On Monday, Huffington Post ran a piece on the Wisconsin State Senate race in District 20, where ALEC member Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) is facing a challenge from high school teacher Tanya Lohr. The story, "Beauty and the Beast," placed the campaign into a dashingly over-the-top fairy-tale frame:
It's a classic tale ... with twists. The young ingenue faces off against a representative of the forces of evil. The attractive young woman held prisoner by the fire breathing, life-threatening beast. Sadly, however, this beast does not turn out to be a prince.The article goes on to introduce both Grothman and Lohr, and concludes:
This beast is Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman.
Will this beauty and the beast tale have a storybook ending? Grothman has been in the Wisconsin State Legislature for 20 years, running virtually unopposed to victories of 99 percent and 80 percent in the strongly Republican district. But, as Lohr points out, this was before the extremist Walker budget with its anti-woman and anti-family bents. Grothman, the live-at-home, never-been-married, never-had-kids crusader for someone else's idea of family versus Lohr the mother of four, school teacher. It would be an amazing upset, should she win --something on the order of a fairy tale!The HuffPo article appeals to fire-breathing partisanship, right down to the dig about the contrast in physical appearance between the two candidates. But it's actually not representative of the kind of campaign Tanya Lohr is running. Lohr is making a daily stance for strong Wisconsin community and reasoned decency. In fact, pretty much all you need to know about the contrast between Tanya Lohr and Glenn Grothman, you can learn from their own words. What he said, what she said... beyond the cheddar swirl.
Tanya Lohr distills her campaign into a single sentence on her ActBlue page:
[Lohr] I am running for Wisconsin's 20th Senate district to restore adequate funding for public education, promote respect for women, establish affordable health care and build strong communities.When I went to Google to find Glenn Grothman's campaign website, it was nowhere to be found on the first page of Glenn Grothman for state senate search results. First result was the standard Wikipedia entry. Then came two results from the Wisconsin Legislature. Fourth result was a blog called What Did Glenn Grothman Get Wrong This Week? I scrolled down through ten Google-results pages without finding a campaign site for Grothman. It would appear that he hasn't bothered. His Facebook offerings are similarly scanty -- he does have a Facebook page, but it is not a campaign site and does not contain anything like a concise summary of his views beyond the single tag-line:
[Grothman] Common Sense and Less GovernmentTanya Lohr, on the other hand, has an active campaign web page at Tanya Lohr for State Senate, complete with issue positions and endorsements (Russ Feingold! The Sierra Club!) Her campaign Facebook updates convey the essence of her deeply-dedicated campaign.
Lohr has been crisscrossing the district through the worst of the record-breaking summer heat, introducing herself and her priorities, knocking on doors that haven't been knocked before in search of conversations with the people of SD-20. Here's a Facebook update from July 28:
[Lohr] Yesterday a lot of people remarked that no one had ever knocked on their door before and when I asked why they thought that was the case, they replied that they lived too far off the beaten path to warrant a stop. Good thing I'm not big on the "beaten path" because the people at these doors had important concerns about state government as well as interesting solutions to these problems. We can't keep doing the same thing over and over again if we want different results.Since Grothman doesn't seem to have bothered to prepare a campaign message for his district, I've had to search elsewhere for the words he has used to define himself and his positions. I remember first becoming aware of Glenn Grothman during the protests of February 2011, after Gov. Walker had "dropped the bomb" with his out-of-the-blue assault on public employees, Medicaid and more. Tens of thousands of Wisconsinites poured into the snow-covered streets of the Capitol in protest, occupying the Capitol building day in and day out for several weeks. Though I never stayed overnight, various friends from my church made a point of joining the overnight protests with their families: teacher, social worker, software engineer, plus kids and all. Here's what Grothman had to say about them/us:
[Grothman] Well, we’re trying to keep some people out of the building because right now the building is becoming a pig sty. People are staying overnight, the building smells. We used to have nice little groups of fourth grade children walking through the building. There was something called the Senate Scholar programs that would track us around. All of that is being shut down by a bunch of slobs taking up the building. We can no longer continue to have all of these slobs in the building.The building was indeed eventually shut down, by the Wisconsin Department of Administration (not the protesters), and metal detectors staffed by law enforcement were installed at the few select doors that remained open during business hours. When my daughter went to the Capitol on a field-trip with her third-grade class later that spring, their "nice little group" had to file through the police gauntlet. The metal detectors were removed and the building fully reopened after two bills were passed in June 2011 with Grothman's enthusiastic support: the 2011-2013 budget which slashed education and finalized the decimation of collective bargaining for public employees; and concealed-carry (one effect of which is that concealed weapons are now allowed in most parts of Wisconsin's Capitol building).
