Wisconsin GOP sends mailers targeting Democrats Andy Gronik, Dana Wachs | Politics and Elections


Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker hasn’t officially launched his campaign yet, but the state Republican Party is already targeting two Democrats who may challenge him with a set of mailed fliers. 

Mailers attacking Milwaukee businessman Andy Gronik and state Rep. Dana Wachs went out to Wisconsin voters on Thursday, days after Gronik announced his plans to seek the Democratic nomination for governor. Wachs, an attorney from Eau Claire, has ramped up his political activity over the summer but hasn’t made his plans known. 

The mailers are targeted at specific demographics and will be accompanied by corresponding digital ads, said Republican Party of Wisconsin spokesman Alec Zimmerman. They follow a digital ad the party ran against state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, who is also considering a run.

The party did not share how much it spent on the campaign, but it includes thousands of mail pieces. 

The Gronik mailer refers to the candidate as a “con artist” who “can’t be trusted.” It goes after the political nonprofit he founded last year — Stage W — with a stated mission of “bridging the political divide.” The mailer dubs the organization a “sham” and refers to its chief operating officer, Mark Iola, as a “shady lawyer.” Iola, a trial lawyer who has focused on asbestos litigation, was once sued under federal racketeering laws. The suit was dropped last year.

Gronik has dismissed the attacks on Stage W as “politics as usual.”

A political newcomer, Gronik launched his campaign on Tuesday. His message has focused, thus far, on access to public education and health care, arguing his business experience will produce results. 

The second mailer goes after Wachs, a trial attorney whose firm merged with another earlier this week. The move was viewed as clearing a hurdle on his way to launching a gubernatorial campaign.

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The flier refers to Wachs as a “liberal trial attorney” who “fits perfectly in Madison.” It accuses him of authoring bills that would benefit trial attorneys and supporting “higher taxes” and “reckless spending.” 

Wachs has served in the state Assembly since 2012, and previously served on the Eau Claire City Council. He said in May he was looking “very hard” at a gubernatorial bid. In the meantime, he has sent several fundraising emails to supporters from his Assembly campaign account bearing a “Wachs Wisconsin” logo.

Democratic Party of Wisconsin executive director Martha Laning said the early moves are a sign Republicans see Walker as vulnerable.

“Instead of working with Democrats to raise wages, fund public schools, or end the student loan debt crisis, Gov. Walker has taken every chance to give massive tax giveaways to the wealthiest people in the state and Wisconsin has nothing to show for his failed policies,” Laning said.

According to a Marquette University Law School poll released last month, 48 percent of voters approve of Walker’s job performance. No public polling has been released on potential Democratic candidates.

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