Mark Pienkos of Lake Geneva, a former chair of the Walworth County Democrats, was elected chair of the 1st Congressional District Democrats this morning, at the group's annual meeting held at Infusino's. He replaces Ray Rivera of Kenosha, who was chair for four years and did not run for re-election. Pienkos defeated David Corey of Burlington for the position.
His top priority: Electing a Democrat to replace six-term Congressman Paul Ryan. "We have an opportunity in 2010 to elect a Democrat," he said. "We have conceded the district to Ryan for the past five elections." The unkindest cut of all to Pienkos: In 2008 Barack O'Bama not only won the state by a wide margin, he even took the 1st Congressional District. And yet, Ryan won re-election by a big margin.
Refering to yesterday's news that Chrysler's engine plant will close as part of the auto company's reorganization, Pienkos said, "Kenosha is losing jobs. Paul Ryan needs to answer for that."
"It all comes down to his stimulus vote," said Pienkos, a school superintendent. "Paul Ryan voted against this bill, against the 500,000 people per month who are losing their jobs. We've got to change the perception that we've got a Congressman working for us."
Pienkos said he will focus on getting greater visibility for the 1st CD Dems on the county level, in part by personally appearing at their meetings.
Other speakers also made Ryan the target of their remarks. Jason Stephany, who became Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin in mid-March, said Ryan "has a really, really great way of lying to your face." Despite his vote against the stimulus bill, "he will be here taking credit for every shovel-ready project." Stephany and others said Ryan has his eye on statewide office and national office, but Democrats "should fight for every single vote, in every single district."
Said Jeff Hall: "Paul Ryan has been touted as the idea guy of the Republican Party. Well, that doesn't take much."
Paulette Garin of Kenosha, who came in second to Marge Krupp last year for the nomination to oppose Ryan ("while spending one-tenth"), said "2010 may be the perfect storm to defeat Ryan." Will she run in the next election? she asked herself rhetorically. "Maybe," she said, pointing out that her campaign committee is still intact, has no debts and will expand its grassroots base.
Peter Barca, the former Congressman who now represents Kenosha in the state Assembly, said "It's a new day in America," with a Democratic president, Democratic control of Congress and the state Legislature. "Isn't it time these winds of change blow across the 1st Congressional District? But here we have somebody trying to block the wind."
"Barack O'Bama is leading the parade down Main Street," he said, "but Paul Ryan is leading it down Wall Street."
The convention, attended by about 100 party members and delegates, elected the following new officers:
- Chair: Mark Pienkos
- Alternate Chair: David Corey
- 1st Vice Chair: Steve Herr
- 2nd Vice Chair: Brent Nance
- 3rd Vice Chair: Gail Gabrelian
- 4th Vice Chair: Steve Butts
- Admin. Rep.: Marilyn 'Mike' Nemeth
- Admin. Alternate: Meg Andrietsch
- Platform/Resolutions: Bob Huele
- Platform/Resolutions Alternate: Tom Ralston
- Secretary: John Heckenlively
- Treasurer: Norm Buchholz