The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Legislators look ahead

Legislators say there’s no victory like the first one on election night.

“It’s always so exciting (after the first win) and you should relish that,” said Rep. Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire), the winner over Republican challenger Darcy Fields 59 to 41 percent. “The second time you’re looking for reassurance from voters and I think I got what I was looking for.”

Joining incumbent Eau Claire-area state and national representatives Smith and Ron Kind (D-La Crosse) in victory was first-term state representative Kristen Dexter (D-Chippewa Falls), who narrowly defeated incumbent Republican Rep. Terry Moulton by a slim margin of 275 votes. Kind beat Republican Paul Stark 63 to 35 percent.

Dexter said she knew the campaign would be rough and challenging because incumbents have a high re-election rate.

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“Anytime someone beats an incumbent it’s a feat,” she said. “I knew it would take lots of door knocking, hard work and total focus. Plus I had an amazing team of supporters and volunteers.”

Echoing Smith’s feelings on the first victory, Dexter said she was exhausted and elated at the same time.

“It was fantastic. It was what I had worked towards for 15 months,” she said. “It was very, very gratifying to have that outcome.”

Dexter attributed her success to having a strong campaign plan and trying not to get distracted with negative advertisements. She added that it would’ve been easy to respond to every negative ad concerning her, but said that it would’ve ultimately pushed the campaign off its message.

One of the main things Dexter wants to focus on as she enters her first year as a state legislator is improving Assembly bipartisanship, something she said has been absent for a long time.

“Good ideas come from all over and no single party has a monopoly on them,” she said. “I think the first thing we have to do is recognize the challenges ahead are enormous and daunting. We’ll only make headway if we work together.”

Because of her involvement on the Altoona School Board for six years, Dexter said education is a primary issue of her interest. However, because of the multitude of concerns voters have, ranging from energy costs to health care, Dexter added that sometimes passions have to be put aside.

“Reality dictates that we protect our citizens and try to get the budget under control,” she said. “It’s going to be very practical and pragmatic decision making.”

For Smith, his second election night was like comparing night and day in terms of the voters’ message and the opposition’s campaign.

In his successful 2006 campaign for the Assembly seat, Smith said special interest groups didn’t see him as somebody to worry about. He said both campaigns ran on a positive note. This year, however, Smith’s race gained state-wide notoriety because of complaints about campaign tactics and issue ads Smith claimed were misleading voters.

“Unfortunately, because I did pull off an upset in 2006, I’ve proven myself in the first two years and became someone that the other side has to account for,” he said. “(The campaign) was very negative and stressful, but I never swayed from following the pattern of my previous campaign in talking about myself and what voters should expect. I just had to overcome the negativity.”

He is excited to be serving in the new Democratic Assembly majority caucus and hoping to chair a committee. He said it will allow him to put himself in a better position to bring positive changes to the Eau Claire campus and city area. Smith also wants to change the conversation about health care reform into actions. However, he added the reforms won’t happen overnight.

Anne Lupardus-Hanson, communications director for Rep. Kind, said the Congressman recognizes that west Wisconsin isn’t blue or red and his bipartisan work helped his re-election bid.

“Rep. Kind has a record of working across the aisle,” Lupardus-Hanson said. “He is somebody that recognizes that one party acting alone generally fails. He’s established himself as a reformer and looks at each issue individually.”

She said Kind is going to be very involved in reforming the tax system and is continually working to help small businesses, health care and the war in Iraq.

When all the results are tallied, Smith said re-election carries a satisfaction because it shows him that his constituents think he is doing things right.

“It really helps reaffirm why you do the job,” he said. “It helps you to grow and move forward as a legislator.”

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Legislators look ahead