Do you people even care about this race? If so, then why was nobody responding to my gut-wrenching description of last night's debate on Twitter? Usually the tweeters of Sconz Nation are so responsive. I forgive you, but make sure you start paying attention after the primary.
Anyway, Lin Weeks gave some analysis of the questions asked at the forum. Here's my analysis of the answers.
All the candidates had distinct appeals. Eileen Bruskewitz was not particularly eloquent but came off as earnest. Significantly, she was the only candidate who did not in some way align herself with Democratic politics at some point in the debate, which is an important fact for conservative voters. Despite some of Brandon's right-leaning appeals on issues, he did tout the support of Jim Doyle, a fact that card-carrying Republicans will be hard-pressed to overlook.
Joe Wineke was folksy, although not quite as much so as in previous debates, I am told. He repeatedly called for decency and honesty in politics, and he stuck by the mantra when asked to name a mistake he'd made in his career; he responded that he regretted his support for a repeal of the inheritance tax during his days in the Assembly. He also openly appealed to rural voters, decrying the "country mouse-town mouse divide" in the county, as well as saying he was skeptical of a tax for regional transit and against cuts to sheriffs deputies.
Joe Parisi was very good. He was articulate and he often had a good anecdote to illustrate his positions. In describing his motivation to run, he told the story of how public servants had been there for him when, after dropping out of high school, he decided to turn his life around. He emphasized his ability to work with the Republicans, and gave an example of a bill he got the GOP to pass that would stop rape victims from being billed for their post-assault examinations.
McDonell was also good. He distinguished himself from other candidates by talking about his experience as a leader in county government, saying that most of what had been done over the past 5 years had been the work of Kathleen Falk and him. He provided good examples of policies he'd worked on, including reducing the jail population and the mental health waitlist, as well as setting up a domestic partnership registry. He also defended the audit of the Sheriff's Department that Bruskewitz called "a hunk of junk." It is clear who his target voter is: The liberal Madisonian.
Zach Brandon was confident in his attempt to stake out a position in the center of the political spectrum. "Of all the candidates here, I'm the only one who's proposed any new ideas," he said at one point. He also criticized the other candidates for focusing so much on the new governor, saying he wouldn't wait to see what Walker does before leading. In addition, he expressed skepticism of a sales tax to fund the RTA and ridiculed the Sheriff Deputies audit, saying "you can get a study to say just about anything."
The debate highlighted important differences in style and substance between the candidates, but a more important indication of the candidate's chances will come on Monday, when the campaign finance reports are due.
Correction: Earlier I wrote that Zach Brandon expressed skepticism of the RTA. He is actually supportive of the RTA but skeptical of levying a sales tax to fund it, especially commuter rail.