Is the GOP Serious About Targeting Ron Kind?

The Republican Party could be putting plans in place to give Democratic Congressman Ron Kind the sort of challenge he hasn’t faced in his 20 years in the House.

A fundraising solicitation email from Mark Morgan, executive director of the state Republican Party, pinpointed Kind’s district, the Third congressional district of Wisconsin, as being on the GOP radar. After Trump’s decisive win in rural Wisconsin, Morgan tells supporters:

“…Now we know which House seat is our best shot at a GOP pickup: Wisconsin’s Third District – one of only a handful of Democrat seats carried by Trump in the country.

Of course fundraising solicitations portraying a particular win or loss as hinging on the $20 contribution of some typist or trucker are standard business in politics, so for the state party to imply Ron Kind’s seat hangs in the balance might be tabloid trash that today passes for real reporting, but to those who have been in the game it’s not exactly a shocker.

The email does, however, cite a Journal Sentinel article probing the question of Kind’s conundrum as a flyover Democrat in a Trump congressional district. While the solicitation didn’t specify which article, it may have referred to this one where the Journal Sentinel took a look at each Wisconsin congressional district. It’s worth quoting their analysis of the Third in full:

This is one of just a dozen Democratic House seats in the country carried by Trump last fall. It had been regularly voting Democratic for president. But it saw a huge shift toward the GOP in 2016, part of the massive rural swing that delivered Wisconsin for Trump. Kind was unopposed for Congress by Wisconsin Republicans, who had no real way of knowing what a golden opportunity this blue seat would have been for them in 2016.

In a highly read analysis I posted this weekend, I threw a bit of cold water on the idea that Kind is or will ever be a golden opportunity to Wisconsin Republicans. The article notes, however, that Kind will be under pressure to oppose Trump.

Now it looks like Kind will be highly targeted by the GOP in 2018. The fact that his southwestern Wisconsin district voted for Trump may pressure Kind to look for some common ground across party lines with the president. But Trump’s edge in the district was narrow (just 4 points), and Kind will be pushed by his own party’s voters to oppose the president.

Kind’s dilemma is this: if he vociferously opposes Trump, he alienates an energetic portion of non-ideological populists among his electorate. If he demurs, he ticks off the far left that already thinks he’s squishier than a rotten banana.

If the state GOP follows through on making Kind a target, they’ll join at least one national group called the National Action Network so far that is also running ads against Kind for his support of Obamacare, but there’s no indication whether this is a token shot across the bow or the harbinger of a bigger campaign to come.

Politico also reported that Kind’s district is one of 36 on a list of target districts – districts that Trump won that are held by Democrats.

In his email, Morgan also said:

We need your help to recruit top-notch GOP challengers and give them every resource they will need to defeat DC insiders who have been in Washington too long and have lost touch with everyday Wisconsinites.

That candidate is likely Kind’s 2014 challenger Tony Kurtz. An influx of support from outside the district to match Kind’s Political Action Committee donations could level the playing field and give Kurtz a real shot.

Addendum: a curmudgeonly Facebook commenter pointed out that the opening paragraph should be regarded in error in view of Dan Kapanke’s highly competitive 2010 campaign against which Kind barely held on. We are not in error, and the curmudgeon is wrong. While the RNCC, Kapanke campaign, and other groups assembled a nearly victorious effort against Kind, key here is “nearly”; our lede refers to an unprecedented effort against Kind, one that wins, not one that comes close.

Kurtz Demands Accountability

In a column in the La Crosse Tribune, Tony Kurtz goes after Congressman Ron Kind for his passivity in light of the Candyland Scandal at the Tomah VA Medical Center. Kurtz writes:

On May 28, Kind said he was “mad as hell” after learning about problems at VA facilities across the nation. He said he wanted to form a blue ribbon commission to get to the bottom of the delays in providing care.

Kind said the Tomah VA only had minor issues with staff shortages. There was no mention publicly about the complaint his office received in August 2011. If, in fact, Kind was “mad as hell,” why didn’t he ask for the report about the OIG investigation into the Tomah VA?

As a veteran, all we really want is to be treated with respect and receive quality care. The vast majority of VA employees are wonderful caregivers who go the extra mile to take care of veterans.

Apparently Kind wasn’t mad as hell enough to pursue what he knew to be an ongoing issue at the Tomah VAMC. Instead he chose to issue talking points and hope the issue stayed out of headlines until after the election.

