October 28, 2010

Wanggaard's no show looms over candidate forum; Lehman rips opponent as extreme advocate for the rich

Where's Waldo....um, Wanggaard? From left are Anthony DeCubellis,
John Lehman, Cory Mason, George Meyers, Bob Turner and Chris Wright

Van Wanggaard is either confident or scared.

Those are the only two explanations for the Republican state Senate candidate's absence Thursday night from a community forum that attracted six of the seven local men (another election, another shortage of female candidates) running for state office, including his opponent, state Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine.

Wanggaard's absence allowed Lehman to tee off on him. In his closing remarks, Racine's incumbent senator summed up Wanggaard by describing his five-point platform as:

  • Trickle down policies that benefit the rich in hopes that it will eventually the middle class and poor.
  • Vague promises on government cuts with no specifics on where he'd reduce government spending.
  • Concealed carry for everyone.
  • Tax cuts for the wealthy 
  • End research on embryonic stem cells

The problem for Lehman is painting Wanggaard in extreme (though fairly accurate) terms may do little to sway voters to send him back to Madison for four years. National and local polls suggest Republicans are poised for huge gains on Tuesday, and candidates like Wanggaard may be swept along without the need to debate issues on anyone's terms but their own.

But Tuesday's expected outcome did not deter Community for Change, which organized its third major candidate forum in the past two years. Lehman, State Reps. Cory Mason and Bob Turner, and Assembly candidates George Meyers, Anthony DeCubellis, and Chris Wright all participated in the forum. Marcia Vlach Colsmith, Diana Kovacs, and Betsy Georg served as moderators. About 60 people attended the forum.

Chris Wright, left, and Cory Mason before the forum.

The candidates addressed a variety of issues from job creation to abortion and public transportation. There was a wide variety of answers thanks to the participation of three Democrats, a Republican, and two Libertarians, but discussion focused on cutting government spending and creating jobs.

Left to carry the Republican banner on his own, Wright, who is challenging Mason for the Assembly, was reserved in his stances, like a call for a streamlined state government with a long-term plan to avoid the state's continual budget crisis. He even apologized for a pro-life stance that earned an endorsement from Pro Life Wisconsin Wisconsin Right to Life. His responses led one liberal observer to comment, "As much as I try to dislike him, I just can't. He gives thoughtful answers."

DeCubellis, who is running for Mason's seat, and Meyers, who is challenging Turner, took on the role of critics of state government. DeCubellis wondered if a $5.7 million state loan to lure an Italian packaging company to Racine was worth the 189 jobs it created. At that rate, he said, Racine needs to lure 70 more companies to employ the area's 14,000 unemployed people.

George Meyers
and Bob Turner, right

"$5.7 million to create 200 jobs isn't worth it," he said.

DeCubellis added he's not in favor of tax cuts only for businesses or the rich. "I want to give tax cuts to everyday people," he said.

Meyers continued his mission of educating the public on the Libertarian perspective. His answers came across as mini lectures about the need for a return to 50 years ago when government didn't delve into people's lives, and people didn't rely on government for help.

Anthony DeCubellis, left

He also opened a unique line of discussion around  abortion by explaining the difference between killing and murder, and then exploring the point at which we evolve from being a "vegetable" to being a "spiritual being."

Thursday's forum, though, really came down to Wanggaard's absence. Lehman used the public stage to wail on his opponent over Republican proposals to pass tax cuts for people who make more than $300,000 and to allow corporations to sneak around state tax laws.

Lehman also offered a brief lecture of his own, pointing out all of these calls for cuts at the state level force local governments to increase property taxes simply to maintain services. As they stand, Republican plans would result in massive cuts in local aids to local governments and schools. That means cities, villages, and towns will be forced to tax more or cut basic services like police and fire.

John Lehman, right

"No jobs are created with these cuts," Lehman said. "I don't believe in this 'trickle-down stuff.'"

