If you’ve read my blog for any period of time, you know that I don’t like negative political campaigning. And if you recall actual articles that I’ve written, you know that what I dislike even more is negative political campaigning that is based on lies. I don’t care if it’s for local office, national office, or anything in between. It’s one thing for a candidate to go negative. But it’s another when they realize that they’ve got nothing on which to base a negative ad, so they are forced to lie.
Today, I’m writing about the campaign for Wisconsin’s 2nd Assembly seat. The general election is Tuesday, November 6, but we have two candidates running as Republicans, so we have a primary next Tuesday, August 14. The two candidates are Dean Raasch and Shae Sortwell. Let me start off by telling you that I’m Dean’s campaign treasurer. Last spring, when I offered to Dean my time to handle his finances, I told him that I wouldn’t have much time to get involved in actual campaigning, but that I’ll take good, accurate care of his money. Well, shots have been fired at the De Pere City Council (of which both Dean and I are members), so I’m going to speak up.
Now, in this article, I’ll not only set the record straight on a few things, but I also want to point out some facts about Dean’s opponent in order to illustrate their differences. So, let’s go.
In a campaign flyer sent out by Sortwell, he says, “as Walker has been cutting state property taxes, De Pere, under Dean, has been raising city property taxes”. So let’s talk about property taxes. First of all, consider this. If property tax rates were to remain exactly the same from one year to the next, but the value of your home increases, well then your property tax bill will increase accordingly, right? So, let’s look at my own property tax bill. I’m not going to give you all of my personal records, but here’s a snippet. First, my home:
|Estimated Fair Market Value|
In the most recent tax year, my property value increased by 4%. But now let’s look at my property taxes for those two years. Here’s a screenshot of my bill where it shows the various taxing entities along with their tax amount for both 2016 and 2017:
As Sortwell correctly noted, the most obvious change you’ll see is that from 2016 to 2017, the state tax bill was reduced to zero. A 100% decrease. But, please also look at the City of De Pere portion of my taxes, where the dollar amount also decreased. How can my taxes go down if my property value increased? Seriously, how often does that happen? Well, it happened here in De Pere because of the disciplined money management of De Pere leadership along with the policies that we on the City Council have supported. To clear up Sortwell’s claim, under Dean, our city taxes have gone down.
UPDATE – Aug 9, 2018: I want to clarify something that perhaps you might find obvious, but I’ll state it anyway. If you consider any municipality, any county or state, and look at their property taxes over any period of time, they go up. That’s just how taxes work, right? Prices go up. So if you pick a period of say 4 years or 8 years or any period for that matter, I guarantee it will be extremely rare that you’ll find a property tax bill that goes down from year to year. You just can’t sustain municipal services that way.
In De Pere, where Sortwell criticized Dean for increasing taxes, we start by having incredible city staff. These people work hard and bust their butts because they love our city and they want to provide the best services possible. And our residents LOVE them. I hear all the time about the great people working in our Parks Department. I hear about the efficient snow plowing. I could go on and on, but here’s my point. These employees like to have pay raises. And they like to have them every year, just ask them. Really, it’s a thing, good people like pay raises so they can support their families, go on vacation, buy a new car, save for retirement, etc. Again, this should be obvious, but that money doesn’t just materialize. Those are our taxes. And obviously employee wages are only one of many municipal expenses that continue to rise.
So, should Dean ask city employees to take a pay cut year after year so that we can continue to lower our taxes? Obviously Sortwell thinks he should (as a De Pere resident, I’m glad he’s not my Alderman). And as a matter of fact, we conducted a community survey a few years ago, and we flat out asked residents if they’d be willing to pay more taxes in order to maintain our city services. And they said “yes”. So De Pere’s citizens get this. Sortwell obviously doesn’t. Reducing taxes to a ridiculous level seems a bit Libertarian to me (keep reading for more about that).
Have our city taxes gone up over a longer period of time? YES, of course they have. But I only pointed out the most recent one-year example that I have, from 2016 to 2017, to illustrate the hard work that De Pere’s elected officials have done while Dean has been in office. And while Dean tries hard to keep taxes in check, he also won’t make empty campaign promises by saying that taxes will never go up. It’s a shame Sortwell doesn’t understand how this works.
About Dean, Sortwell said, “stormwater fee has increased 30% in De Pere since he took office 4 years ago.” That’s an interesting statement, because stormwater fees have indeed increased. But if you understand how these fees work (as Sortwell, a town supervisor in Gibson, should) then you also know that the City Council does not set those fees. They are set by NEW Water (Green Bay Metropolitan Sewerage District), and all municipalities in the area who use their services must pay those rates.