Were it not for a California-based investigative journalism outlet, would this story have ever come to light? Or would the over-medication and “drug diversions” (also known as selling prescription drugs on the street) have continued forever?

The drug diversion problem is real. Our region has serious problems with heroin, meth, and drug-related crime. Since many addicts “graduate” from prescription opiates to those hard drugs, there’s no telling what kind of problems this has created in western Wisconsin. A Congressman with the best interests of his constituents in mind, and with an ear to the ground among the law enforcement community, would be on top of this.

This scandal is not minor – people died – and it’s not going away any time soon, especially if good, patriotic people like Kurtz keep the heat on. Kind will no doubt continue to dodge questions, inasmuch as he’s even asked them.

Kind’s office claims it received its first anonymous complaint in 2011, but he also said officials at the Tomah VA “didn’t notify me…they didn’t notify anyone,” in effect shifting attention from his own failure to pursue answers, instead offering limp platitudes, which is Kind’s specialty. Kind also said at one press conference that the Tomah VA staff “candidly admit they dropped the ball” by not falling over themselves to get the report to the almighty Kind and that those bureaucrats now know “they need to keep our offices better informed.”

If Kind is relying on the gears of a demonstrably monstrous, slow, and even dangerously inept bureaucracy to keep his office informed, he’s grossly naive about the dysfunction of government. That or he didn’t care to pursue the facts himself. Kurtz also touches on this dysfunction:

I also question why it takes two to three years to conduct an internal investigation? I have conducted Army-level investigations, and they typically take just four to six weeks, possibly 12 weeks for more complex problems. Just think about the time wasted and the lives that lost because of such delays. The OIG must streamline its investigation process and allow outside organizations to conduct these investigations in a timely manner.

Kind also “lamented allegations of a ‘culture of intimidation’ that frustrates staff members who raise issues about care.” As I commented in a previous post, these are the words of a lazy congressman who for some reason voters were scammed into re-electing – a congressman who apparently has given as much thought to the staff members being frustrated that their concerns fell on deaf ears as the health of the affected veterans. Real leaders aren’t reactive, they’re proactive for the good of – at the very least – the people they claim to care about.

Ron Kind spends a lot of time at ribbon cutting ceremonies at VFWs and American Legions. There were no photo ops at the Tomah VA.

Kurtz, a 20-year veteran who now runs a farm and small business, ran against Kind last fall. It was the most competitive congressional race in Wisconsin that year, but he still lost 43-57. One wonders what impact the revelation that Kind may have been sitting on years of complaints about the Tomah VA’s practices would’ve had on the election. The district does boast a large number of veterans, veterans who Kind has claimed to represent.

It’s a shame he didn’t care enough to get out of the Congressional Gym and find some answers.


Post-Election: Sweet, with Extra Bitters

Overall, last night was a great night to be a Republican. At the national level the GOP took control of the Senate with at least 3 more seats than was needed. Joni Ernst will be a great voice for our friends across the river in Iowa and an excellent new face for the Republican Senate. Dems for governor in Massachusetts, Maryland, and Illinois lost to their GOP rivals (in Illinois, incumbent Pat Quinn lost in a huge upset).

The forces of big government unions in many of these races were defeated by a grassroots upswell, most notably here in Wisconsin. Positive, results oriented campaigns mostly won the night, but not all the results were favorable. Here’s a rundown of Wisconsin’s election night results that are worthy of note, starting with one that inspired the title.

Secretary of State

One of the night’s greater upsets was in the race for Secretary of State. Republican Julian Bradley, who ran a tireless and respectable campaign for Secretary of State against Doug La Follette, held on to a solid lead most of the night until a trickle of results from Milwaukee County turned into an avalanche, compressing Walker’s margin of victory to 6 and crushing Bradley’s.

The reason for Bradley’s loss could be one of a couple things. Certainly the collective four percent taken by the Libertarian and Constitution Party candidates, which likely came mainly from voters who would otherwise have voted Republican, was nearly equal to Bradley’s margin of loss of about 88,000 votes.

Also, there was a predictable but marked falloff between people who voted for Scott Walker and those who voted for Julian Bradley. 185,613 Walker voters did not vote for Bradley – had half of them voted for both Walker and Bradley, Bradley would’ve narrowly won.

