I want to start by congratulating my wife, Jessie Rodriguez, on her win in the 21st Assembly District. She stayed on message and ran her campaign with class.
Also worthy of note, Elizabeth Coppola ran a clean campaign and called to congratulate Jess on her win. It's refreshing to know that in an era when politics is often reduced to a zero-sum game, people don't have to wallow in the mud.
I do have a few thoughts about the race. Like most campaigns, I don't believe Jessie’s victory can be reduced to any single event.
The three biggest factors I saw at play are as follows:
First, local elections are won by friends, family, and tennis shoes. Jessie knew this coming in and worked relentlessly at the doors. Some residents saw her three to four times in a 10-week span. That's a lot of ground to cover in an district with three cities.
Second, campaigns are not run on hopes and dreams. It takes money to run a campaign and money to move a message. Asking people for money is probably the least enjoyable part of running for office, but Jessie took her campaign seriously and outraised her opponents handily.
Third, Jessie’s campaign team was nothing short of fantastic. They were competent, devoted, and willing to absorb the noise so the candidate could focus on being the candidate. They provided constancy when things were moving fast, and above all, they believed in her.
So, what does the win signify?
I think it puts at least one myth to rest. Despite opinions to the contrary, the 21st Assembly District has no reservations about electing a Hispanic immigrant. Some on the left thought a district with less than 8% Hispanic population wouldn't elect a Latina. They were wrong.
Jessie’s win also signifies that Republicans have no problems supporting minority candidates and Democrats have no problems attacking them. When it comes to voting, people care more about core issues than they do skin color.
As noted by Right Wisconsin, a local immigrant rights group called Voces de la Frontera put out a hit mailer days before the election attacking Jessie as an extremist Republican bent on destroying our public schools. It’s ironic that an organization willing to face legal fines and imprisonment to raise the social status of immigrants would attack the only Hispanic immigrant to run for the state legislature. To prevent future confusion about their mission, I suggest they qualify the fact they only support immigrants that are liberal.
What it boils down to is that the 21st Assembly District wanted a conservative. Jessie didn’t sugarcaot her views or hide from her conservatism. She made clear that she supported lower taxes, more jobs, and more choice in education.
At a fundraiser a few weeks ago, Senate Leader Chris Larson said the 21st assembly race would be prognosticative of taking back the Governor's mansion in the 2014. They believed that if Jessie had lost, it would be a public repudiation of Governor Walker’s statewide expansion of school choice.
Well Chris, I hope you're paying attention. The 21st Assembly District likes school choice and they like Governor Walker’s reforms. See you in 2014.
Cross-posted at The Hispanic Conservative
Wisconsin - Milwaukee County