Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Hop in the Sidecar, Sancho!

It looks like Team Walz/Burkee is out of the gate with a good jump. CQ has a brief profile on them this morning with more juicy details on just how they plan to spend the next 15 months:

"In a show of bipartisan comity rarely, if ever, seen before in congressional politics, Burkee and Walz will launch a joint campaign Web site at Burkeeandwalz.com and produce joint advertising, bumper stickers and yard signs..."


"Although only one of them can be elected to Congress, Burkee and Walz discuss their joint campaign in terms of what would happen if “we” win. They said they would continue teaching at Concordia as they served the district’s constituents, bringing back the idea of citizen legislators instead of career politicians.

"So far they have not contacted their state parties or the national party campaign committees, and they’ve said they do not intend to. Walz, a professor of political science at Concordia, described the campaign as a collaboratively run grass-roots effort they hope to keep 'outside of party support and outside of the party apparatus.'

[scene missing]

Seniors from Concordia University and the University of Wisconsin will staff the campaigns, and the congressional hopefuls said they have received strong support from their home university. “We often times hear about the apathy in America, the apathy among students, but to have two professors modeling good citizenship is . . . a valuable learning experience for our students and for our university,” Walz said.

Gary C. Jacobson, a professor of political science at the University of California San Diego and an expert in congressional elections, said he is not aware of such an arrangement in any past congressional elections, and gave the candidates slim chances in the general election.

“It’s a gimmick that will get them some attention but ... I don’t see how they could possibly expect to win,” Jacobson said.

Whatever happens, I think Burkee and Walz appear to have more of a plan than they're letting on to having at the moment. Unfortunately, I think their strategy primarily involves educating their students and the voters of their district more than any kind of actual electoral game plan.

But that doesn't mean they won't surprise voters. Sensenbrenner is about as pleasant as a root canal and last year the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel finally found the cajones to tell the Congressman as much (and in no uncertain terms) in it's endorsement of Democratic party sacrificial lamb Bryan Kennedy:

[Kennedy] will be a competent, thoughtful congressman who can restore a sense of dignity and balance to the 5th District. It's time for that after years of folly from Sensenbrenner.

Sensenbrenner has too often been an obstructionist to good policy. Given the reins of the powerful House Judiciary Committee, he had a chance to lead for the common good during a congressional session when few representatives had even a notion of what that meant. Too often, he didn't.

Sensenbrenner was wrong on immigration. His enforcement-only plan included making felons of undocumented immigrants and a useless 700-mile fence that will do nothing to solve this national problem. Worse for Republicans, his obstinacy split his own party and cost it a rare opportunity to significantly broaden its base.

Sensenbrenner was wrong on the USA Patriot Act. We need many of its provisions in this era of terrorism, but the version he championed strode upon the liberty of every American.

Sensenbrenner was wrong on Real ID, which will cost states millions of dollars to implement and which fixed something that wasn't broken.

Sensenbrenner was wrong not to dig deeper into the National Security Agency's domestic spying program. Sensenbrenner sent a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales but didn't bother with the real spade work.

Sensenbrenner was wrong to waste taxpayers' money by taking more than $160,000 in junkets since 1994, not to mention the more than $200,000 in world travel paid for by lobbyists and think tanks over the past six years.

Sensenbrenner was wrong to push bills that would make it harder for police agencies to track illegal guns and to crack down on rogue gun dealers.

Sensenbrenner was wrong to indict Milwaukee as "fast becoming the murder capital of the U.S." and wrong to lash out at Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, calling him a "crybaby" for having the brass to criticize Congress. It's but one example of the congressman's increasingly belligerent and unproductive tone.

They may be longshots, but what others will want to throw away as a "gimmick" may have to potential to tap into a strain of anti-divisiveness that may sweep over the voters of the 5th district (though that's extremely doubtful given the demographic make-up of Sensenbrenner's current domain). Regardless of what happens, the Burkee/Walz ticket will likely be the most innovative contribution Wisconsin makes to political science this election cycle.

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