What difference does it make who won the Secretary of State’s office, someone who hasn’t been paying attention to the race might ask (probably the attitude of Milwaukee’s vaunted conservative talk radio, who gave Bradley the cold shoulder until the last day).

An early perusal of Facebook comments and tweets post-election tells you why the race mattered. After 10 months of campaigning, Bradley is now a statewide name who in the end earned the votes of 1,072,798 people. Throughout the campaign he also earned the admiration – even adoration – of the GOP grassroots around the state. Bradley’s race mattered because he inspired and energized Republicans from Racine to River Falls.

That’s why sentiments of shock at the loss abound on social media. But even more prevalent are statements of he’ll be back. The hopes of many Republicans around the state are thoroughly intertwined with Bradley’s continued involvement in the party.

I mentioned the race was an upset not because Bradley lost but because he came so damn close to winning. Bradley was always considered a longshot, but his million-plus vote total, resulting in a painfully close election, was the real upset. The state’s conservative establishment failed to see the value of Bradley and the need to extend the Scott Walker coattails to boost Bradley until it was much too late, which was the biggest lost opportunity for the GOP Tuesday night.

3rd Congressional District

Tony Kurtz mounted the most competitive challenge for a Wisconsin Congressional seat. Considering several factors, Kurtz made a respectable showing against the 18-year incumbent Ron Kind for the 3rd CD for several reasons:

  • First, the other Congressional races in Wisconsin were decided by 63-37, 68-32, 70-27, 70-30, 57-41, 59-39, and 65-35. That makes Kurtz’ 43 percent the closest Congressional challenge in the state.
  • When compared to the guy who gave Kind the strongest challenge, Kurtz only experienced a 3.5 percent falloff from the vote total of Sen. Dan Kapanke, who scored 46.5 percent in 2010, back before the district was re-drawn to be considerably more favorable to the Democrats. Kapanke also had access to more than 3 times as much money as Kurtz, over a million dollars.
  • Kurtz also raised more money, over $300,000, than any other Kind challenger who wasn’t already elected to something, and he did so primarily in just the last few months of the campaign. Not a single cent of outside money was spent on the general election race for either side.
  • Kurtz performed considerably better than nearly any other challenger with the exception of Kapanke in nearly every ward throughout the district, even keeping pace with Kapanke’s numbers in many wards.

For Kind, the win sets up the 18-year Congressman for the 2016 run against Senator Ron Johnson that almost everybody thinks is inevitable. Kind likes to nurture a reputation as a pragmatic moderate, claims to be a budget hawk, and continually touts his roots in Wisconsin and his love of the Packers. Along with his $1.6 million warchest, Kind has some significant reasons to be optimistic about a run for Senate.

Knocking off Kind now would’ve averted a difficult 2016 campaign for Sen. Johnson, so Kurtz’s loss, while not a shock, is another missed opportunity for the GOP.

Kurtz, however, ended his speech to supporters after the results were in with, “Oh, one more thing. Those yard signs? Please keep them.” That statement was met with uproarious cheering and applause by a packed house in La Crosse.

96th Assembly

I wrote about the attempt by Democrats to once again topple Lee Nerison and postulated that Pete Flesch might mount a strong challenge with the wind at his back of a nasty strain of negative mailers from Madison Democrats.

I was wrong. Voters resoundingly rejected that kind of politics; Nerison in the end trounced Flesch with 59 percent of the vote, proving once again that Democratic efforts to knock him off are a waste of money. Nerison’s win was a triumph for old fashioned grassroots politics.

17th Senate

Republican assemblyman Howard Marklein defeated carpetbagger Pat Bomhack last night, and by a wider margin than many people saw coming.

I took a strong interest in this race when the state Democratic Party stepped on local Democrat candidate Ernie Wittwer and inserted Bomhack, who had just recently moved to the area, as their favored candidate. That infuriated the progressive grassroots and Wittwer supporters. It appears the state party’s meddling backfired; the Dem rank-and-file never backed Bomhack, he never got the traction or name ID, and Wittwer through the end of the campaign stoked the resentment.

