Boots & Sabers

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Tag: 58th Assembly District

Gundrum Wins in the 58th

As expected, Republican Rick Gundrum won in the 58th. Congratulations!

The results of the election were interesting. As I suspected might happen, the Democrats had a much stronger showing than they normally do in the 58th. Turnout was a mere 12.49% and Gundrum won the race 56.56% to 43.37%. Bear in mind that this is a district that is about 70% Republican. In a low turnout race, the Democrats are clearly more motivated.

Also interesting is that the Democrat actually won West Bend. Dennis Denigenhardt pulled in 1,279 votes to Gundrum’s 1,270 in the City of West Bend.

Also, the Democrats won a Wisconsin Senate seat in a pink district. Does this signal the coming of a Blue Wave in November? Should Walker be more worried about reelection? Will the Conservative Revolution in Wisconsin be coming to an end?

It’s going to be an interesting year.

Will a Democrat Win in the 58th?

I think there’s a decent chance of it. As I stated in my column last week, this is the perfect environment for lightning to strike.

Wisconsin’s 58th Assembly District is overwhelming Republican. It is considered one of the safest Republican seats in the nation. With the perception of safety comes the false hubris of certainty. While the district is overwhelmingly Republican, there is a passionate, organized liberal pocket in the district too. They have been successful in getting board members elected to local boards in the district and have even turned those boards liberal from time to time.

The special election for the 58th has some unique conditions that make a Democrat win more likely than it has perhaps ever been. First, the Democrat candidate, Dennis Degenhardt, is a credible, decent, reasonable man with strong private sector credentials. While I may disagree with him politically, he is not a loon or fruitcake like the Democrats usually run in a throwaway race.

Second, Degenhardt has also been working hard to win. At this level of politics, it is often the hardest worker who wins. It’s the candidate who is knocking on doors, shaking hands, attending Rotary meetings, and everything else that goes into retail politics who carries the day. It is work that takes place below the radar, but has a huge impact in a low turnout race.

Third, the Democrats in Washington County are motivated to express their anger about Trump, Walker, and the like. I expect there to be a large turnout among Democrats. Imagine how gratifying it would be for them to win a seat in the heart of Republican country.

Fourth, with motivated Democrats and complacent Republicans, the math favors the Democrats. This special election is the only thing on the ballot and it is off cycle. It’s the middle of a cold January, we are expecting a snow storm on Monday, and everyone just assumes that the Republican will win. Turnout will be low – likely less than 15%. Only the hyper-motivated and habitual voters are likely to turnout.

So let’s do some simple math… There are about 37,000 voters in the 58th. Let’s assume that 75% of them are Republicans and 25% of them are Democrats. That makes 9,250 Democrats and 27,750 Republicans. 15% overall turnout would be 5,550 votes cast in the race. If the Republican turnout is 10%, that’s 2,775 votes cast. If the Democrats turn out a mere 30% of their voters, that is also 2,775 votes cast. One more vote and the Democrats win. And given the tempo I’m feeling from the Democrats in the district, I think that 30% turnout for them is low.

If I were an odds maker, I’d give the Democrats a 40% chance of winning in the 58th next week. And if they do, it will be interpreted as signaling an anti-Trump Democratic wave in this election cycle and it will be national news.


Gundrum for the 58th

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Incidentally, I voted absentee yesterday and there were a surprising number of people there. There were 6 other voters in the 5 to 8 minutes I was there. Obviously, one can’t extrapolate turnout based on such an anecdotal experience, but it does make me wonder if there is an unexpected surge of interest in this race. In any case, here’s the column:

The voters of the 58th Assembly District will decide on who will represent them in Madison after the unexpected death of Representative Bob Gannon. After a spirited, if abbreviated, primary election, Republican Rick Gundrum and Democrat Dennis Degenhardt will square off on January 16th in a special election. I had the opportunity to speak with both candidates, and fortunately for the voters, we are able to choose between two fundamentally decent men with starkly different perspectives.

Dennis Degenhardt recently retired from being the CEO of Glacier Hills Credit Union after a career spent in financial services. He and his wife have been married for 22 years, have four children, six grandchildren, and have been residents of the 58th for many years. Degenhardt has been active in the community as the Vice Chair of the Washington County Democratic Party, President of the Washington County Campus Foundation, involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters, and several other community organizations. This is Degenhardt’s first run for political office.

