About 60 demonstrators voiced their opinion in front of the Kenosha Unified School District Educational Support Center in a show of solidarity leading up to Tuesday’s election.
The picketers carried signs critical of the Americans for Prosperity group and those School Board candidates they feel are aligned with the group.
While the signs did not advocate for any candidate, they did encourage people not to vote for Dan Wade or Gary Kunich.
Last week the state director of Americans for Prosperity — the conservative group funded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch — said the organization has a field team working on the Kenosha School Board race, doing phone banks and canvassing in the district.
Joe Kiriaki, executive director of the Kenosha Education Association, said a call was put out Friday to the local union leadership to bring people together from the community for the rally.
Guest speaker John “Sly” Sylvester of Madison talk radio WEKZ-FM 93.7 spoke to the marchers on a megaphone in an effort to “fire up the troops.”
“This is a union town, and it will stay a union town,” said Sylvester, whose radio show focuses on workers’ rights.
Some of the marchers were briefly confronted by members of candidate Dan Wade’s family, including Wade’s wife Mary, who is the treasurer of her husband’s campaign.
“The Americans for Prosperity have no business being in this school board race, but they” — she said, pointing to the marchers —“are trying to put my husband and Gary Kunich in the same pot as the Tea Party.”
She admitted that the Republican Party had donated to her husband’s campaign. “But if the Democratic Party had given us a check, I would have taken that one too,” Mary said. “Being my husband’s treasurer, trust me, running a campaign is expensive and trying to refute a bunch of lies is even more expensive.”
Marcher Linda Fifarek of Kenosha thought that the affiliations of Wade and Kunich explained more than their campaign literature did.
“Those affiliations lead back to the Republican Party, which leads back to the Tea Party and the Koch brothers,” Fifarek said. “That’s how these relationships work: You are associated with these certain organizations that you feel are morally right or morally wrong, and you associate with those folks.”
Randy Bryce of Caledonia, a member of Iron Workers Local 8, came to Kenosha in response to the Americans for Prosperity’s involvement.
“It’s obvious that when they say they’re planning on staying in this area for the remainder of the year with these other elections coming up that it’s just not the School Board they want to control, but everything that goes on here,” Bryce said. “I think that local people should be in control of who wins their elections, and outside money needs to stay out.”
When it was pointed out that he, too, could be considered an outsider extending union money influence, Bryce was plainspoken.
“The difference between unions and the Koch brothers is that when unions spend money, they have elected representatives that are making decisions,” Bryce explained. “The union members are the ones voting. The Koch brothers are two guys who are spending money to buy politicians.”
While Saturday’s rally was in protest to outside groups that support conservative candidates, outside liberal groups are also involved in the Kenosha Unified School Board race.
WisPolitics.com has reported that the Greater Wisconsin Political Independent Expenditure Fund, which is part of the Greater Wisconsin Committee, has spent more than $10,000 in the Unified race.
In addition, the Wisconsin Education Association Council has spent more than $8,500, WisPolitics.com said, noting the information was filed with the state’s Government Accountability Board.
The Greater Wisconsin money was reportedly used for robo-calls and mailers opposing Kunich and Wade.
Groups that also contributed money to Falkofske and Taube are Kenosha Educators Politically Active and Concerned, Wisconsin People Conference (the political arm of the government employees union), and the southeastern branch of the United Auto Workers.
The Kenosha Kids Great Schools Fund, which is financed from donations from teachers, also contributed to Taube and Falkofske.
In addition, a group called the Kenosha Concerned Parents Coalition has been circulating mailers supporting Taube and Falkofske.
The Kenosha Cares Coalition, an outgrowth of the Kenosha Area Business Alliance, has run ads opposing Taube and Falkofske.