Wanggaard wasn't there to respond. So was he scared or confident? Probably both. He's confident he'll win Tuesday, and he was afraid to join Lehman at the forum and risk saying something that will turn voters against him.

The good news for Wanggaard is most seem to have checked out of this election. Even The Journal Times felt pulling together six of the seven candidates on next Tuesday's ballot was a ho-hum event. They didn't even bother to send a reporter. (Compared, we'd point out, to RacinePost's 100% attendance at the forum. For whatever reason we actually care about this stuff.)

So Wanggaard's probably going to win Tuesday, along with Scott Walker, Ron Johnson, and many more Republicans nationwide. Let's hope they're as responsive to the public as they've tried to be over the last six months.

Wanggaard is off to a poor start.

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  1. Anthony De Cubellis10/28/2010 10:40 PM

    I'm glad 200 jobs are coming to the Racine County area but at $5.7 million per 200 jobs we'd need $400 million to employ the city of Racine's 14,000 unemployed. That's the Democratic version of trickle-down economics and it's an unsustainable job-creation policy. We need to work on the basics and not front taxpayer handouts to big business.

  2. Ricardo says: An informed voters only votes for what he knows and believes. I Know John Lehman - he is up-front and will tell you the truth and what he stands for. He gets my vote. One who does not debate, discuss or answer questions in any public gathering is an unknown quantity and should be avoided! Senator Lehman has shown he will stand up and vote for the people!

  3. The statement, "So Wanggaard's probably going to win Tuesday, along with Scott Walker, Ron Johnson, and many more Republicans nationwide" has got to be the call to all who care about this city, state, and country because if we let them win our middle class will be ruined.

  4. You left out the actual reason Mr. Wanggaard wasn't there. He was at the county board meeting doing the job he was elected to do; he was working on passing a ZERO increase county budget.

    If he had skipped the board meeting to attend the forum then this article would have attacked Wanggaard for missing the county board meeting to attend a political event.

    Rather then make up reasons he wasn't there, maybe you should have called his campaign and gotten a statement? I hear that's what real journalists do.

  5. I think Lehman lost support while trying to push the train no one wants-KRM.

    Van is pro growth-he mentioned supporting the 794 extension into Racine County during the JT live webchat. Lehman didnt give a yes or no answer.

  6. I'm sure those six other guys had nothing better to do anyway right?

    If Van was doing his job instead of meeting with constituents maybe he can list the dates his committee met regarding two baby deaths at the jail? No? That's because they have never met.

    I guess he had other things to do.

  7. Wanggaard was a lazy cop. Did nothing for me when I needed his help. I had to do it myself. Will he help us now? I dont think so.

  8. Lehman did NOTHING to save Film Wisconsin other the do what Doyle wanted him to. Lehman needs to go NOW (Mason too)

  9. More editorializing while pretending to report the news: "though fairly accurate" my @ss. Exactly what I expect from the Racine Post. Van Waangard was DOING HIS JOB and you would have ripped him for attending a forum and campaigning on the taxpayer's time. That of course was the trap that the PARTISAN sponsor of this event, the Obama Koolaid drinkers of Organizing for America, intended to lay for him, wasn't it, Kelly?

    Any real economist will tell you that John Lehman is wrong, wrong, wrong - He should know better, but instead he lets his leftist ideology cloud his judgment. He does NOT represent the people of Racine, he represents the special interests: WEAC, AFSCME, and SEIU.

    John Lehman: Nobody's Senator but WEAC's

  10. Nope, no bias here, move along, nothing to see.

    County Supervisor doing his job, Racine Post helping their pals on the left.

    A new low for Dustin.

  11. Racine Post spins every political article for the favor of Democrats. Maybe the Post should ask the organizers of the event why they scheduled it during a important county meeting. Where's Waldo - doing the job he was elected to do. Racine Post - you boys should be ashamed of yourselves.

  12. Dustin,
    You self righteous little liberal gossip! How is your wife? Oh by the way why have you never done an article about Lehman and his draft dodging?

