By M.D. Kittle/Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON – Eric Hovde’s campaign is outing a gay-rights group for labeling him a Democrat.
Madison-based Fair Wisconsin admits that a recent poll about Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race contained a huge error.
The poll asked respondents across the state whether they would vote for Republican Tommy Thompson or Democrat Eric Hovde.
One problem: Hovde, a Madison developer and hedge fund manager, is a Republican running against Thompson in a primary field of candidates trying to out-conservative each other.
The Hovde campaign cried foul, suggesting it was a hit job on a candidate whom polls show could fare well against Tammy Baldwin, long-time 2nd District congresswoman and the Democrats’ candidate for the Senate seat.
Fair Wisconsin has endorsed Baldwin, an openly gay member of Congress.
“I think this group is making a concerted effort to mislead Republican voters,” Hovde campaign spokesman Sean Lansing told Wisconsin Reporter.
“It is no secret that Tammy Baldwin and the Democrats don’t want to face Eric in November and this disingenuous poll is more proof,” Lansing said in a release blasting the poll.
Fair Wisconsin reiterated that the misidentification of Hovde’s party affiliation was due to human error.
“The misidentification of one of the candidates was a serious, but completely unintentional mistake. We have taken appropriate action with the vendor and the mistake has been corrected,” Katie Belanger, executive director of Fair Wisconsin, said in a statement issued to Wisconsin Reporter.
The organization could not answer Wisconsin Reporter’s questions about whether the results from the incorrect poll question would be withdrawn or if the organization intended to start over with another polling firm.
A spokesperson from Mountain West Research did not immediately return a phone call from Wisconsin Reporter.
Thompson, once seen as the front-runner in the four-man GOP field, has slipped in polls in recent weeks, while Hovde and former 1st District Congressman Mark Neumann have been on the ascendant.
In this week’s Public Policy Polling survey shows Hovde leading, at 28 percent, followed by Thompson and Neumann tied at 25 percent.
The candidates are running in a statistical dead heat, well within the 4.9 percentage point margin of error, according to the liberal-leaning PPP’s poll of 400 likely Republican primary voters.
In a race marred by mud from all three of the leading GOP candidates, the question is – will the Thompson and Neumann camps seize on the polling error, publicized by Hovde’s campaign.
Both candidates have tried to paint Hovde as less than conservative, attacking him for comments he made on federal stimulus spending and tax policy, and his holding’s receipt of federal money.
You can hear the big, booming campaign ad voice now: Maybe Fair Wisconsin had Eric Hovde pegged. Maybe Hovde is more Democrat than he’d like to think. Cue the sinister-sounding music and video of Hovde on some TV show three years ago.
“Given the nature of this campaign and the kind of course it has taken with all of the false attacks leveled against us … I wouldn’t put anything past them,” Lansing said of the rival campaigns when asked if the Hovde campaign’s drawing attention to the polling error could come back to bite.
Hovde hasn’t gotten too much traction of late, according to PPP.
“Hovde remains the unexpected leader in this contest but his momentum has stalled a good bit over the last month,” PPP said in its release. Hovde’s polling numbers and his favorability rating have fallen in recent weeks.
Some of Thompson’s biggest supporters, the Dairy Business Association and the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association voiced their “outrage” Friday over Hovde’s improper classification of developed property as farmland a decade ago. Doing so lowered Hovde Realty’s property taxes. The Hovde family’s real estate company eventually settled a city of Madison lawsuit for $22,500.
“Hovde broke the rules and when caught, he went to court and tried unsuccessfully to get the entire law thrown out,” Laurie Fischer, executive director of the Dairy Business Association of Wisconsin, said in a press release.
“The Wisconsin agricultural community relies on the farmland classification for property to help it remain competitive,” Fischer said. “Hovde’s attempt to overturn the law would have dramatically increased taxes on Wisconsin farmers in an effort to save him a $22,000 penalty.”
Lansing said there’s nothing malicious in what Hovde did.
“Eric fought City Hall over a tax structure that multiple businesses think was unfair. That was the extent of it,” the campaign spokesman said.
It saved Wisconsin farmers a lot of cash.