Last Friday, Steve Fox of Hudson, Wisconsin found something unusual in his mailbox.
It was a flier for one of the candidates in an upcoming Wisconsin Supreme Court election. That much wasn’t so unusual. This election has gotten national attention because Wisconsin is a swing-state bellweather for the coming elections this fall.
In one corner: Milwaukee County Judge Rebecca Dallet, a former prosecutor. In the other: Sauk County Judge Michael Screnock, a former conservative activist cum lawyer cum judge.
The national tension brought some heavy-hitters in on both sides. For Dallet, it was a variety of pro-choice groups, unions, and liberal politicians like former Vice President Joe Biden. For Screnock: the National Rifle Association, several anti-abortion groups and the Koch brothers.
It should be noted that on paper, the race for Supreme Court Judge is not supposed to be partisan. But what Fox found in his mailbox was.
The flier was pro-Screnock, anti-Dallet, paid for by the Republican Party of Wisconsin. It showed an unflattering picture of Dallet (mouth pursed, brow furrowed) hovering over a rural backdrop of green grasses and a big red barn, which ostensibly represents the entirety of Wisconsin.
But there was a Golden Gate Bridge photoshopped into the foreground. The caption: “San Francisco values don’t belong in Wisconsin.”
“It was obviously really negative,” Fox says. “I didn’t have to read it to know it was negative.”
The Republican Party of Wisconsin did not respond to requests for comment, but Fox says it was pretty clear what the poster meant by “San Francisco values.” Liberal values, certainly. But another thing San Francisco is besides really liberal is really, really gay.
“It’s just so out there,” he says. “This is what used to be the kind of fringy GOP, and it’s become mainstream.”
He was disappointed, but he wasn’t surprised. The thing about a swing state is that it swings both ways. He truly believes his community has been rallying against attitudes like the one he sees in the poster – he sees it in community organizations like the Hudson Inclusion Alliance.
Tony Bol, a spokesperson for the Hudson Inclusion Alliance, which strives to make all citizens feel welcome, is working to call out bigotry when he sees it, and he sees it when he looks at this poster.
“What are they saying about San Francisco?” he asks. “What’s so negative about it that they don’t want to happen here?”
Hudson, he said, has been making a concerted effort to be supportive of the LGBTQ community, including a campaign to put up rainbow flags downtown. But it’s also a place where you can get a big old Golden Gate Bridge in your mailbox. And it’s also a place where those flags might get stolen or burned.
Bol calls the poster “a vulgar example of generating hate and re-enforcing the acceptance of prejudicial behaviors at the institutional level.”
Or, in other words, crappy Wisconsin politics. But it appears voters are beginning to reject them.
Last night, Dallet won comfortably with 56 percent of the vote. When it came down to the vote in St. Croix County, where Hudson sits, the candidates were basically neck and neck.