Bookmark and Share Email this page Email Print this page Print Pin It
Feed Feed

Jul 3, 201307:00 AMBlaska's Bring It!

with David Blaska

Crossing the lines: Redistricting is not the real reason for state Republicans’ staggering success

(page 1 of 2)

If Republicans are “actually a party driven by WMC, the Club for Growth, the Koch brothers, and ... social-issue extremists,” as the editor of The Capital Times postulated on May 6, how is it that they keep winning elections? For, says the progressive editor, “their success is staggering.”

The staggered editor forgot ALEC, Fox News, and talk radio. Creating hobgoblins is one way the political left delegitimizes elections it loses. Another tactic is to complain about being outspent (except when Tammy Baldwin and Barack Obama are doing the outspending). The third is to pretend Republicans win elections thanks to gerrymandering. 

It’s become a Democratic meme, one that perfumes the bad odor left by Jim Doyle’s Democrats and their $3.6 billion deficit, illegal fund raids, lost jobs, and accounting tricks. 

Republicans “gamed the system with a power grab on redistricting to take over the Senate and retain the Assembly, even though Democrats received significantly more votes in the Assembly statewide,” write State Reps. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, and JoCasta Zamarippa, D-Milwaukee.

Former Madison mayor Dave Cieslewicz sings the same loser’s lament:

It’s important to remember that Democratic Assembly candidates received some 193,000 more votes than Republicans in the 2012 elections. Republicans hold a 60-39 lead in that chamber only because they made gerrymandering into an exact science when they redistricted Wisconsin. 

Sarah Manski’s vandalism-prone Madison protest group, Wisconsin Wave, posits that “redistricting is entirely responsible for the GOP’s ‘success’ [their snotty quote marks] in congressional and legislative races.”

This is leftist agitprop, and here’s why. Democrats appeared on the ballot in 95 of 99 Assembly districts last fall, Republicans in only 76 — a difference of 19 seats. Put another way, only four Republicans ran unopposed compared to 19 Democrats — not counting third-party or independent opposition.

If those 19 races had featured a Republican and if each of them had received the 16,452 votes that the average Republican assembly candidate tallied, you could add 312,000 votes to the Republican side — easily enough to flip the vote advantage to the GOP. (Or, to be conservative, let’s assume those 19 uncontested seats were hopeless; we’ll assign the 11,762 votes that losing candidate Tom Lamberson [who?] got against Democrat Sondy Pope-Roberts in western Dane County. That’s still an extra 223,000 votes.)

In Dane County, Democrats Diane Hesselbein, Melissa Sargent, and Chris Taylor were elected to their first terms in the State Assembly on Nov. 6 without Republican opposition. 

Republicans tend to put on the green eyeshades and run their spreadsheets; most won’t make the race unless they perceive an even chance of winning. Democrats, whose raison d’être is government, are more willing to run to throw themselves on the sword — even in heavily Republican Waukesha County. 

Then there is the power of incumbency. “We know that incumbency is a powerful factor,” two George Washington University researchers report, “bringing candidates greater visibility, adding to their campaign coffers, and deterring quality challengers from running.” (Their study is posted at The Washington Post’s Wonkblog.)


Old to new | New to old
Comments, page 1 of 2 1 2 Next »
Jul 3, 2013 11:49 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Your phoney-baloney numbers massaging is even weirder than usual. Your logic has more holes than Swiss cheese! (No disrespect to the fine dairy craftsmen of Green County.) Yes, Dave, this state IS seriously and unfairly gerrymandered to the advantage of the GOP. Many Assembly GOP districts now have a 7-10 point advantage, a comfortable margin, especially for incumbents. Meanwhlie, Dem votes have been concentrated into fewer districts. For example, the Eau Claire area used to have 3 Dems representing it in mostly competitive seats. Now it has 1, who won with 97%. And what are you smoking that allows you to postulate that the 19 Assembly seats unopposed by the GOP could each be worth 11,000-odd votes to your side? In the next breath (you ARE inhaling!) you cite the Hesselbein, Taylor and Sargent unopposed races. Sorry, Dave, but I have a hard time believing there could be 11,000 total moderate Dems in those three districts, much less GOP voters (well, maybe Hesselbein's, but let's not let reality stand in the way of good hyperbole, eh Dave?).
And to think you used to have your mitts in the inner bowels of our Dept. of Revenue. One shudders.

Jul 3, 2013 04:34 pm
 Posted by  David Blaska

Well, Logan, inhale deeply. In Chris Taylor's oh-so-very Madison Isthmus and east side district, the 76th, Republican Tommy Thompson compiled 7,130 votes. And that's the worst of the three for Republicans. So, that's more than halfway toward your 11,000-odd votes in the three uncontested Madison districts to which you refer.

Jul 3, 2013 05:47 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous


Great post. Let's see how davey blows this one off. Keep his toes to the fire.


Jul 4, 2013 02:42 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

First, let me compliment you for posting under your real name, instead of cowardly using your SSquared moniker.
Second, I thought we were talking about the effect on Assembly races caused by the unconscionable gerrymandering of the GOP (remember? almost 200,000 more votes for Dems statewide, yet only 39% of the seats?). What's a race by Tommy! got to do with anything? Apples to apples, Dave.
Third, I'm not Logan, I don't even know who that is.
(Before you focus solely on my dig about SSquared while I don't use my real name, you have to realize my salary is paid by the public sector. Your McCarthyite friends at Verify the Recall show the danger of publicly opposing our despot of a Governor and his legislative thugs.)