This failure in a district the Democrats should’ve been able to win should cost Senate minority leader Chris Larson his leadership role. Update: the rumor is that Jennifer Shilling (potential 2016 candidate for 3rd District congress) will run against Chris Larson for the minority leader spot)

Other races to note:

In AD 94, Democrat Steve Doyle unfortunately gets another two-year term in Mike Huebsch’s former seat. Doyle beat back a challenge from Republican schoolteacher Tracie Happel by taking 54 percent of the vote. Doyle relentlessly pounded his message of bipartisan cooperation throughout the campaign, perhaps necesssary because of the district’s slight-red hue; Walker took 52.5 percent of the vote here. The 94th was an opportunity for the GOP but state party decision makers allocated resources elsewhere.

In AD 88, John Macco won with 56 percent of the vote. Macco made a strong challenge for the State Senate in 2012, and this time around his efforts are validated. Macco is a smart, strong leader who will be a great asset to the Assembly.

In AD 81, former Baraboo schoolteacher David Considine edged out Republican Ashton Kirsch with 54 percent of the vote. Considine has a questionable record, but it never came under scrutiny from the media. Kirsch ran a good campaign but was overwhelmed by the district’s blue tilt in the end; another possible pickup opportunity for the GOP that didn’t come to fruition.

In AD 75, Romaine Quinn took out incumbent Democrat Stephen Smith. Quinn, the former one-term mayor of Rice Lake, is a young up-and-coming leader who easily dispatched his opponent 55-45. The district leans conservative and Smith is not well-liked, but Quinn nonetheless ran a good campaign and deserved the victory.

In AD 70, another Republican knocked off a Democratic incumbent; Nancy VanderMeer defeated Amy Sue Vruwink 53-47. Many out in these parts saw it coming; in 2012, a great year for Democrats, VanderMeer lost by just 150 or so votes. A commonsense business owner, VanderMeer will be an excellent voice for her slightly red district.

In AD 68, Kathy Bernier held off a strong challenge from Democrat Jeff Peck, winning 53-47. Many people saw this race as a real nail-biter, and without a strong Republican tide it might’ve been, but Bernier will continue in Madison for at least another term.

In AD 54, weirdo Dem Gordon Hintz barely held on with 51 percent of the vote. Hintz is an embarrassment to the Democrats, who would benefit by him not being in their caucus. This turned out to be another opportunity for the GOP that was lost; maybe in 2016 the GOP can do better.

In AD 51, Republican Todd Novak is hanging on to a 59 vote lead over Democrat Dick Cates. A libertarian in the race ciphoned off 1,177 votes (no doubt mostly from Novak). This is the seat being vacated by senator-elect Howard Marklein, and it’s another possible GOP win in a rather blue area.

In AD 50, Republican Ed Brooks trounced Democrat Chris Miller, a retired Lutheran pastor. The 58-42 margin is a little surprising because the district leans to the left and Miller is widely respected, but nonetheless it’s another GOP win in a region that includes AD 51 and SD 17 that’s no longer very favorable for Republican candidates.

In SD 41, progressive grassroots Democrat Kathleen Vinehout pulled it out over Plum City farmer Mel Pittman, who led her most of the night until a pile of votes was counted in Eau Claire. Vinehout won with 52 percent in the end, a much closer margin than anyone saw coming. Pittman would’ve made an excellent senator for that district.

In SD 9, Devin LeMahieu ran over Democrat Martha Laning, who entered the race even before incumbent Joe Liebham left to run for Congress, which is the last time I check in on that district. The district isn’t inherently conservative but Leibham and now LeMahieu, a business owner and county board supervisor, have jobbed their Democrat opponents for years now.


Oh, and Scott Walker and Brad Schimel also won by much wider margins than many politicos saw coming – along with scores of new Republican voices around the country.

With a few exceptions, it was a great night be a Republican.

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.

Recommendations for Tuesday’s Primaries

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. 

Congress needs new leaders like Kurtz

I explained my support for Tony Kurtz and – more broadly – the need to give Congress a serious makeover in the La Crosse Tribune today:

Imagine that your car is rusting out. It’s burning oil, and all the warning lights on the dashboard are on. Now imagine your mechanic blames it on salt and moisture, the oil his apprentice used, and faulty parts he installed, writes a statement about the tragedy of depreciation, and then refuses to do anything about it.

Could you imagine paying that mechanic $174,000 a year? Appalled, you’d find a new mechanic immediately.

The comments section is interesting, too. It seems that the internet trolls vaunted for their 24/7 commitment to monitoring and responding to each others’ comments are firmly in the Van Doren camp. So long as they stay in their basement lairs and away from polling places, all with the world is well.