Here is another report from Lohr's campaign trail, August 7:
[Lohr] One woman told me right off the bat that she doesn't vote. I told her we didn't have to talk about voting - just about concerns about state government. She said she didn't like paying for other people's children - they weren't her responsibility. I told her it was tough sometimes to pay taxes for things we don't think benefit us directly. I asked her what she thought would happen if we didn't educate children. She sighed and said "This is where you're going to tell me that I won't have doctors or nurses, or accountants, or lawyers to take care of me if we don't educate children." I replied with "Actually, no, I was going to talk about the expense of additional incarcerations and reliance of unemployment and public assistance if we don't educate our children. But I like your reasons, too." She looked at me for a few moments, then smiled and said, "You win." But both of us won, because what followed was a great conversation filled with good insights and ideas. And.....information about voting.Grothman, on the other hand, had some choice words about voting last month, after a second permanent injunction was issued against Wisconsin's Voter ID law, making it extremely unlikely that the ID requirement will be in force this November. When asked in a recent interview if he thought that Wisconsin's Voter ID requirement would benefit the Romney campaign if upheld, he answered:
[Grothman] I think we believe that insofar as there are inappropriate things, people who vote inappropriately are more likely to vote Democrat.He later added:
[Grothman] I think if people cheat, we believe the people who cheat are more likely to vote against us.Beyond his disdain for protesters and affinity for vote-suppression, Grothman has also emerged as a leader in the War on Women. While Lohr includes "promote respect for women" in the fundamentals of her platform, Grothman has managed to attract national attention with his outrageous statements of disrespect, and legislative actions to match.
Grothman helped lead the charge to repeal Wisconsin's 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act, which had allowed victims of discrimination in the workplace to sue in state courts. He dismisses outright the findings of studies documenting the pay differential between male and female workers. In an April interview for Newsweek's Daily Beast, he argued that any existing gap is attributable to personal priorities:
[Grothman] Take a hypothetical husband and wife who are both lawyers. But the husband is working 50 or 60 hours a week, going all out, making 200 grand a year. The woman takes time off, raises kids, is not go go go. Now they’re 50 years old. The husband is making 200 grand a year, the woman is making 40 grand a year. It wasn’t discrimination. There was a different sense of urgency in each person.The article also reports the following statement:
[Grothman] You could argue that money is more important for men. I think a guy in their first job, maybe because they expect to be a breadwinner someday, may be a little more money-conscious. To attribute everything to a so-called bias in the workplace is just not true.Grothman's extremism (and there are many more examples than I've given here) has gone without Democratic opposition in both his state senate elections so far: no opponent at all in 2004, an Independent in 2008. A valiant recall effort in 2011 fell short of the required number of signatures to force an election. Tanya Lohr was a leader in the signature-collection effort, and is now providing the alternate electoral choice that the district so desperately needs.
Looking on from a distance (I'm not in SD-20), Lohr's campaign strikes me as a brilliant example of how a state equivalent to the 50 State Strategy could work at its best. Put up and support good candidates in even the supposedly-hopeless races. Reach out to people, talk to people, let them know that there's another way, give them a choice, build a constituency. We can't grow movements if we give up on people who happen to live in the "wrong" districts!
One final message from Lohr's door-to-door campaign experiences:
[Lohr] On the doors tonight I met a fantastic man who identified himself as a conservative, but said he did not like the direction our state was heading and was ready for a change. We agreed to throw the labels to the side and just talk about what was important to each of us. There were many issues we agreed on, and there were some that we did not. But even when we disagreed, we came up with a solution that ended with "Yeah, I could live with that". We shook hands at the end and he said he'd be proud to have me as his Senator. Yeah, I could live with that :)If you'd be proud to help Tanya Lohr represent the 20th state senate district in Wisconsin, please consider an ActBlue donation: