On Tuesday, the voters of Wisconsin — well, a tiny percentage of them — took their now-familiar routes to local polling stations to vote in primary elections. Turnout was low compared to the recall election on June 5th, something that may have been a factor in 13 legislative incumbents keeping their seats.
The biggest race of the night was the GOP Senate primary which former Governor Tommy Thompson won narrowly over former Congressman Mark Neumann and businessman Eric Hovde. Thompson, the former Secretary of Health and Human services under President Bush, won with 34 percent of the vote to Hovde’s 31 and Neumann’s 23. Thompson was originally viewed as the front runner and withstood hard-fought campaigns by Neumann, who gained support from the Far Right in the form of wackjob endorsements from Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and the Club for Growth. Eric Hovde used his personal fortune and Tea Party backing to make a late surge in the race.
Thompson will now face progressive Democrat Tammy Baldwin in November. Baldwin polled quite favorably when matched against Neumann or Hovde, but the latest Quinnipiac polling shows the race is a tie against the relatively moderate Thompson. Baldwin will be aided by former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold for the duration of the race. Feingold told The Huffington Post that there is a clear contrast in the level of desire for the open seat to replace former senator Herb Kohl.
“Tommy has regularly made it his business to mock the United States Senate, saying things like, why would you want to be one of 100, when he was governor of Wisconsin,” Feingold said. “It almost seems like he’s doing this because he’s looking for something to do.
“It doesn’t seem like he’s been very focused on wanting to be a member of the United States Senate. Representing Wisconsin to the Senate is sort of his latest gig after he ran for president, whereas Tammy Baldwin has made a serious career out of trying to be a legislator at the national level. The contrast between the two is clear,” Feingold added.
In the 62nd State Assembly district, Ironworker Randy Bryce was defeated by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee public health educator Melissa Lemke. Bryce had become a favorite of working class progressives for his grassroots campaigning, pro-worker message, and winning personality. But Lemke will face Caledonia Village Trustee Tom Weatherston in November. An inability to vote across party — where Bryce’s working class message may have resonated with GOPers — may have played a role in his defeat:
In addition to the Assembly race, voters also were able to vote on which U.S. Senate candidate should advance to the November election. But residents could not cross-party vote. In other words, they could not vote for one of the two Democrats running for Assembly and also vote for one of the four Republicans running in the contentious U.S. Senate race that former Gov. Tommy Thompson ended up winning.
Bryce was out-fundraised by Lemke 5-to-1 ($20,853 to $4,050). In a concession via his Facebook page, Bryce showed why he has become so popular as a political newcomer:
It isn’t over. I ran in order to give Working People a voice.
I didn’t start making noise when I decided to run. I’m not going to stop making noise now.
On the other end of things, I have had my eyes opened quite a bit as to how this thing called “politics” is played.
This might be my first game, but, I’m a quick learner.
Ironworkers never quit, we just swing a little bit harder…
In the Senate, Tammy Baldwin’s former district saw State Rep. Mark Pocan defeat a crowded field. He is likely to take the heavily Democratic district in November:
“This is an important seat,” Pocan said. “And I am really proud that we ran a positive campaign. I have some really big shoes to fill. But we are going to work hard to win in November and to make sure that Tammy Baldwin is the next senator from the state of Wisconsin.”