This opinion piece is worth a read for anyone who’s interested in how the political class that makes up the leadership of Democratic Party in Wisconsin seems to believe they know better than the voters when it comes to picking and choosing their preferred candidates.
Disappointing lessons from the Democratic primary in the 17th Senate District
By Rita Wittwer
The column below reflects the views of the author, and these opinions are neither endorsed nor supported by WisOpinion.com.
I decided to write this because I think it only right that the voters have enough information to make an informed decision on November 4th when and if you vote for a candidate running for the 17th state Senate District. My husband, Ernie Wittwer, was a candidate for that seat. As you may know, he won the primary election by two votes, won the vote certification by seven votes and lost the primary through a recount.
Aside from the unbelievable number of crazy incidents in the election process, the absolutely stupid way we handle absentee ballots, the inconsistency and less-than-advisory rulings by the Government Accountability Board and the missing 110 ballots in Green County, the Senate Democratic leadership also played a leading and inappropriate role in the election outcome.
At the end of October 2013, Ernie announced his candidacy. From his resume, you would have thought he’d be the perfect candidate: lived in rural Wisconsin most of his life, 25 years of legislative and management experience, two master’s degrees and an incredible grasp of the issues facing Wisconsin and our district. But, by the end of December, having raised a little under $10,000 and getting virtually no help from the Senate staff — though they would disagree — the writing was on the wall. It was time for the Senate leadership to take control. And, that he did. He came up with a primary opponent by convincing the guy running for the Assembly in the 51st District (against Dick Cates, who he couldn’t beat this time, and Maureen May-Grimm, who he didn’t beat two years before) that he should run in the 17th Senate race. That makes sense, doesn’t it?
This guy certainly had all the experience that a Senate candidate for a very rural district should possess. He had a PO Box and rented a room in the district for a little over three years. He was mentored by and worked a bit over a year for a U.S. senator who barely remembers him. He was a law clerk of questionable merit for a Republican judge. He has a law degree but has never practiced law. Aside from his university years, he lived his life in urban Waukesha, graduating from a private high school.
This was the beginning of the disenfranchisement of the voters in the 17th Senate District. In and of itself, a primary is not necessarily a bad thing. However, the Senate leader didn’t like leaving anything to chance — or should I say to the voters. He decided that he should endorse his chosen one and at the Democratic convention purposely failed to mention Ernie as the other candidate. That didn’t exactly go over well with our supporters and they made their feelings known to “his leadership.” Not that their views mattered. They were completely ignored.
When AFSCME and WEAC held a combined endorsement interview, guess who was going to get their endorsements? Ernie. Again, that wasn’t what the power hungry had in mind. With political influence and strong-arming, the endorsement went to the chosen one. The strength of the WEAC phone bank, from many parts of the state, in the days and weekend before election Tuesday and the amount of influence that the leadership used, hurt our campaign. There is no doubt about that. We are also fairly certain that the outcome, had it been left to the voters, would have been very different. But, I quibble.
Losing an election is unbelievably painful. Losing an election because of political manipulation is even worse. To add insult to injury, we found out a few days ago that the list of supporters that we fought so hard to get was given to the chosen one without our permission. How special is that? Because our website was created under the Senate umbrella and because we loaded the names of anyone with an email address into our website for ease in communicating, the Senate hierarchy believes that they own our names and have the right to use them as they see fit.
In other words, if I use your bucket to store my apples, my apples become your apples. Isn’t that clever and a completely new way of looking at proprietary rights relative to data storage? Our people have already received emails from the chosen one. Please accept our apologies and unsubscribe if you wish.
This barely covers the surface of ineptness, bad judgment and political manipulation of the election process in the 17th and may be a book someday, if we have the stomach for it. For now, this is enough for you to digest.
If you think my ranting is sour grapes, you’d be absolutely correct. Not only am I sour, I’m also angry and disgusted with Wisconsin politics. If this is democracy in 2014, I don’t want any part of it. I’m not sure why anyone else would, either. Sadly, I don’t have a clue how to change it because that’s why Ernie ran for the Senate in the first place and we saw how well that worked out.
It’s no wonder that it’s difficult to get good people to run for office, regardless of whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican. It’s all about money and power. Intelligence, honesty and integrity don’t count.
As Rita Wittwer noted in her opinion piece, some may attribute her statements to “sour grapes” from the wife of a losing candidate, but despite her personal feelings regarding the race, that doesn’t negate the fact that there’s a lot of truth in what she wrote.