The competing press releases over endorsements from teachers unions in the 77th Assembly district was the closest a state political debate has ever come to resembling a rap battle. While the winners were popping bottles and listening to 2Pac, the losers were commiserating to the tune of "Hurt Feelings," by Flight of the Conchords (the only hip-hop version on youtube I could find was in Spanish).
Let's start with the winners. At the top of the list would be Dianne Hesselbein, who received the endorsement of AFT-Wisconsin, the second largest teacher's union in the state. Representing over 17,000 teachers and other public sector workers, AFT likely has many members in the district, and is already out knocking on doors in support of Hesselbein.
A few days later, Madison Teachers Inc. came out in support of Green Party candidate Ben Manski. According to its president, John Matthews, 459 of the union's nearly 5,000 members live in the 77th district. While some in other camps grumble that the endorsement was the result of a personal friendship between Matthews and Manski, whose mother was involved with MTI, and who has known Matthews since his high school days at Madison West, it nevertheless raised eyebrows in the press, and made Manski's claims of viability more credible.
Moreover, the MTI endorsement was enough to upset candidate John Imes, who put out a press release lamenting the union's neglect of his own candidacy. The release conveyed the notion that other education advocates were disappointed with the union's endorsement process:
"It's unfortunate that MTI members that live in the 77th District will not hear from all the candidates and make their own informed decision on who to support," said Jackie Woodruff, Treasurer for Communities and Schools Together (CAST) and a member of The Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools (WAES).
When I talked to Matthews, he said he had talked to Imes extensively before the endorsement, and called Imes lack of invitation to the interviews "an oversight," and said he apologizes.
And of course there was Brett Hulsey, who has kept his sights on Hesselbein, who he clearly perceives as his main competition. In light of her endorsement by the AFT, Hulsey put out a release entitled "Teachers Endorse Brett Hulsey for Assembly." By "teachers" he was referring to 15 individual teachers from various area schools.
Unions always matter in elections, and they matter more in Democratic primaries. But they matter even more in Democratic primaries in which there will likely be a very low voter turnout, as the lack of a competitive Dem gubernatorial race seems to indicate. If the boasting from the winners last week doesn't indicate that, the response from the losers certainly does.