  13. Lehman has been throwing false claims against Van for months. John looks more desparate with every claim. I've known both these guys for years. Van has tried to run a positive campaign against the constant negatives of Lehman. It is sad to see Lehman stoop to such negative tactics. John when you stoop so low it makes it clear you don't feel that you can make a positive campaign on your record.

    To make this a real news story the editorials should have been left out. We are smart enough to form our own views. We don't need help understanding the message.

  14. 8:26 you have hit a new low. Bitch about The Post your right to attack family not called for at all!
    Lehman (who I do not like and will not vote for) was pardoned for that action Use the facks and issues not personal attacks

  15. Lehman is a felon. Let's make sure everyone knows it!

  16. I can't wait until this election season is over and that whiney, lying libertarian Tony can stfu.

  17. Van checked out of his County Board job months ago when he was drafted by Republican to take on Lehman. Van, as head of the County Board's Public Protection and Justice System Committee, refused to investigate the lost jail contracts or several other jail issues. He wasn't doing his job because he didn't want to get mixed up in a local issue heading into the state election. Thursday night's budget hearing is a convenient excuse. The article hits it just right. Van is scared and confident. He's not going to Madison to lead. He's going to do what he's told.

  18. Wangaard was at the County board public hearing last night listening to the public. The Racine County board has a 3% increase over last year to pass in the next couple of weeks or so. It was an almost zero percent increase in the tax levy. The budget is still going up. You can view the budget at www.racineco.com. By the way, where were you? Your absence automatically allows approval of a 3% budget increase.

  19. Correction to the story. Chris Wright was endorsed by Wisconsin Right to Life, not Pro Life Wisconsin. The change is noted in the story.

  20. Van does not want to talk issues. Vos cannot do it for him

  21. Wanggaard could not attend due to a County Board budget meeting.

    Also, Wanggaard has debated Lehman three times (UpFront with Mike Gousha, WGTD 91.1 FM's Community Matters, and Journal Times Online Candidate Forum).

    Finally, Wanggaard has held campaign town halls all over the county, and has had a near perfect attendance record at listening sessions hosted by County Executive Bill McReynolds.

    Senator Lehman has never held a town hall meeting in his 14 years in the legislature.

    These are all facts. It's unfortunate that the RacinePost has decided to ignore them.

  22. Appearing on radio, or in a fakey online thingie are not the same as being in a public forum. Nor is a "listening session" with only one side represented.

    Admit it: he bailed. End of story.

  23. Van could not attend due to a County Board meeting. As an elected official, he has an obligation to his constituents to represent them at the county level.

    Ignoring his responsibilities as an elected official to further his campaign for senate would be irresponsible. He unquestionably made the appropriate decision.

  24. He's been ignoring his responsibilities for six months!!! Why don't we know more about problems in the jail? Van squashed any investigation!

    He's been campaigning full-time for months. He's not studying county budgets or representing his constituents. And what was he going to do at the budget hearing? Listen to the citizens and then stand up to Mac? Everyone knows the county budget is finished the second it leaves Mac's desk.

    Van couldn't be there out of his concern for his County Board district? Please.

  25. And once again let's not forget that Lehman was a convicted draft evador.

  26. What you're all forgetting is that ALL the candidates were asked way ahead of time when they could be available for a public forum. Wanggaard offered NO times at all (though he later held his own forum).

  27. Ironic. In a quest to attack and paint negatively ONE candidate's inability to participate in the forum, the writer chose to focus on the negative aspects of the forum. When he could have mentioned the fact that they gained quite a number of candidates to attend. Funny how the author seems more preoccupied with bashing one candidate than noting the positive features of an event. And as for that candidate not being at the forum, it was noted in a previous article the reason why he was not going to be attending. Why choose to slant the article around one person? And since the writer made it a big deal that he wasn't there, did that mean all those that DID attend, "didnt really matter"?