Rick Gundrum owns his own audio and video production business after spending years as in the radio industry. He and his wife have been married for 25 years, have two children, four grandchildren, and is a 5th generation resident of Washington County. Gundrum has been active in the community as a Trustee on the Slinger Village Board, Chairman of the Washington County Board, and various county committees.

When people idealize about self-governance, this is the kind of election they envision: two good people with decades of experience and service to their community stepping forward to represent their neighbors in the legislature. The voters of the 58th do not have to hold their noses and choose the lesser of two evils or stomach a scoundrel for political goals. Instead, the voters of the 58th get to truly choose their next representative based on the candidate’s views on the issues and the role of government in their lives.

Dennis Degenhardt wants a larger, more robust, more comprehensive government to manage our economy, healthcare, education, and other aspects of life. He thinks that Governor Walker erred in rejecting the Medicaid expansion that was part of Obamacare and believes that Wisconsin could lead on healthcare with its own healthcare exchange. Degenhardt supports vigorous regulations on business to fight against potential abuse.

Degenhardt would like to see more taxpayer money send on education, but believes that School Choice siphons off too much money from the public school system. On transportation, he would like to see the bidding process be more competitive, but is then open to additional taxes and toll roads to fund Wisconsin’s transportation infrastructure. Degenhardt thinks that the Foxconn deal is a great mistake and would have joined the majority of Democrats in voting against it had he been in the legislature at the time.

On civil rights, Degenhardt would have voted against the bill that allowed concealed carry in Wisconsin, but is resigned to it being the law of the land. He opposes any liberalization of the concealed carry law. Degenhardt is Pro-Choice believing that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.

Rick Gundrum believes in a smaller, less expensive, and less intrusive government. He supports a lighter regulatory burden on businesses and people with more decisions being made by local governments. Gundrum touts his experience on the Washington County Board in reducing costs though finding efficiencies and collaborating on services with other counties.

Gundrum wants to see lower taxes so that people can keep more of their own money. He supports Governor Walker’s agenda on taxes, spending, regulatory reform, government reform, education, and other items. Gundrum wants to see the state government work with local governments to aggressively address the opioid crisis through treatment options and rigorous law enforcement. Gundrum is pro-2nd Amendment, supports school choice, and is staunchly Pro-Life.

I will be gladly casting my vote for Rick Gundrum because he is a good man who promises to fight for the kind of government I want to have.

Whatever your choice, citizens of the 58th need to get out and vote. In-person absentee voting is open until January 12th and the election is on January 16th. Although the 58th Assembly District is overwhelmingly Republican, if there was ever to be an election where a Democrat might win, this is it. The Democrats are energized and Degenhardt is a quality candidate.

As a special election in the middle of a cold January, turnout will likely be less than 15%. Only 10.56% of the voters turned out last month for the special primary election. That means that perhaps less than 5,000 people will vote in this election and will decide who will represent the citizens of the 58th in Madison. Get out and vote, folks.

Gundrum Wins in the 58th

Congratulations to Rick Gundrum for winning the Republican primary election in the 58th Assembly District. Here are the results:


Few comments…

First, we owe a hearty “thank you” to the candidates for running. It is a big task and a huge disruption to someone’s life to run for public office – particularly on short notice. There wasn’t any time to raise funds, so most of them used a lot of their own money to fund their campaigns.

Second, as expected, turnout was pathetic. But we can assume that anyone who voted in this election was an informed and motivated voter. It does show how much power is put into just a few hands in an election like this. In an overwhelmingly Republic district, the odds are very strong that Gundrum will be our next Assemblyman, and he won by a mere 268 votes over the next closest opponent.

Third, although it is considered a safe Republican district, I wouldn’t take anything for granted if I were running. The Democrats are motivated and have a creditable candidate on the ballot.



Election in the 58th Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the special primary election for the 58th Assembly District. I wrote a column about the candidates here and covered the candidate forum here.

