It is no surprise this blog enthusiastically endorses Scott Resnick for another term as Alder of the 8th District in Madison. And it has been about 8 years since the District last saw a re-election campaign for what is notoriously the most prestigious “student” (and in some years, recent graduate) political seat of the downtown area. As is our blog’s tradition, we plan to cover the election, and yes, that will involve a mix of editorial posts and investigative work. We don’t claim to be like the Herald, Cardinal, Isthmus, etc.; we’re not dispassionate journalists observing from afar. But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be involved in the public commentary.
Christian Hansen is Scott Resnick’s opponent. Christian is a graduate of UW-Lacrosse and lives downtown. He was active in the Capitol protests last year and is involved with the Madison co-op scene. Some thoughts about the election thus far:
I. Isthmus: we really, really, need content for our website: Hansen “challenges” Resnick’s ballot signatures.
The issue is dead. The Badger Herald crushed Hansen’s campaign on “opening day” of the student press semester (which, by the way, is a terrible sign: you never want to start off on that footing with the most important editorial board).
Resnick’s on the ballot. Not much changed because of Hansen’s campaign challenge. The Isthmus managed to run two online pieces. The “challenge” against Resnick, and then, his “survival” of the process. Congratulations, as Mitt Romney would say, the Isthmus managed to get two days of Common Council “news” out of a guy challenging ballot signatures on grounds such as, “12” was not included at the end of their dates.
The downtown district’s current representative, Ald. Scott Resnick, had his nomination signatures contested by his opponent, Christian Hansen. Hansen claimed the dates on some of the petition’s signatures were unclear.
Type “media” into the Isthmus’ search box and you get – literally – thousands of hits. The paper navel-gazes about journalism as much as Scott Resnick posts Facebook updates about his cat. The Isthmus frequently has stories and blog posts that cite the Center for Media and Democracy, and Bill Lueders used to grace the website. Ostensibly, the Isthmus takes journalism – its study and ethics — quite seriously. To drive the point home, here are links I found in about five minutes of studying their website:
THE FUTURE OF JOURNALISM, reports the Isthmus. Concern about journalists at the Capitol. FM and radio in Madison. Mayor Dave blogging about the need for investigative journalism. Local media looking at local politico criticizing local media (oh, the incest!). Bush and the media.
The Isthmus was challenged for not fact checking an early Hansen claim about his role on city committees. Hansen is not a member of a single city committee. When pushed, the Isthmus says it lacks the resources to fact check claims made by all of the candidates. I guess it also lacked the resources to include Hansen’s own ballot signature issue (I concede it’s a dumb issue, but that’s the point) when rushing out a story about Rensick in the first piece. To give the Isthmus credit, they did mention it in their second story.
Additionally, there is almost never any District 8 coverage from the Isthmus. They never ran pieces last year about the blowback on Szaryznski’s negative literature, or the litany of criticisms leveled against him. Can’t find a serious Isthmus analysis of major issues District 8 will be debating this spring. And it’s generally the same lack of coverage when looking back at other election cycles. But the little tiny coverage they give D8 and the student population is a micro-process piece, spending two days on this ballot challenge. And it’s always one-sided politically. Hypothetically, do you think a conservative candidate challenging liberal candidates, perhaps Alder Rummel, would have found such a welcoming canvass on the Isthmus website? I doubt it.
The result of this is that the Isthmus got some more hits on the website. But the real politik of the paper’s decision to run content, is, to put it charitably, open to interpretation. The dramatic language of the stories (Resnick’s “survival” becoming something of a joke) and complete lack of context – there are problems all of the time on candidate’s ballots but they are for the most part not challenged and in District 8, they have not been challenged in many years – adds to the bizarreness. I don’t think this is some gross violation of journalistic codes or anything like that, but for a paper that spends a lot of effort reflecting upon the media at-large, I think they could use a little bit of time spent in-house.
Needless to say, a challenge to Hansen’s ballots would have been really stupid. And Resnick did not pursue one. But it says something about the Hansen campaign to make it an issue.
II. Hansen is now part of the 1%.
It’s like Szaryznski 2.0 over at the Hansen campaign. We criticized Kyle’s campaign decision to lock his infamous blog, which flew directly in the face of the “transparency” line so often trumpeted by city and campus leftist candidates. My best guess is that Kyle looked at it in a risk-reward context: locking the blog and thus preventing some of his more aggressive posts from becoming campaign fodder diminished risk more so than any resulting criticism for a lack of transparency.
Hansen is a member of the Occupy Madison “movement” (reminds me of a joke: if a group of activists fall down in a city and no one is around, do they make a sound? Answer: yes, one steady vuvuzela buzzing in the darkness. But that’s it.). It’s fair to say the movement is somewhat opaque; despite some clear legislative goals, its philosophy is generally one of needing to change the status quo – our power structures, capitalism, the media.
There’s no way the Occupy Movement would be OK with this:
Dedering, who was a Green Party candidate for Assembly last year, learned how to challenge signatures from his opponent in that race, state Rep. Bret Hulsey, D-Madison.
“Literally we used (Hulsey’s) template to challenge it. I mean, we’ve been accused of using tactics that the Republicans use, but the only reason we knew how to do it was because the Democrats did it to me.”
“We wanted to come out swinging,” says Jonathan Dedering, the campaign manager for Christian Hansen, who last week challenged a number of the nomination signatures submitted by incumbent Ald. Scott Resnick. Among other things, Hansen alleged that some signatures were not properly dated — they only included the month and day, not the year.
“We didn’t want to come off as if we were running a weak campaign and that we wre going to overlook such blatant mistakes on things as simple as nomination papers,” Dedering told me when I ran into him at the Capitol the other night.
