WisPolitics: Lussow playing catch-up to Holperin recall organizer Simac
By David A. Wise
The race to take on Sen. Jim Holperin in Wisconsin's Northwoods matches two very different grandparents -- recall organizer and conservative talk show co-host Kim Simac against an admittedly more moderate county board chair who's running without a website or much of an organization.
“Overall the support has been very good,” says 68-year-old Lincoln County Board Chair Robert Lussow, a retired pilot from Tomahawk who's new to partisan politics. “The big thing now is to get my name out there so people farther from my local area get to know me.
“The 12th District is pretty large -- that's my major problem and concern I have with this campaign. The other thing, as you know, I have no support from the Republican Party, and that's all I'll say about that."
The sprawling district covers a big part of the state's north country, encompassing the northern communities of Rhinelander, Eagle River, Merrill, Antigo, Crivitz and Woodruff.
Lussow has a Facebook page, but lacks a website, which he said is because he hasn't had enough time to make one on his own and doesn't have an organization yet to do so.
But Lussow said he's been actively campaigning, attending events, handing out buttons, doing media interviews and will be putting out yard signs and has a series of radio ads going up soon.
Simac, a 52-year-old Eagle River businesswoman who led the recall effort against Holperin, has a full campaign organization and a team of volunteers.
“It's amazing to see all the people stepping up to help and really care passionately about all of this,” Simac said.
Simac has a history of activism in the area as founder of the Northwoods Patriots, a Tea Party organization, as vice-chair of the Vilas County Republican Party and as president of the Republican Women of the North. She also worked as co-host of “The Kim and Steve Show”, a political talk radio show focused on the Northwoods; the show is currently on hiatus. All of this has led to strong support of the local GOP.
Simac said she's not too familiar with her primary opponent.
“He's mad at Senator Holperin, too -- I think we have that in common,” Simac said. “Other than that I think we don't agree on many things.”
The debate, Lussow said, will provide a good opportunity to see the differences between him and Simac.
“She is a Tea Party candidate and I am a more moderate individual,” he said. “There are changes that have to be made, but I'm willing to listen. I'm not trying to jam anything down anybody's throat.”
But he stressed "raising taxes is no longer an option nor is it logical.”
He also noted his experience as retired airline pilot and former small business owner and his current service on the Lincoln County Board, which he's been on since 2000, and chair of since 2008.
His experience on the board has taught him to deal with people with different opinions, and his training as a pilot, he said, taught him to use all available information from all sources to make rational and reasonable decisions.
“And that I think is a key in this whole thing,” Lussow said. “Neither party listens. They won't talk to one another. There has to be conversation.
“My background is widely varied,” said Lussow, married 48 years with four children and seven grandchildren. “I have a lot of experience that I don't believe my opponent has.”
Simac highlighted her experience with her business raising and training horses. She owns the Great Northern Riding Club in Eagle River.
“I'm a small business owner; I have been all my life,” Simac said. 'I know how hard it is to make ends meet, especially up here with living in the Northwoods.”
She also noted she raised a large family with her husband -- nine children in all -- which she described as “a feat in itself,” and her work as a public speaker and author of patriotic children's books. The couple has eight grandchildren.
She said she will also bring strong people skills and enthusiasm to Madison and will try hard to work with Democrats to move past divisions to find common ground.
“I think that's what I will bring with me -- the enthusiasm to get everybody on board together and come to the table and stop all this separation,” Simac said. “Let's make Wisconsin great again.''
She said that while the Walker administration and Republicans in Madison have made headway on some issues, Holperin hasn't been a part of it, which she said will help her win against the incumbent if she makes it through the primary.
“I think Jim Holperin doesn't want to be a part of it,” Simac said. “We need to have a senator that's going to sit at that table at all times, not what was exhibited by Jim Holperin so far.”
Lussow said the biggest issue for him has been Holperin along with 13 other Dem Senators leaving the state to block action on the budget repair bill.
“That's not what they were elected to do,” Lussow said. “It's that simple.”
A WisPolitics check of online court records showed no criminal cases or convictions for either candidate.
But Simac was involved in two civil actions, for which all judgments were satisfied. One involved a contractor who didn't pay for building supplies used on Simac's property, which led the building supply business to go after the Simacs. Simac said others faced a similar situation due to the same contractor. Another involved a late payment related to a timeshare.
“I've never defaulted on anything,” Simac said. “I've been late on plenty of things in my life. We've put our nine children ahead of a lot of things.”