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Walker and Evers

There were many, and I was among them, who fretted about Tony Evers' mild-mannered style and whether a candidate so soft-spoken could beat a bombast like Scott Walker and the tens of millions of dollars in attack ads that right-wing outside groups would aim at him.

Turns out that those of us who yearned for a candidate who could stand toe-to-toe with Walker and call him out for his outlandish claims — a Paul Soglin-like pitbull or an aggressive debater like Kelda Roys, for instance — didn't know what we were talking about.

It was former Democratic Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton, an early Evers' supporter, who told me that Evers was the kind of candidate voters were looking for in this age of unabated vitriol spurred on by what we now call Trumpism. A candidate who speaks softly, encourages a meeting of minds and invokes visions of that old civility that once existed in our politics was the person who could carry the day.

And indeed, Evers did do that. While Walker and his billionaire outside supporters like the Koch brothers, the Uihleins and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, to name but a few, spent what could amount to $50 million insinuating the superintendent of schools coddled sexual perverts, Evers for the most part ran ads telling voters why he wanted to be governor.

As Urban Milwaukee's Bruce Murphy pointed out in a post-election column, Tony Evers' "blandness" was a winner in this election. His "nice guy genuineness proved a refreshing contrast to Walker's smoothly scripted sound bites," Murphy wrote.

And, in the end, big money was a loser, whether it was in the Walker-Evers race for governor or U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin's enormously successful contest with state Sen. Leah Vukmir, whose ads confirmed she has been one of Wisconsin's meanest legislators.

Vukmir's outside backers spent millions on ads in which Vukmir attacked Baldwin for not caring about veterans and made other over-the-top claims, while Baldwin spent her money talking about what she had done and will continue to do. I particularly liked her closing ad, which featured her with Wisconsin working people, small businesses and family farmers. She ended with the usual words that she is "Tammy Baldwin and I approve of this message," but then she and the others on the screen pull out a healthy bite of Wisconsin cheese and proclaim that they approve of this cheese, too.

You could't help but get a positive vibe from the simple message, perhaps a lesson for politicians of the future.

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Yes, thank goodness the election is finally over. Perhaps we may be witnessing a slow but steady change, a change where huge campaign contributions no longer dictate the outcomes and where negative advertising no longer attracts votes.

We can dream, can't we?

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.  

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Dave is editor emeritus of The Capital Times.