Bass-ackwards analysis in Plale loss | WisCommunity

Bass-ackwards analysis in Plale loss

Our friends at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel are doggedly in denial about what happened in the 7th State Senate district on Tuesday, when challenger Chris Larson whomped incumbent Jeff Plale in the Democratic primary.  It is a heavily Democratic district, and winning the nomination is, as the pundits say, tantamount to victory in November.

In what poses as analysis, both columnist Patrick McIlheran and reporter Jason Stein have claimed that Larson, the more liberal Dem, beat Plale because Democratic voters crossed party lines to vote in the Republican primary for governor, presumably for Scott Walker.

That's exactly upside down.

The district, which includes Milwaukee's east side, Bay View, Cudahy, Oak Creek, and South Milwaukee, is solidly Democratic.  It consistently gives Democrats huge margins of victory in November.   Some of the Dems in  the southern suburbs,  admittedly, are more conservative than those on the liberal East Side.  But they're Democrats.

Plale won his seat in a special election in April of 2003.  He was opposed in the Democratic primary by a more liberal candidate, Joel Brennan, and a third candidate, Edwin Thaves, whom I don't even remember. (I live in the district.)  The only people on the primary ballot were three Democrats and a Green Party candidate, Jim Carpenter. 

No Republican even ran.  So every Republican who voted that day voted in the Democratic primary.  Plale won with 10,576 votes to 9,068 for Brennan and 560 for Thaves.  Carpenter, unopposed for the Green Party nomination, got 1,117 -- almost enough to be the spoiler.

So Plale, with the help of Republican voters, won the nomination and went on to beat Carpenter, the Green, by a lopsided margin in the general election, with no Republican on the ballot. 

Fast forward to last Tuesday.  Plale -- who had done a lot to anger liberals in the district, becoming the water carrier for utilities and other special interests, and killing the Clean Energy Jobs Act in April -- was challenged by a progressive, Larson, a county supervisor.  Environmentalists and other liberals were energized and determined to oust Plale.

And the Republicans, who had saved him in 2003, voted in their own primary this time, where there was a hot race between Scott Walker and Mark Neumann.

When Democratic voters get to pick the Democratic nominee, as they did on Tuesday, they are more likely to nominate the more liberal candidate, the one they perceive as the real Democrat.  That was Larson.  They (correctly) perceived Plale as a conservative Blue Dog Democrat who'd sold out their interests on one issue after another.

So, this time the Democrats got to pick.  And they picked Larson.

That seems so elementary it is hard to imagine how McIlheran and Stein both could get it exactly backwards.  McIlheran, of course, is a right-wing ideologue and Charlie Sykes lapdog, who twists the truth and spins conservative talking points on a daily basis.  Stein, on the other hand, is a reporter who covers politics.  What is his excuse?

Published

September 15, 2010 - 6:44pm

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