  28. Is that guy wearing pink eye shadow?????

  29. Wanggaard had a month to arrange his schedule. County committee meetings are changed all the time. He is just following the GOP lead across the state and country to not debate and risk losing votes.

    Wright showed some backbone. No doubt he understood that if you don't show up your opponent gets to talk about you.

  30. I guess this proves the point. Van does not want to be our state senator he wants to a county supervisor under his buddy Mac. The meeting could be moved, but he chose not to attend. When / if he goes to Madison he can not pick and choose his meetings. If a democrat is chairing a meeting, according to "sir" he will not attend. That is showing great leadership Van.

    Look at racine county. If Van was doing his job maybe the unemployment would be near the national average.

  31. Van showing up at an event featuring 40 people..of which 6 were on the panel and another 6 were the organizers..would have been a huge waste of his time. I agree that Dustin's peice here is clearly editorial response..which he's entitled to do on his "blog". That said I am surprised to hear that Dustin has conceded the race to Wangaard!. I am looking forward to his work on State spending control..like he has done at the County level. Good luck Van.

    By the way Bob Turner brought zero to the debate last night. if you live his district vote for George Meyers. Let's send a smart thrifty Libertarian to Madison he will caucus with the Republicans and will lead them on a mission of Govt. Control. And Tony DeC. You should've run as a Republican/ TEA Party guy. You were great last night, and you would've beat Mason!

  32. Could someone please clarify something? Did Chris Wright actually apologize for being endorsed by a pro-life group? Thank you.

  33. No Wright apologized if his pro-life view offended the questioner, not for being pro-life.

  34. Michael Kroes10/29/2010 10:48 PM

    Van gets my vote.

  35. Maybe some of these democrats can take a symbolic train ride out of town.

  36. The Milwaukee Journal endorsed Lehman, also Feingold. They did pick Walker for Govenor. Reading their reasons for endorsing Lehman really sounds like they have done their homework. Van is a bragging self-indulgent, self-centered individual who will take any moment to talk about his "greatness" which turned off many women, yes I know he is married. He loves an audience when he can get one.

  37. Really doesn't surprise me that the Racine JT didn't even send a reporter to the Forum. Without Van, it wasn't "newsworthy" enough, which really means that there wouldn't be the contentious fireworks between John and Van, and they would be looking for Van to stick his foot in his mouth and do a "Gerald Ford" type of verbal screwup. Even tho the Post shows its leftish biases in this article, at least it did get some coverage, and most of the main content was covered. The Libertarians were the stars of the show, especially Meyers, who came across as witty, charming, and philosophical in his critiques of both major parties. DeCubellis was thoughtful, and turned Lehman's "trickle down has failed" remarks around by saying that the Democrat spending spigot is the REAL "trickle down" that is not creating jobs or expanding wealth among the working classes. Wright was OK, but he wasn't as much for cutting back on state spending as he was for holding the line.

  38. It will be interesting to see how close the smaller government candidates do in the Racine assembly races. DeCubellis has a theoretically easier chance to win (only needs 34%, with three candidates), but will need a lot of defections from the Dem's who aren't turned on by Mason, a lot of Repub's who don't care much for Wright, and a lot of independents and first-time voters who want to go beyond the tired ideas of the R's and D's. Will be tough for him, being it's his first time running, and he has mainly campaigned online, thru the local media (WRJN and Racine JT), and at forums. Wright has done a lot of walking the district, and has done the other stuff as well. He has the advantage of it being a GOP year, and a lot of straight ticket voters will help him out in the suburban areas. Tony D. doesn't have the pull, as a third party guy, and he's got to hope that a lot of folks will disregard the "throwing away your vote" thing by thinking that Wright has a better shot as a Repub. Meyers is in a safe Dem district, and he hasn't run an active campaign (but neither has Turner). George is a much better speaker and is more principled than Bob, but the district is minority and Dem. dominated, and the best Meyers can hope for is a respectable showing (15-20%), which is decent for a third party candidate.