My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Here you go:
After Rep. Bob Gannon’s untimely death in office, the citizens of the 58th Assembly District must go about the task of filling his seat. To that end, Gov. Scott Walker has called for a special election.
When a legislative seat is unexpectedly vacated, the governor has wide discretion on when to call a special election. The governor could have waited for the April ballot, but given that the April election is for non-partisan offices, it is sensible to hold an election on a different date for the 58th Assembly District.
The special election is coming up very quickly. The primary election will be Dec. 19 and the general election will be Jan. 16. Two candidates have already announced that they are running for the office, but potential candidates have until Nov. 21 to file their nomination papers.
The 58th Assembly District is overwhelmingly Republican. Glenn Grothman, now Congressman Grothman, held the seat from 1993 until 2005, when he challenged incumbent Republican Senate Leader Mary Panzer, in a primary and soundly defeated her. Grothman was replaced by the equally conservative Rep. Pat Strachota. When Strachota retired from office in 2014, several conservative candidates stepped forward to vie for the seat.
During the partisan primary election of 2014, Bob Gannon, Sandy Voss and Tiffany Koehler battled it out for the Republican nod. Tellingly, nobody even tried for the Democratic nod even though it was an open election without an incumbent on the ballot. That is an indication of how Republican the district is.
Bob Gannon won that primary with 51.3 percent of the vote and went on to win the seat unopposed in the general election. Gannon won reelection unopposed last year. As Republican as the 58th Assembly District is, the primary election on Dec. 19 will really determine who will go to Madison to represent the district.
The two candidates who have stepped forward already offer a quality choice for the voters. The first is Steven Stanek, who announced his candidacy the same day that Walker announced the special election.
Stanek is a Republican from West Bend. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Stanek owns and runs Direct Disposal Services of Wisconsin.
He is married with three teenagers and has been heavily involved in local clubs and youth athletics. Stanek is committed to focusing on fiscal responsibility, jobs and public safety. This is not Stanek’s first foray into politics as he was the campaign manage for Republican Jeff Fitzgerald when he ran for U.S. Senate in 2012.
The second candidate is Tiffany Koehler of Slinger, who ran in the primary against Gannon in 2014 and garnered a strong 27.7 percent in that election. Koehler spent 14 years in the U.S. Army as a combat medic and mental health specialist. After graduating from Cardinal Stritch University, Koehler spent many years working in the mental health field in the private sector with several organizations.
Most recently, Koehler has been serving as a legislative aide to the late Rep. Gannon, her former primary opponent. Koehler’s political positions will sound very familiar to conservatives in the 58th. She believes in less government, less taxation, more freedom and reducing government’s footprint.
While there is still time for other candidates to enter the race, the voters of the 58th Assembly District are already presented with two quality candidates from which to choose. The primary election is six weeks away, so voters will have to make an effort to get to know the candidates so that they can make an informed choice.
As a side note, local election clerks are always in need of volunteers to work at the polls. This is especially the case for a special election. If you are able to help facilitate our election process, please consider calling your local clerk for more information on how to become an election day poll worker.