By Mark Belling
The difficulty in summarizing spring elections is that you have hundreds of races in dozens of communities. Simply keeping track of all of them is tough and in any year, good or bad, you will win some and lose some. That being said, the Tuesday results may go down as the most successful spring election for conservatives in the last 50 years.
It is impossible to overstate the success of the Waukesha County Republican Party’s WisRed campaign. Virtually all candidates endorsed by the GOP across the county won. For years, local Republicans sat on their apathetic butts and essentially conceded school board, mayoral, city council, county board and village elections to more organized liberals. This has been especially true in school board races where conservative communities ended up with very liberal school boards, often virtually handpicked by the teachers union.
But the Waukesha GOP, under chair Terry Dittrich, has aggressively recruited candidates to run, has screened candidates for endorsement and has printed flyers advising voters who the true conservatives are. The efforts have flipped several school boards away from liberal control and had impact on other local races as well.
The Menomonee Falls “Moms On A Mission” swept into office running a dominant 1-2-3. The backlash against an arrogant school board supported by old MF hacks began when the public’s desire to keep the high school’s Indians nickname was ignored. Overt embrace of Black Lives Matter after the anti-police riots and being caught red-handed inserting Critical Race Theory in the curriculum furthered the backlash. The result—-for the first time ever, true conservatives control a major MF agency.
A similar sweep occurred in the huge Arrowhead district and the various elementary districts that feed into Arrowhead High School. The endorsed conservative candidates won all of the elections, with several incumbents being thrown out. Arrowhead is conservative country but the superintendent of the school district came from Whitefish Bay and has arrogantly dismissed all efforts by parents to oppose liberally biased content in the curriculum. So much for her.
The conservative school board momentum extended beyond Waukesha County. Cedarburg voters elected the three conservative candidates who ran 1-2-3 despite vicious smear campaigns by Ozaukee County liberals. A conservative also won a closely watched school board race in Brookfield.
An enormous conservative win came in the most evenly divided swing county in the state, Kenosha County. Even though President Trump carried the county twice and it seems evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, the county’s government structure has been largely liberal. The retirement of longtime county exec Jim Kreuser opened that job up. While officially non-partisan, it was a Democrat-Republican showdown. The county’s court clerk, Rebecca Mentink, an elected Democrat, was backed by the county’s liberal establishment. Mentink was favored to win after running first in the February primary. But Mentink lost a tight election Tuesday to longtime Republican Assemblyman Samantha Kerkman. Kerkman’s win is another sign that Kenosha County is joining Racine County as GOP territory as the population grows in the much more conservative western halves of those counties. A big key to Kerkman’s win was her willingness to run bold TV ads showing the violence from the Kenosha riots and blamed the Democrat establishment for them. For once, a conservative candidate didn’t run away from a winning issue. Here’s an interesting bit of trivia: Even though Kerkman is only 47 and looks younger, she is the longest serving Republican in the entire state assembly. Not anymore, as she takes over at the Kenosha courthouse.
Helped mainly by a whopping margin in her home Waukesha County, Maria Lazar defeated Tony Evers-appointee Lori Kornblum for a seat on the state court of appeals district that covers all of southeast Wisconsin except Milwaukee County. A loss by Lazar would have been a disaster. After all of the legitimate anger over the soft criminal justice system and the lenience of Milwaukee DA John Chisholm, a win by a former Chisholm aide who was appointed by a Democrat governor would have been a train wreck.
It certainly isn’t a surprise that Cavalier Johnson was elected Milwaukee Mayor in a landslide. The 72-28 margin of his win over Bob Donovan is about an exact representation of the city’s population. About 72 percent of it is liberal and 28 percent of us are not. If you’re wondering what a Johnson mayoralty will be like, check out the last 60 years of city history.
One rare and big win for Democrats in Waukesha County came in the Oconomowoc mayoral race where incumbent Bob Mangus, endorsed by the Democrats, defeated GOP-backed Lou Kowieski.
Not all conservative school board candidates won. In a sign that Mequon is following Wauwatosa into the liberal sewer, the two conservative candidates for the Mequon-Thiensville school board both lost. Like Wauwatosa, Mequon has had a tremendous influx of Milwaukee residents. As some suburban communities clearly move more and more to the right, Mequon appears to be determined to commit a Wauwatosa-like municipal suicide.
Another bad development was the passage of some, but not all, school referendums. Increasing school spending and building while enrollment is crashing is fiscal malpractice and will leave districts with a debt time bomb. On the other hand, one of the largest referendums in the state, the whopper in West Allis, lost.
An avowed Marxist who has bragged about beating up a Mexican police officer was elected to the Milwaukee County Board. Juan Miguel Martinez is now arguably the most radical elected official to hold any position in southeast Wisconsin.
The huge absentee vote margin in favor of Johnson in the Milwaukee mayoral election is a sign ballot harvesting remains alive and well in the state. If the Republicans don’t get it, and mail-in voting, banned, they could lose the November statewide elections
The success of the Waukesha GOP’s WisRed campaign proves what happens when local Republicans organize and flex their muscles. It is in sharp contrast to most of the other county GOP operations. It is also the kind of politics that the state GOP needs to embrace. But there is little sign of other counties and their lazy leaders stepping up to the plate and the Madison-based state GOP remains as irrelevant as ever.