Tea Party rally in Hudson Friday
HUDSON, WI -- With Tuesday's special recall elections just days away, Wisconsin political campaigns are in shifting into high gear this weekend.
Six Republicans must defend their seats in the state senate Tuesday, in a political battle that has become a referendum of sorts on Governor Scott Walker's budget. Two Democrats face recall elections August 16, while one Democrat survived recall July 19th.
The Tea Party Express bus rolled into Hudson Friday, drawing a crowd of people who support Senator Sheila Harsdorf, the 10th District Republican who faces a recall election next Tuesday.
"They are being recalled and are being punished because they did their job!" St. Croix County Tea Party organizer Annette Olson said.
Lifelong Hudson resident Carla Hamill was among those who gathered in Lakefront Park for the Tea Part event. She told KARE she was appalled out how much outside money has poured into western Wisconsin, in the effort to tip the balance of power in the Wisconsin senate.
"In November we said balance the budget, cut spending, you know, get your fiscal house in order. And that's exactly what Sheila Harsdorf did," Hamill told KARE. "They're trying to recall her over one vote."
The Tea Partiers were matched in noise and numbers by a larger group of counter protesters who support recalling Harsdorf and replacing her with Ellsworth teacher Shelly Moore, the Democrat in the 10th District race.
"This is not about just one vote," Kelly Holzer of Dunn County told KARE, "It's about the environment. It's about our kids and our schools. It's about taxes. It's about telling the truth and following the law."
Shelly Moore, in an interview in River Falls, said her decision to challenge Harsdorf went far beyond the issue of collective bargaining rights for government employees, which Gov. Walker and the Republican-controlled legislature sharply curtailed last spring.
"There has been a litany of decrees over the past six months that have greatly changed Wisconsin," she said, "But it's not just what was voted on there; it's the way it was done."
Sheila Harsdorf did not join her supporters at the Tea Party rally, but was in Grantsburg campaigning instead. Her spokesman, Nathan Duerkop, said the incumbent's message to voters is a simple one.
"It's still about jobs and the economy," Duerkop said. "And improving that economy is what people are the most concerned with, and that's why she's been making the tough decisions backing the budget."
He said Wisconsin's economy has started to improve since Republicans won control of state government in Madison. He argued that turning over the State Senate to Democrats could throw up road blocks to recovery.
Ad wars and fake Morgan Freeman
The recall elections have sparked a TV advertising war across Wisconsin, which has spilled into the Twin Cities media market due to the Harsdorf-Moore race.
In addition to the campaigns' own ad buys, outside "independent expenditure" groups on both sides have poured millions of dollars into election.
First time candidate Shelly Moore has taken extreme heat in those ads for being politically active in Wisconsin's teachers union.
"I'm a classroom teacher and I've done everything I can to be the best classroom teacher I could be," she said of her union efforts, "That means working very hard to improve my profession, to help teachers be more effective."
One, an attack ad against Shelly Moore funded by Citizens for a Strong America, is narrated by a very convincing Morgan Freeman sound-alike voice actor. The same "voice double" has been put to work in other ads run by Republican-friendly groups in other elections across the nation.
"A political ad running in Wisconsin by a conservative group narrated by someone trying to sound like Morgan Freeman was not narrated by Mr. Freeman," Freeman's publicist, Stan Rosenfield, wrote in an email message to KARE Friday.
"Morgan Freeman did NOT narrate that ad. It's amazing how easy it is for them to fool some people."
Citizens for a Strong America did not respond to KARE's phone calls and email messages Friday. The group's website lists an address in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. That address is post office box in a UPS store in that town.
"You know there are some ads, like the fake Morgan Freeman ad, where you don't even know who is responsible for it," Moore said, "It makes me really want to work hard for campaign finance reform."
Mike Dean, of Common Cause Minnesota, said it's no coincidence that ads have become increasingly negative at the same time spending by outside groups has surged.
"Without rules requiring disclosure, the public cannot hold those groups accountable for the content of their ads," Dean told KARE.
"That is why candidates don't run these highly negative ads. If they did the voters would punish them."
He said the US Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case, which allows unlimited corporate and union donations to independent expenditure groups, will intensify that trend.
Republicans hold just a two-seat majority in the Wisconsin Senate, so control of the Senate is up for grabs. Those new terms will only last one legislative session. Due to the new Census and redistricting, all legislative seats will be on the ballot in 2012.
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