It's way past my bedtime, but before before I turn in, here's some early analysis on Tuesday's spring election, particularly the results from Madison and Dane County.
- Take heart in the statewide results. Look, nobody expected Supreme Court Justice Pat Roggensack to be defeated, but Ed Fallone put up respectable numbers in a campaign that had little in the way of resources. And an excellent State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers was easily re-elected over extreme right-wing legislator Don Pridemore.
Right out of the box, Pridemore looked like a serious threat, but his campaign never got traction. And spring voters are generally more conservative than those who show up in the fall. I read this as further evidence that the state is far more moderate than the legislature or the governor.
- Speaking of Governor Scott Walker, he still has long reverse coattails in Dane County. Incumbent Judge Rebecca St. John and challenger Rhonda Lanford were as evenly matched as two candidates could be. Both were well-respected lawyers with heavy-hitter endorsements, and both were women.
Yet, Lanford won by a narrow but comfortable enough margin because St. John had been kissed by what in Dane County is political death: the stamp of approval from Walker. I endorsed Lanford and I'm happy she won, but I also have to admit that many attorneys who I respect were with St. John. On the merits, it was a close call, but St. John ended up riding Scott Walker's coattails to defeat.
- In Madison schools, something's happening here. I just don't know exactly what it is. Dean Loumos should have easily defeated Wayne Strong for one open school board seat, and there's no way that 1,400 voters in another open seat should have voted for a write-in candidate who wasn't even campaigning.
Loumos had the support of Madison Teachers Inc. (MTI) and other long-established institutional interests, yet as of this hour he is hanging onto a razor-thin lead over Wayne Strong. And in the race that was left to T.J. Mertz to win after Sarah Manski dropped out, it appears that the third place finisher in the primary, Ananda Mirilli, will get 4% of the vote from voters who wrote her name in, even though she had declined to run a write-in campaign. Those can only be regarded akin to protest votes, even though Mertz was also endorsed by MTI and is generally well-respected. Strong's support came from the liberal near west side (my people) and most of Mirilli's write in votes came from liberal bastions here and on the isthmus. It looks like even liberal voters are sending a message that they want change.
- While it wasn't a great night for MTI, it also wasn't a pretty evening for the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce. They endorsed 14 candidates, but six of those had no active opponent at all, and only four of those races were seriously contested. Of the really contested races, they finished one-and-three.
Their candidate, respected neighborhood leader Scott Thornton, got shellacked in District 6 where incumbent Marsha Rummel won going away. They lost narrowly in District 2, where long-time activist Ledell Zellers won an open seat over bright newcomer Bryan Post. (He should run again for this or another office.) The most heart-breaking loss for the Chamber and the city was Alder Tim Bruer -- more on that below. The only hotly contested seat where the Chamber candidate won was District 12, where the sort-of incumbent Larry Palm took home the prize with a comfortable margin.
- You'll miss him when he's gone. A lot of people talk a lot about poverty. For over two decades on the council and in his work raising money to heat the homes of the poor, Tim Bruer actually did something about it.
I am mystified as to why the Dane County Democratic Party and other liberals came out in force against the most effective anti-poverty advocate the city has had in recent memory. Yes, Bruer's style can be off-putting if you don't know him. He could talk your ear off, but he wouldn't give it back until you did something positive for the people he represented. I don't know John Strasser, the newcomer who defeated Bruer. I wish John the best, but it's the city that will be poorer for Tim Bruer's loss.
This was an interesting evening, heartening in some ways and disappointing in others. But all the candidates who put their name on the line deserve our thanks. Local politics especially is public service in its purest form. The compensation is low and the headaches can be high. Everyone who runs and everyone who goes on to serve has my respect.
Now I'm going to bed.