Wisconsin Republicans voting in the U.S. Senate primary are going to have a tough choice this fall picking between someone who is probably the nastiest member of the Legislature and a one-time young Democrat who swears he's now morphed into a staunch conservative Republican.
Both claim to have the best chance of beating incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, but if charm has anything to do with it, both are in trouble.
Many who know state Sen. Leah Vukmir contend that when it comes to spewing venom, she's in a league all her own. It wasn't that along ago, for instance, that Milwaukee Magazine noted that some of her fellow legislative Republicans privately refer to her — she is a nurse by profession — as "Nurse Ratched" after the unlikable character in the Jack Nicholson movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."
She's always had a "take no prisoners" attitude to governing, and now the senator wants Wisconsin Republicans to give her the nomination to run against Baldwin this fall.
She and her opponent Kevin Nicholson both vied for the endorsement of Steven Bannon — yes, that Steve Bannon — before "Sloppy Steve" was banished from Donald Trump's good graces. Nicholson won out and now is trying to figure out how to erase that lapse of judgment on his part.
Meanwhile, his mom and dad, both longtime Democrats as Kevin once was, have given the maximum amount of campaign contributions to Tammy Baldwin. Not a good sign for Nicholson's new ambitions.
Both candidates are against a woman's right to choose, always a litmus test for some Republicans, but Vukmir is beyond the pale. An example of her poison pen came a few weeks ago when anti-abortion women activists staged their annual march the same weekend as the second annual women's march challenging Trump's agenda.
"Hundreds of thousands of Americans are marching in Washington today," she wrote of the anti-abortionists. "No, they won't wear those knit pink hats. They won't take to streets in a vulgar, offensive manner. And they won't demand government handouts of contraception or the right to murder."
She apparently forgot about the attacks on abortion clinics by radical right-to-lifers that have resulted in the deaths of a dozen doctors and pro-abortion advocates during the past 20 years. Some might call that vulgar and offensive.
Then again, she's made a career of inventing divisions in society that don't exist — celebrating Christmas, for example. This past year in an op-ed she said it was time to revive that old Rush Limbaugh and Fox News canard that people who say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" are staging "war" on Christians. Besides, she claimed to know that non-Christians aren't offended by people wishing them "Merry Christmas."
Her Wisconsin legislative career has seen her challenge climate change, prevailing wage laws, environmental regulations and attempts to fix the state's transportation funding problems, condemning even her fellow Republicans if they suggest a tax hike might be needed. No one has been a bigger pusher of the big-money-funded ALEC's right-wing agenda.
The "born again" Nicholson isn't any better. Good luck picking between the two.
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.
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