I have not yet disclosed the person for whom I will cast a vote. Frankly, it’s not an easy choice. With the exception of Spencer Zimmerman, who is a carpetbagger, all of the candidates are acceptable, but flawed. It is a reminder of the maxim that if you want a perfect candidate, then run yourself. You can read my column or other articles for a more in-depth profile of the candidates. They can all be said to be conservative and have almost identical views on the major issues. Here’s a quick snapshot of their primary controversies:

Steve Stanek gave a $3,000 donation to Tom Barrett. He says that his boss held a fundraiser and he felt compelled to make the contribution, although there is some doubt to that clam. In any case, if one takes his reason at face value, it reveals a character flaw in that he could not withstand even mild pressure (which would have been illegal anyway coming from his employer) to make such a sizable donation to someone whose political views he purports to abhor.

Tiffany Koehler was quoted in a CNN article earlier this year as supporting Obamacare. She denies that she supports Obamacare, but does support the Obamacare mandates regarding preexisting conditions and a maximum lifetime benefit cap. These positions are antithetical to conservative or free market ideology.

Rick Gundrum, in his role as the Washington County Board Chairman, authorized that some “extra” money left at the end of the budget year be given to county employees as bonuses in the form of gift cards. While such an action is fine – even laudable – in a private venture, it is not the action of an elected conservative who is entrusted with the taxpayers’ hard-earned money. The money should have been returned to the taxpayers so they could have a “bonus.”

As I wrote, none of the candidates are perfect. They are people, after all. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with all of them and they are all decent people who would represent the 58th well. That being said, elections are about choices. In this case, I’m going to cast my vote tomorrow for Rick Gundrum.

Live Feed of the 58th District Candidate Forum

Courtesy of the Washington County Insider.

In general, all of the candidates largely agree on the issues. Here are a few interesting (it may be a generous use of the word “interesting” for some folks) nuances and observations as we go:

1st question about support for the 2nd Amendment.

  •  All of the candidates support gun right. Shocking, I know. Zimmerman had a lot of comments about crime coming out of Chicago.

2nd question about taxes

  • Gundrum doesn’t support tax increases at all and cites example of Washington County
  • Stanek thinks efficiency in government is the way to reduce spending and reduce taxes
  • Koehler praises Walker for moving WI in the right direction
  • Zimmerman seems to have microphone problems a lot. He wants toll roads so that Illinois folks can help pay for WI roads. He would have tolls at the borders that only pull from cars with out of state plates. He seems to have an ax to grind with Illinois.

3rd question on Dark Store taxation

  • Zimmerman wants level playing field with sound appraisal practices
  • Gundrum agrees that it needs to be a level playing field. Gundrum had some stats specific to West Bend and the property tax impact of the issues. He also testified in Madison regarding Dark Store legislation.
  • Stanek wants fair taxation specifically to make sure that small businesses don’t get penalized compared to big box stores.
  • Koehler mentioned that there is legislation moving through Madison now and she supports it. There’s a lot of pressure and movement happening around it.

The feed dropped out and I missed the 4th question. Sounds like it was about transportation.

  • Missed Koehler answer.
  • Zimmerman touted a Great Lakes Basin railroad project to help commerce and theft in Chicago rail yards (he mentions Chicago and Illinois a lot). Also touted Embridge line pipeline.
  • Gundrum not running to support tolls or tax increases. Believes there is way too much bureaucracy in transportation. Would like more local input because locals can be more efficient.
  • Stanek doesn’t support any tax increases or new taxes, but doesn’t want to borrow anymore. Thinks the way to fix it is to make entire state more efficient and redirect savings into priority transportation projects.

5th question about opioid crisis.

  • Stanek says we need to focus on education and the proper prescribing of legal opioids. Also need to punish dealers harshly. Says it contributing to crime creeping up from Milwaukee
  • Koehler spent many years dealing with mental health issues with various organizations. The answers are in the addicts and understanding their specific circumstances. Cites a shortage of mental health professionals and crisis prevention services in the state and Washington County. Says the State needs to set up the infrastructure to accept and treat addicts. Also supports tough on crime enforcement.
  • Zimmerman says we need another War on Drugs like Nancy Reagan advocated. Problem with gift cards being used to buy drugs and then pivoted to slamming Washington County for using surplus to buy gift cards for employees. Hinted that unused gift cards might be used to fuel drug problems.
  • Gundrum had stats for increase in overdose deaths. County joined lawsuit against Big Pharma for business practices that contributed to problem. Also… education.

