Lehman Canvassing Takes Targeted Approach to Drum Up Support
John Lehman and volunteer supporters take a targeted approach to canvassing. They split up to talk to voters who are considered "unidentified" or "irregular," to talk with them about why Lehman is running in the recall election for the 21st District.
Former Sen. John Lehman bundled up and headed out Thursday for another day of canvassing. He is running against Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) in the recall election for the 21st Senate District.
He said despite having one or two potential rivals for the May 8 primary, he's looking ahead to the June 5 general election.
Caledonia resident Andrew Mielke announced last month that while he is not affiliated with either party, he intends to run as a Democrat against Lehman in the primary to then face Wanggaard in the general election. The state GOP, however, wants to guarantee there is a primary here so they're running protest candidate Tamra Varebrook of Union Grove.
"We're not working toward the primary, we are focused on June 5," Lehman told Patch as we walked a northside Racine neighborhood.
Lehman and a group of six or seven volunteer supporters split up lists of names and addresses of voters who are considered "unidentified" or "irregular," which means they don't identify with any one party. The goal is to engage them in conversation to determine if the campaign should target mailers to that address for their support for the election. Then, they divided into groups of two to visit those addresses.
Patch followed Lehman and volunteer Rachel Trobraugh to the north side of Racine. The first door Lehman knocked on was answered by a man who will not appear on the campaign's mailing list.
"Hi, I'm John Lehman, running for state Senate," Lehman said after the resident opened the door just wide enough for conversation.
"Are you a Democrat?" the man asked.
When Lehman told him he was a Democrat and running against Wanggaard in the recall, the man waved Lehman off and told him to go away.
Lehman was not discouraged.
"It's actually quite valuable," he told us as he checked some boxes for that address on his list. "This way we know not to mail to anyone who is strongly Republican."
The next home was more welcoming. Jason Hempel is a Caledonia fire fighter and his department's union representative with the Professional Fire Fighters Association. He opened the door with his hand extended.
"Hi, John," Hempel said. "We'll be voting for you. Count on it."
David Christensen told Lehman he probably won't support Lehman because he's more pro-Gov. Scott Walker than not. Still, he took literature from Trobraugh and said he'd look it over. Lehman wrote his phone number on the pamphlet.
"If you have any questions, just call me," he said.
After we walked away from Christensen's home, Lehman said he always writes his home number on the literature. If a resident isn't home, he also includes a note saying, "I'm sorry I missed you."
"It's important constituents know how to contact me," he said.
Walking neighborhoods and knocking on doors is old hat for Lehman. He said when he first ran for the state senate in 2006, he knocked on about 17,000 doors. In 2010, when he was running for re-election, he said a total of 22,000 visits were paid, split about evenly between Lehman and a volunteer.
Janet Delao was reluctant to speak with Lehman when she answered her door.
"Have you thought about the recalls?" he asked.
She took the proffered campaign card, shaking her head. Her mood brightened considerably when she recognized Trobraugh.
"I haven't but I know I should pay attention," Delao admitted.
Gordon Stiles, just a few doors down, though, is a staunch Lehman supporter. He confirmed that Lehman's got his vote and also signed Lehman's nomination papers.
"He's more a supporter of the unions," he said, explaining one of the reasons behind his support. "I don't care for how Wanggaard supported the unions when it was for himself, but then turned the other way once he got into office. He shut everyone else off."
Asked why she was out working for the campaign, Trobraugh said she's been a longtime constituent of Lehman's and said she supports him because of his ability to rise above the fray.
"He is a steady voice, with common sense solutions, that rises above the noise," she said.