How did we come up with some of these people as candidates for local offices in Washington County?
There is a loose knit group of candidates with extreme views that fly under the radar of media attention. They come across as respectable citizens in their general comments, but they have said or done things that make you wonder why they would run in the first place.
A perfect example is Denis Kelling who is running for mayor of West Bend. Believe it or not, he has published a statement in support of making all public schools virtual, closing them down and replacing them with private schools. Kelling has some standing as a county board supervisor, and he is not running for the school board, but is he serious that he wants to close down all public schools?
You can tell a lot about candidates by whom they hang with. Kelling has posed for a photo with the “Three S” candidates running for the West Bend School District Board: Bill Schulz, Nick Stewart and Laurie Schloemer-Aleven.
Also in the campaign photo of the candidates hanging together is Russell Jones who is running for Washington County Circuit Court judge.
According to an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jones has filed for bankruptcy protection three times, has had at least 10 traffic citations in Wisconsin, and has been convicted of misdemeanor for public intoxication, disorderly conduct and criminal damage to property.
Why would the “Three S” candidates want to run in connection with this guy?
In contrast, Jones’s opponent is Ryan Hetzel (left), who has practiced law here for more than 25 years, has the support of most of the lawyers and former county judges. He has been a model citizen, having served on several nonprofit organizations. He is the appointed sitting judge on the circuit court and gets good marks from the county’s practicing attorneys.
In the race for West Bend mayor, Kelling is running against a stellar candidate, Joel Ongert (right), who has served on the West Bend School District School Board, including as president. He’s a successful businessman who sells for Caterpillar.
Like Hetzel, Ongert has been deeply engaged in the community, including membership in the Sunrise Rotary Club, the board of Senior Citizens Activities Center, Secretary of the West Bend Public Schools Foundation, and memberships in the COLUMNS Scholarship for West Bend High School graduates, Washington County Head Start, Washington County Republican Party and West Bend Baseball Association.
It’s clear that the extremist wing of the Republican Party is the common connection running through the candidacies of this group that is hanging together. The MAGA wing of the GOP has been trying to take control of local units of government across the country. It has spilled over to West Bend and Washington County.
It’s America, and everyone has a right to a point of view no matter how contrary to established norms and policies.
But at least this coalition of extreme people could check out the backgrounds of their teammates before they support them. How, for example, did Nick Stewart get the nod as their legitimate candidate when he has a long track of drunk driving and other offenses?
How could anyone line up with a guy like Schulz who once said on his Facebook site, “Things that I can’t stand: Every pregnant woman taking pictures with their hand under their belly.” Was he trying to be funny?
Most local elections revolve around the positives of each candidate. It’s no fun to write about the negatives of candidates. But their track records are germane to what they will do if elected. Previous inflammatory statements are also fair game.
There are still three and half weeks to go before the general election on April 4. We need to know much more about all these candidates prior to voting, even if some are erasing their more outrageous statements from their Facebook sites. Perk up your eyes and ears to what they are saying now against their previous behaviors and statements.
The coming election will tell a lot about governance in our community. We need the best and brightest in local public office.