It was another day for the incumbents in the Tuesday, Nov. 4 election, both locally and statewide.
Party didn’t seem to matter as much as long-term incumbency did. Sometimes in the same polling place, five-term incumbent Republican 96th District State Assemblyperson Lee Nerison and nine-term Democratic Third Congressional District U.S. Representative Ron Kind both won by similar numbers.
Representative Nerison claimed 12,209 votes to challenger Pete Flesch’s 8,459 votes (59.1-percent to 40.9-percent).
Just after midnight, with 92-percent of polls reporting, Kind held a 13.2-percent lead with 139,917 votes to challenger Tony Kurtz’s total of 107,146.
On a statewide level, Republican incumbent Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker handily defeated what had appeared to be a strong challenge from Democrat Mary Burke. With 91-percent of polls reporting, Walker gathered 53.3-percent of the vote (1,155,850 votes) to Burke’s 45.5-percent (986,879 votes).
Locally, most polls were reporting heavy voting for a non-presidential election.
In Gays Mills, poll worker Geraldine Smith reported voting had been heavy all day long slowing only after 6 p.m.
In Soldiers Grove, there were similar reports from poll workers.
"It was a good turnout.... 204 votes, and that included a couple of new registrations. That's 66 percent (of registered voters) voting,” said Soldiers Grove poll worker Rebekah Ghormley, as the polls there closed.
The mood difference between the winners and losers was pretty obvious. Wisconsin State Representative Lee Nerison reported late on election night that he was feeling “pretty good right about now.” Meanwhile, his Democratic challenger Pete Flesch said he’d “been better.”
“I’m surprised and disappointed,” Flesch said. “I thought it would be closer than it appears to be.”
Nerison said a major point in the campaign came when early literature came out criticizing him in ways he felt was unfair.
“It came pretty close to lying,” Nerison said. “It stretched the envelope as far as it could, maybe it broke the envelope. People realized that’s not who I am.”
The incumbent Republican state representative said people realize he doesn’t always go with the party line.
“I go for the district and my record shows that,” Nerison said.
Nerison said he never went negative with his campaign ads and believed the election victory was “a vindication.”
Flesch acknowledged that one problem he faced at the polls was a poor showing by Democrats at the state level, like Democrat Mary Burke who was running against Republican Governor Scott Walker.
“It’s the political winds,” Flesch said of the election mood.
The well-liked Crawford County Chairperson also noted running against entrenched incumbents like Nerison presented added difficulties.
“Let’s face it, it’s tough to defeat 10-year incumbents,” Flesch said. “Incumbency is tough to overcome. You need to get votes from people who voted for that person before.”
Flesch said incumbency also meant access to more money. He felt he was outspent by the Nerison campaign, which received support Political Action Committees and the Wisconsin Farm Bureau.
Flesch also said Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) spent “dark money,” not recorded as campaign contributions, on issue ads directed against him.
For his part, Flesch said he planned to return to Prairie du Chien and continue his work as the Crawford County Chairperson.