This is like saying, “the price of construction has increased while Dean has been on the De Pere City Council.” While this might be a true statement, it certainly has nothing to do with Dean. We’re the ones paying those fees, not setting them. And sure, as a council we could say “no, we’re not paying”, but then what? What concerns me most about Sortwell’s claim is that he doesn’t understand this. He serves on the Town Board of Gibson, WI and he doesn’t get how stormwater fees work.
In the previously mentioned post card, Sortwell said that Dean is “too liberal to represent us.” Well, either he knows nothing about Dean, or he’s grasping. Come on. Let’s look at the facts and talk about political leanings. Dean is a lifelong conservative Republican. He’s always been Republican (which Sortwell can’t say, but that topic is coming, be patient). Now, as you may know, positions on local city councils are not partisan. Local candidates do not declare a political party. This is true in De Pere, Green Bay, Gibson, Two Rivers, and any local municipality. So, it can be difficult to judge both of these candidates based on their local voting records. But if you pay attention, you can tell.
Let’s look at one example. Some national issues have recently come up for discussion by the De Pere City Council, and it doesn’t take an expert to see where Dean stands. One recent and specific example is his position on gun control laws. At the April 17, 2018 De Pere City Council meeting, Dean said, “the 2nd amendment is an important part of our history, it’s an important part of our government and how things work in this country.” If you want to watch his full comments and see why we were even discussing gun control at a city council meeting, you can watch the video for yourself (click item #9 in the menu on the left).
There isn’t a lot of voting history for either candidate on this, but based on what little there is, it’s obvious that Dean is not liberal by any definition of the term. Sortwell is simply grasping, hoping that if even one voter believes his lie, then the mailer worked. But since we’re talking about political leanings, read on, I’m not done.
2014 State Assembly Campaign
In 2014, Sortwell ran for State Assembly in district 90 (Guy Zima was his treasurer). On his web page, he called out his opponent because he was “already putting together a smear campaign.” So he’s suggesting that he doesn’t like smear campaigns. Pause here to soak in the irony…
During that 2014 campaign, WisconsinEye interviewed him about his views. When asked why he’s not running as a Republican…wait, yeah, I forgot to tell you, just four years ago Shae Sortwell wasn’t a Republican. Yeah, that’s kind of important. In that interview, he said, “people are fed up with Republicans and Democrats”. He went on to say, “if I was Republican, a lot of these pretty strong Democrats, rank and file public people, they wouldn’t even talk to me, ‘oh you’re a Republican’; but because I’m Independent they’re willing to talk to me”. Please go back and read that statement again. No really, read it one more time. He’s slamming Republicans because people are fed up with us and people won’t talk to us. His words. Now he wants to be one of us.
Here’s another quote, this time from Sortwell’s self-written campaign bio, published in the Green Bay Press-Gazette on October 28, 2014: “Most of you will probably vote for Republican or Democrat for governor, and that is fine; but take a chance on this race. Vote Independent.” You can read the full snippet in the image here.
Look, I don’t mind if someone runs as an Independent. The more the merrier. But if you do, then you can’t just flip flop and claim that you’re now Republican because it’s convenient. I mean, he was slamming Republicans! And now he wants to be our nominee for State Assembly?
And to be clear, the info I provided above is all factual. Sortwell was an Independent. Sortwell said those things about Republicans. These are not my opinions. And yet with all of that in his history, he has the nerve to call Dean a Liberal.
Let’s look at one more thing related to this 2014 election, and then I’ll move on (sorry, there’s so much to cover here, I don’t want to skip anything important). Sortwell also criticized his Republican opponent in that race because he didn’t raise any money and he didn’t have any endorsements. So, let’s look at the outcome of that election. This is a screenshot from Ballotpedia:
Yep, not only did the Democrat win that election, but Sortwell couldn’t even beat the Republican, a guy who he criticized for having no money and no endorsements. Sortwell even called him an, “unprincipled lawyer”.
Listen, I’m just trying to show you the facts here. I don’t care if Sortwell is an Independent. It’s great that we have more people running for office. But he shouldn’t go around trying to make us believe that he’s the best Republican in this 2018 campaign. He’s not. When you run for office, you can’t just pick the political party that’s convenient for that election, and then expect Republicans to trust you.
Sortwell’s bio on his Facebook page, says, “Liberty first, Liberty always defended.” And he’s pretty honest about his love of liberty. After all, that’s good right? Well, yes, depending on which “liberty” you’re referring to. Yes, unless you push it so far that you’re actually more Libertarian than Republican.
So, maybe that quote isn’t enough. But he also quotes American leaders like Rand Paul and his dad Ron Paul, two politicians that everyone knows have clear Libertarian roots. He said, “I consider myself a Rand/Ron Paul Republican.” Well, that’s just a Libertarian who wants the support of Republicans.
