Lost somewhere on my bike in between Ben Manski's party and Brett Hulsey's party in a seemingly endless expanse of concrete strip malls and four-lane roads, I had to ask myself: is the state's 77th Assembly district really all that progressive and environmentally minded?
The two liberals had been slugging it out to replace Rep. Spencer Black, who in 26 years in the Assembly had become known for his progressive leadership on the environment, education and labor. But to me, the 77th district looks like just any old suburb. Where's my damn trolley?
In the end, voters went with Hulsey, the more traditional Democratic candidate, over Manski, the progressive from the Green Party. The unofficial tally had Hulsey with 49% of the vote to Manski's 31%. Republican David Redick had almost 18% and Constitutional Party candidate David Olsen had less than 2%.
Manski worked hard to prove he could win on a third party ticket. But even before many returns came in, many of his supporters at his party at the Great Dane in Hilldale seemed doubtful he'd pull it off.
"He's up against incredible odds, but he's the candidate of the future and the party of the future," Ken Sabroff said of Manski. "Ben's a newcomer. But if he would have had more time, he would have sewn up the 77th."
But most it was telling that most of the people I spoke to didn't live in the district. Mark Opitz, who served with Hulsey on the Dane County Board of Supervisors, said Hulsey's style turns off a lot of the people involved in politics.
Hulsey survived the race despite some major last minute gaffes on his part. The weekend before the election, Black withdrew his endorsement because Hulsey attributed a quote to him that he told him not to. He also claimed endorsements from US Rep. Tammy Baldwin and state Rep. Mark Pocan that he didn't have.
Hulsey joked about the error in his victory speech, saying "We're probably going to have a new endorsement form." He also said he'd spoken to Black and they'd planned to take a bike ride together soon.
Hulsey attributed his victory to "living in the district for 16 years, serving on the Dane County Board of Supervisors for 12 years, knocking on 8,000 doors and focusing on a positive campaign."
But the night's news wasn't all positive for Hulsey. He'll be taking the job with a Republican governor, Scott Walker. Hulsey says he's known Walker through his work on the county board, but says, "Get ready for stormy weather. I'm used to standing up to the right wing."
But he adds his approach to dealing with conservatives, especially on environmental issues, is to "focus on saving money. That's what conservatives and Republicans understand."