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Big money warps special-election politics in Wisconsin

Big money warps special-election politics in Wisconsin

The race for the Republican nomination to replace state Rep. Mark Honadel in the Milwaukee area’s 21st Assembly District was a hard-fought one.

But the result was never really in doubt: The candidate who had the most support from the most wealthy out-of-state campaign donors won.

The nominee, Jessie Rodriguez, benefited from a $45,647 “investment” in her candidacy by the American Federation for Children Action Fund. The group — which campaigns to steer public money away from public education — spent the money to flood the district with mailers, online ads and phone calls to aid Rodriguez.

That $45,647 spending spree overwhelmed the campaigning by the four other Republicans who sought the seat — including an Oak Creek City Council member and a prominent area businessman — and of the Rodriguez campaign itself.

The American Federation for Children Action Fund was the money power in the race.

The point here is not to diminish Rodriguez, who is an experienced and enthusiastic advocate for her views. She faces Democrat Elizabeth Coppola in the Nov. 19 general election.

The point is that the Republican primary race was warped by a national group that has spent millions to get its way.

And if the massive intervention by the American Federation for Children Action Fund continues, the November contest will be warped just as badly. That’s not how it should be.

Rodriguez and Coppola have fundamental differences. They can have a great debate. They can offer the voters of the 21st District a real choice.

But that won’t happen if the contest is suffocated by out-of-state money.

Rodriguez and Coppola should respect the voters by joining one another in urging outside interest groups such as the American Federation for Children Action Fund to spend their big money elsewhere.

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