just happened to have gotten caught.

Will Democrats Keep Shilling?

Update: The Democrats re-elected Shilling minority leader unanimously late this afternoon.

Is it time for Wisconsin Democrats to panic over their eroding minorities in the state legislature?

If Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling survives the just-announced recount in her razor-thin victory over challenger Dan Kapanke, will she survive as the leader of the shrinking minority of the Senate Democrat caucus? By the time most people read this, that decision will have already been made.

It’s hard to know what Senate Democrats will decide, but they are caucusing today to elect leadership. If they re-elect Shilling as minority leader and she loses the recount, will they be even more rudderless?

Shilling tentatively beat Kapanke by 56 votes, atypical for a party leader to say the least. The election also saw the election of Dan Feyen, a newcomer to elective office, over the well-known Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris, who initially appeared to be the favorite to win. Feyen won the swing district by a strong 56-44 margin.

More significantly, incumbent Julie Lassa lost Senate district 24 to another newcomer to elective office, Portage County GOP chairman Patrick Testin. He knocked off the 12-year incumbent and failed Congressional candidate by a relatively solid margin of around 52-48, despite losing the district’s largest population center, Portage County – the only county he lost in the 6-county Senate district.

The Senate Democrats now have a paltry 20-12 minority in the state Senate, the smallest their caucus has been since 1971. Should the Democrats decide to flee the state again as they did during the Act 10 uproar, they could literally do so in two minivans.

If Shilling loses her recount, that margin will shrink to 21-11, the smallest Democrat caucus since 1967. The fact that the GOP nearly toppled – and could yet topple – the leader of the Senate Democrat caucus in a left-leaning district with a deep blue population center in the City of La Crosse is perhaps the fact Democrats should look most closely at. Any clear-eyed observer of that election (such as myself – it’s my home turf) knows that Shilling did not put in the elbow grease needed to ensure a victory.

They’ll also look at this: Under Shilling’s leadership, Senate Democrats directed appreciable resources into a futile quest to defeat GOP Senator Luther Olsen, who also won. No Republican incumbent Senator lost, so while Shilling was out playing offense, she should’ve been playing defense, especially in the 24th and back home. Shilling took her cue from Hillary Clinton, who ignored states like Wisconsin and Michigan in an arrogant effort to turn the electoral vote into a blowout. She did – for Trump.

President-elect Trump’s victory in Wisconsin was surprising to put it mildly, and it’s hard to fault Sen. Shilling for not seeing it coming. The Democratic Party is out of touch top-to-bottom with average, working Wisconsinites and Americans. For example, in a district where hunting and gun ownership is a cherished tradition, Shilling gets an F from the NRA every cycle. Given a list of far-left pet causes, Shilling checks every box, meaning she’s more in the mold of a Madison activist than a rural seed salesman (Kapanke).

Her decisions are out of touch with the reality Wisconsin Democrats find themselves in. Wisconsin hasn’t been a “blue” state since 2010, with the exception of Pres. Obama’s and Sen. Baldwin’s victories in 2012 (Baldwin’s victory can be as much attributed to the Republican primary, which left eventual nominee Tommy Thompson almost broke). Instead of ensuring her caucus’s walls held, Sen. Shilling launched an invasion of another castle and paid the price, especially in the Lassa race.

To paraphrase Kenny Chesney, bricks of the Democrats’ defenses are scattered on the ground.

In 2014, Democrats ousted Chris Larson as their minority leader after the party ostentatiously lost the centrist Senate district formerly held by Dale Schultz to conservative Republican Howard Marklein. Will Shilling meet the same fate?

Democrats may well retain Sen. Shilling as their leader in the Senate, if for no other reason than they have no one to take her place other than maybe Sen. Jon Erpenbach, a Madison-area lefty who would have trouble connecting with increasingly Republican-leaning out-state voters, especially in the populous Fox Valley.

That in itself is a symbol of the current state of the Democratic Party in Wisconsin.

"Courage" the keyword in Walker's story of Kapanke

Dan [Kapanke] had more than his senate seat at risk. He and his family own the La Crosse Loggers, a semipro summer baseball team that brings together top college players from across the country and gives them a taste of life in the pros…

The Loggers are Dan’s family’s business and livelihood. He mortgaged his home and everything he owned to start the team, and put his heart and soul into making it a success. When he wasn’t in Madison during the summer, Dan was at home running the stadium and even selling popcorn and Cracker Jack in the stands.

Opponents of Act 10 had threatened to boycott businesses that supported us. Dan realized that his vote could affect not just his political career but also his business, his retirement, and his ability to support his family as well.

-Gov. Scott Walker in his new book, “Unintimidated”

Gov. Walker dedicates just about three pages of his new book to sharing the courage of former State Senator Dan Kapanke, one of the senators whose careers ended as a result of their vote for and the union outrage over Act 10.

The fallout went beyond just mere personal finances or even a career. Walker conveys a story I’ve heard before – but never directly from Kapanke:

Dan’s wife, Ruth, is a nurse who often comes home late after a long shift in the hospital. One night she pulled up to their home and found that someone had carefully placed roofing nails, pointy-side up, all over the driveway. It happened to them both several times.

There are several stories like this, another of which involves a snowfall, plow trucks, and the Kapankes’ driveway. Vociferous gatherings next to their home were part of the sideshow. Walker also tells of a death threat made against a slate of GOP Senators, with Dan’s name at the top, that began, “Please put your things in order because you will be killed and your familes [sic]…”

Then came the recall in August 2011. Walker says he believed Dan had no chance of winning, and in such proximity to the emotion of Act 10, he was probably right. But Walker goes on to say:

Still, I believe if Dan’s race had come a year later, after the results of Act 10 were in, he might have survived…

At one point, as I was preparing to do an event for Dan, one of my advisers asked me why I was spending time and energy on Dan’s race, when there were other tough fights where I could make a difference. My answer was simple: because Dan had done something courageous. I owed it to him as a matter of personal loyalty. And I wanted others to know that when they stuck their necks out on tough votes, they could count on me to be in the trenches fighting beside them.

Kapanke and his family certainly paid a high price – from losing his senate seat to personal threats – and worst of all, a panicked period of wrecked peace of mind and constant besiegement – but the Kapankes have come out strong. The Loggers are strong, both financially and on the field. During the season Dan is still proudly walking the stands selling concessions, shaking hands, and enjoying time with his thousands of friends.

The Loggers are today an even more taut lifeline for La Crosse’s north side, an area ridden by growing crime and poverty that’s partially alleviated by the family friendly presence of the Loggers.

What’s in Kapanke’s future is unknown, but one thing is certain: he risked it all and sacrificed most of it to achieve what’s now so well-known about Wisconsin: that we fixed our biggest fiscal problem.

And if he decides to run for office, he’ll have the hindsight of years following Act 10 and, if Walker’s book is to be believed, the support of a grateful governor.

Quote of the Day

“I was doing my job. People elected me to make tough decisions.”

-Dan Kapanke, as quoted in “Unintimidated”

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