Mike Haas is the administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission. He looks out for the rights of voters. He does this with great aplomb and professionalism.
Despite this, the majority party in the state Senate is clamoring for him to exit the post, acting as if he were some existential threat to them like, well, I don't know, like Gandhi was to British rule in India.
Mike is one of those people in government who by simply doing their job, in his case ensuring we have free and fair elections, become a threat to the powers that be.
So who is Mike Haas and where does he come from? Who is this fellow that has so upset the noblesse?
Mike is from my hometown of Sun Prairie — the birthplace of Georgia O'Keeffe and home of the Sweet Corn Festival, midget auto races at Angel Park Speedway and a stunning new high school. The beloved sports teams are the Cardinals. The jazz band has been chosen to play at Lincoln Center in the Essentially Ellington festival eight times.
Demand for news of the schools is why our local newspaper, The Star, started to publish twice a week.
Mike's father Cliff taught math in the high school for 35 years. He gave me a well-deserved C in geometry. Cliff and Dolores Haas raised seven kids. They all graduated from Sun Prairie. Cliff Haas was also the athletic director for a number of years.
In high school Mike was the quarterback of the football team, leading the Cardinals to a 7-3 record in 1981. He was recruited by Harvard and given an academic scholarship. Mike was purported to be one of the Ivy League's best back-up quarterbacks. Part-time campus job: zamboni operator at the hockey games.
Mike helped with press relations on my campaign for governor in 1990 against Tommy Thompson. Mike liked reporters and made sure their phone calls were returned, their questions answered and that they had a quote by deadline. He was as calm then as he is now.
Apparently inspired by the excitement of my losing campaign, Mike ran for the Assembly twice, losing gracefully both times.
Mike graduated from the UW Law School in 1994 and joined a law firm, where he ably served as the city attorney for Stoughton, Edgerton and Milton.
Sun Prairie is the fastest-growing city in Wisconsin. We just raced past 30,000 in population. Paul Esser, our progressive mayor, along with the council, ably guide the housing construction and business development that have come with this rapid growth.
Ground was just broken for two new grade schools — approved by 70 percent in referendum.
We have great restaurants like Salvatore's and Buck and Honey's — try Spanky's meatloaf with the veal glaze and ask for the cheesy hash browns. Only an extra dollar. And trust me: Trust the bartender on the martini.
I invite you to have a coffee at Beans and Cream, a beer at Eddie's Alehouse and get some takeout at the Bodega right across from the old city hall at the corner of Bristol and Main streets. And, visit Sun Prairie's architecturally stunning library and say hi to our fine librarian, Svetha Hetzler.
Sun Prairie is full of citizens who made it in life because of their teachers like my late Aunt Eileen, who taught American history for 38 years. I got an A. The city park is named after Fran Sheehan, the football coach and chemistry teacher for 39 years (another C) and Kurt Sheehan, his brother, who taught 40 years.
The Sun Prairie Education Foundation raises money that goes directly to teachers so they can give their students "extraordinary educational opportunities." The grants are given in honor of Sun Prairie's living legend, the ineffable George Conom who taught economics in the high school for 50 years. (Got an A).
So that is a sketch of Mike Haas and a postcard about the town he is from.
The 2018 election looms as a series of bitter cash-fueled contests of demonization. If the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the partisan gerrymandering of the Wisconsin Assembly is indeed unconstitutional and new districts are drawn, it will test the administration of elections as nothing before. Challenges of voting rights will once again be a strategy of the consultant class. It is going be a tough game. Needs a veteran quarterback.
Democracy is not the rule of the majority. My aunt Eileen said that. Oh, OK, so did James Madison. That is why the founders put checks and balances in the United States Constitution.
However, in the case at hand, it is in the Wisconsin Constitution where guidance is found. Whether one is in the majority or minority in the current Legislature, may I refer you to Section 22.
"Maintenance of free government." Section 22. Of the Wisconsin Constitution: "The blessings of a free government can only be maintained by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality and virtue, and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles."
Tom Loftus of Sun Prairie is a former member of the UW Board of Regents and speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly. He was the Democratic candidate for governor in 1990. He was ambassador to Norway from 1993 to 1998.
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