Whole thing here.

Kind sold out

According to the La Crosse Tribune, in an article updating readers about fundraising in the race for Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District:

The majority of Kind’s contributions — about 72 percent — came from political action committees, with insurance and health care industries leading all other interests.

According to me, in a column I wrote that appeared in the Tribune in November:

During his 17 years in Congress, Kind has collected $742,000 from the insurance industry, $618,115 from the health care industry and $398,334 from pharmaceuticals. That’s more than $1.7 million total, the vast majority from political action committees.


“CSI’s” Gil Grissom once said, “concentrate on what cannot lie: the evidence.” Kind can hide the real motivations behind his stubborn support of Obamacare, but the trail of money leads to the suspicion that Kind and Wisconsin’s 3rd District have been purchased by special interests.

How much does western Wisconsin cost? And how long will it take for common sense, well-meaning taxpayers in western and central Wisconsin to realize their 18-year congressman has sold them out?

Kind has also come under fire by organized labor for supporting “free trade” agreements that many believe make it easier to ship jobs out of the country, much like Mary Burke’s private sector claim to fame, Trek bikes. In a district that has generally relied on manufacturing and is suffering under the weight of the NAFTA-era economy, Kind’s facade is cracking.

His fundraising, buoyed by massive contributions from Washington special interest PACs, seems to indicate Kind is bought and paid for at this point in his career.

As UW-La Crosse political science professor Joe Heim said in the recent Tribune article, “Sometimes when your time is up, your time is up.”

When voters in Wisconsin’s 3rd go to the polls this November 4, I sure hope they think twice about re-electing a man who has sold them out for a huge warchest. It’s time for Ron Kind’s time to be up.

Campaign memo reveals Van Doren’s military prejudice

Reagan Rule: Never speak ill of another Republican.
Buckley Rule: Support the most viable conservative candidate.

In Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District, Tony Kurtz is the most viable conservative candidate. Not “most viable” in a deep-sigh-I-guess-he’ll-have-to-do sense, the same kind associated with the reluctant voters still bitter about Mitt Romney’s loss to President Obama in 2012. Mr. Kurtz is an exciting candidate: he’s amiable, smart, a veteran, a farmer, and a helluva campaigner whose charm is authentic and whose eagerness for pragmatism and reform will upend the establishment status quo in Washington.

But first, he has to get through Ken Van Doren in a primary on August 12. Not “get through” in a challenging sense, like the kind associated with anyone who’s ever wanted to get out of a seemingly eternal conversation with Van Doren. He’s a disconcerting candidate: long-winded, misguided, and politically inept, whose manifest charmlessness would be lost on even the most understanding and patient members of the nation’s legislature.

The below campaign memo was sent to Van Doren’s inner circle. It includes talking points on taking down Mr. Kurtz. My biggest concern in publishing them here is that the Kind Campaign could take them and run with them, but he hasn’t been a successful politician by using ham-handed and genuinely unpatriotic tactics.

It’s been copied from its original form. I’d deplete the internet of its pixel supply were I to appropriately apply the [sic] modifier to denote errors.

From: “Ken Van Doren” <>
Date: Jun 26, 2014 7:01 AM
Subject: Kurtz talking points.bill

The wars, need to paint him as a war monger,
“I am pro-life, but it is not a priority. We need to concentrate on spending issues.” Tony.Currently I am recieveing a flurry of postcards from a prolife group, we need to send a letter to them.
Also, an ad possibility: Male voice- Tony Kurtz says he is pro-life, but it is not a priority, and instead we need to concentrate on spending issues. Femal voice, “I heard Ken Van Doren say….” Me-“the first priority of every government should be to protect our rights to life, liberty and property. WIthout life, the rest is meaningless.” In unison. “That is why we are voting for Ken Van Doren for Congress on Aug. 12” Paid for by Van Doren for Congress
These 2 issues I see as the wedge I can drive, with your help. My plan is to ignore Karen altogether. No need to look like a sexist, or even risk same. Last forum, she took 4 minutes to say what I normally do in half a sentence.

