Jack Martz is one of the stalwart conservatives on the Dane County Board, reliably pushing a low-tax, pro-law-enforcement agenda. In the past year, he helped lead a group of 10 conservatives in temporarily blocking a borrowing resolution.
Even though he's firmly entrenched on one side of the political fence, he decries the rise of "partisanship" on the County Board.
"We're in an atmosphere now of conflict, continuous conflict, and that's unfortunate," says Martz, who has represented Fitchburg since 2002. "Instead of people wanting to get along, they're so ingrained in their positions that it's very difficult.
"Because they have a significant majority, the progressives or liberals, or whatever you want to call them, are not willing to listen to the other side," he adds.
Martz denies that his frustration has to do with being in the minority - the 37-member board has 23 who are reliably progressive or liberal and only 10 who are conservative. In the April 3 election, 15 board seats will be contested, including Martz's. He faces a challenge from Jenni Dye.
But the liberal-conservative makeup is not likely to change drastically. "There will be a lot of close races, within a few hundred votes each," says County Board chair Scott McDonell, who is running unopposed. "I don't feel too vulnerable with our incumbents."
Martz says he wishes supervisors would represent their constituents, not a party position. "I have been bombarded with people complaining about taxes."
His opponent agrees that the board would benefit by being more flexible. But, Dye says, "Jack is part of that problem. We don't get less partisanship by refusing to talk to each other on the issues.
"In my view, Jack's approach has been inflexible," she adds. "Instead of looking at the nuances of issues and trying to find compromises with progressives, he's simply voted no."
Not all of the races pit conservatives against liberals. In downtown Madison, two liberals, Adam Plotkin and Heidi Wegleitner, compete for the seat being vacated by Barbara Vedder. And in the heavily populated student district around UW-Madison, John Magnino, who is endorsed by the Dane County Democrats, is running against Leland Pan, who is endorsed by Progressive Dane.
McDonell, leader of the progressive majority, nevertheless hopes he will gain a few seats. But, he adds, "I'm trying not to be so wildly optimistic."
Martz in 2010!
Martz admits that he committed an error in his campaign by circulating a flyer (PDF) claiming to have the endorsement of the Wisconsin State Journal in his reelection bid.
Although the paper endorsed Martz in 2010, this time around it picked his opponent, Jenni Dye, writing: "Dye is convincing as a thoughtful advocate for strong yet cost-effective county services."
Dye, who expects a close election, is not amused: "It's disappointing when any candidate is misinforming voters. Democracy only works when people are informed."
Martz says it was a cut-and-paste error from previous campaigns, and he is no longer circulating the flyer.