Hansen’s campaign decided the best way to start their effort was to, literally, use insider political tactics adopted by the status quo power structure, as a way to “come out swinging” first. (side thought: do you think Occupy Madison is in favor of militaristic language, too?).
Think about those tactics for a second.
And it gets worse. Hansen’s campaign manager adopts a legal framework that can be summed up as follows: the law must be obeyed to a “T”:
[T]he City Clerk accepted the challenge and Mr. Resnick was required to rehabilitate his nomination papers via correcting affidavit. Mr. Resnick’s nomination papers were riddled with errors. Nearly every single signature was invalid pursuant Wisconsin Administrative Code.
I expect that this will be corrected before publication.
Campaign Manager – Voters for Christian Hansen
I’m a 1L and let me tell you, this is just BS coming from an Occupy Madison member. It sounds like something you’d file on ASM just to be anal and try to piss off one of the slates. It’s legal analogy is that everyone who Jaywalks shall receive a ticket. If you drink underage, you are fined (I’m sure every Wisconsin code will be vigorously enforced at the door of this BYOB Hansen fundraising party for those under the age of 21, right?.) Or if you protest at the Capitol and break the law, the law itself need not be analyzed in terms of questioning what is right.
Yes, we have laws. Yes, for our world to function and not end up like Somalia we probably need to be following the law. But there’s also discretion in law. Justice is not just reading a text of law, comparing facts to those laws, and concluding what is right. We have to look at how the laws are applied and what the law really means. That’s pretty much how every tenured law school professor in America has a job.
And that brings me back to Occupy. The movement does not stand for obeying the legal power structure as it is. If Hansen really stood for his supposed beliefs, his campaign would say, “you know this didn’t follow the spirit of the law, but the ballot law is pretty dumb, anyone should be able to run, or at least Scott’s done enough.”
My point: Hansen and is campaign manager (who seems to do all of the team’s talking) are empty suits. They’re not campus intellectuals, leftist heavyweights – say what you will about Szarzynski, but nobody questioned his status – rather, they’re just two guys trying to masquerade as if they present a space for Occupy Madison to blend with UW-Madison student politics, when they really are just doing whatever gets them “points” in some sort of electoral game. They opened a campaign not with a succinct argument for why Scott Resnick should not be representing UW-Madison students and why Hansen presents a better path forward. Rather, they just played the very campaign Occupy Madison fights against.
To Resnick’s credit, he handled it well. The money quote:
Nevertheless, Resnick, who corrected his nomination papers and remains on the ballot, says the punches clearly missed.
“I think that’s one of the reasons I’m endorsed by 18 of 20 members of the council,” he says. “I think a lot of them were pushed over the edge when (the Hansen campaign) went dirty.”
III. Why does Hansen’s campaign manager, Jonathan Dedering , do so much of the talking? Are we getting catfished?
With the amount of speaking Dedering does for Hansen, I am growing concerned we are in the middle of a Manti Te’o situation. Just kidding. But, there’s a great Badger Herald piece ripping apart former District 8 candidate Katrina Flores (2009 election) and Michael Johnson (her campaign manager) for this very issue:
While we were unable to interview Flores due to a last-minute personal matter, all scheduling and correspondence we had with her was rerouted through campaign manager Michael Johnson.
Let us make it clear: Candidates for state Legislature need press managers. Candidates for governor need representatives. City Council candidates need to be able to speak up themselves. If Eagon, Schmidt and Woulf were all able to set up meetings themselves, Flores could have done the same.
What’s going on with Christian Hansen’s campaign? Look at the stories. It’s Dedering’s comments at the bottom of the Badger Herald. His quotes in the Cap Times. He is the voice of the campaign.
You can’t run for the most local of political offices and have a spokesperson. A research assistant and a campaign staff make sense. But Hansen has to speak for himself. This brings me to a final point.
IV. Not a good political candidate
So he’s running a leftist campaign with right-wing tactics. And he is so connected to District 8 that someone else handles press requests for him. And his policy, as we’ll address in future posts, does not make much sense. All of that makes him a pretty bad challenger to an objectively popular Alderman. Further, Hansen did not even try for the Dane Dems endorsement (Szaryznski did and successfully blocked Resnick) which is a pretty early litmus test for those “in the know” of these campaigns. Not sure Hansen knows what he’s doing here. Probably one of the many reasons why Resnick was endorsed by every single member of the Madison Common Council, save for its most leftist member. Ouch to Hansen; even Progressive Dane members are backing Resnick.
Yet, Hansen’s also a bad candidate because he doesn’t have deep enough ties to the District. He’s not a UW-Madison or MATC grad, which isn’t inherently a problem, but he is a 26 year old living in a campus area co-op who, from my recent conversations, was a campus unknown to the UW-Madison student population (his involvement was at the Capitol protests, not on campus). Hansen has to make a case for why he specifically will be the best representative for the 95%+ UW-Madison students living in District 8. Resnick can make that case. His record speaks for itself.
But Hansen can’t. In fact, I question why he picked the District in the first place. Was it a convenience thing? He lived at a co-op and wanted to bring Occupy Madison’s political issues to the City Council, so this was a good vehicle? There’s a District with its own issues to consider here, and while I am sure Hansen believes in the rights of students and genuinely wants District 8 to be a great place, he has failed to pass the most basic test that Eli Judge, Bryon Eagon, and Scott Resnick far exceeded: why are you the right person for this District?
Resnick is going to win this election. The question is: what will Hansen lose in the process?
(Thank you to the NPS research team for help on this post)