In The News
From Brookfield to Tosa 2 defy GOP expectations
John Pokrandt -- at a Democratic event with Assemblly minority leader Peter Barca (back) -- is making an impact in a Brookfield-Wauwatosa district both sides too cavalierly categorize.
By Dominique Paul Noth
Editor, Milwaukee Labor Press
Posted Sept. 26, 2012
Pokrandt in District 13
When Democrat Dave Cullen saw how violently the district he had represented since 1990 had been detoured to eliminate his base, he literally ran for the hills of the Milwaukee County Board, winning handily there though a fellow Democrat had long campaigned for the seat.
The new Assembly District 13 eliminated much of his core support and was re-elongated into a band stretching from Brookfield through all of Elm Grove and the lower part of Wauwatosa with a sliver of West Allis.
In a three-way primary, the GOP chose someone who may have gotten the signal early to run for the new district, Waukesha County supervisor Rob Hutton, parked way over in the far corner of Brookfield. Part of the reliance on what is in effect an interloper given the new reach of the district was the "scare" expected for Democrats to be thrown in by the GOP maneuvers. The GOP, however unfairly, used Cullen as the poster child for that scare.
Instead John Pokrandt is treating it as a new cause. In his view and given some recent neighborhood push-backs against excessive community “instructions,” Brookfield reflects some surprising diversity of opinion -- not just falling in line behind the social and religious extremism dominating the party machinery. Wauwatosa is politically split, with a more liberal east side and has elected Democrats and moderates before and, Pokrandt believes, is eager to do so again.
In Pokrandt the Democrats have a personable hometown Wauwatosa guy, a veteran of business with political experience, demonstrating at the doors that he better reflects the values of the community than Hutton.
Under public scrutiny he's getting more support than he expected. Many Tosans and even voters from Brookfield -- with Elm Grove generally a harder row to hoe for a Democrat -- openly respond to his platform of ideas about education and better jobs and fiscal policies.
The residents appreciate not just his candor, he says, but that he is not engaging in the sort of rancor and ideological attacks that mark so much of modern campaigning.
Chris Rockwood is waking voters up to a real choice Nov. 6
Rockwood in District 14
The GOP redistricting lawyers produced a geographical band, District 14, to hover like a parallel universe to District 13 over the northern part of Brookfield and Wauwatosa, including a few wards that still belong to US Rep. Gwen Moore in Milwaukee County.
But this assembly redistricting made GOP incumbent Dale Kooyenga, already a greenhorn, a new face to about 40% of the territory. It has opened the door to a novice office-seeker (but knowledgeable political figure) Chris Rockwood, a Michigan native and veteran engineer with high-tech companies who moved into Wauwatosa four years ago with his wife, loves Wisconsin and is angered at what is happening to public schools and environmental leadership.
In District 14 he is getting some of the experienced help and organization that guided Nikiya Harris to the state Senate in nearby District 6.
Rockwood has already held major fund-raisers and has been tirelessly doing the doors not only in the Tosa neighborhoods that know him but also reaching deep into areas of Waukesha County. He is a constant presence on the blocks and cul-de-sacs of Brookfield.
Rockwood is working a territory hard to get attention - not just from lifelong Republicans but from jaded Milwaukee Democrats. One of his supporters admitted a measure of disgust for "Democratic moneybags" indifference to this race, pointing out that even GOP operatives recognize that Kooyenga is vulnerable since he got elected in that 2010 Tea Party wave and has married that excess agenda even in bills that failed.
Too many city progressives like the media have their minds made up about the openness of the people to fresh faces and ideas, having written off the Waukesha communities as beyond salvation, but that is neither fair nor accurate. It is also not in keeping with the clearly inclusiveness and cooperation that was the overriding message of the national Democrats at their convention.
A sign this is changing came at recent gatherings when other candidates and activists cane rallying to Rockwood’s cause as did dozens of proficient political insiders now working with him and Pokrandt
The redistricting combined with Tea Party social policies have actually made the region more competitive, not less, as Rockwood is discovering, saying "The interest in issues and in working together has impressed me to campaign even harder."
"I'm not saying we will win," one District 14 resident told me, "but it's a self-fulfilling prophecy to not try even when your principles have a good chance. There is a lot of concern about better service at home and better ideas coming from Madison."
Another resident, a longtime GOP voter, noted that "Walker has certainly woken me up to what control the state has over my schools and my living - now I just can't go along. I've got to look much harder than I did before at the people I elect to speak for me."