At first blush, the outcome of the Republican primary held in May for a special election this month in Wisconsin’s 1st State Senate District appears to be a victory for a state representative with solid conservative bona fides over a political newcomer.
Rep. Andre Jacque defeated the Green Bay businessman Alex Renard 52 percent to 48 percent. Five Republican Assembly members from northeast Wisconsin endorsed Renard. Privately, several Republicans told me Jacque was too conservative for the northern part of the state’s 1st Senate district and couldn’t raise enough money to defeat the Democrat, Caleb Frostman. Further, several said Jacque had burned bridges with the way he treated people in Madison. Despite that, Jacque was an early favorite until being outspent 4 or 5 to 1.
So, his victory is being read as a win for conservative voters who didn’t want a candidate thrust upon them by a faction of the Republican Party who took it upon themselves to decide Jacque wasn’t the right candidate to beat Frostman.
Let’s not forget that Jacque bucked Assembly Speaker Robin Vos in 2015 and scheduled a hearing on prevailing-wage repeal in the labor committee he oversaw. Vos responded by stripping Jacque of his committee chairmanship.
In fact, Jacque says he was the only non-freshman GOP representative the next legislative session not to have a committee chairmanship.
We also know that Renard was, to put it mildly, reluctant to share his view on prevailing-wage repeal. In both off- and on-the-record conversations, Renard refused to reveal his position. When later asked about the issue in a Wispolitics.com interview, Renard again tried to avoid stating a position:
“You know, and the stance that I have taken and tried to take in this: I’m moving forward, I’m focused on what we have ahead of us … it’s a law that’s been repealed, it’s on the books and I think it’s important we moved forward.”
When pressed for an answer on prevailing wages, Renard turned and attacked Jacque while couching his opposition to repeal in his attack:
“Here’s what I won’t do: As a legislator, I won’t take a massive increase in daily per diems. I’m not going to take a legislative salary hike and then on the other hand cut the pay of blue collar employees.”
Renard also told Wispolitics that he thought it unlikely the prevailing-wage issue will ever be revisited in Madison again. It’s clear how Renard would vote if it was taken up and he was the senator representing the 1st SD. Andre Jacque was the sole winner on May 15. There was a couple of losers: Renard and the unions that dream of one day restoring prevailing-wage laws in Wisconsin.