Original URL: http://www.jsonline.com/news/metro/sep02/80159.asp
You thought the governor's race was going to be nasty - wait till you see how the two candidates vying to be the state's top cop are getting ready to shred each other's reputations.
GOP candidate Vince Biskupic's confidential election plan, a copy of which was slipped to us last week, shows that he intends to beat up Democratic challenger Peg Lautenschlager as "an anti-business career politician/bureaucrat who will continue the politicization of the Attorney General's office."
Elsewhere, the eight-page battle
plan says, "Her partisan political credentials are well documented and
should be exploited to the greatest extent possible. She IS a political
insider in the worst possible sense - the public must be made aware of
Though this race is playing second fiddle to the gubernatorial contest, Biskupic's team has mapped out a plan that stands in stark contrast to the warm-and-fuzzy pablum that dominated the recent three-way Democratic contest for governor.
Indeed, the secret playbook written in July even includes a Nixonian-like section detailing the Biskupic campaign's friends and enemies, even using those '70s-style terms.
On Biskupic's enemies list: the state teachers union, trial lawyers, abortion advocates, "gun control fanatics" and EMILY's List, a D.C.-based group that backs pro-choice Democratic female candidates.
Among the Outagamie County district attorney's supposed buddies: fellow local prosecutors, sheriffs, business groups, right-to-lifers and the Tavern League of Wisconsin. The National Rifle Association and Indian tribes are also named as friends, though each had the note to "work on."
Biskupic forces, obviously dismayed with the leaking of this closely held draft, downplayed the importance of it.
"It was a preliminary working document I was putting together for my own use when I started with the committee," said Tim Fiocchi, who penned the document in mid-July, shortly after taking over as campaign manager. "Vince never saw it and had no input on it. Things have changed significantly since then."
In reality, the draft outlines a strategy that the Biskupic camp appears to be following - specifically, by labeling their guy as Mr. Law & Order while tagging Lautenschlager as a two-bit political hack.
And the strategy statement appears to provide a sign of things to come in the race, which turned negative weeks ago when Lautenschlager and the Democratic Party tried to dirty up Biskupic by bringing up his ties to controversial Winnebago County DA Joe Paulus.
Specifically, the plan makes clear that Biskupic should try to garner conservative support by exploiting such hot-button issues as abortion, gun rights and the death penalty.
For example, it suggests that he cut a television ad outlining his support for and Lautenschlager's opposition to capital punishment, something the state doesn't have and won't enact anytime soon. Then, this pro-death penalty message would be repeated in a mailer to "Democratic hunter voters."
To pitch his tough-on-crime credentials and build his name ID statewide, the prosecutor is also looking at running a light-hearted TV spot, according to the plan. In it, voters would announce their support for him but would stumble pronouncing his last name. The suggested punch line: "Guys in jail know how to say Biskupic."
Team Biskupic is aiming to raise $700,000 to $900,000, more than half of which would go for television and radio spots, with the candidate himself dialing up $10,000 from fat-cat donors each week, the plan says.
As of the end of August, the Biskupic campaign had raised about $300,000 this year and still has $284,000 in the bank. Lautenschlager, on the other hand, has raised less than $200,000 and has only $100,000 on hand.
Responding to details of the confidential plan, Lautenschlager tried to take the high road while making it clear she's also ready to rumble.
"It's tragic to see that rather than discuss those legitimate differences (between the candidates)," Lautenschlager said Friday, "he's creating a campaign based on sensationalism and that preys on people's fears."
One other brass-knuckle tactic mentioned in passing in the Biskupic plan is "to the extent possible, tie her to Doyle and Burke," referring to Jim Doyle, the incumbent AG and Democratic gubernatorial nominee, and Sen. Brian Burke. The Milwaukee Democrat was the favorite in the AG's race until he was forced to drop out shortly before being charged with 18 felony counts.
In our interview with Lautenschlager, she tried to turn the charge that she's nothing but a political crony into an attack on Biskupic.
Specifically, Lautenschlager, a former state lawmaker and district attorney, noted that as the U.S. attorney in Madison from 1993 to 2000, she was banned from playing politics. By contrast, Biskupic was co-chairman of President Bush's campaign in Outagamie County and holds the elected job of DA in that Fox River Valley community.
She concluded, "I see that as somebody
who believes you could successfully mix being a prosecutor and politics."
Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal
Sentinel on Sept. 15, 2002.