Gizzi On Politics: November 3

Read ‘What Next After Stevens Conviction?,’ which was part of the Gizzi On Politics Nov. 3 print edition, here.

It’s About Taxes, Darling 

As discussed here last week, it happens every two years. Days before the elections nationwide, prognosticators and pundits start to notice the races for state legislatures and how important they are. Sure enough, on Saturday, October 25, the New York Times featured a major front-page story on the races for state senates and state houses that are being held in 45 states. The day before, speaking to a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in Washington, Democratic gun-for-hire James Carville had predicted that the races for Congress this year “will be the most over-reported political story and the races for the legislature the most under-reported.” 

As Carville, the Times, and I all noted, the most significant aspect of the legislative elections is that, in most states, it is the state legislature that draws the lines for congressional districts every ten years following the census. However, many legislative races also serve as microcosms of issues that pack a wallop on the national scene. 

One case in point this year is the heated contest in Wisconsin’s 8th state Senate district (suburban Milwaukee). After 18 years in the Badger State legislature (four in the state assembly and 14 in the senate), Republican Alberta Darling has found herself in the race of her political life against Democratic State Assemblyman Sheldon Wasserman

After 14 years representing the decidedly liberal 22nd District (on Lake Michigan), Wasserman has compiled an unabashedly liberal record: backing gay marriage and benefits for illegal immigrants, and opposing voter identification to make it difficult for non-citizens to vote. 

But in seeking to serve in the Senate, Wasserman has to court voters in two other assembly districts that are considered very conservative.  Earlier this year, he took an unusual step for a liberal Democrat and signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge vowing to support neither a tax increase nor any new tax. 

Swell. But on Sept. 18, 2007, Wasserman voted against a property-tax freeze. More recently, he spoke favorably about increasing the hospital tax and said he would vote for a $1.25-per-pack cigarette tax hike.  Although there is fierce debate about other issues — notably Darling’s strong pro-life stand and opposition to benefits for illegal immigrants — the question of whether he violated his anti-tax pledge has dominated the twilight days of the campaign. The results in this state senate race could provide yet another case supporting author M. Stanton Evans’ axiom that “taxes are the gold standard of conservatism.” 

(Friends of Alberta Darling, P.O. Box 868, Menomonee Falls, Wis, 53051; 262-251-0333;