In The News
Unions push for Pasch in busy Sept. 9 primary
By Dominique Paul Noth
Editor, Labor Press
With the best credentials and the proven community leadership abilities, Sandra Pasch wasn't a tough choice for Milwaukee labor. The quality of her opposition and the size of their bankrolls make things more difficult in Assembly District 22, an open seat because of Sheldon Wasserman's move toward the State Senate. (On Nov. 4, he takes on Alberta Darling in Senate District 8.)
Still, Milwaukee’s Committee on Political Education – which also raised the bar on legislative candidates, setting up a special training session on such crucial issues as prevailing wage, lien legislation and the Employee Free Choice Act, before conducting questionnaires and interviews -- recommended Pasch in the key September 9 primary.
Pasch, for 15 years an assistant professor at Columbia College of Nursing, has the backing of DA John Chisholm and other law enforcement experts because she founded and then coordinated the crisis intervention projects that teach officers how to handle mental health and similar situations.
Long known as a health policy expert and a legislative planner on several fronts, she is the most open advocate among the candidates of the effort by nurses at Columbia-St. Mary's to organize a union.
Yet her desire to mix it up on the political differences and capabilities among the candidates has struggled for attention. There have not been enough free-form forums in this district, and there has been a flood of four-color four-page mailings from Andy Feldman (a New Hope anti-poverty consultant with a Harvard public policy degree, whom friends say returned to his hometown largely to run for office) and particularly from Dan Kohl (long a Milwaukee Bucks executive who prefers to remind voters of his support of SEED, the boarding school concept for low-income students).
There's actually a fourth Democrat in the contest -- Guy Johnson (the Shorewood village president connected to UWM) but he hasn't been doing much campaigning.
This is described as a winner-take-all contest among Feldman, Kohl and Pasch, with Kohl given the edge in deep pockets and name recognition (he is the nephew and maybe would-be heir to you-know-who in the US Senate).
Pasch husbanded her resources for mailings closer to the election, the first big one August 20. But Kohl and Feldman had the funding to start their mailings in July and they have been popping in lit drop after lit drop (four from Kohl in one week). These are Photoshopped images, full of happy children and earnest seniors and, frankly, generic quotes about the need for health care and education reform.
There is a danger in assuming that that the bulk of voters in this district -- River Hills, Fox Point, Glendale, Whitefish Bay, Shorewood, and four city wards - are impressed by such spending, which is unusual in an assembly race.
Many candidates are lucky to strap together enough cash for one earnest set of legislative plans, not these series of big headlines, childhood photos and computer icons. The rich might not notice how unusually heavy this mailing blitz is, and those struggling with the economy might be offended.
Kohl has also financed several phone "surveys" in the district, which some recipients felt were push-pull polling, steering residents to answer in his favor.
Aside from an inordinate amount of money represented in this assembly race, all three busiest candidates are sincere in person, have some similar general positions and are emphasizing the thousands of doors they have knocked on.
Each can claim some bragging rights in these neighborhood patrols (though it's hard to do doors in River Hills -- no sidewalks). But the hands-down winner of any perseverance contest would be Pasch. She suffered a pelvic fracture on slippery steps early in the campaign. For months she was pushed to doors in her wheelchair by family and youthful campaigners, then graduated to crutches and now she is back on her feet -- probably knocking at your door this minute.
There might be some poetic justice is she wins, given the importance of health care as an issue. Wasserman, whom she's seeking to succeed, is a physician -- and she would be the third nurse in the Legislature.
Whoever wins District 22 on Sept. 9 is a shoo-in for the seat, but several districts that didn’t expect a contest also have a key one Sept. 9. The Milwaukee COPE made several recommendations in these races to its statewide AFL-CIO counterpart. The August Labor Press reported those choices and the districts affected:
Three of the eight Assembly primary races probably wouldn't exist were it not for the cloned “Clean Sweep” literature, printing press and a bit of funding concocted by a rightwing Republican -- yes a Republican, recruiting candidates for the Democratic contests. Actually a primary where voters weren’t paying much attention was how Tom Reynolds got into the state Senate in the first place, taking advantage of a low turnout primary and little interest on the GOP side back in 2002. (Reynolds was defeated in 2006 by Tim Sullivan.)
This time Reynolds’ candidates are given little chance except to make mischief. But COPE says it does mean that respected labor-endorsed incumbents will need union supporters at the polls Sept 9:
District 10 - Annette (Polly) Williams. Her region extends north into Glendale and south past Burleigh St, and then goes from 18th St. east to the Milwaukee River.
District 15 (including both West Allis and West Milwaukee areas) -- Tony Staskunas.
District 17 (central North Side from 92 St. east to 44th St.) -- Barbara Toles.
Then there are three races where Reynolds' efforts were a factor but there would have been a Democratic primary anyway. Labor has endorsed the incumbents in all three:
District 8 - veteran Pedro Colon, whose serious opposition, Laura Manriquez, stems from a dispute with Esperanza Unida. Another opponent used Reynolds’ program.
District 16 -- Leon Young, facing several opponents in a district (one using Reynolds' stuff) that sweeps down from Locust Ave. to Tory Hill and east from 27th St. to the Milwaukee River.
District 20 -- Christine Sinicki, a veteran champion of union issues and a frequent presence at labor rallies, challenged by multiple candidates (one Reynolds-like) in a district that includes the Bay View area of Milwaukee, plus Cudahy and St. Francis.
Several other recommendations were made by MALC for the Nov. 4 contest, but more may be made. It’s Sept. 9 that many Milwaukee voters have to concentrate on.