Few competitive state races on Nov. 8
There are few swing districts in Wisconsin these days, thanks to the Republicans’ legislative redistricting following the 2010 census. The result, which is being challenged in federal court, is a large majority of safe GOP districts, a smaller number of safe Democratic districts, and just a few districts that could go either way. In our area, Assembly District 21, which covers Oak Creek, South Milwaukee and a slice of Franklin, is one of the rare swing districts. In 2012, the district voted 51% in favor of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, while 49% supported President Obama.
Assembly District 21 is currently represented by Republican Jessie Rodriguez, a voucher school backer who won her seat in a 2013 special election and won re-election in 2014.
Rodriguez faces Democrat Jack Redmond, a business representative for Teamsters Local 344, on Nov. 8. Oak Creek resident Redmond said he was motivated to run because of the agenda shared by Rodriguez and the GOP majority. [Correction: The original article erroneously stated that Redmond lives in Franklin.]
“I can’t sit back any longer and watch what I thought was a great state for me to live in—to have my children live in, to have their children live in—decimated by people who don’t seem to care about the majority of people who live in the state,” Redmond told the Shepherd.
Topping Redmond’s agenda is supporting public schools, from K-12 on up through the tech colleges and the University of Wisconsin System. He said the district residents oppose Rodriguez’s stance on voucher and charter schools and support more funding for public schools in their communities.
“The people I’ve talked to who have been keeping track of what’s happening in the school system realize that we’re heading for that precipice out there where the schools are not going to be able to function the way that they have,” Redmond said. “Class sizes are growing. The ability to provide AP classes and the special education that is needed for some of the kids are all suffering as a result of defunding the public schools.”
Redmond is also concerned about transportation funding and its impact on commuters and businesses in the district.
“I’ve been in the transportation business for 45 years and there’s no question that this is the worst that I’ve ever seen the roads in my lifetime, and certainly what I’ve seen as far as projects that are not finished,” Redmond said. “There are more orange barrels than there are residents of the state. It tells me that the projects that are started are not getting done.”
Redmond responded to the Shepherd’s candidate questionnaire, which can be found at shepherdexpress.com. Rodriguez did not respond to the Shepherd’s request for an interview or fill out the candidate questionnaire.
Candidates from seven political parties are vying for president, including, obviously, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, as well as Jill Stein (Wisconsin Green), Gary Johnson (Libertarian), Darrell Castle (Constitution), Monica Moorehead (Workers World Party) and Rocky Roque De La Fuente (American Delta Party).
One of the most-watched Senate races is between incumbent Republican Ron Johnson and Democrat Russ Feingold, who’s profiled in this week’s cover story. Also on the ballot is Phillip Anderson, a Libertarian.
Eastern and Southeastern Wisconsin is home to many competitive races for Congress. In District 1, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan is facing challenges from Democrat Ryan Solen, an Iraq war vet, as well as Trump Conservative Spencer Zimmerman and Libertarian Jason Lebeck. In District 4, longtime Democratic Milwaukee Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Independent Robert Raymond and Libertarian Andy Craig will be on the ballot. In District 5, incumbent Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner faces Democrat Khary Penebaker and Libertarian John Arndt. (Penebaker’s candidate questionnaire is posted on shepherdexpress.com.) In District 6, Republican Rep. Glenn Grothman is being challenged by Democrat Sarah Lloyd and Jeff Dahlke, an Independent.
Only candidates from even-numbered Senate districts are on the ballot this fall for a four-year term. None in our area face partisan opposition. Democrats Lena Taylor (District 4), La Tonya Johnson (District 6) and Bob Wirch (District 22) and Republicans Alberta Darling (District 8) and David Craig (District 28) are not being challenged on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Running unopposed in November are area Democrats David Bowen, Jonathan Brostoff, David Crowley, Jason Fields, Evan Goyke, Fred Kessler, Christine Sinicki, Leon Young, JoCasta Zamarripa and Josh Zepnick of Milwaukee, plus Peter Barca and Tod Ohnstad of Kenosha. Unopposed Republicans include Rob Hutton of Brookfield, Joe Sanfelippo of West Allis, Jim Ott of Mequon, Ken Skowronski of Franklin, Chuck Wichgers of Muskego, Mike Kuglitsch of New Berlin and Scott Allen of Waukesha.
In District 7—which encompasses parts of Milwaukee, West Allis and Greenfield and West Milwaukee—incumbent Dan Riemer, a Democrat, is fending off challenges from Republican Zachary Marshall and Libertarian Matthew Bughman. Riemer has been focusing on scaling back freeway mega-projects, including the I-94 expansion, which he says would have a devastating impact on his district and surrounding neighborhoods—not to mention the state’s finances. Marshall of Greenfield is a dentist. Bughman is a Milwaukee police officer.
In District 14—which includes slices of Wauwatosa, Milwaukee and Brookfield—Brookfield Republican Dale Kooyenga is facing Wauwatosa Democrat Chris Rockwood. Kooyenga is the co-author of the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program (OSPP), otherwise known as the failed MPS takeover bill, and if he’s re-elected wants to reform the tax code and fairly compensate those who have been wrongfully convicted. Rockwood supports public schools, expanding BadgerCare with federal funding and restoring Wisconsin’s clean, open government. Both candidates answered the Shepherd’s candidate questionnaire, which can be found at shepherdexpress.com.
In western Racine County’s District 63, Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is being challenged by special education teacher Andy Mitchell. Vos, a strong backer of education privatization, is one of the most powerful Republicans in state government, and if re-elected he no doubt will seize on Gov. Scott Walker’s low poll numbers and make a bid for governor in 2018. Mitchell, on the other hand, supports public education, wants to restore local control that’s been grabbed by state Republicans, and aims to protect our drinking water and natural resources. You can find Mitchell’s responses to our candidate questionnaire at shepherdexpress.com. Vos didn’t respond to the Shepherd’s attempts to contact him.
In District 66, which covers the City of Racine, incumbent Democrat Cory Mason is facing Libertarian George Meyers. Mason co-authored the “Higher Ed, Lower Debt” bill that would allow student loans to be refinanced just like mortgages, but it died in the Republican-controlled Legislature. In Meyers’ 2014 match-up with Mason, Meyers ran on balancing the budget, eliminating public debt and abolishing the state income tax.
There are no partisan countywide competitive races on the Nov. 8 ballot. Democrats John Chisholm (Milwaukee County district attorney), George Christenson (county clerk), David Cullen (county treasurer) and John La Fave (county register of deeds) are running unopposed.
You can vote early now but you’ll need a photo ID. For more information about voting, go to myvote.wi.gov/en-us. For information about voter ID, go to bringitwisconsin.com.
By Lisa Kaiser
Oct. 25, 2016