Tony Wants expanded ag welfare program for returning vets so they can get into agriculture
Tony Is an ag welfare recipient, got $11,574 from USDA last year. (source EWG which gets their info from USDA)
He says, “Need to look at resume’s” and then touts his military experience as qualifying him. Me- Tony flies helicopters and looks good in a uniform and knows how to grow orgainc vegetables. Not to take anything away from any of that, we have befriended and funded Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Manuel Noriega and other dictators, and even trained ISIS. We have funded and trained Muslim Brotherhood and al QUeada connected rebels in Libya, Syria and other countries. I do not need to see this from a helicopter to conclude that, unless creating radical Islamic governments in our wake is our goal, from Iran, to Libya, to Syria if we proceed, our military/foreign policy by any objective standard is an abject failure.
I helped a friend do fencing at Ft. McCoy 2 yrs ago, and he pointed out some 50+ buildings at a Million $ each that sat empty both then and now. He recently went to remove and replace a temporary gate, which had 2 yards of concrete attached to the posts, and only needed an equipment operator to get the job done. Instead he got 6 laborers, 3 skid steer operators, one back hoe operator and a safety officer to oversee the entire 2 hour project. I do not need a uniform to see that there is waste, inefficiency fraud and outright corruption in the military procurement process.
Tony is literally the politically invisible man before his announcement, I can not find as much as a letter to the editor to indicate his previous concern. In my experience, folks like him, the politically unknown tend to gravitate to the big government wing of the party, and indeed, that is what is happening now. He is the establishment war monger candidate.

At the national level it is well known that Karl Rove and the Chamber of Commerce are attacking the few liberty minded congressmen including Justin Amash, Thomas Massie, Walter Jones, and there are Rovian types here in WI that would rather see a Democrat win than give a liberty candidate the slightest opportunity to win.

ABSOLUTE SILENCE on Common Core, the FED, and little to nothing on Constitution and individual rights from Tony. He is all about spending only, and even there his positions seem somewhat flexible.

WHY it is important to have the right candidate: out of 63 2010 freshmen, only 8 Reps and 2 senators voted against reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act. REcent budget deal that Ryan was a part of sold conservatives down the river, and the entire GWB admin, was supported by a GOP congress that spent like drunken sailors. (no offense Bill)
If you can think of more, please add to list. We need letters to the editor now until the election.

In Liberty,


Van Doren for Congress
PO Box 312
Mauston, WI 53948

Van Doren comes off at once as marketing executive, policy wonk, and arbiter of the values of liberty, roles at which he fails tremendously in this memo.

The attempt to connect military spending and perceived waste with Mr. Kurtz is dishonest and slimy. Worse, the idea that as a member of the military Mr. Kurtz played any role in shaping foreign policy is downright stupid. Does Van Doren know that as a crusty junior member of Congress without a drop of relevant experience he will have no say in the matters of foreign policy?

Van Doren says he doesn’t need a uniform to have an informed opinion, but had he ever worn one, perhaps he’d demonstrate an iota of tact.

In Wisconsin, we revere those who have served the United States of America. Van Doren’s values aren’t Wisconsin values — they’re petty and jealous and small and weak.

The rest is trifling and petty. He excoriates Mr. Kurtz for being an uninvolved political novice and in the same breath accuses him of being an “establishment war monger” candidate. His stated desire to drive a wedge within the party is counterproductive, self-serving, and idiotic. Van Doren could win by being the better candidate, but he’s not. It’s in the party’s interest to field and support great candidates who can win and spurn the ones who actively divide the party and pave an avenue for Democrat victories.

His senile blitherings and overt disrespect for his opponent’s military service were just the rantings of a candidate very likely to lose the primary, tolerable and undocumented until now. If elected in the August primary, Van Doren has the capacity to not only lose in an unprecedented landslide to Ron Kind, but also the potential to be a massive embarrassment to the entire Republican Party in the 3rd District.

I look forward to his loss on August 12.

(You can email me here.)

Is Kind Worried Part II: Spying on Kurtz

Congressman Ron Kind appears to be battening down the hatches for a possible rough campaign season. We posted a few weeks ago that the Congressman-For-Life might be worried already about his 2014 re-election:

Congressman Ron Kind, the congressman-for-life in this Western Wisconsin district, sent an email blast yesterday asking for money, claiming that “This week Republican “Young Guns” launched a $500,000 direct mail attack. And I am one of the targets.” [his emphasis]

The email was sent in the context of several Republicans lining up to challenge him; as we noted, usually only one or two steps up because of the seeming invincibility of Mr. Kind, his 2010 brush with sub-50 percent notwithstanding. But the congressman this week gave us more evidence he might be worried by sending a spy to challenger Tony Kurtz’ announcement tour stop in Eau Claire.

