Even though normal people aren’t interested in politics before Labor Day of an election year, we have a primary election coming up Aug. 12.
To repeat what I wrote here two weeks ago: It is a flaw in our system that people must choose between voting in Republican primaries (Grant and Lafayette county sheriff, 51st Assembly District, Third Congressional District) and Democratic primaries (governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, 17th Senate District). However, the system is what it is for the foreseeable future.
Grant County sheriff candidate Ed Breitsprecker deserves credit for admitting he is on the Republican ballot because he doesn’t think he can win, based on feedback he’s gotten from friends and neighbors, running as anything besides a Republican. On the other hand, one must admit that Breitsprecker’s complaints about the process in which Nate Dreckman was chosen as sheriff by Gov. Scott Walker probably wouldn’t have been made had Walker chosen Breitsprecker instead of Dreckman. Wisconsin’s Founding Fathers chose the process they did, where the governor fills sheriff’s vacancies, probably because sheriffs are the only elected law enforcement officers in the state.
As often happens in primaries, voters should hope the winner adopts the better ideas of the other candidate, or candidates. Breitsprecker’s points about overtime and rearranging the supervisory structure of the Sheriff’s Office deserve at least study. That study, of course, might find that paying overtime for deputies is more fiscally responsible than hiring new full-time deputies. On the surface, having so many supervisors working daytime shifts when a lot of action (as in alcohol-fueled incidents) occurs around bar time doesn’t seem to make sense.
The Grant County sheriff’s race is a battle between two insiders. The Lafayette County sheriff’s race is a battle between a Sheriff’s Department insider, Deputy Reg Gill, and an outsider (of sorts), Darlington Police Chief Jason King, to replace longtime Sheriff Scott Pedley. That race might as well serve as a referendum on how Lafayette County voters feel about the Sheriff’s Office.
The Third Congressional District Republican race has three candidates, though only two, Ken Van Doren and Tony Kurtz, have deigned to visit the southern end of the district. Kurtz describes himself as a Ronald Reagan Republican, while Van Doren is one of the most libertarian Republicans you will find in the state of Wisconsin. Since Karen Mueller of Chippewa Falls never came here (and for that matter never came to the offices of your favorite weekly newspaper), I cannot tell you anything about Mueller except that she’s on the ballot.
There are also races on the Republican ballot for secretary of state and state treasurer. The treasurer race serves as a referendum for whether the office should exist; if you think it should, vote for Scott Feldt; if you think it shouldn’t, vote for Matt Adamczyk. The same choice does not exist in the GOP secretary of state race, though two legislative Republicans have introduced a constitutional amendment to eliminate the office.
Rep. Howard Marklein (R–Spring Green) is running for the 17th Senate District, not the 51st Assembly District. (More about Marklein’s November opposition one paragraph from now.) Given that there are four Republican candidates to replace Marklein, the winner of that race could conceivably get as little as 40 percent of the vote. I know one of the four, Dodgeville Mayor Todd Novak, who is on a leave of absence from his employer, the Dodgeville Chronicle. (For those of you who wonder whether a newspaper editor can be an elected official here, no, I am running for no office. The only offices I can get elected to are in my church, when there are no other candidates.)
I could use the previous outsider-vs.-insider theme to describe the 17th Senate District Democratic primary between Ernie Wittwer of Hillpoint and Pat Bomhack, who has lived much longer outside of this area than inside it. That theme came across in two letters on this page last week. On the other hand, there seems little difference in the positions Wittwer and Bomhack take. That’s too bad, because it could be argued that neither the Republican Party, based in the Fox River Valley and Milwaukee suburbs, nor the Democratic Party, whose support mostly comes from Milwaukee and Madison, particularly care about rural Wisconsin. (A nonpartisan example: Does spending more money on Milwaukee Public Schools or spending more money on non-public schools for MPS students benefit rural Wisconsin?) People who vote in that primary should ask themselves which candidate would actually, consistently and publicly stand up to party leadership, which would, after all, be in the tradition of the senator they seek to replace, Sen. Dale Schultz (R–Richland Center).
Also on the Democratic ballot is the attorney general primary, which, based on a story in a Madison tabloid last week, appears to be a contest of which candidate will ignore the most laws passed by the Legislature, a strange position for someone who is supposed to uphold the law to take.
The Aug. 12 primary is expected to be a low-turnout election, with about 15 percent of voters statewide bothering to show up. Informed voters should bother to show up, because votes count more in low-turnout elections, and because those who don’t vote shouldn’t complain about their choices Nov. 4.