Hmmmm… there are some interesting nuggets in the results. Here are the primary results for West Bend as conveniently posted by the Washington County Insider.
First off, turnout was extremely low. It is not unusual for West Bend to have over 80% turnout and usually outperforms the state in turnout even in these kinds of elections. All of the state results are not in yet, but it looks like West Bend will underperform this time. This is because the school board primary wasn’t really a primary since Tina Hochstaetter dropped out and the only other thing on the ballot was the DPI race. Some school referendums and more contentious school board primaries on other parts of the state drove turnout much higher – particularly in Madison.
Second, the West Bend school board results are telling. Three candidates, Schmidt, Justman, and Ongert are running as a block. They are using almost identical campaign messaging; signs for the three of them are appearing together in the same yards; and there is a large sign for the three of them together to be seen from Highway 45 as one goes south out of town. These three also received the most votes.
The question is, why? Although every school board candidate in West Bend is running as a conservative (because conservatives stand a better chance of winning in a city that is 70% conservative), these three candidates are being strongly supported by the local lefty and pro teachers union groups. Given that it is these groups that are more passionate about changing the makeup of the school board, they are more likely to have had turned out in this micro-turnout election.
The DPI results seem to support this conclusion. This is a county that voted 66% for Don Pridemore when he ran against Evers in 2013 and Pridemore’s campaign was drastically underfunded. It is a county that typically votes 70%-80% Republican. Yet in the DPI race, the conservative candidate only received 50% of the vote. This indicates a disproportionate turnout by the left side of the electorate in West Bend. Of course, there are no other races on the ballot that exactly match the geography of the school district, so rough comparisons are what we have to go on.
I would not read too much into this election. The April turnout is typically 25%-40% and a heated DPI race will drive higher turnout. That’s 2.5 to 4 times more voters than this election and 7 of 10 Benders are conservative. The makeup of the electorate in April will look very different. I am thankful that we appear to have six decent, earnest, honorable people from which to choose.