6th question about drug testing for welfare recipients and welfare as a whole.

  • Gundrum supports drug testing and welfare reforms.
  • Stanek also supports Walker’s reforms. We’ve made it too easy for people to stay home and not work
  • Koehler supports it, but says problem is that it is a questionnaire and not an actual drug test. Says it needs a real test of bodily fluids. Says she knows how people game welfare system from her time working in Milwaukee and has a unique perspective to know how to fix it.
  • Zimmerman supports and says we need to redo Welfare to Work. Touted Tommy Thompson and mentioned that he met TOMMY! last month. Claimed that Reince Priebus encouraged him to run for Assembly – clarified that this was not an endorsment.

7th question – yes or no, favor legalizing pot?

  • All said “no”

8th question asked how elected officials should listen to Conservation Congress, etc. when making decisions about DNR and conservation issues.

  • Koehler said that she would have to look it but said that elected officials need to listen to the people before making decisions and be careful about special interests.
  • Zimmerman said we should abolish the DNR (jokingly). Generally said we need to limit the DNR and its power.
  • Gundrum wants more local input and control over environmental issues.
  • Stanek talked about being a hunter and fisherman. Thinks that hunters and fishers have a vested interest in conservation and the DNR should listen to them.

9th question about business development. How would the state address attracting business and creating a skilled labor force to fill the jobs?

  • Stanek said that the state is already moving on those issues with schools encouraging trades and college paths. Also thinks that jobs will attract people to migrate into state.
  • Koehler says state needs to lower the cost of doing business in WI by reducing taxes and streamlining regulations. Need to invest in education and worker training. Need to end welfare benefits cliff so that people can gradually get into work without losing all of their welfare at once.
  • Zimmerman supports Welfare to Work. Invest in education – particularly tech schools. Support foreign investments from countries that are allies of US. Doesn’t support Uranium One deal, but supports Foxconn deal. Talked about railroad project again.
  • Gundrum supports education. Need to improve teacher recruitment and streamline license process for teachers. Talked about counties sharing transportation services to help people get to work. Need to get infrastructure in line to support greater business.

10th question. Lightning round. Closing statements of 1 minute or less.

Boiler-plate stump speeches.

Gundrum and Koehler touted their pro-life position.

Zimmerman touted his early and strong support for Trump (not sure if that’s a winning point in Washington County where Trump lost the primary handily).



Candidate Forum for Candidates for the 58th Tonight

If you’d like to learn more about the Republican candidates for the 58th Assembly District, there’s a candidate forum tonight hosted by the Common Sense Citizens of Washington County. Also, I believe that there will be a live stream of it by the Washington County Insider if you can’t make it in person.

On Wednesday, Dec. 13 Common Sense Citizens of Washington County will host a candidate forum at the West Bend Moose Lodge at 7 p.m.

Candidates include: Tiffany Koehler, Spencer Zimmerman, Rick Gundrum, and Steve Stanek.

Candidates will introduce themselves and then all four will be asked the same questions.

Candidates will be encouraged to stay after the forum to greet the audience and answer individual questions.

Choosing the Republican candidate for the 58th

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. We have an embarrassment of riches in the 58th in that good candidates make hard choices for the voters. Here it is:

The special primary election for the 58th Assembly District is coming up quickly. Absentee in-person voting has already begun and the election is Dec. 19. The Democrats have an uncontested primary, but there are four Republicans vying for the seat.

Before evaluating the candidates, we should pause to thank them all for running. It is no easy task to reorient one’s life, place it under the microscope and ask your neighbors for their vote. This is especially true in today’s charged political environment. All of the candidates on the ballot are stepping forward to serve the citizens of the 58th Assembly District and are entitled to our gratitude for being willing to serve.

The 58th Assembly District is privileged in that there are so many good, honorable, conservative people in it who are open to public service. This brings us to the first Republican candidate, Spencer Zimmerman.

