The race between State Senator Lena Taylor and State Representative Mandela Barnes has been UGLY to say the least. Senator Taylor has said some pretty interesting stuff, so let’s see how these things check out.
Some of Senator Taylor’s Claims, and how they match up to reality:
1) Statement: “I’ve passed over 100 pieces of legislation.”
Fact-checking: She’s co-sponsored 134 pieces of legislation, and 101 of those items have passed. What she hopes you will overlook is that on most of these bills, there are about 12 people who sponsor or co-sponsor them. For example. SB-36 is listed like this on the state legislative page: “Introduced by Senators Taylor, Grothman, Lehman, Plale and Erpenbach; Cosponsored by Representatives Grigsby, Kessler, Berceau, Colon, Fields, Mason, Roys, Sinicki, Toles, Turner, A. Williams, Young and A. Ott.”
Or, take a look at AB-442: “Introduced by Representatives Ballweg, Berceau, Davis, Grigsby, Mursau, A. Ott, Staskunas and Ziegelbauer; cosponsored by Senators Taylor, Cowles, Erpenbach, Olsen, Plale, Schultz and Wirch.”
Also a fact: both the Assembly and the Senate are controlled by the Republican Party. They are far more willing to make a deal with Senator Taylor, who repeatedly sides with Republicans, than they are to deal with Rep. Barnes, who gets higher consistent ratings on standing with the Democrats. Anyone can check what types of bills these two have sponsored, and where those bills have gone.
2) Says she went to the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council convention to see what it was all about.
Fact-checking: Somewhere out there there is a video of Taylor thanking ALEC for sending her to this conference, made up of members who have arguably done more to undermine American income-earning potential than any other organization in existence today. A month ago, it was online, but it appears Taylor has had this removed after backlash. If you ask her about it, she will point to other Democratic senators who went, too. The problem is, she neglects to mention that these senators went with the sole intent of documenting, reporting, and exposing ALEC for what it was. For Taylor, who came back and did a public speech about how great it was, to claim that “others did the same thing I did” is disingenuous. If you can find the video please post it in the comments. She has deservedly taken a lot of heat for this.
3) Much of Senator Taylor’s district is affected by gun violence, and much of it is strongly in favor of sensible gun reform, but Senator Taylor has time and time again voted not to limit access to guns, not to enact stricter penalties for those in illegal possession of a gun, etc.
Fact-checking: Okay, this is my statement, but it’s true. She’s voted for Castle Doctrine, and we all know how well that ends up for people based on race (of either the shooter or the shot).
4) Senator Taylor used to be considered the people’s champion.
Fact-checking: This is generally true. Even a few years ago, she could be counted on to come to public events on a wide variety of issues, make a brilliant speech, and inspire a crowd. But have you been to a meeting or public forum with her lately? Many local Democratic women across racial lines have been missing the “Old Lena” vs. the one who shows up today, a woman clearly disinterested in hearing anyone’s voice but her own.
5) Taylor likes to call her deal-making with Republicans “compromises.”
Fact-checking: True, in her own view, false in the real world. She and her supporters try to make this look like it’s all part of lawmaking, when in fact you do not have to compromise with people who are out to destroy Wisconsin. If she claims that these “compromises” have helped her constituents, ask to see proof of their increased wages, increased access to housing, transit, etc. Taylor has one of the highest lifetime “conservative” ratings of any Wisconsin Democrat according to the American Conservative Union’s 2015 report. Barnes, on the other hand, is considered part of the “Coalition of the Radical Left” because he sided with Republicans less than 10% of the time. Republicans, clearly, consider her their ally. Taylor sided with Republicans 70% more than Barnes in 2013 and 40% more than Barnes during their cumulative time as lawmakers. And yet, both represent overwhelmingly left-leaning constituencies.
6) Taylor claimed to have spent no money in the entire first half of 2016, and is now delinquent in filing an amended campaign finance report that was due before the end of July.
Fact-checking: True. Despite repeated assurances that they will get right on this, no one has. It's coming up on a month now, and if there were nothing to hide, they wouldn't be trying to hide it. Anybody who is as seasoned a campaign manager as Michelle Bryant knows better than this. With no GAB anymore, and with Republicans disinclined to punish people willing to vote with them close to 20% of the time, any complaints will probably go nowhere.
Look, Taylor may win this time around, but she will keep drawing challengers due to her willingness to stand with Walker against her own constituents. That’s the kind of “compromise” we can all live without. Judge her on how she’s performed for her constituents—ALL of them—and whether or not you want to keep sending a Democrat with Republican values-- and donors (let's see that full finance report, huh?) to office.