With national press attention on Wisconsin for the unusually strong challenge from Republican Russ Johnson to three-term Sen. Russ Feingold (D.-Wis.), it is also important to watch Republican primaries in the Badger State Tuesday for governor and in two Democrat-held U.S. House districts.
All three contests feature conservatives who could put offices now held by liberal Democrats in GOP hands and, in the process, become national political stars themselves.
With Democratic Gov. James Doyle retiring after one term amid a state wallowing in red ink and higher taxes, the likely Democratic nominee to succeed him is Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, another strong liberal.
Among Republicans, the last-minute momentum appears to be with conservative swashbuckler and former three-term Rep. Mark Neumann. Running on an agenda of an across-the-board cut in all state agencies and a rollback of anti-business fees—as well as an ambitious vow that the state will assume all responsibilities in the realm of healthcare—Neumann has caught the imagination of likely voters in his contest with Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, who has the endorsement of the state party convention.
“Neumann has better ads, better policy ideas and he is running a true statewide campaign,” one veteran GOP operative who requested anonymity told HUMAN EVENTS. “Walker rarely leaves Southeastern Wisconsin. Since early last week, I got the feeling that a lot of people are taking a second look at Neumann. Walker is coming off as not ready for prime time.”
In the Second District, where Democratic Rep. Dave Obey is retiring after 41 years, his fellow arch-liberal, state Sen. Julia Lassa, should win the Democratic nomination. Although Lassa is considered a hard-nosed pol who takes no prisoners, Republicans feel confident they can put “Obeyland” in their camp with former Ashland County District Attorney Sean Duffy. More than a few pundits believe that Obey retired rather than face a stiff battle against the hard-charging Duffy.
With two-term Rep. and physician Steve Kagen (“Howard Dean Lite” to opponents) running again in the 8th District (Appleton-LaCrosse), the leading Republican contender is conservative state Rep. Roger Roth. An Iraq War veteran and the nephew of the still-fondly-remembered former Rep. Toby Roth (R.-Wis.), Roger has an excellent turnout machine and that should be enough to overcome his two primary foes: former state Rep. Terri McCormick and millionaire businessman Reid Ribble.