In The News
No surprise but potent signposts as fake Dems fail heavily
By Dominique Paul Noth
Editor, Milwaukee Labor Press
Posted July 13, 2011
The night of the July 12 elections, my first text message from D.C. was someone who “could not believe!!” the Republicans could find thousands of people in Senate District 8 to pretend to be Democrats and vote for the fake one.
But the next message was from a happy supporter of the easy winner, real Democrat Sandy Pasch, who wound up with 21,000 votes and a 64-36 margin. “If that 11,000 is the hard core of Darling supporters,” said the caller, “Sandy wins in a walk.”
OK, the truth lies in between and there were skeptical pundits on both sides analyzing the results. What is clear: Darling should be worried looking at the numbers because there is genuine anger over her carrying water for the governor and Pasch’s “Alberta How Could You?” campaign has considerable traction.
But Pasch’s supporters also have reason for concern. There is some ground to be made up, not just in Germantown and Mequon, not just with moderates but with people still uncertain about the whole concept of resorting to recalls.
That reluctance to get involved was clear among voters on both sides, say campaigners who went door to door. This District 8 race is also different in that in some communities enthusiasm for Pasch almost leaps onto the street, while in others Pasch sympathizers act far more cautious. “There are a lot of them even in Thiensville and Mequon,” laughed one campaigner, “but they don’t want to be too obvious about it. They want to be invited to the next block party.”
The fake Dem thing also looked unseemly to many Republicans as well as Democrats, and even to TV commentators who tried not to shake their heads and chuckle too visibly on camera. That so many Republicans were willing to play this cross-over game may not have surprised seasoned political operatives, but despite the claims that the GOP wasn’t involved, the reality was they were and many of their traditionalists did not like it.
So one much supported view is that this roughly one-third vote in all six recall races July 12 reflected the hard-core haters among Republicans, people who will never be convinced any Democrat can act nobly or in the best interests of the community. But these are not people the Republicans want to put on the street to convince others.
Oh, they may now claim there were engaged in a protest vote, “protest” being a term the GOP political operatives came up with after brainstorming to find something nicer than “fake Dems.” But most citizens understand that the real “protest vote” comes from the genuine Democrats who are willing to go to the extreme of recalls to change the divisive and mean-spirited nature of the state Senate today.
The truth may actually have been expressed best at Shorewood’s Three Lions Pub during the Pasch victory party by the candidate herself and the state senator who introduced her (while another state senator, Lena Taylor, cheered enthusiastically from the crowd). This vote, said Chris Larson, “ends Darling’s efforts to delay accountability.” Now that her lifelong supporter has had her 15 minutes of fame pretending to be a Democrat, it is only Darling left to square off against the more articulate debater Pasch – and without further trickery.
Darling does have a million dollars for this campaign and already spent half, but Pasch is competitive with half that amount and many outside forces pledging to come in to neutralize the corporate money gathering on the Darling side. So this race is definitely on now, without further evasion.
Pasch herself put it even more succinctly, looking at the numbers. “This was a great trial run and now it’s on to August 9.”
In all six July 12 elections where fake Dems ran – most simply trying to delay the inevitable; hardly anyone thought they would win – the Republicans were caught in a tricky flip-flop, enthusiastically embracing the fakes but saying they weren’t putting money and resources behind them. In that way, however big they lost – and it was generally pretty big – the GOP could deny responsibility and claim, as they did immediately in TV interviews afterward, that the weight of GOP involvement wasn’t behind this race. If that sounds like the sports adage, “Wait till next year,” it is. And it was a lie given the last two days of robocalls and flyers clearly organized by the GOP and flying in under the media radar to urge Republicans to cross over for the fakes.
In reality, the GOP was involved heavily in every July 12 race even if you discount the TV ads from Club for Growth for Darling that curiously flooded the Milwaukee airwaves right before July 12.
In other districts, the GOP involvement was even more obvious. The St. Croix County GOP party actually puts it letterhead and mailers behind the fake Dem in District 10 and even achieved 46% of the primary vote with its all-out effort. But Shelly Moore, a schoolteacher and the least known of the genuine Democrats, still took away the winning 54% of the vote and emerged not just with strengthened resolve but instant commitment from Democratic forces around the state that understand this race against GOP Sheila Harsdorf may well prove tight.
The other fake Dems were generally defeated 65% to 35%, actually 70-30 when broadly known Rep. Jennifer Shilling took charge in Senate District 32 in the warm-up to ousting GOP Sen. Dan Kapanke.
The July 12 races were not definitive for either side, but they particularly gave no comfort to the GOP since there is a clear hard sentiment that the time has come “to restore the government to Wisconsin values,” as Pasch told the crowded tables of supporters and multiple cameras from local stations and reporters. To add an irony to the proceedings, it all took place in a pub where, if the current divisive GOP majority has its way with redistricting, will in 2012 not even be in Senate District 8.
The GOP is trying to remove all of Shorewood and Glendale – where voters dared to ask questions at the polls – as well as the city of Milwaukee from the district, a clear sign that many Republicans expect Darling to lost Aug. 9 and are trying to seed the ground to help her back into contention in November of 2012.