Angry, confused, disgusted, fed up.
That describes many Wisconsin voters who have had enough of attack campaign ads.
Gov. Scott Walker, who survived the most contentious campaign in state history to win a recall election, has called on candidates for U.S. Senate in the Republican primary election Aug. 14 to be more civil.
It is a four-way race but only three candidates have been actively campaigning – Eric Hovde, Mark Neumann and Tommy Thompson. Jeff Fitzgerald ran his first ad last week.
The old adage about lies certainly applies to the ads by candidates for the November election against Democrat Tammy Baldwin.
None of the ads attacking an opponent passes the truth test. Outside groups cloud the process with ads promoting their “most favored” ally.
The admonition “You can’t believe all you hear” applies. A comment, vote or personal fact is taken out of context, twisted and given the personal “I support this ad” endorsement.
Separating fact from fiction about a candidate requires a lot of time. A good source to glean information is the Internet. Several sites must be consulted to make a decision on more than a good feeling or hunch.
A view of the candidates:
Eric Hovde, 48
A political novice, Hovde is an example of the American Success story. After graduating UW-Madison worked as a financial advisor, at 24 used $5,000 to begin his own financial advisory firm. In 1994, took his life savings to buy controlling interest in a savings bank in distress, turned it around and since that time invested in several community banks.
He currently heads Hovde Properties LLC, began by his grandfather, which purchases, develops and manages real estate in Wisconsin. In addition, he is a significant shareholder and board member of ePlus, Inc. a value-added reseller of technology products.
Hovde Foundation supports clinical research to cure multiple sclerosis and provides shelter and supportive services to people in crisis, especially street and neglected children in the United States, Africa and Latin America.
Mark Neumann, 58
A former Congressman and state office holder, last Friday Neumann was endorsed by the Tea Party Express. It is an important backing because Neumann has passed the test as a fiscal conservative – something that at times earned the wrath of Republican leaders when he was in Congress, His biggest supporter has been the anti-tax group Club for Growth, sponsor of many attack ads on his opponents.
Neumann virtually built his finances in construction, beginning with homes in the Milton and Janesville area. A UW-Whitewater graduate, he taught math at River Falls High School while attending the university there and earning a master’s degree.
Getting elected has not been easy for Neumann, beginning with a loss to popular incumbent Congressman Les Aspin in 1992. He was elected to the seat in 1995 and served until 1999,.
He lost the 2010 primary for governor against Walker.
Tommy Thompson, 70
Thompson, former Governor, state Assembly Speaker and former Health and Human Services Director, is the oldest candidate and has spent 38 years in public office building connections.
He remains connected to the Belt Way as member of a law firm and has been a member of several boards, including Amtrak.
Thompson had the advantage of boom times to push a highway and tourism agenda. Also has high marks for Wisconsin Works, an incentive program to get people off welfare into jobs and BadgerCare, a state managed insurance for W2 participants and state residents unable to purchase affordable health insurance.
More controversial are some issues with long term impact on state finances. Expanding the Wisconsin Retirement System that led to unfunded liabilities for counties, schools and municipalities; setting revenue property tax limits on local government and state funding of 60% of school construction. He also used one-time sources of revenue to balance a budget that continued for next dozen years before a “bitter pill” solution balanced the current state budget.
Jeff Fitzgerald, 46
Fitzgerald is current speaker of the Republican controlled Wisconsin State Assembly. He attended UW-Green Bay and graduated from UW-Oshkosh. He was a small business owner and ad served on the Beaver Dam Common Council. Fitzgerald is a member of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
He has remained above the fray as a self-proclaimed “candidate of last resort” when the big three destroy each other.
View From the End Stool
My favorite when the slate of candidates became final was Neumann. However, he sat on the sidelines several months while Hovde built a following with his constituency using both TV and on the stump.
In the primary to succeed Russ Feingold in the U.S. Senate, the decision between Neumann and Ron Johnson was last minute – with the vote going to Johnson because of his ties to the New London area. Johnson has proven to be more than expected in his initial year in the Senate.
This time the choice is between Hovde and Neumann, a political newcomer and a tested, proven fiscal conservative.
I never considered Tommy as one of those who views his 14 years as governor as one term too many as the main contributor to our budget woes from local to state finances over more than a decade.
It will be another last second decision as I mark X on the ballot