The loss of the 10th Senate district may have more to do with local politics than any statewide disenchantment with the Republicans in Madison or, for that matter, Trump fatigue.
But the January 16 defeat of sitting state rep Adam Jarchow angling to replace a fellow Republican as senator was shocking, all the same. Especially to an obscure Democrat whose highest elective office was on a small town school board. Republicans are right to worry but are mistaken if they over-react.
Jarchow lost last week’s special election 54-44% for a seat that had been Republican for 17 years, that went for retiring Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (appointed state ag secretary) with 63% in 2016, that Trump carried 55% to 38%.
It is possible that Republican voters stayed home. Turnout in the special election dropped by 73%. The question is, why?
The conservative Washington Examiner quoted Mike Gousha, a respected journalist out of Milwaukee, that the winning Democrat, Patty Schachtner, “ran on resentment toward Madison and Milwaukee.” Both Wisconsin power centers are far from the 10th, which lies across the river from the Twin Cities media market, where news from the Badger side can be an afterthought.
Gousha quoted her campaign announcement: “Whether it’s roads, schools or jobs, Madison politicians take money away from us and give it to Milwaukee.”
Running on resentment? Isn’t that in the Republican toolbox?
Jarchow also may have pissed off local elected government leaders. Those town and county office holders get elected, they are closer to their voters, they wield influence.
Jarchow carried water for a megabucks family that wanted to develop property along the pristine St. Croix River south of Hudson. (More here.)
The family had already lost a decision that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court last July. The supremes rejected the property owners’ argument that conservation rules unfairly stripped their land of its value, ruling 5-3 that it was “a reasonable land-use regulation” intended to preserve the St. Croix , one of 208 rivers nationwide protected under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Jarchow introduced a bill to vitiate the protection.
Jarchow had also tried to legislate relaxed state control over 284 acres atop a bluff overlooking the St. Croix within the St. Croix and Namekagon Scenic Riverway, a national park created in 1968.
The St. Croix River Association opposed the bill, saying it would undermine scenic protections on the river. One could dismiss them as tree huggers but the elected St. Croix County Board also opposed abrogating county ordinances that have been in effect for 40 years.
The Blaska Policy Werkes gets the property rights thing; it opposes Kelo-style takings, but whatever wrong was done to property owners, no one squawked about the “scenic easements” until 40 years later.
Sound conservation is sound conservatism. No governor set aside more public land than Tommy Thompson. Republicans and Democrats have introduced Assembly Bill 688 to restore the Wisconsin Conservation Corps.
More pragmatically, staying on good terms with local elected officials is good politics.