Money does buy elections

Wisconsin had their spring non-partisan general election last night, and the results could not be more disappointing from my perspective. There were two statewide races, for a seat on the state Supreme Court, and for state superintendent. The Supreme Court race was a given loss; Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson is an institution, and she faced a very weak opponent in Judge Randy Koschnick. Moreover, the left in Wisconsin scared off the conservative sources of money, which was instrumental in providing money parity in the previous two Supreme Court elections both won by the conservative candidate. Meanwhile, they continued to pour money into Abrahamson’s campaign. There was no surprise in that race, as WTMJ-TV reported, with 94% reporting, Abrahamson won with 59.3% of the vote.

The more-disappointing race was the state superintendent. It was an open seat, and in a state where education is, frankly, a mess, there could not be a bigger difference between Rose Fernandez, an advocate for virtual public schools, and Tony Evers, a long-serving bureaucrat in the Department of Public Instruction. There was a somewhat-contested 5-way primary between those two and three others, including Van Mobley. Mobley was considered the “safe” country-club GOP candidate who wouldn’t rock the boat too much, and he finished a very distant third behind Evers’ 35.4% and Fernandez’ 31.2%, getting 13.5% of the vote.

Perhaps because of that snubbing by the voters, perhaps because of the larger, successful effort by the left to shut up relatively-deep-pocketed right-leaning groups, but probably because of a combination of the two, there was nobody with enough money on the right willing to counter the Wisconsin Education Association Council’s massive TV ad buy in support of Evers right before the election. Indeed, the Fernandez campaign barely raised $15,000 the entire campaign, almost all of it after the primaries. That was far short of the $208,000 raised by Evers and the over-half-million spent on his behalf. That was even well short the $95,000 raised by Mobley.

Do not mistake this for a call for public financing of elections, or for limitations on speech. Instead, it is a wakeup call for the right. The left is all-too-willing to buy elections, and we need to participate in the battle.

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