Not enough? Well, Sortwell also is endorsed by Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), a “political organization that was formed in 2008 at the end of Congressman Ron Paul’s presidential campaign…focused on educating their peers about various topics including libertarian values.”
Still not enough? What if I told you that YAL sent a crew of hired members to knock on doors for him. Yep, one such door-knocker who I spoke to (while he was holding Sortwell flyers) told me that he lives in Minnesota. They’re not from around here, but it’s important to their organization to “educate their peers about libertarian values.” I don’t mind the involvement of a national organization in Sortwell’s campaign, not at all. But let’s just be sure we’re talking about who that organization is. They are Libertarian. And they wouldn’t just foot the bill for a group of door knockers in Wisconsin’s 2nd Assembly district unless they weren’t convinced that the candidate would further their Libertarian ways.
Look, we all know that Libertarians and Republicans are similar. I’m not slamming Libertarians. But there’s an obvious pattern here. And with Sortwell calling Dean “liberal”, it’s also interesting to look into Sortwell’s political leanings and simply wonder why he wants to run as a Republican. In this primary election, it’s important to see these differences. Sortwell should be running in a primary against his fellow Libertarian Kevin Bauer.
Should His Own Residency Rules Apply To Him?
Sortwell ran for Green Bay City Council in April 2010. He won the election, but was then forced to resign less than a year later. For background on this, I’ll stop here and let you read these snippets from articles in the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Just click the article if you want to read the full version, but the first two paragraphs of each article are enough to make my point:
I’ll tell you what, I’m just going to leave these two articles here, side by side, with no further commentary. This stuff writes itself.
In the 2014 WisconsinEye interview that I previously mentioned, Sortwell criticized his Republican opponent in that race because “he has received zero endorsements”. So obviously he feels endorsements are important. I agree. Endorsements are important. Here are just a few of Dean’s endorsements:
I also included an ad that WFC is running for Dean because they believe heavily in who he is and where his values lie.
Those endorsements are pretty pro-family eh? And extremely pro-life? Yeah, well, so am I. Being pro-life is important to me, in all aspects. So, you might wonder what to do with this info since both candidates claim to be pro-life. These are the tough issues in a primary like this. So, let’s just look a little closer. Five years ago, Sortwell was the Brown County Chairman for Wisconsin Right to Life. I’d probably brag about that too if I were him. But this is 2018. And I can’t help but wonder why Wisconsin Right to Life yanked their endorsement of Sortwell and gave it to Dean this year. What do they know about Sortwell that we don’t know?
Yes, endorsements are important. But having an endorsement one year, and then having your beliefs and actions over a 5-year period cause an organization as important as Wisconsin Right To Life pull it back, well, that’s a very telling fact. Just think about that.
If you want a pro-life representative in our state legislature who will fight for our families, and I mean all of God’s creation, even in the womb, Dean is your obvious choice.
When I started writing this, I didn’t expect it to be this long. I simply wanted to defend the actions and decisions of the De Pere City Council and straighten out Sortwell’s rhetoric. Sortwell doesn’t live in De Pere, so I don’t expect him to understand the facts about how Dean works. But what gets me is that he was so bold as to present his bogus facts as if he’s an expert; he obviously isn’t, or he wouldn’t have gotten them wrong.
Let’s also consider that these facts that I’ve provided aren’t all that hard to find. These aren’t just my opinions about who he is. He actually said those things. He actually was an Independent only 4 years ago. He actually did say that you should have to live in Green Bay to work for Green Bay, and then he moved to Madison while still collecting his Green Bay paycheck and voting on Green Bay’s City Council. He actually did run for Green Bay City Council, then Wisconsin Assembly District 90, then Town of Gibson Board, and now Wisconsin Assembly District 2 (geez, what next?). He actually did say, “people are fed up with Republicans.” This is not me just deducing his identity based on insignificant thoughts. He is who he says he is.
Look, I shared a lot of info here. And let’s be clear. If you were to look at any one specific fact that I presented, maybe it’s not a big deal. We’re all human, we all screw up, and yes, maybe we can act more like Jesus and offer mercy. But Sortwell wants to be our Republican candidate! He’s not only got to be Republican, but he needs to consistently act like one, and not be so overtly against us as he has been.
I also realize that you might say, “well, Scott is Dean’s treasurer, of course he feels this way.” If that’s your concern, I’ll clear that up for you right now. I don’t feel this way about Dean because I’m his campaign treasurer. It’s the other way around. I’m his campaign treasurer because I feel this way about Dean.
I hope you see that Dean Raasch is the true conservative Republican here. The true CONSISTENT conservative Republican. The ONLY ONE who has always supported Republican candidates. The ONLY ONE who has never run for office as an Independent. The one who has earned endorsements that reveal his true identity.
The primary election is next Tuesday, August 14. I hope you’ll join me in voting for Dean Raasch.