Congratulations, Mark Pocan! Congrats are also in order for Therese Berceau, Joe Parisi, Mark Miller, and Fred Risser. If your luck holds out, you may already have won... reelection.
The state filing deadline for candidates for the November ballot is Tuesday, July 8th. As of Independence Day, with just days to spare, the Madison area delegation to the state legislature is unopposed.
For Mark Pocan, that seems a good thing. Pocan is hard at work doing his best to elect a Democratic majority in the State Assembly. An opponent, or two, would force him to shift his energies back to running in his own district.
But you've got to wonder whether uncontested elections are good for Madison, good for Wisconsin, or even, in the end, good for Mark Pocan. It is not Pocan's fault that so many races are done deals. To his credit, he has made it a priority to field a Democratic candidate in every Assembly district in Wisconsin.
But for the Madison area, the reality remains the same. With no contest, there is no election. With no election, there is no accountability. And without accountability, well, who are these Madison Democrats representing, anyway?
Reform the system, vote La Follette!
It is tempting to blame the Republicans for failing to field candidates. But the reality is that recent Republican candidates have left the local field of electoral battle not limping, but on stretchers.
The Green Party and the now defunct Labor Farm Party have contested just two legislative elections over the past two decades, and their candidates outperformed the Republicans, respectively winning 25% and 37% of the vote. But blaming the Greens for failing to regularly run candidates isn't fair either.
The Greens may have broader local appeal than the Republicans, but they are still a small party with little money, and limited in their ability to field candidates.
Besides, the Greens didn't draw up these districts or write the election laws. In fact, together with Progressive Dane, they advocate for voting rights reforms like Instant Runoff Voting and Proportional Representation.
Under Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), in which voters rank their candidate preferences, there is no "spoiler problem" because a voter can rank their top choice candidate highest knowing that if that candidate fails to win a majority in the first round of ballot counting, the voter's second (or third, fourth, etc.) most preferred candidate will eventually receive their vote. IRV also solves the "non-majority problem," in which candidates win office with a minority of the vote (think Clinton 1992 or Bush 2000).
With Proportional Representation (PR), 25% of the vote gets you 25% of the seats. In practice this would mean that in a citywide election in which Democrats won 50% of the vote, Greens won 25%, and Republicans won 25% (I'll be charitable), Democrats would wind up with half the seats and Greens and Republicans would receive a quarter of the seats each.
While IRV and PR are commonplace across much of the rest of the world, they are still new to most Americans. That is beginning to change. In nearby Minneapolis, a coalition of Democrats, Greens, and Independents recently won a ballot measure bringing IRV to city elections. Anything Gophers can do, Badgers can certainly do better. In a place like Madison, where spoiling is not so much of an issue but uncontested elections are, IRV and PR could make a big difference in bringing democracy back into our elections.
Until then, go to the polls and cast your ballot. And if your response to an uncontested election is to write someone in, I have a name for you: Belle Case La Follette, Jr.
She's sweet. She's very smart. She's named after one of Wisconsin's most important historical public figures. She's my dog. And she'll lick your ears.
She wins everyone over and would make an excellent representative to our State Capitol.
Take pitty, adopt a Pit!
In this week's Isthmus, Vikki Kratz reports that the Dane County Humane Society is cutting down on the number of Pit Bulls they take in and release for adoption. That makes for more dead and abused Pits.
Did I mention that Belle is a Pit Bull? She is the friendliest person I've ever met. It has been almost two years since we adopted Belle from the Dane County Humane Society, and in that time we've learned a lot about Pit Bulls and people's attitudes towards them.
Pits are, as a rule, some of the smartest, most loyal, and yes, toughest dogs around. (When my wife and I hear something go thud in the night, we know it's just Belle falling off the couch). Given their strength, smarts, and their negative image, they need a lot of work. But they give back tenfold. These are not blah dogs, like some breeds I could mention.
If you have been thinking about adopting a dog, please head down to the Dane County Humane Society and take a look at the Pit Bulls they have there. Adopt the first one that licks your ears.
And if you're just looking right now for a long distance dog-person-relationship, well, Belle is always looking for friends on Facebook. She's got a profile, check it out...