The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports surprising news from this weekend’s state Democratic convention:
A straw poll of Democrats at their party’s weekend convention is getting most of its attention for who came in last place in the race for governor.
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin — one of the better known candidates in a field of 10 — got just one vote.
That means either Soglin or his campaign manager, Melissa Mulliken, didn’t bother to cast a ballot for the longtime mayor during the two-day convention in Oshkosh.
The winner for the Aug. 14 Democratic primary will take on GOP Gov. Scott Walker in November.
Every year, WisPolitics.com asks convention-goers about upcoming races and who they would like to see represent their party. The straw poll is not scientifically significant, but is a good measure of the strength and organization of candidates’ campaigns.
From that standpoint, Soglin’s performance suggests he doesn’t have much of an organization so far. Mulliken did not immediately respond to questions Monday, but she told the Wisconsin State Journal that straw polls are meaningless and that Soglin had fared well in surveys.
Former state Rep. Kelda Roys of Madison handily won the straw poll, getting nearly twice as many votes as her closest opponent.
The straw poll of 789 delegates, alternates and guests showed Roys with a clear lead, many of the candidates bunched together and Soglin trailing badly:
- Roys: 184
- Firefighters union president Mahlon Mitchell: 93
- Schools Superintendent Tony Evers: 91
- Milwaukee businessman Andy Gronik: 89
- State Rep. Dana Wachs: 89
- State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout: 83
- Campaign finance reform advocate Mike McCabe: 81
- Former state Democratic Party Chairman Matt Flynn: 71
- Kenosha attorney Josh Pade: 7
- Madison Mayor Paul Soglin: 1
Pade, who is new to politics and virtually unknown, got seven times as many votes as Soglin.
“A candidate with the name recognition and longevity of Soglin should be able to get a decent showing in a straw poll among political activists just by being listed on ballot,” Democratic strategist Joel Gratz wrote on his blog. “In getting that single vote (Soglin’s, his manager’s, or a random delegate if neither of the other two happened to vote) he’s moved from the top tier position he once had to the bottom tier, just as former Rep. Kelda Roys was boosted clearly into the top tier by winning the poll and garnering.”
Roys’ 184 votes constitutes 23 percent of the total. Put another way, three-fourths of the straw poll participants oppose Roys.
At this point you might well ask: Who? The Journal Sentinel also tells this story:
Near the steps of the Wisconsin Capitol on Aug. 21 of last year, soon-to-be congressional candidate Kelda Helen Roys was clearly feeling the moment. Perched atop a flatbed truck following the 2011 Capitol Pride parade, Roys, currently a Madison-area state legislator, passionately argued in favor of same-sex marriage and other rights for LGBT couples. According to a numerous parade attendees, Roys punctuated her speech by telling a story about how she and her “partner” had fled Wisconsin to marry in Iowa, a state in which gay marriage was legalized by judicial fiat in 2009.
This puzzled many of the 500 in attendance, as Roys’ “partner” is, in fact, a man – a fact she never referenced during her speech. In 2010, she married small business owner Dan Reed, and could have done so perfectly legally in her Madison-area district. “She was clearly trying to represent herself as a member of the LGBT community,” said Katie Belanger, executive director of Fair Wisconsin, the state’s most visible LGBT rights organization.
Two weeks later, Roys, a 33-year old Democrat, would announce she was running for Congress to fill the seat vacated by Tammy Baldwin, who is vying to replace Herb Kohl in the U.S. Senate. Roys’ Democratic primary opponent is fellow Assembly Rep. Mark Pocan, who is openly gay. Pocan followed Baldwin, who is also gay, into the same Madison-area Assembly seat, and is now attempting to follow her into the same congressional seat.
But Roys’ attempts to out-gay Pocan in order to receive the imprimatur of the Madison LGBT community have fallen flat. Belanger said she began hearing from outraged LGBT activists immediately after Roys’ Capitol Pride speech.
“Going public with your sexuality is one of the most personal and painful things a gay person can do,” one LGBT activist told me, upset that Roys was trying to co-opt the movement. Belanger called Pocan and Baldwin “coura geous” for being openly gay while in public office. “So when you have a candidate trying to mislead or play cute, it’s troubling,” said Belanger.
When asked about the details of her Capitol Pride speech, Roys’ campaign said she would not comment, as she would not respond to “gossip.”
Pro football TV broadcaster Dan Dierdorf once said of the Detroit Lions and their rotating quarterbacks of the day that if you have three quarterbacks, you really have no quarterbacks. If you have 10 candidates for governor, do you really have any?
Speaking of Evers, Madison.com reports:
Republican Gov. Scott Walker is calling Democratic challenger Tony Evers “pathetic” for using a curse word in his Democratic Party convention speech over the weekend.
Walker reacted on Twitter Monday to Evers’ comments. Evers told about 1,300 convention attendees in a speech Friday night that he was “(expletive) sick and tired of Scott Walker gutting our public schools, insulting our hard-working educators and destroying higher education in Wisconsin.”
Evers is state superintendent of schools and one of 10 Democrats running for the chance to take on Walker.
Walker says in his tweet that “It’s pathetic seeing what has become of Tony Evers. He used the Lord’s name in vain this weekend — apparently to look tough at the convention.”
Evers’ campaign manager Maggie Gau says in reaction, “Speaking of pathetic, look at how desperate Scott Walker has become.” She says he would “rather play wordsmith than do his job as Governor.”
Evers thus joins the ranks of potty-mouth Democrats, including former U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D–Iowa), whose brief presidential run in 1988 included speeches in which he got his crowds to chant “Bullshit.” It didn’t get Harkin nominated, let alone elected, either.
A friend of mine points out that by responding to Evers and not other candidates, Walker is getting to choose who he’s going to run against. That is an interesting observation.