The spy’s name is Brandon Buchanan, a 2012 Marquette Law School graduate whose resume is pickled in the brine of Democrat politics.

Kind is either overplaying his hand already or trying to intimidate Kurtz. The spy he sent is a well-known operative who not only ran for the assembly seat currently held by Dana Wachs, but he worked for Kind in 2008 and maintains close ties to the congressman.

In fact, Buchanan runs a “Draft Ron Kind for Senate 2016” Facebook page.

The Ron Kind email blasts have continued, all in the theme of extreme right-wing Tea Party radicals beating at the doors trying to roll grandmas over cliffs with shockingly extreme policies that will do unprecedentedly malicious harm to supremely vulnerable communities of citizens. That’s not quite verbatim out of a Kind email, but close.

Tony Kurtz is of course no extreme right-wing radical. He’s a common sense economic conservative with a long career serving his country. Today he runs a 200-acre farm and his wife, a Westby native, Viterbo graduate, and also a veteran, is a head nurse in Prairie du Chien. These facts ought to keep Kind awake at night.

In reality, Tony Kurtz is Mr. America, a hard-working and accomplished guy who has a lifelong drive to serve the country. As we said earlier:

All of that experience will allow Mr. Kurtz to talk expertly about issues Mr. Kind has claimed to champion throughout his time in Congress. Veterans affairs. Agriculture. Most recently, healthcare….For Mr. Kind, these have been politically lucrative issues. For Mr. Kurtz, they’re his life story.


We’ve also said there’s a large bloc of voters who hold their noses when voting for Kind, a bloc among whom Kind has a sterling reputation as a do-nothing, a former star quarterback who’s made a career avoiding tough decisions by sitting on the sidelines and shouting at those on the field. These voters long for an alternative who has a chance to win. No one wants to back a loser.

Assuredly, Kurtz won’t be intimidated by quasi-lawyers and Dem operatives eavesdropping on his events, and given the right strategy and the right funding, Kurtz can indeed win.

It appears, however, that Kind is intimidated enough to be already organizing squads of informants. He’s also been hit already with a splashy mailer asking people to contact him to oppose cuts to Medicare Part D.

This race should be interesting.

Kurtz vs. Kind

We previewed the candidacy of Tony Kurtz earlier this month, and yesterday the Prairie du Chien farmer and 20-year Army vet made it official.

“People are tired of career politicians who say all the right things but then blame others for the gridlock and lack of results,” Kurtz said in his announcement. He runs a 200-acre farm and he and his wife spent years in the U.S. Army. His wife, Kim, is a head nurse at Prairie du Chien Memorial Hospital.

Kurtz has the credibility to challenge Mr. Kind on the key issues on which the 18-year incumbent has run time after time, including veterans affairs, healthcare, and agriculture. For Kind these have been politically lucrative issues. For Tony Kurtz, they’re his life story.

More importantly, Kurtz has the political aptitude to take on Kind for being a career politician who cherishes his talking points and offers a remarkable skill for shifting blame for Washington’s gridlock to “Tea Party Republicans.” But much of Kind’s support is superficial as many voters long for an alternative choice who will aggressively take on the congressman and demonstrate the potential to win, as evidenced by only just a hair over 50 percent of the district voting for him in 2010. Kurtz offers a reasonable alternative who will aggressively tackle the ineptitude of D.C.’s ruling functionaries – career politicians and Ivy League lawyers who’ve anointed themselves to run the country.

After 18 years in Congress, the people of Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District should be able to expect a representative who focuses on fixing problems, not fixing blame. Yet a knack for effectively re-assigning responsibility to others, dolled up with increasingly petty partisan name-calling, seems to be Kind’s greatest political strength in his quest to set himself up for Ron Johnson’s senate seat in 2016.

Kurtz also has the endorsements of Kind’s 2010 and 2012 challengers, Dan Kapanke and Ray Boland. Kapanke came within several points of Kind in 2010, a race that included a libertarian candidate running on a comedically hyperbolic platform.

Kurtz joins retired Mauston building contractor Ken Van Doren and former Ron Johnson staffer Chris Anderson in challenging the congressman-for-life. We expect more movement in the Republican field soon.