Let's talk County Board. Dane County voters are starting to get the picture about why county government matters. Let me count the ways:
- 7.9 percent property tax increase during a recession
- Intrusive shoreland zoning proposals
- Unelected regional transit authority with power to raise taxes by $42 million annually
- Catch and release county jail policy
- General weirdness
The result is, in my experience, the largest number of challenged seats since 1994 when your faithful blogger was elected to the first of six history-making terms.
For brevity's sake, I will use only last names. (For the candidates' full names and contact info, check here.) Here is your 2010 Dane County Board, by the numbers (liberals in blue, moderate-conservatives in red):
- Total number of county board supervisors: 37
- Current liberal to moderate-conservative make-up of the free-spending Dane County Board: 25 to 12
- Number of contested seats: 20
- Liberal seats that are contested: 15
- Number of those 15 liberal seats contested by a moderate-conservative: 13
- Number of seats with no incumbent (and thus, "open"): 4 (Manning, Wheeler, Kostelic, Opitz are not seeking re-election)
- Percentage of those open seats now held by liberals: 100%
- Open liberal seats being challenged by a moderate-conservative: 3 out of 4 (Nancy Wild for Wheeler's seat v. Sargent in NE Madison, Clausius and Schwartzer for Kostelic's seat v. Gofstein in Sun Prairie [the only primary, February 16], Gamer for Opitz's seat v. Corrigan in Middleton)
- The exception: 1 (The UW campus seat being vacated by Manning has a Democrat, Eicher, and a Prog Dane, Johnson)
- Incumbent liberals being challenged by a moderate-conservative: 10 (DeSmidt by Imhoff in east Madison, Hulsey by Hull on the west side, Veldran by Thomsen on the SW side, Rusk by Raulin in Maple Bluff-East side, DeFelice by Jennisen on the SE side, Schmidt by Barry in Monona-Madison, Richmond by Kritch in Bayview Madison, Downing by Steinhauer in SW Dane County, Miles by Zimmerman in McFarland, Duranczyk by Siitari in Stoughton)
- Liberal incumbents contested by something else: 1 (Chairman McDonell challenged by the unclassifiable DeNure)
- Liberal incumbents who get a free ride (no opponent): 10 (Vedder, Hendrick, Bayrd, Hesselbein, Levin, Matano, Erickson, Stoebig, Stubbs, Hampton)
- Moderate-conservatives who get a free ride: 7 (Salov, Solberg, Willett, Jensen, Ripp, Bruskewitz, O'Loughlin)
- Moderate-conservative incumbents who are contested: 5 (Ferrell by McKinney on the SW side; Gau by Shea in rural Sun Prairie; Wiganowsky by Potter in Cottage Grove/Burke, Schlicht by Green in northwest Dane County, Martz by Sam "Ain't that good news" Cooke in Fitchburg)
- Open conservative seats: 0
Blaska's Bottom Line: The current Dane County Board is more hardcore liberal than at any time since least since 1992, when conservatives took back the board under Brother Mike's wise chairmanship. To overcome their present 25-12 disadvantage, moderate-conservatives would have to pick up 7 of the 13 seats now held by libs in which they have fielded candidates -- 3 of them in now "open" seats. All the while they would have to hold their five incumbents. That scenario creates a 19-18 moderate-conservative majority -- certainly not veto-proof, but a majority.
I see one of the 5 moderate-conservative incumbents in trouble but that candidate has withstood challenges in the past. The other 4 should be just fine. Only 4 open seats out of 37 is very low, indeed.
Who is on the endangered species list among the libs? I really do not know. How is that for modesty? I can guess at 3 or 4 mod-conservative breakthroughs right off the bat. Some of that is due to the gross malfeasance of the incumbents, some of it is owed to the previous voting history of the district; another factor is the perceived strength of the challenger versus the flaccid nature of the incumbent. But it's much too early. I don't have a good fix on who will ring the doorbells hard and hit 'em in the direct mail where it hurts. But a pick-up of 7 out of 13 is no fantasy. But only 3 of those pick-ups can come out of open seats, meaning knocking off an incumbent.
Now, an admission of guilt: I did not recruit a single one of the moderate-conservative challengers, although I tried. Nor do I know any of them personally, except for one of the Sun Prairie candidates. I do have a rough outline of each of them, however, due to diligent inquiries. I'll do more research but at first blush it looks like a good team, heavy on self-employed small business people -- the heartbeat of America (except on the Isthmus).
Some things I know, the rest is speculation
I know the Sheriff's Deputies Association is frustrated with the board's public safety-last agenda and will be fully engaged in these races, much as the Madison Police were in last Spring's city council campaigns. The Realtor's Association will be involved, as always, and so will the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, for the first time in many years. So, those of you who hate home-owning and employers and love high taxes and big government, you should be in high dudgeon at the unfairness of it all.
(How is that "hopey changey" thing working out for you?)
I know that almost 500 citizens turned out against the Shoreland Zoning proposals at two public hearings.
I know that even train-lovers are incensed over the county board's creation of an RTA that can raise taxes and condemn property without recourse to the voters.
I know that people are tired of more and more taxes with fewer and fewer services.
They are leery of growing an ever-bigger government that can take away what you have earned. Some of this is energized by a feckless state government that "balances" its budget with accounting tricks. More of it is fueled by a federal government that proposes to nationalize health care but can't keep an identified Al Qaeda terrorist off an airplane even when the moke's father points him out.
These are the issues that prompted these citizens to make the race.
I expect The Capital Times and AFSCME to be especially vicious. Watch the teachers union double down, since there's nothing going on in the Madison school board race (unless Tom Farley can get his act together.) The greens and the bicycle-first crowd will push their agenda at the expense of people services.
I wish that Tom Still were running the Wisconsin State Journal's editorial page.
Before you cavil at my use of the term moderate-conservative realize hat at least two of their incumbents have been or continue to be dues-paying Democrats who part with the downtown Democrat(ic) party/Progressive Dane coalition office holders who, in any nother county outside Dane, would be considered mainstream liberal.
General Election: Tuesday, April 6