You can tell incumbent state senator Jeff Plale (DINO-Bucyrus) is feeling threatened. His primary challenger Chris Larson is posing a serious threat to Plale’s comfortable incumbency. As Plale’s well-financed backers couldn’t find anything serious to use against Larson, they’re using an old true-but-irrelevant fact to try and scare voters—that Chris was arrested many years ago for stealing some food from a grocery store. He was a very young man at the time, and has said it was stupid. Thing is, he’s moved on. Now his opponents cling to it — again — as if it’s the only and best thing they can use against him.
Again? Yes, again. This surfaced in 2008 during his successful run for the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors in 2007-2008. One of his our opponents in the race — I was in it, too! — was a Milwaukee police officer who was running for the county board. Somehow, doubtlessly through sheer coincidence, the arrest record got leaked.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Chris Larson has never been arrested. See this page for the truth of the matter—that he never was arrested. I thought he had been, but clearly, I was misinformed. I’m sorry, Chris!
Yes, Chris was arrested. No, Chris was NOT arrested. He was given a citation—but never arrested. Chris himself has said it was stupid. But it’s the sort of stupid thing you sometimes do when you’re a college-age kid.
Now Jeff Plale’s campaign (or an independent group operating without recourse) is using that to try and scare voters. They’re using it in a push poll, which the American Association for Public Opinion Research describes as:
…as a form of negative campaigning that is disguised as a political poll. “Push polls” are actually political telemarketing — telephone calls disguised as research that aim to persuade large numbers of voters and affect election outcomes, rather than measure opinions.
They fail to mention that Plale’s former chief of staff is a convicted felon. Katy Venskus stole more than $12,000 from the non-profit organization she worked for. And then she became part of the state caucus scandal, working for former state Sen. Brian Burke. Jeff Plale hired her in 2003, knowing full well of her record.
In 2007, she helped write a deregulation bill that gave AT&T the ability to raise its rate on local consumers. It passed, and AT&T considers it one of Plale’s greatest achievements. They tried to use him to get a second bill through that would deregulate land-line telephones, but it failed. The best part may be that Venskus went on to become a lobbyist for AT&T. Or it may be that Plale’s former chief of staff now faces felony charges for a second time.
Yet Plale had “no problem” with her felony record. Plale hired a convicted felon. Yet he’s trying to scare voters with this blemish on his opponent. What, the voucher people couldn’t dig up anything better for you? For shame, Jeff.
And let us not forget! Former assembly leader Scott Jensen (R-Brookfield), who was convicted as part of the state caucus scandal (and now awaits a friendlier trial in his home county, years later) is raising money for Jeff Plale. Another convict helping for Plale. Amazing that that gets so little attention. And yet they’re trying to scare voters away from Chris over a mistake he made decades ago.
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Back to Chris Larson for a moment. Yes, he was arrested. We know that. He has more than redeemed himself. Chris is running one of the strongest local campaigns I’ve seen. He’s got dozens of volunteers out doing doors and making calls. And he alone has worked to achieve a substantial lowering of property taxes while also creating funding for parks and transit.
As I said before, I was also a contender in the 2008 county board race. During that race, I was struck by Chris’s positions on parks, transit, and the environment. He went on to win the primary by a huge margin, knocking me and the cop out of the race. I went to Chris’s election night party, shook his hand, and said “Congratulations, Chris, you’ve got my endorsement. What can I do for you?” Two years later, I’m helping him run for the state senate.
A vote for Chris Larson is a vote is a vote against against the slimy tactic of push polling.
A vote for Chris Larson is a vote against corruption and corporate lobbyists.
More importantly, a vote for Chris Larson is a vote for responsible, proactive representation. It’s a vote for clean air, clean parks, and clean government.
Vote for Chris Larson on September 14.
Important update: The Larson campaign has posted a new web page devoted to fighting these smears.