U.S. Senate candidate and former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy G. Thompson was the guest of honor at Bob Dohnal's backyard barbecue in the 11300 block of West Potter Road on Sunday.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I got so many ideas. … I'm going to count on all of you to help me get elected, because you know what? It's so important," Thompson said, speaking to an audience of about 60, many of them state politicians. "This election is for these young people, every one of these young people who are here, your daughters and sons and grandchildren, my three children and eight grandchildren. ... We have promised, in America, we have always promised future generations that we're going to give future generations the opportunity to inherit an America that is stronger, freer, safer, with more security, with more options than what we had. For the first time in our history, we can no longer say that."
Dohnal, a conservative activist and publisher of Wisconsin Conservative Digest, hosted a broad palette of conservatives at his 42nd annual Chicken Burn, including representatives of the Tea Party, supporters of the NRA, and a group of young volunteers wearing "Tommy for Senate" T-shirts.
"They're people that I've known, or they're on my email list or they're part of the Tea Party movement. They come from all over," Dohnal said of his guests.
"I'd say 90 percent of them are not part of the Republican Party," he added.
Taking his measure
Tim Dake, of Wisconsin GrandSons of Liberty, said his organization was helping out at the event. He said that, although the GrandSons are often lumped with the Tea Party, "we don't consider ourselves a Tea Party group, we are … a pro-Constitutional group."
Primarily, he said, it consisted of fiscal conservatives, not social conservatives.
He said of Thompson, "We'd like to hear what he has to say. We're a non-partisan group, so we like to hear both sides of it. We've also reached out to the (Tammy) Baldwin campaign, to see if we could talk to them as well. They haven't been too receptive."
Thompson painted Baldwin, the Democrat nominee to fill the Senate seat left open by the impending retirement of Democrat Herb Kohl, as an extremist. He and his supporters are tasked with convincing voters that "the way of Tammy Baldwin and Barack Obama is so wrong - and Tammy Baldwin is a nice lady, I'm not going to ever say anything about that - she's just so far liberal that Nancy Pelosi has to turn left to talk to her."
Thompson evoked his history, beginning with leading Collegians for Goldwater as a student. He hit on a broad range of Republican talking points, including energy - drilling in Alaska, natural gas development, the tar sands pipeline - a simplified tax code, tort reform protecting physicians and other issues. He said he'd been in touch with Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's choice to be vice president, who pledged his support.
Drawing a crowd
Brittany Brzenk, who will be a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, said she and the other young people present were volunteers who had spent the summer working "tirelessly" for Thompson.
"We went door to door, we made phone calls, we did lit drops, so, yeah," she said.
"They're great people to work for, and he's a great candidate, and it's all volunteer and we don't mind one bit."
Thompson was proceeded as a speaker by Larry Gamble, who leads Wisconsin GrandSons of Liberty and was the emcee; Don Pridemore, a member of the state Assembly from Hartford; state Rep. Dan Knodl of Germantown; Sen. Mary Lazich of New Berlin; Rob Hutton, a Brookfield Republican running for Assembly in a district that would include much of Wauwatosa; Dan Sebring, vying for Gwen Moore's seat in the 4th Congressional District; former state Sen. George Petak; state Sen. Glenn Grothman; and Mark Neumann, whom Thompson defeated for the GOP Senate nomination.
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