Zimmerman is a 38-year-old professional driver and flight line technician who touts himself as a “Trump Conservative.” He has run for office several times in the past few years including the 99th Assembly District in 2015, the 48th Assembly District in 2010, the Senate in Nebraska in 2012, a couple of runs for the Dane County Board and most recently challenging Paul Ryan last year. Zimmerman hails from Janesville, but plans to move to the district if he wins. With all due respect to Mr. Zimmerman, the 58th has plenty of great people who could represent them without having to import someone from Rock County.

One of those other great people is Tiffany Koehler of Slinger. Koehler lost to Bob Gannon in the Republican primary in 2014, but that did not deter Gannon from hiring Koehler as a legislative aide. If elected, Koehler pledges to continue on Gannon’s legislative agenda and to be an independent voice for the citizens of the 58th in Madison. Koehler considers herself a fiscal hawk whose background in nonprofits has honed her ability to get things done with limited resources.

Recently, CNN published a report saying that Koehler had become a supporter of Obamacare after her recent bout with cancer. Koehler said that nothing could be further from the truth and she remains a firm opponent of Obamacare. She does, however, support Obamacare’s mandate forbidding insurance companies from excluding people with pre-existing conditions and the mandate prohibiting lifetime coverage limits.

Rick Gundrum is a fifth-generation resident of Washington County who is currently the Washington County Board Chairman and serves on the Slinger Village Board. Gundrum worked in radio broadcasting before starting his audio video production business in 2000.

If elected, Gundrum promises to tackle tax reform, reforming and shrinking the state’s government bureaucracy and pushing more control to local governments. Gundrum said he has a leg up on the other candidates because of his experience working in government. He is most proud of the fact that Washington County has the lowest property tax rate since World War I, the property tax levy is the lowest in 10 years, and the county has been embarking on creative cost-saving measures like a health clinic for county employees, zero-based budgeting and merging county health services with Ozaukee County.

The last Republican candidate is Steve Stanek from West Bend. Stanek runs a small business doing disposal services. Stanek is committed to fiscal responsibility, helping Wisconsin’s businesses grow and add jobs, and public safety – particularly the effects of the opioid crisis. He has been involved with local government including serving on West Bend’s Value Task Force for the last two years. Stanek said he stands apart from the other candidates because of his capacity to be a leader and effect change.

The glaring issue that makes Republicans pause when considering Stanek is that he gave Tom Barrett a $3,000 donation in October 2010 when he was running against Scott Walker for governor. Stanek has given to several Republicans over the years, but the Barrett donation stands out. He said the donation was a “business decision” because his employer at the time held fundraisers for Barrett and encouraged the donations. That is a tough pill for a Republican primary voter to swallow, but it is, admittedly, an anomaly in Stanek’s record of political involvement.

As a voter in the 58th writing this column one week before the election, I remain undecided. Such is the consequence of a great slate of candidates from which to choose. Fortunately, Common Sense Citizens of Washington County is holding a candidate forum at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the West Bend Moose Lodge. This will provide an excellent opportunity for citizens of the 58th to hear the candidates for themselves and make up their minds.

Rick Gundrum Announces Run for the 58th

The field is getting more crowded. From the Washington County Insider.

Nov. 15, 2017 – Washington Co., WI – Watch for a sixth candidate to jump in the mix tomorrow and announce his candidacy for the 58th Assembly District.

Rick Gundrum, who is currently the chairman of the Washington County Board, said he will have a prepared statement in a press release that will be issued by noon Thursday.

Gundrum has quite a bit of political experience; he’s been on the Washington County Board representing District 16 in Slinger since April 2006. He’s served as

County Board Chairman
Executive Committee.
Chairman – Board of Health.
Chairman – A.D.R.C.
Chairman – Eastern Wisconsin Counties Railroad Consortium.

For the past eight years Gundrum has served as a trustee on the Slinger Village Board; he was first elected in April 2009.

Three More Candidates Enter Race for the 58th

None of them look very consequential.

Spencer Zimmerman of Janesville also filed paperwork to run as a Republican. According to West Bend city clerk Stephanie Justman, a candidate only has to be a resident of the district 10 days prior to taking office.  Zimmerman has run in a number of races including the 1st Congressional District in Wisconsin in 2016.

Dennis Degenhardt of West Bend also filed papers. He is running as a Democrat and Christopher Lewis Cook from Miller Street in West Bend also filed a campaign registration statement. Cook lists himself with the Independent, Socialist Party.



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