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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 2 of 2)

Three of every five contested seats last November featured a sitting Republican legislator running on a pro-reform record achieved in Scott Walker’s first two years, while only 12 of the 76 Democrats who contested Republicans were incumbents. 

The GOP had more incumbents to put in the field because they came into the election with a 59-39-1 advantage. That majority was achieved in the 2010 election. That’s right, the election held before Republicans emerged from the catacombs with their crooked maps and sputtering candles! 

The difference wrought by redistricting? The one conservative-leaning independent who did not seek re-election gave way to a Republican for a 60-39 Assembly advantage. The State Senate remained 18-15 Republican; the U.S. House was unchanged, also.

A gentle reminder: Scott Walker won his June 2012 recall in a heavy statewide turnout by a healthy 7% margin over this Democratic opponent. Wisconsin voters are going to reward the governor but punish his legislature?

Democrats sued over the new maps. A three-judge federal panel tweaked two Milwaukee districts but otherwise upheld the maps as constitutional and lawful.

Good government goo-goos yearn for a supposedly apolitical, unelected commission to draw legislative district boundaries. Of course, Democrats could have made that happen when they ruled the roost under Jim Doyle, but they voted it down. They wanted to draw their own squiggly lines. 

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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.

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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.

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