By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — The Mequon-Thiensville School District establishment has publicly declared their opposition to a recall campaign against four school board members. They insist the grassroots effort is “an inappropriate use of the recall process.”
But some of the members of the recall resistance movement had no qualms about using the same process to try to politically take out former Gov. Scott Walker.
Mequon Mayor John Wirth joined former mayors Dan Abendroth, Christine Nuernberg, Curt Gielow, Connie Pukaite and former Mequon-Thiensville Superintendent Karl Hertz in signing a letter urging voters to support the four incumbent Mequon-Thiensville School Board members facing removal in a Nov. 2 recall election.
“Among the six of us, there are conservatives and liberals, and we do not necessarily agree regarding all the issues the recall organizers have presented,” the letter states. “We agree, however, that this is an inappropriate use of the recall process.”
Pukaite thought recalling Walker was just fine. She signed the Walker recall petition in November 2011.
Reached for comment, Pukaite, who served as Mequon’s mayor from 1986-1992, told Empower Wisconsin that in general she does not support recall elections because they’re not “a good way to deal with policy differences.”
But policy differences are exactly what drove the left’s recall movement against Walker after he led and signed Act 10, pivotal reforms of Wisconsin’s public sector collective-bargaining laws that returned power to taxpayers and greatly curtailed the strength of government unions.
The Walker recall was different, Pukaite said.
“I don’t know that I would characterize the recall of the former governor the same as this one. I felt at that time he was abridging the absolute rights of a great many people across the state. I thought he was quite detrimental to our state,” the former mayor said.
The organizers and supporters of the Mequon-Thiensville recall drive will tell you that the four members of the board facing removal — Wendy Francour, Erik Hollander, Akram Khan and Chris Schultz.have supported policies that have been detrimental to the children and taxpayers of the community.
Pukaite said she “accept(s)” that idea, but “I just have a different view of that time versus this time.”
Perhaps former Mequon-Thiensville Superintendent Karl Hertz has a different view, too. His wife, Carol Sue Hertz, also signed the Walker recall petition. Karl, dubbed a “Pillar of the Community” by the Mequon Community Foundation, did not return a request for comment.
Incumbent Erik Hollander’s wife, Beth, also signed the Walker recall petition, for the record.
“This recall sets a bad precedent. If recalls based on policy differences become customary, we run the risk of never-ending elections,” the recall opponents’ letter asserts.
That’s exactly what Republicans said in 2011 when Democrats and their Big Labor allies promised to exact revenge against a conservative governor they despised. They raised tens of millions of dollars from all over the country to oust Walker in what was viewed as a fight to the death for unions.
It appears a similar effort, albeit on a smaller financial scale, is being driven by the opponents of the Mequon-Thiensville recall election. Scarlett Johnson and Amber Schroeder, organizers of the recall campaign, sent Empower Wisconsin hand-written postcards they say have blanketed the district bearing the identical anti-recall message and ostensibly mailed by people from as far away as Spokane, Wash.
“Keep our elected School Board members, vote for continued academic and financial excellence,” the postcards urge in the apparent political astroturfing campaign. “Do’t let extremists onto our school board! Thank you for being a voter.”
The “extremists” in question are the friends and neighbors of the recall opponents who have grown increasingly frustrated by a school board and administrators they say have refused to listen to their concerns.
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. Schroeder, who has grown so frustrated she pulled her younger children from the district and enrolled them in private school, said a lot of recall supporters feel the school board is nothing but a “rubber stamp” for an administration disconnected from the community’s needs.
It seems a lot of school district residents are fed up. Recall organizers collected more than 17,000 signatures from members of the Mequon-Thiensville community over a 60-day period.
Parents across the nation are rising up and speaking out against overreaching educrats, who in turn are asking President Joe Biden to check the opposition through the politically weaponized use of federal law enforcement agencies.
Johnson said the same people who say they are standing up for civility are bullying her and other recall supporters online. She said she’s been attacked for her Latina heritage. She’s been told to leave Mequon.
“The mayor signed off on this saying, ‘That’s okay. I stand with the people that are treating other constituents like this,’” she said.
Johnson, who is a candidate challenging an incumbent in the upcoming recall election, said she and supporters will not be silenced.
“The mama bears are waking up,” Schroeder said.
Pukaite said she’s “dismayed by the lack of civility” and the refusal of people to work for the “common good.” She said the school board recall effort is part of that incivility.
Johnson said the pretence of civility and the criticism of recalls is interesting coming from people who supported one of the most divisive recalls in U.S. history.
“They don’t have a problem with recalls as long as the recall is against a Republican or conservative,” she said. “Why am I such a threat to them? I’m a mom of five kids. What are they so afraid of?”