Kapanke camp worries about possible voter suppression activities
By M.D. Kittle Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — Claire Cina knew right away this robo-call wasn’t right.
The Viola woman, a voter in Wisconsin’s 32nd Senate District, this week picked up the phone, heard that familiar robo-call tint and listened for the automated message. The automatic push poll, the kind Cina hates, asked her if she planned on voting in the Aug. 16 recall election.
Only one problem: The 32nd District votes on Aug. 9.
Cina pressed the number for “no.” She’s aware of the date of the election, pitting Republican state Sen. Dan Kapanke against Democratic Rep. Jennifer Shilling, both of La Crosse.
While there are two recall elections set for Aug. 16, those races are well out of reach of the 32nd Senate District.
Cina suspected something more sinister in play than a polling service error.
“I think it’s deliberate,” she told Wisconsin Reporter on Thursday. “I feel like it was a deliberate attempt to have people miss the election by a week.”
At least two other people in the Senate district have received similar calls, according to the Kapanke campaign. An official with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board this week told Wisconsin Reporter the agency had received complaints about the practice in the La Crosse area.
Cina didn’t know where the call came from; the Kapanke camp suspect it originated from the Democratic National Committee.
“I’m very concerned if we’ve got voter suppression efforts going on,” said Jennifer Harrington, Kapanke campaign manager. “It’s one thing to win a race with ethical means when we disagree on policy points … but this voter suppression nonsense isn’t going to fly.”
Harrington said the campaign planned to send out a warning to supporters.
The Wisconsin Democratic Party said it was unaware of the issue Thursday.
“This is the first I’ve heard of it,” said Graeme Zielinski, spokesman for the Wisconsin Democrats. He was suspect of the charge, however, asserting that the “Kapanke campaign has made lots of claims” over the course of the recall campaign.
The swastikas painted on Kapanke campaign signs, reportedly some eight to 10 of them around the district, are difficult to dismiss, however. Kapanke supporters have filled Facebook pages with pictures of the defaced signs. It’s hateful vandalism, Harrington said, that is particularly disturbing, particularly for Kapanke’s Jewish supporters in the district.
Zielinski said he wasn’t aware of any incidents, but added that the Democratic Party has no room for such acts of violence.
“Anyone who practices that, we wish no association with them,” he said. “If anybody thinks they are helping our side by doing that, they are wrong and completely off base, and they should cease to do so.”
Harrington said she doesn’t believe the Democratic Party is behind the violent vandalism, and Zielinski definitively agreed.
The political heat in the 32nd District illustrates the intensifying campaign battles waged in the remaining eight recall elections statewide. Six Republicans and three Democrats face recall this summer, with voters handing down their verdicts on the remaining eight in less than two weeks.
New polling from the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling shows Republicans ahead in two out of three races, with narrow margins in each.
State Rep. Fred Clark, D-Baraboo, held a slim 49 to 47 percent lead over state Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, but the polling was inside the 3 percentage point margin of error.
In Senate District 8, state Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, held a 5 percentage point lead over state Rep. Sandy Pasch, D-Whitefish Bay. And state Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, has a 4 percentage point advantage over former Brown County Executive Nancy Nusbaum in the 2nd Senate District.
“It’s a sheer toss up I’d say in five of six races,” said Tom Jensen, director of North Carolina–based Public Policy Polling, a national polling company. “It’s going to be a long election night. A lot of those races going to be so close.”
Except in the 32nd District, Shilling had a 14 percentage point lead, according to a Public Policy Polling poll conducted in the third week of June.
Harrington scoffs at the numbers, questioning the validity of polling data driven by a liberal source. She said numbers on the ground paint a different picture, with the Kapanke campaign’s sign count far outpacing Shilling’s, for instance.
“These things are push polls by the Democrats,” she said. “It’s all about turnout.”
A push poll is a political tactic to influence voters under the guise of a poll.
Jensen stood by the accuracy of the firm’s polling numbers, noting the firm called state Sen. Dave Hansen’s percentage of victory in the 30th Senate District recall election earlier this month within 2 percentage points.
Katie McCallum, spokeswoman for the Republican Party of Wisconsin, said the Democrats are trying to “manufacture momentum” through the release of the polls. She said the GOP is building support as the success of Gov. Scott Walker’s reforms and budget remedies are proved over time.
“We are concerning ourselves with the incredible get-out-the-vote message we’ve got going on right now,” she said. “We’re not too concerned about a liberal polling firm.”