Friday, July 13, 2012

Mark Neumann Toons: Part I

There are four Republican candidates vying for Wisconsin's U.S. Senate nomination in the August 14 primary. I posted a cartoon about Tommy Thompson yesterday, and commented on an Eric Hovde ad a week or so ago. Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald barely registers in the polls.

In the latest Marquette University Law Poll, former Mark Neumann came in at only 10%, but since he was Congressman from my district for four years, I've had plenty of occasion to draw cartoons about him. In his TV ad, he attacks President Obama's Health Care reform for including coverage for abortion; running for Congress in 1994, the real estate developer attacked President Clinton's Health Care reform efforts:
Neumann's opponent in that race was Peter Barca, who had beaten Neumann 49.9% to 49.3% in a special election the previous year to fill the vacancy left when Clinton appointed 10-term Congressman Les Aspin Secretary of Defense. (1994 was Neumann's third race for Congress in as many years; Aspin had beaten him by 17 percentage points in 1992).

Neumann was unrelentingly negative, attacking Barca as a big spending tax-hiking errand boy of the Clinton-Democrat Bureaucracy Machine. This time, Neumann unseated the incumbent Barca with 49.4% of the vote to Barca's 48.8%, and quickly established himself as one of the most staunchly conservative members of the new staunchly conservative House majority.

In a stark contrast to Congressman Aspin, Freshman Neumann didn't bring home the bacon to his district. Nor was he inclined to; he proved to be a doctrinaire devoté of the Balanced Budget Amendment, opposed to pork-barrel spending, as well as to Big Government, abortion rights, environmental protection, LGBT equality, and all things progressive. The guy is deadly serious to the point where he looks incredibly awkward when he tries to smile. As a campaigner, he has been quick to go vicious, so he just doesn't come off as a nice guy. It was kind of like having Dwight Schrute as your Congressman.

In 1996, the Democrats' congressional candidate was, like Barca, a Kenoshan: President of the City Council Lydia Spottswood. The major issue that year was Social Security, which Republicans promised to replace by encouraging private investments, claiming that the present system would soon be broke. Spottswood responded that Neumann wanted to end Social Security.

It was a nasty race on both sides. Two years later, Spottswood described Neumann's attitude toward her in a PBS interview with Kwame Holman:
"My opponent then was actually very hostile and overtly hostile when he would see me, which was rare. I don't think he was interested in seeing me very often."
Hilary Clinton and Al Gore made campaign appearances with Spottswood, but Neumann won 50.9% of the vote to Spottswood's 49.1%. Since then, the national Democratic party has made no effort to support Democrats running for Wisconsin's First Congressional District seat. Spottswood made one more try for Congress in 1998, when Neumann ran for the U.S. Senate; but outspent by Republicans and outside groups, she lost by 15 percentage points to 28-year-old congressional aide Paul Ryan as the DNC sat idly by.

For Neumann's 1998 Senate race against Russ Feingold, stay tuned for Part II.

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