Outside of the "who is more progressive" race between Mark Clear and Lisa Subeck for the 78th Assembly District, there's not a whole lot for Madisonians to be excited for in this year's primary election, set for Tuesday, August 12.
Well, that is until you take a look at the Republican primary for Wisconsin State Treasurer.
The incumbent Kurt Schuller isn't running again. He ran on the platform of eliminating the Office of the State Treasurer. Schuller failed in that aspect, as he was unable to eliminate his own job. On a brighter note, he managed to actually do the job very, very well. He made a point of emphasizing the state's unclaimed property rolls, and managed to get millions of dollars worth of settlements and inheritances back to their rightful owners. Schuller is, by far, my favorite Republican in a statewide office.
The Democratic side of the race is a pretty boring face-off between two Daves. Dave Sartori seems like he decided to run in order to have something to do during his retirement. His Twitter account currently has one follower. Dave Leeper follows the standard anti-Walker talking points you'd find from any Democratic candidate in Wisconsin, and is light years ahead of Sartori in the Twitter game, with a comparably massive 12 followers on his account.
The two Republican candidates seeking the seat -- Randy Melchert and Matt Adamczyk -- are much more interesting. Each does an impressive job talking about things that have nothing to do with the actual duties of the office.
As one wag on the Adamczyk campaign's Facebook page put it: "Does that mean you buy cheaper bullets?"
Democratic candidate Leeper may follow the progressive talking point playbook, but he's not going off on how he'll use the awesome power of the State Treasurer's office to protect womenâ€™s right to choose -- because that sounds ridiculous.
Melchert proclaims his interest in reducing college debt by "promoting savings accounts not credit cards to students." So that's why people are graduating with so much debt! College students are usually busy stuffing their mattresses with the excess cash they have lying around; if only someone had explained to them how a bank works! Melchert also suggests that he'll be an "economic ambassador for the state," which is a nice sounding made-up job duty.
While Melchert offers some proposals that sound more like the duties of Scott Walker's press secretary than the state treasurer, they have nothing on the odd campaign messaging and micro-auditing coming from Adamczyk.
At the end of July, Adamczyk's campaign issued a press release (PDF) questioning why the Office of the State Treasurer spends $58 a month on a cell phone. Surprisingly, most of the state's media decided to pursue stories about the Wisconsin Supreme Court's decisions on Act 10, voter ID and domestic partner benefits instead.
The Department of Public Instruction is a particular target of Adamczyk's desired financial inquiries. Coincidentally, this department is the only branch of state government currently run by a Democrat. On Facebook, his campaign posted a picture of an information kiosk at DPI offices "that seemingly no one uses" as an example of wasteful spending. So how long did this guy spend standing around watching an empty kiosk?
Adamczyk's latest inquiry (PDF) is about two DPI employees who claimed the maximum amount for meal reimbursements while on out-of-state trips -- that's $50 a day -- without having their receipts checked. He goes on to question how anyone could conceivably spend that much money, comparing the expenses filed to various meals available at fine restaurants. "Denny's Grand Slam Slugger for $8, Olive Garden's chicken parmigiana sandwich for $10" are two options offered by Adamcyzk, "while at Applebee's one would have to get the '2 meals for $20' deal to even get near the $25 dinner maximum."
Yes, a candidate for Wisconsin State Treasurer devoted part of a press release to plugging Applebee's.
I used to audit expense reports at one of my jobs for the UW System. There's a reason we didn't check meal receipts -- it took too much time. Even if you catch a couple examples of employees doing something wrong amongst several hundred expense reports, you have spent more money (in auditor wages) finding that waste than said waste cost the taxpayers. DPI doesn't skip over auditing small purchases because they are inefficient. In fact, it's the exact opposite.
But Adamczyk, if elected, is dedicated to spending vast amounts of his paid time as a government employee rooting out even the smallest example of government waste. Adamczyk wonders why Wisconsin State Superintendent Tony Evers hasn't responded to his requests. Perhaps it might be due to the fact that Evers doesn't have any obligation to respond to a candidate in a primary running for an office that has no actual oversight over the DPI in the first place.
Melchert believes the State Treasurer's office should continue, even if he can't quite say what it should do. But like Schuller, Adamczyk believes the office is wasteful and should be eliminated. In explaining why he's running, Adamczyk declares that the duties of the Treasurer only take about 30 minutes a month to do. He also says that he'll return 25% of the position's $65,079 salary to taxpayers. But that would still leave Adamczyk with a salary of $48,809 -- to do 30 minutes of actual work each month, as he sees it -- opening the rest of his time for annoying government employees with actual job duties.
To sum this candidacy up, Adamczyk is running as a so-called government watchdog who wants to look at breakfast receipts -- and take home almost $200,000 over four years.
This is the worst part of Brett Hulsey's run for governor; it has distracted us from the other ludicrous campaigns going on in Wisconsin, ones featuring candidates who might actually be elected.