As we enter the final days of this election season, most of us are pretty tired of all the negative advertising. We’ve heard liberal voices calling for a “return to civility” in Wisconsin. I would like to give voters my perspective on the state of civil discourse in our state.
My current campaign for re-election to the Wisconsin State Assembly is my seventh race for public office. I was elected to the city council three times, mayor twice and state representative once, plus the current race. In all those campaigns and in my public service in office, I have tried to follow some pretty simple guidelines: Treat people with respect; Let people know what you stand for; Emphasize the positive. During those seven campaigns I have never run a negative ad. Never mentioned my opponent in an ad. Instead I have talked about my ideas, agenda and record. This is not easy but my campaign contributors deserve to have their money spent on advertising of which they can be proud.
But what about civility in Wisconsin? In 2011 Wisconsin made the national news when our legislature debated and passed reform measures to balance our budget without raising taxes. In the face of intense pressure from the most powerful special interest groups, we debated for days and weeks. The angry behavior of protesters in Madison was really beyond the pale. Republican legislators received death threats, were shoved and pushed, showered with spittle, and soaked with thrown beverages. And that was just the behavior of our fellow legislators from across the aisle on the actual floor of the Assembly chambers. Outside Republicans were screamed at, threatened, surrounded, harassed and assaulted. I received death threats. My home was vandalized. Hecklers shouted and jeered at my every public appearance. This behavior involved a relatively small part of the public, but it also came from one side of the political spectrum. Even while I was out knocking on doors this summer, my car window was smashed. Despite it all I have remained positive. We have a great state with great people.
In this campaign we have sent several direct mail pieces about my record and ideas, all positive. In contrast, my opponent has run a relentlessly negative campaign. Today I received this email from a woman in Hudson:
Today in the mail I received 2 political mailings–one from Dean and one from (your opponent). The difference was obvious. Dean’s card told about his history of success–over 90% of the legislation Dean voted for was supported by members of both parties, how he has worked to protect women, children, balance the budget, helping employers create jobs.