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Steven Walters: Take a crack at picking Tuesday primary winners

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Steven Walters
August 11, 2014

If any money was involved, this could be an illegal office pool.

But because no cash is changing hands, it's an invitation to pick the winners in some of the best races in Tuesday's primary elections.

So make your picks and—on Wednesday—claim your official Political Pundit hat. Or not.

-- Democratic primary for attorney general—Two prosecutors, Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ and Dane County DA Ismael Ozanne, and state Rep. Jon Richards of Milwaukee, want to replace retiring Republican J.B. Van Hollen.

Richards has the largest base of Democratic voters, but they must go to the polls. Happ has been endorsed by EMILY's List and is a fresh newcomer to Democratic politics. But Dane County Democrats traditionally turn out for one of their own.

-- 2nd U.S. House District Democrats—Rob Zerban of Kenosha hopes to again take on Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan in the Nov. 4 general election.

But to face Ryan, he must beat first-time candidate Amar Kaleka of Franklin on Tuesday. Kaleka's father was killed in the Sikh Temple attack two years ago in Oak Creek. Is Kaleka's personal story compelling enough to beat Zerban?

-- 4th U.S. House District Democrats—Any chance that incumbent U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore will be upset by former state Sen. Gary George, a convicted felon who would have to move into the district if he won Nov. 4? The contest is for Milwaukee's seat in Congress.

Bonus points if you think Moore wins easily and you pick her winning percentage—within 5 points—on Tuesday.

-- 6th U.S. House District Republicans—The retirement of U.S. Rep. Tom Petri touched off a four-way primary for a U.S. House seat represented by the same Republican since 1979.

Three GOP legislators—Sens. Joe Liebham of Sheboygan and Glenn Grothman of Campbellsport, and Rep. Duey Stroebel of Saukville—have spent the past few weeks trying to be the most conservative. A fourth candidate, Tom Denow of Oshkosh, doesn't have enough cash to compete with three legislators.

-- State Senate District 15 Democrats—The retirement of Democratic Sen. Tim Cullen touched off a three-way primary between former Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan of Janesville, Rep. Janis Ringhand of Evansville and former Cullen aide Austin Scieszinski, also of Janesville.

One big question: Are district Democrats ready to forgive Sheridan, a former UAW leader at the now-closed GM assembly plant, for 2009-10 personal and political problems that cost him his Assembly seat?

-- State Senate District 17 Democrats—State Democratic Party leaders have made it clear they want Pat Bomhack of Spring Green to beat Ernie Wittwer of Hillpoint on Tuesday. But will southwest Wisconsin Democrats resent party leaders telling them who has the best chance to win the seat held for decades by Republican Sen. Dale Schultz?

If they do, Wittwer, the retired budget director for the state Department of Transportation, could edge out the younger Bomhack.

-- State Senate District 21 Republicans—Former state Sen. Van Wanggaard, a former Racine police officer, was recalled in 2012 for voting for Act 10 reforms pushed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Wanggaard is now running in a new, much more Republican district.

But Pleasant Prairie business executive Jonathan Steitz—and some tea party activists—back Steitz, who says Wanggaard isn't conservative enough. Responding, Wanggaard shows off his political scars.

-- Assembly District 51 Republicans—Republican Rep. Howard Marklein of Spring Green wants to move up to the Senate seat after Schultz retires.

Four Republicans are vying for Marklein's old Assembly seat: Dodgeville Mayor Todd Novak, Dennis Polivka of Spring Green, Ken Rynes of Richland Center and Tyler Schultz of Monroe.

The novelty element: Novak is the first openly gay Republican candidate for the Legislature. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos recruited him.

-- Tiebreaker—Pick the percentage of the Democratic vote for governor that Rep. Brett Hulsey gets against Mary Burke, who was recruited—and endorsed by—Democratic Party leaders. Both are from Madison, but that's where the similarities end. Burke's campaign raised $500,000 in July; Hulsey, less than $100.

Political veterans say Burke would have some explaining to do if Hulsey gets even 10 percent of Tuesday's statewide vote. Marquette Law School pollsters once asked about Hulsey's support but found so little of it they stopped asking.

Steven Walters is a senior producer for the nonprofit public affairs channel WisconsinEye. Contact him at stevenscwalters@gmail.com.



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