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Monday, August 15, 2011

 4:04 PM 

Both sides optimistic on turnout efforts in 12th Senate District

WAUSAU – On the eve of a historic summer election in northern Wisconsin, political leaders say enthusiasm remains high even though the outcome means little to the balance of power in the state Senate.

“Our office is wall-to-wall full here,” Phil Walzak, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party, said in a telephone interview from Rhinelander on Monday, referring to volunteers. “The shifts are full.”

Matt Capristo, a spokesman for the state Republican Party, estimated 50 to 100 volunteers were making telephone calls and knocking on doors to back his party’s get-out-the-vote strategy at midday Monday.

“We are getting enough (help),” he said. “There is a lot of enthusiasm”

In Tuesday’s District 12 Senate recall, incumbent Jim Holperin, a 60-year-old Democrat with a long resume in government and politics, faces political newcomer Kim Simac, a 52-year-old small business owner, political newcomer and tea party activist who organized Holperin's recall.

District 12 includes all or parts of 11 mostly rural counties, stretching from near Wausau to Marinette, Rhinelander and Eagle River.

Holperin, who narrowly won the seat in November 2008 against another small business owner, survived a similar recall when he was in the state Assembly in 1990 amidst angst over the Chippewa Indians’ reviving special fishing rights retained in century-old treaties.

Holperin and 13 other Democratic senators fled to Illinois in February for three weeks to thwart passage of Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill, a move that ultimately failed to block passage of the legislation.

Holperin contends the move was responsible and gave the people of Wisconsin more time to consider Walker’s anti-union changes. Simac’s campaign characterizes the move as walking off the job and leaving constituents with no voice.

No matter the outcome of Holperin’s race, Republicans will keep control of the Senate, after GOP incumbents won four of six recalls last week and one Democrat was re-elected earlier. The only remaining races involve Holperin and fellow Democratic incumbent Robert Wirch. After last week's races, Republicans hold 17 Senate seats and Democrats have 16.

Walzak said the Democratic Party was mounting a “full-fledged voter turnout” for Tuesday with volunteers “eager to protect” Holperin and the gains Democrats made in ousting two Republican senators last week.

“While the Senate didn’t flip, it is a much different Senate than a week ago,” he said. “We made some strides. Moderates and progressives have new influence. Our volunteer pool continues to be strong.”

Elizabeth Novak, an organizer for the Democratic Party in Rhinelander, estimated about 300 different volunteers have worked on Holperin’s behalf, mostly knocking on doors and distributing campaign literature, since Friday.

The campaign has set up “satellite offices” in Antigo, Tomahawk and Merrill for the final push, she said.

“We haven’t changed anything,” she said. “We are doing what we planned to do – making sure we turn out our supporters.”

Capristo said he felt good about his party’s get-out-the-vote effort, predicting up to a 45 percent turnout for the historic recall. Some top Republican officials, including the lieutenant governor, have visited the district to campaign for Simac in recent days.

“There is a reason for this recall,” Capristo said. “People are upset.”

Simac was spending the final hours of her first run for elective office on what she called a “pickup truck tour” of Lincoln and Langlade counties, hauling a 4-foot by 8-foot campaign sign and making stops to shake hands and greet voters, Capristo said.

“We are doing out best to get to every single township,” he said.

Holperin attended an AARP picnic in Rhinelander on Monday and planned a later stop in Antigo, Novak said. He planned to spend much of Tuesday in Vilas County’s Lac du Flambeau, she said.

-- By Robert Imrie
For WisPolitics.com

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