Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Horror! Partisans help in non-partisan races

Breaking news: Candidates with partisan political ties, and political parties and their members, have been tampering with Wisconsin's non-partisan spring elections.

It has come to our attention that some of the people elected to local office last week may be members of political parties. Even more shocking is the revelation that members of those parties helped in their campaigns.

Not shocked? Well, either am I. There is, of course, nothing wrong with that. What's non-partisan about our spring elections is that parties are not listed on the ballot. But people often know who's the D and who's the R, or who's the liberal and who's the conservative, without or without the party label.

Judicial races come closer to being truly non-partisan, but our State Supreme Court includes two former GOP legislators, and I think some Republicans may have helped them get there.

But folks in Eau Claire seem to be stunned that local Democrats helped some school board and county board candidates get elected. The Leader-Telegram reports:

Political affiliation traditionally isn't a major factor in local government, but politics appeared to play a role in Tuesday's elections in Eau Claire.

Members of the Eau Claire County Democratic Party, based at 404 S. Barstow St., organized a concerted effort to get the candidates they favored elected, even though those candidates weren't seeking partisan positions...

Party organizers marshaled their membership to post yard signs, distribute fliers for candidates, make telephone calls urging support and solicit money to help pay for candidates' election efforts.

The work paid off. Both Eau Claire City Council candidates the party backed -- Kerry Kincaid and Brandon Buchanan -- won election. So did Trish Cummins, seeking her first Eau Claire school board position, and three of the four Eau Claire County Board candidates the Democrats supported in contested races -- Colleen Bates, Jim Dunning and [Sue]Miller...

While she conceded partisan politics typically influence nonpartisan races to a degree, Eau Claire County Republican Party Chairwoman Laurie Forcier said it's not the place of local parties to ardently back local candidates.

Local councils and boards are supposed to represent voters, not special interests, Forcier said, and she worries that will be lost if politics play an increased role in local elections...

Despite concerns about local elections becoming politicized, Forcier said her party likely will step up efforts to promote candidates in the next local election.

"I don't know how you can stop it now," she said. "It's hard for us to say we're going to take the high road on this after what happened in this election."
The high road? The low road, apparently, would be helping candidates you agree with. Imagine the problems that could cause. Not to mention what could happen if politics get involved in elections.

Pat Kreitlow, a Dem State Senate candidate, says:
Yes, it's true: there are card-carrying Democrats and card-carrying Republicans who care about our school boards, county boards and other boards where big decisions are made close to home and close to our wallets.

I would argue that it's right for these local races to remain officially non-partisan, even while acknowledging that few people who serve on --or closely monitor-- these boards are 100% free of partisan sway. It is hardly unusual for members of a "nonpartisan" part of our government to be conservative, liberal, moderate or progressive.

Justice Antonin Scalia, anyone?
Eau Claire isn't the only place where Republicans are experiencing the agony of defeat in local elections. Neocon pundit Jessica McBride is still in denial that anyone could have voted for Larry Nelson to be mayor of Waukesha if they had known he was a Democrat. No matter that he's been an active Dem for years and has made no secret of it. She is convinced he must have been a stealth candidate.

Back to Eau Claire:
"I saw those who worked the hardest get elected," City Council member Terri Stanley said. "Partisan politics played little part in that.:
UPDATE: Jim Rowen has more on the right wing's bizarre reaction to Larry Nelson's election.


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