Earlier this month, Jessie Opoien of the Capital Times had an interesting writeup of the race in the 17th State Senate district, a race that pits Republican State Rep. Howard Marklein against Democrat Pat Bomhack.
You may remember Bomhack as the candidate supported by State Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson, who endorsed Bomhack over longtime district resident and Democratic activist Ernie Wittwer. Bomhack won the race under curious circumstances, after ballots went missing during a recount of the initial election results. Until the results of the recount were finalized (and even after) Bomhack’s campaign seemed strangely quiet, and that hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Buros said he’s been surprised that the race isn’t being discussed locally as much as he anticipated, given its weight on the Senate’s partisan makeup. He hasn’t seen much advertising or heard much talk about either candidate, he said.
Former state Rep. Stephen Freese, a Dodgeville Republican, has seen otherwise.
“Howard Marklein is working what I would view as substantially harder at winning the election than Pat Bomhack is,” said Freese, chief administrative officer of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation.
The Farm Bureau’s political action committee — Volunteers for Agriculture — endorsed Marklein in the Senate race and GOP Reps. Ed Brooks and Travis Tranel in their races, but endorsed Democrat Dick Cates, a farmer, in his race against Republican Todd Novak for Marklein’s former seat in the 51st Assembly District.
Freese thinks Marklein has a natural advantage, though, based on his history in the area. The district’s political landscape is reflective of the state’s, he said, as it’s fairly evenly divided. That its voters have supported both Walker and Obama is indicative that the person on the ballot matters more than the letter after the candidate’s name.
As noted in Opoien’s article, President Obama won every county in the 17th district in 2012, so if there was a State Senate district ripe for Democrats to flip this year, it certainly seemed the 17th was that district. However, Bomhack’s relative lack of roots in the district – he’s lived there for only a few years – combined with his relative lack of any meaningful work experience hasn’t endeared Bomhack to voters in the district, who clearly vote more for the person than the letter after that person’s name.
The perception that Howard Marklein is outworking Pat Bomhack doesn’t bode well for Bomhack’s chances in November, and if Bomhack does lose, I expect folks will start to question the wisdom of Chris Larson hand-picking Bomhack over a Democrat who had a great resume and strong roots in the district.
H/T to Caffeinated Politics.