If you know me, you know that I don’t like negative political campaigning. Today is election day here in De Pere, and the negative ads are out again. We have a Republican primary for District 1 in the Wisconsin state senate. The two candidates are André Jacque (current District 2 representative in the state assembly) and Alex Renard (local businessman).
Jacque has been in the state assembly for 7 years now and he is well-liked among Republicans in the district. I say this based on the fact that I personally know many people in the community who like him and we keep choosing him to continue representing us in Madison. So he’s now running for the state senate, which is a step up from his current assembly role, with a longer term. It seems like a natural progression in his political life.
But here’s the problem. A number of other elected Republicans in the state don’t like him (Kitchens, Macco, Nygren, Steffen, Steineke) . You can read more about that in this April 7, 2018 article by Jerry Bader. Based on everything I’ve read, it seems that they differ on raising money. It’s of course very important to raise money in order to win elections. But André also feels that it’s important to do the work of the people who elected him. That’s a tough line to walk when you’re in office, it’s almost a no-win situation.
So, where does that leave us voters? Well, we’re searching for information. We have two Republican candidates in a primary, and we have to choose one. I know André well. In my role on the De Pere City Council, I’ve spoken to him many times over the years about various issues. We have each other’s cell numbers and occasionally exchange text messages. I know what I need to know about André. So for me, I just need to know more about Alex Renard. Who is he really? What exactly has he been up to in recent years? I’ve heard a number of things, none of which would disqualify him in my mind, but when I consider everything together, it just doesn’t sound right.
1) In this April 20, 2018 Green Bay Press-Gazette article, Jonathan Anderson points out that Renard moved to De Pere a month before declaring his candidacy. So, the obvious question is, “did he move into the district so that he could run?” I’m just not sure. In this April 23, 2018 video interview, he said, “grew up in the district in the Town of Scott”. That sounds like one of those statements that is technically accurate, but he wants me to really think that he’s always lived in the district. He hasn’t. One simple question that any candidate for any office should be asked is “how long have you lived in your district?” I’m not suggesting that there’s any right or wrong answer. It’s just good information to know when added to everything else. Just read the article I linked to, he hasn’t cleared up the question. And actually, he has added to the confusion by saying that he moved to De Pere “quite a while ago”, when he actually moved here in February.
2) Due to the statements made by the other Republican officials, I think it’s good to know if Renard is running on his own or if he was recruited. Again, I’m not suggesting there’s a right or wrong answer, it’s just good to know his intentions. At the end of this April 5, 2018 WBAY interview, Andrea Hay asked, “People are questioning if it was your own idea to run or if you were urged by people who don’t like André Jacque. What’s your answer to that?” Renard replied, “I can tell you 100% that I want to serve the people of the district that I grew up in, and that’s my reason for running. I want to give them a voice in Madison.” Again, he had the chance to clear this all up once and for all, and instead he chose not to answer the question. I’m convinced that he was recruited. And if not, he should have just offered a direct answer when given the opportunity.
3) I attended the Brown County Lincoln-Reagan dinner on May 5. This is a big fund raiser for the Republican Party of Brown County where a number of local candidates have the opportunity to speak. I’ve attended this annual dinner several times, and I do so for two reasons. First, I want to support the party. Second, I want to hear from the candidates. So, while Renard spoke, I waited for some substance. He of course referred to himself as a job creator. I know a number of 24-year-olds who have actually created jobs, it’s not uncommon and I’m fine with his age. But you have to have a story to support your claim. If you were hired into your Dad’s company and promoted into a leadership role, that’s not the same as starting your own company and actually creating jobs from nothing. Sure, maybe he’s made decisions that lead to new jobs being created, that’s nothing to sneeze at; I applaud it. But I don’t know that for sure. With only two or three sentences, he could have given specific examples to back up his claim, but he didn’t. Come on, this is a campaign speech, you should be bragging about your accomplishments.
I also met Renard after the meeting and shook his hand. We talked very briefly and I figured that I had already heard what I needed to hear. He had this golden opportunity in front of many fellow Republicans to state his case and he just didn’t do it for me.
4) Midwest Growth Fund paid for and sent this mailer to slam Jacque. Let’s look at the content. They use buzz phrases to try to get the reader to think negatively about him. In the flyer, they refer to his “taxpayer-funded pay hike”. Well, of course. All elected officials’ salaries are “taxpayer-funded”. It also points out his “tax free, taxpayer-funded per diems”. That money pays for things like travel expenses to Madison. And again, it’s of course “taxpayer-funded”, and it’s tax free (look up the definition of ‘per diem’). Then it refers to “government-funded paychecks…to climb the political ladder”. Well, he’s an elected official, and his pay is indeed government-funded. They can’t be suggesting that elected officials’ salaries shouldn’t be “taxpayer-funded”. After all, there are a lot of Republicans living off of our taxes. The only thing I can conclude is that it’s a smear campaign.
5) Midwest Growth Fund also paid for and sent this similar flyer. But this time they offered an interesting comparison of Renard and Jacques. For example, they said, “Alex is 100% Pro-Life.” But in comparison, they failed to mention that André has the endorsement of Wisconsin Right to Life, Wisconsin Family Action PAC, and Pro-Life Wisconsin. That’s kind of an important omission. They also mention that Renard is a “proven job creator” but they didn’t prove it. And of course they used the same bullet points I previously mentioned about Jacque’s salary being taxpayer-funded.
Worst of all, in each of these mailers, they referred to Jacque as a “career politician”. Come on, think about that for a minute. It’s a buzz word, and a negative one at that. Jacque took office in January 2011. Are they suggesting that every current elected official who has been in office for 7 years has been there long enough? What they’re doing is playing on the national sentiment against career politicians by trying to lump André in with those who have been in office for decades.
And yeah, I’ve heard it before. “Midwest Growth Fund” is not the candidate. It’s not the party. They’re independent and the candidate had nothing to do with that ad. Bull. We all know how it works.
6) The Republican Party of Wisconsin also sent out mailers on behalf of Renard. In one such mailer, they pointed out that Renard will return his 2018 salary to the taxpayers. That’s just dumb. It’s certainly not sustainable, right? I mean, you can’t keep doing that for all elected officials. So, returning one year of salary to the taxpayers is supposed to make him better than André? Perhaps André needs his annual salary to care for his family. I can certainly identify with that, much more than I can identify with a wealthy man who doesn’t need his salary.
Look, I’ve been a Republican all my adult life. I believe in conservative values and principles, and I want them to win out over liberal causes. Perhaps you think I’m naive, that maybe I don’t appreciate the importance of raising money or working together. You might even say that experts have proven that the use of buzz words and negative ads works. Fine. But that’s not me. And I know that there are many Republicans like me who feel the same way. We need substance and we’re smart enough to not be swayed by tricks. And in the case of this current election, I like André Jacque. If you’re going to go negative on him, you better have someone who can match up with his record.
The fact that the ads have gone negative tells me that André’s opponent just doesn’t stack up, and that his opponent knows it. So, I’m voting for André so that he can continue his good work in Madison.
André is a man of character and integrity who isn’t afraid to stand up to the status quo or the special interests. Okay, that last line isn’t really mine. I stole it from Gov. Walker.