By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — It’s election day and political watchers will have their eyes on key gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey, as well as special and primary races for U.S. House seats in battleground Florida and Ohio.
But there’s a recall election in suburban Milwaukee that has garnered a good deal of national attention.
The recall campaign against four incumbents on the Mequon-Thiensville School Board — Wendy Francour, Erik Hollander, Akram Khan and Chris Schultz — has turned particularly nasty, as the establishment looks to hold the line against a grassroots campaign driven by fed-up parents. Many are sick of the district’s stringent COVID-19 mitigation policies. Others have had it with radical curriculum and race-obsessed indoctrination in the classrooms.
“When people realize they’re not alone .. that’s really empowering. That’s why I think you see so many of these parent groups forming nationally.” said Amber Schroeder, one of the organizers of the recall campaign.
As Empower Wisconsin first reported, recall organizers on Friday won a significant court battle in the waning days of the campaign.
Ozaukee County Circuit Court Judge Steven M. Cain ordred the Mequon-Thiensville School District to turn over an email distribution list that was used to invite parents to participate in a virtual conference presented by critical race theorists. The conference, titled “The Talk, a Conversation about Race and Privilege” is one of myriad concerns recall proponents have about the radical, often political indoctrination, going on in the school system. The Woke session reportedly cost $42,000.
Mequon resident Mark Gierl sought the list through an open records request. District officials provided staff emails on the distribution list but withheld the emails of district parents. They argued that if parent emails were made public parents would stop providing their email addresses, inhibiting district-parent communication.
Cain said the district’s argument that releasing such public information would curb communication was speculation that evidence does not support. The district, the judge said, used the distribution list for “community outreach” and “advocacy,” which clearly fall under information open to public inspection.
On the eve of the election, a Woke group has filed a defamation lawsuit against recall organizer and school board candidate Scarlett Johnson. Bridge the Divide, which claims it advocates for “honest discussions about racial issues,” alleges Johnson made false and damaging statements about the group on social media sites and in podcasts.
A Madison civil rights lawyer is representing Bridge the Divide.
Recall organizers say the late lawsuit is one of many tactics by well-funded allies of Mequon-Thiensville’s eductrats who are trying to hold on to power and push a leftist agenda in a traditionally conservative school district.
“We have (anti-recall) postcards coming in from outside the state. We’re getting robocalls that are mispronouncing the name of Mequon, and now Charlotte is being sued,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder said recall organizers have filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Ethics Commission against the “Coalition to Support MTSD”, the group formed to campaign for the four incumbent Board Members. The complaint cites reporting errors, and violations of multiple state statutes, including exceeding candidate contribution limits, collusion with candidates, and failure to report advocacy, among others.
The recall movement has faced plenty of obstacles along the way. Mequon city officials early on stopped the campaign from putting up signs promoting the recall petition drive on public property. On at least four occasions, Mequon police officers confronted Schroeder and told her the sign violated a city sign ordinance and threatened to issue fines.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty issued a letter to Mequon Mayor John Wirth and City Administrator William Jones warning the city that attempts to enforce a sign ordinance against a group of school board recall organizers violates the First Amendment. WILL also highlighted how the City’s ordinance violates the constitution by regulating signs based upon their content, because the city allows other types of signs.
The city backed off and promised to review the current sign ordinance, according to the law firm. Mequon committed to halting any enforcement that may violate the constitution. The mayor is one of several public officials in the district speaking out against the recall. Their opposition letter was widely circulated in mainstream news publications.
Still, Schroeder says she feels good about the chances of the people running on change. With a record number of absentee ballots and a lot of energy on the ground, she says the “temperature” in the community is warm for changing the direction of the school district.
And while she knows school districts and voters across the country will be watching what happens in Mequon-Thiensville today for the political ramifications, Schroeder said this election is bigger than politics.
“This isn’t about some political party or a candidate you see for eight months of campaigning. This is about our babies, our children. And the mama bears and papa bears are waking up.”