Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Primary Review: Upstarts And Broken Hearts

The two biggest primary races in SE Wisconsin yesterday, Zerban v. Kaleka and Wanggaard v. Steitz, proved in the end, to be a tempest in a teapot.

Both upstart candidates got a shellacking.

With nearly the same spread - Zerban besting Kaleka with 78% of the vote and Wanggaard sending Stietz home with 71% - the better known guys strolled to the finish line.

While both losers could not be further apart in ideology, their campaigns shared one similar trait: big mouths, little juice.

The Kaleka campaign was quixotic from the start. Candidate, Amar Kaleka, declined advice from experienced folks in the district, focusing on gimmicks and swag instead of campaign fundamentals. He had plenty of high quality,YouTube videos (film production is his trade), billboards and buttons and bracelets galore - but not much in the way of a ground game plan outside of running his campaign through a network of his family's gas stations.

Note: People go to gas stations to get gas...and maybe a soda or cigarettes. Your name next to the Lotto sign isn't a great way to get elected.

Kaleka's plan to use the gas stations to sign people up for absentee ballot requests was an utter disaster. The campaign wound up with lots names (hundreds, we are told) of people who weren't registered or needed to re-register before they could get absentee ballots and were ultimately left waiting for someone from his campaign to follow up. Which, they did not.

Note: In a primary, candidates needs to focus on people who vote in primaries, not waste time and resources on voter engagement with people who don't vote regularly...unless you have lots of money and staff. Which, they did not.

Kaleka boasted about being able to raise money from his connections in the global Sikh community. Not so much. He went into the final days of the primary on fumes.

The most disappointing aspect of the campaign was what started out as an idealistic and energetic run, devolved into desperate tricks - a fake controversy with the Zerban campaign over a debate that was never mutually discussed, giving away (perhaps illegally) hot dogs, soda and rides to the polls on election day in Racine and wasting time posting a "mixed tape" of music on the website so people can be "inspired" by Amar's campaign.

Fantasy gave way to frantic pretty quick and it wasn't pretty. Like most upstarts, the Kaleka campaign seemed to be sure they were going to win right up until the end. The results must have been a blow.

Shoulda spent more time listening instead of dropping names.

On to Wanggaard and Steitz.

Jonathan Steitz scared the crap out of Van Wanggaard, didn't he? Looking at the results, you have to wonder why.

This was the most trash talking-ist primary war in recent memory. What a great ride. These two got under each other's skin like crazy and their supporters went right down with them.

So much for Republican discipline.

Van was poised pretty much as the incumbent in this race with all the advantages name recognition brings. He also had the cash and majority of conservative talk-radio on his side.

More than a few Democrats wanted to see Steitz take home the prize, viewing him as the more extreme candidate and perhaps less palatable to conservatives. We're not so sure. Wanggaard is firmly tied to Walker who is looking more vulnerable every day.

We think that makes Democratic opponent, Randy Bryce's job easier. Bryce's opponent is basically Scott Walker - and while that district is a conservative beast - he won't have to carve out his own strategy against Walker rubberstamp, Wanggaard.

Wanggaard faces a new post-primary wrinkle in the form of Tamra Varebrook now that the Sheriff's department has received the voter fraud complaint from District Attorney, Rich Chiapete.

Even though Varebrook supported Steitz in the primary - Van can't get away with saying "Tamra who?" Varebrook ran as a fake Democrat so Van didn't have to face Racine voters alone without Scott Walker on the ballot.

It is a beautiful irony that after Wanggaard dragged Racine voters through the mud with charges of "voter irregularities" and an expensive recount because of it, one of his key players is now being investigated for several counts of voter fraud.

We cannot wait to see how this plays out.