hearts and minds

October 21, 2008

Historic Election in Ozaukee and Washington counties is ignored by the Shepherd Express

Filed under: Media criticism,Politics & elections,Wisconsin legislature — Hearts & Minds @ 6:55 am

Two recent lead articles by the Shepherd Express about contested elections for the state legislature in Wisconsin have both omitted any mention of the unique historic (not merely newsworthy) facts about five grassroots progressive challengers to the Ruling Party’s unquestioned (until now) omnipotence and incumbents in Ozaukee and Washington counties.

“News and Views” by publisher Louis Fortis on October 9, page 7, stated in the opening paragraph of an article headlined, “State Senate Update: Who Is Going to Win? Eight districts are in play” that “Sixteen of the 33 state Senate seats are up for election this year, eight currently held by each party. Of the eight seats held by each party, four seats from each party are held by unopposed incumbents. That leaves eight seats – four held by Democrats and four held by Republicans – that will decide the majority for next session.”

Not true, Mr. Fortis. There are NOT eight contested senate seats. There are nine contested senate seats, and this fact has been clearly and unambiguously known and documented by the G.A.B. since early July, when all candidates officially qualifying for the ballot were listed. Why did you NOT mention the one Independent candidate – the one qualified senate candidate who is neither a Republican nor a Democrat?

Four seats from each party are NOT held by unopposed incumbents (as you explicitly stated), Mr. Fortis. Only three Republican seats are held by unopposed incumbents. Perhaps your major party informants didn’t tell you about the ninth contested senate seat. Independents certainly make both Republican and Democratis strategists very uncomfortable. And they’d rather the Independents and “other party” candidates would just go away. But isn’t a “newspaper” supposed to report the facts? Gosh, Mr. Fortis, only “eight districts are in play”? Thanks for misinforming us. Maybe those of us who are actively challenging your hidebound conventional wisdom (or might consider doing so in the future) ought to get practical and realistic and not waste our time and efforts. The way things are now, are how they shall always be, ain’a? How do you think change comes about, Mr. Fortis? By magic? By proclamation? By your proclamation?

To be fair, the Shepherd Express is merely following the lead of, and acting no differently than the rest of the mainstream print and broadcast media, including public TV and radio. (Establishment Democrat Dr. Sheldon Wasserman, running for Senate district 8, makes six challenged seats in Ozaukee and Washington counties this year, and Sheldon, alone, has been mentioned by the mainstream media including public radio and the S-Express.)

Senate Republican Caucus Chair Glenn Grothman (S-20) is opposed by an Independent who qualified for listing on the November general election ballot at the same time as (or before) all of the two major party candidates. (Senate District 20 includes all of Ozaukee County except Mequon-Thiensville, all of Washington County including West Bend except Germantown and Hartford and southern portions, southern Sheboygan County from Waldo down, including Random Lake, Oostburg, and Cedar Grove, southeast Fond du Lac County including Campbellsport, and the town of Theresa in Dodge County. It’s part of the halo of hubris surrounding the city of Milwaukee.)

The Independent who is on the ballot for state senate district 20 and running hard against the wind, and against the media blackout, and against conventional wisdom, and the only opposition to the ruling party incumbent, is Clyde Winter, the author of this blog. The lack of any mention in the Shepherd Express of the issues and of this historic 20th senate district challenge by a progressive Independent exposes the S-Express top management as a major party partisan. It’s hard to explain these incorrect statements, and this omission, as simply an innocent mistake by a professional journalist. And it’s a mistake that has not even been corrected.

Besides this Senate District 20 election, a media blackout has been imposed on other progressive grassroots challenges to ruling party hegemony in Ozaukee and Washington counties. Louis Fortis writing in “News and Views” the following week in the Shepherd Express (about the elections and control of the state Assembly) omitted, in his lead article on the state Assembly election, any mention of three grassroots Democrats, and one progressive Independent combat infantry veteran who have initiated and are conducting historic simultaneous electoral campaigns focusing on the people and the issues. (To be fair, Louis’ article stated it was a summary of eleven Assembly races he claims to be “definitely in play this year”.)

Veteran Greg Dombro is running for Assembly district 58 (West Bend, Jackson, Slinger and near towns).
Dr. Rene’ Settle Robinson is running for Assembly District 23 (including Mequon-Thiensville).
Perry Duman is running for Assembly District 60 (southern Ozaukee County except Mequon).
Charlene Brady is running for Assembly District 24 (including Germantown and nearby towns).

Whether Fortis deems election contests to be “in play” appears to determine whether they get any coverage, regardless of the context of the races, and their implications for this election or their portent for the future. Fortis’ brand of political prognostication should not compromise journalistic integrity. On Sunday morning when I began my usual door-to-door campaigning, the dismal expectations some people had for the outcome of the Packers-Colts game, and Peyton Manning’s offense, might have canceled media coverage or the game itself, had Mr. Fortis been in charge of either. By Sunday night we saw again why they go ahead and play the game despite experts’ expectations. (Well, I didn’t see it, but I got exciting updates while going door-to door.)

There can be no legitimate reason for the print and broadcast media dissing and not even mentioning the historic grassroots insurgency that has risen in Ozaukee and Washington counties. You can bet the ruling party is not ignoring this eruption. I have not yet met anyone, including octogenarians who have lived here all their lives, and librarians proficient in esoteric research, who can recall or tell me when was the last time that more than one name has been on a general election ballot for both state senate and state assembly in Ozaukee and Washington counties. There are SIX such contested elections this year here. That’s what I mean by “historic”, “unique”, and (with ironic understatement) “newsworthy”.

Do you think that people who run for election when pundits and publishers like you don’t think they have a chance are just plain stupid, Mr. Fortis? How do you think real change comes about and first appears? You’re more likely to find issues well expressed that sorely need addressing, and candidates who are motivated by principles and a cause (rather than crass opportunism and career ambition) if you cover those races. And you are more likely to detect seismic shifts and building movements early. That would perform a service for the citizens, wouldn’t it? And wouldn’t a truly alternative newspaper of, by, and for the people want to encourage, not bury such developments?

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