Almost all of the political oxygen in this April’s election has been taken up by the Supreme Court race, But, as the campaigns enter their final weekend, there are other contests to keep an eye on, most notably races for mayor in Green Bay and Racine.
Here in Madison we have yet another mayoral race between shades of liberal. There is very little in the way of policy differences between incumbent Satya Rhodes-Conway and her challenger Gloria Reyes. That just reflects the overwhelming political consensus that exists here in the Emerald City, something I’ve often lamented because when ideas aren’t challenged they just become more entrenched and understanding of those with different views becomes almost impossible.
Not so in Wisconsin’s third and fifth largest cities (Kenosha slides in at #4). There we have the opposite problem from stultifying consensus: nasty polarization. In Green Bay incumbent Eric Genrich faces a stiff challenge from Brown County administrator Chad Weininger while down in Racine the incumbent is Cory Mason and he faces Ald. Henry Perez. All except Perez have been state legislators, Genrich and Mason were Democrats and Weininger was a Republican.
But I use the past tense loosely here because these contests, just like the Supreme Court race, are nonpartisan in name only. Interest groups and money have lined up in predictable partisan ways and hot button culture wars issues have been pulled into the discussions.
In Green Bay there have been the usual municipal dust-ups over potholes and the number of cops on the street, but there has also been a controversy over a flag pole. That’s right, a flag pole. It sits outside city hall and has occasionally flown a rainbow flag. Everybody used to love rainbows. No more. See Tuesday’s YSDA essay.
A Green Bay council member introduced a resolution metaphorically burning the rainbow flag. What it actually did was restrict flyable flags to Old Glory and the flags of Wisconsin and Green Bay. The vote, in the evenly split council, was six-to-six with Mayor Genrich breaking the tie in favor of rainbows. The anti-rainbow crowd is furious while Weininger is carefully ducking the rainbow issue altogether.
Genrich is also taking heat from part of the left and all of the right for something over which he probably had little input. Security cameras outside of the council chambers and the mayor’s office were equipped with sound recording capability. The ACLU weighed in from the left and conservative paranoia was inflamed. Genrich backed up the police, who wanted the recording because they were worried that verbal spats might erupt into physical altercations — another indication of how polarization was impacting the city. Even if Genrich had approved the voice recording beforehand he clearly didn’t do it because he wanted to eavesdrop on his political opponents. It was probably a bad idea, but it wasn’t malicious and the sound recording has now been disabled in any event.
Things have gotten to the point where each candidate has received one death threat.
In Racine, Cory Mason has a long progressive record and Perez is presenting the hard-right alternative. But in this case the headline is Mason’s fundraising prowess. He has raised and spent an astounding $500,000. That’s as much as Paul Soglin and I spent combined when we ran against each other in 2011, and in a city which is more than three times bigger than Racine. By contrast, Perez has raised only about $25,000, much of it from Republican legislators and interest groups. With that kind of money advantage for Mason, if Perez even comes close on election day that’ll be noteworthy.
Because the Supreme Court race is driving turnout everywhere and because that has become a simple up or down vote on abortion and because about 85% of Wisconsinites favor the option of an abortion at least in cases of rape or incest (which the 1849 law does not allow) I expect that Genrich and Mason will prevail. If they do the lesson I’ll take from that is that the abortion issue is now officially an overwhelming plus for Democrats at all levels. Republicans can throw all the culture wars stuff they want, from rainbow flags to CRT, at Democrats and Big Blue will still prevail because of abortion.
Have a good weekend.
Postscript: An alert reader points out that the fundraising prowess isn’t necessarily Cory Mason’s. Turns out the state Democratic Party kicked in over $400,000 to his race. That’s unheard of and it is certainly the result of the party being flush with cash thanks to national money flowing in because of the Supreme Court race.
If you vote in Madison please consider Badri Lankella for school board. He would be a voice of reason to counter the current board majority.