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Thursday, December 25, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 32.0° F  Overcast
The Daily
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Blaska's Blog misses wide right in Tuesday's elections
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Why are Stu, Basford, the Sconz, Scottie McD, The Kathleen, and Jeremy the Liberal doing the Lambeau Leap?

Didn't conservative-moderates pick up two seats in Tuesday's County Board elections?  Didn't the liberal-Progressive Dane faction lose two, which means the Dane County Board goes from 25-12 liberal-conservative to 23-14 liberal conservative? (Here are the results.)

Well, yes. But Blaska's Blog predicted conservatives would win five seats. That was not an unreasonable prediction and the libs know it.

Politics is a game of expectations. The other side knows we fumbled at the goal line.

Conservative-moderates had the issues and the players. We did not do good game management. We did not tackle our opponents to the ground; we did not throw the ball downfield.

Picking up two seats amounts to a dead cat bounce. Down 25-12, it was hard to do any worse.

I could say that we came within 591 votes of picking up seven seats and taking a 19-18 majority. That's a little under 2 percent of the ballots cast in the 18 races contested by conservatives. But this is not horseshoes.

So let us fill out our score card.

Recruiting: A+

I congratulate County Supv. Eileen Bruskewitz for taking the lead in recruiting the best team of moderate to conservative candidates I have seen. Well spoken and accomplished. Not only in quality but quantity: 13 brand new faces. Well done.

But you have to get them elected. Given the quality of candidates, I can only regard a pick-up of two seats as a missed opportunity. Don Imhoff took out Elaine DeSmidt on the far east side of Madison. In Sun Prairie, Bill Clausius succeeds Jeff Kostelic, who did not seek re-election. And that is it.

Issues: A

I thought we had not only the candidates but the issues:

  • A 7.9% tax levy hike

  • Unelected RTA board with taxing authority

  • Restrictive shoreland zoning plans

  • Using tax dollars to bail criminal defendants out of jail

  • Continuing purchases of swampland in a tough economy.

Conservatives so owned the issues that many of the liberals professed election eve conversions.

Ronn Ferrell, for instance, turned back a liberal challenger "who ran as if she was me." His Kathleen-endorsed challenger tried to sound tough on crime by accusing Ronn of "sitting idly by" in the war against crime in our southwest side neighborhoods -- when Ronn Farrell was front and center in that battle at every neighborhood meeting and voted for extra police protection.

That challenger professed to be aghast that Ronn did not offer any amendments to cut the 7.9% tax levy when, in fact, he offered six when, in fact, that challenger was endorsed by the progenitor of that tax increase: The Kathleen.

Endorsements, coverage: B

Welcome aboard, Chamber of Commerce. The Realtors stalwart as ever. The deputies union really got the bit in their mouths and pulled hard. Still, how can the deputies endorse Matt Veldran versus Mike Thomsen? There were too many such anomalies.

County board candidates are relatively anonymous; they need the help of celebrity star power. Back in the 1990s we conservatives could get pictured alongside popular Scott Klug or Sheriff Rick Raemisch and, later, Sheriff Gary Hamblin. Helped with name recognition. The cupboard in liberal Dane County is pretty bare of popular, high-profile conservative office-holders. We're still using Hamblin, now a former sheriff.

The WI State Journal was mostly good on endorsements but coverage of the issues was minimal (its resources are shrinking) and, fearing the wrath of the liberal power structure, they never drive home the point as Tom Still did back in the day.

Thank god for Vicki McKenna and Mitch Henck on WIBA, who did not endorse but offered access to our message.

Money: Incomplete

Probably a draw. Liberals never lack for money. Sam Cooke spent over $13,000, which is very near a record and that is not the final tally, which won't be in until July 20. No secret that campaigns backload their contributions so that they don't have to report until well after the votes are counted.

Strategy: C

We need to pick our spots. The Deputies went medieval on Hulsey in his own back yard in one of the most liberal districts in Madison. For all that, Hulsey crushed his opponent. If anything, it was overkill. The way to get back at Hulsey is to pour those resources into Veldran's district, into those of Duranczyk, Miles, DeFelice, Downing and other swing districts where we had a realistic chance to win. Taking the majority removes Hulsey from his committee chairmanship.

In some campaigns, too many chiefs.

Message: D

I thought most of our literature was boring. Wordier than a southern senator's filibuster. Issues listed as if on some spreadsheet is not how to sell your story. Some of the people who did so well in other areas put the kibosh on putting out an effective message. As a result, Blaska (for instance) did no one's campaign literature for the first time in 16 years.  

When you oppose an incumbent, as you must do when you're in the minority, as conservatives did in 10 races, the challenger must make these two cases:

1. Why the incumbent is no damn good

2. Why the challenger represents an improvement.

We did not do the former in a compelling way -- probably out of fear of appearing "negative." But compare and contrast is in the best tradition of democracy; better yet, it works!

God knows, the libs went negative on the conservatives. Sam Cooke may have lost to Jack Martz but the liberal (a Facebook friend of Madame Brenda) put Jack on the defensive by alleging he missed two key votes. That forced Jack to expend time and treasure to counter those attacks. (The two missed meetings -- two! -- were due to illness and to a funeral.) As with Ferrell, the libs did a darned fine job of putting conservative incumbents on the defensive. Wish we had done likewise.

Wait till next time

Members of the liberal-Progressive Dane majority will do one of two things:

1. They will be mindful that they dodged a bullet and govern as they campaigned -- as moderates.

2. They will be like Nancy Pelosi on steroids and legislate as if they found the cure for Kryptonite. In other words, revert to form.

The campaign just ended was a step in the right direction. Dane County is coming our way. The 2012 campaign begins today.

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