Jul 4, 2013 03:28 pm
 Posted by  Marc E.

David: I admire your industriousness in making this argument, but Craig Gilbert, the estimable Milwaukee Journal Sentinel political analyst, comes at the issue from another angle: He looks at why two peas in the pod, Minnesota and Wisconsin, have polar opposite governance--and he comes to a different conclusion than you.

Your readers can find his piece at:

Here's a chunk of Gilbert's argument:

"Wisconsin is getting its most conservative governance in decades. Minnesota is getting its most liberal governance in decades.

"In their underlying political makeup, they may be as similar as any two states in America.

"But one is being governed like South Carolina, the other like Vermont.

"How did that happen? And what does it tell us about the way politics works today?

"One thing it tells us is that very small election shifts can end up having massive policy consequences, thanks to the growing ideological gap between the two parties.

"These small differences in election outcomes have outsized impact," says University of Minnesota political scientist Larry Jacobs.

"Put another way, the vast governing gulf between these two states is about the chasm between the parties, not about the difference between Minnesota voters and Wisconsin voters. The voters in these two states haven't behaved all that differently in recent elections. The average Democratic presidential vote over the past four elections is 51.43% in Minnesota and 51.65% in Wisconsin. Both states tilted Republican in 2010 and then tilted Democratic in 2012.

"But very small differences in election outcomes, amplified by very different redistricting plans, have led to total Democratic control in one state (Minnesota) and total Republican control in the other (Wisconsin)."

So redistricting is a factor in Republican hegemony in Wisconsin, according to Gilbert.

Jul 5, 2013 08:06 am
 Posted by  coolkevs

Then, how oh how did Republicans ever sweep the legislature in 2010? One thing I never read about is how many more Democratic votes there were in 2010 than Republicans??? For sure, it was greater. Facts and figures anyone?

Jul 5, 2013 11:09 am
 Posted by  patricko

Anonybob, I'd say you are the one operating without logic. If you can't see the significance of Tommy Thompson getting 7,000 votes in a district where no Republican ran for assembly, then you have business offering opinions on the matter of redistricting.

Jul 5, 2013 12:45 pm
 Posted by  coolkevs

Slow day at the ranch, so I did some digging myself.
According to Politifact Wisconsin:

"In the 74 contested races, Republicans outpolled Democrats by 155,000 votes. The overall Democratic edge in all races traces to the party’s 329,000 vote edge in races where only one party or another was on the ballot.

As you might guess from those figures, Democrats dominated the uncontested races, including in Pasch’s district in Milwaukee and suburban Shorewood.

Republicans wouldn’t or couldn’t field a candidate in a whopping 21 districts (most in vote-rich Milwaukee and Dane Counties), while Democrats fielded a contender in all but four. That’s a big switch from two years earlier, in 2010, when it was Democrats who sat out more races"

So, it seems like Politifact is agreeing with what Blaska is saying. Even Chad Lee in Dane County got quite a few votes - if you don't field someone for a race, who else are people going to vote for given no other option?? Not everyone is like me who writes in random names for all the Dem candidates here in Madison - so much choice here in the land of choice.

Jul 5, 2013 04:07 pm
 Posted by  David Blaska

Marc, two different stories. Yes, the political parties have polarized. We know that Chris Larson drove out moderates from the ranks in Milwaukee, people like Peggy Krusick and Jason Fields. Supporters of school choice. Curious that choice is so popular in Milwaukee but its legislative delegation is not. My purpose was to explain how it is possible for Democrats to pull more votes in the aggregate but come up with a minority of seats.

As for CoolKevs, I haven't crunched the numbers on 2010 but that's not the point. The point is that Republican won the 2010 election on district lines drawn when Democrats had the majority in the 2001-03 session. Chvala and Decker ran the show.

Jul 6, 2013 01:50 pm
 Posted by  David Blaska

CoolKevs, I was referring to your first question, about the 2010 vote. The point is that Republicans achieved their majority on lines drawn under a Democratic legislature off the 2000 census. Just to amplify the point about Tommy Thompson drawing 7,130 votes on Madison's Isthmus -- that was against Tammy Baldwin, who used to represent that area in the House of Reps, the State Assembly and County Board. Dems say they have a 72 county strategy; that's fine. GOP puts its chips where they will do the most good.

Comments, page 1 of 2 1 2 Next »
Add your comment:
Bookmark and Share Email this page Email Print this page Print Pin It
Feed Feed
Edit Module

About This Blog

Raised on a farm near Sun Prairie, David Blaska is a recovering liberal who spent 18 years in daily newspapers, including 12 at The Capital Times in Madison as a reporter and editor. He served Gov. Tommy Thompson as acting press secretary in 1998 and is a veteran and survivor of 19 years in state government. He served 12 years on the Dane County Board of Supervisors. From December 2007 to November 2011 he wrote the consistently popular "Blaska's Blog" for Isthmus online's "The Daily Page" until, he says, the intolerant liberals ran him off. He blogs from Madison.

Recent Posts



Atom Feed Subscribe to the Blaska's Bring It! Feed »

Edit Module