Life can be blue for Walworth County Democrats

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Darryl Enriquez
Saturday, July 23, 2011
— A rally here of 50 protesters of Gov. Scott Walker’s policies was ignited Friday when a pickup truck driver made a rude gesture aimed at the protesters. They responded with sarcastic “thank yous.”

Another motorist shouted at the top of his lungs for a half of a city block “God bless Scott Walker.”

The protesters were also told by passing motorists to “get a life.”

Such is the life of the underdog Democrats in largely Republican Walworth County.

The protesters gathered at a busy intersection at the old courthouse in Elkhorn where they were seen and heard by a lot of passing vehicles. Depending on who was behind the wheel, members of the group were either regarded as heroes or goats. Some onlookers seemed to regard their efforts as irrelevant.

Regardless, it didn’t extinguish their need to broadcast their message.

Organizers said 103 people attended the protest.

Terry Williams, a former Delavan municipal judge, said he can’t help who he is and kept shouting protest slogans and marching with his colleagues.

“I’m sure being a Democrat doesn’t bring me much legal business in Walworth County,” Williams said. He is a private-practice lawyer in Sharon and former head of the Walworth County Democratic Party.

Rob Zerban, a Kenosha businessman who is running as a Democrat in the 2012 fall election against Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

“I don’t know that we can turn Walworth County completely blue, but we can stop Ryan from getting some votes from here,” Zerban said.

Past Democrats have found Walworth County a tough nut to crack when stumping for votes, according to Janesville Gazette research.

Herb Kohl and William Proxmire have been the only Democrats to make inroads here. Kohl’s only loss in Walworth County was to Susan Engeleiter by an 18,081 to 12,813-vote margin in the 1988 race. Kohl captured the county in all of his elections after that.

It’s been all red in every other race:

Ron Johnson thumped Russ Feingold 22,429 to 12,379 in 2010 U.S. Senate race

Scott Walker crushed Tom Barrett 22,731 to 11,870 in the 2010 governor’s race

John McCain edged Barack Obama 25,485 to 24,177 in the 2008 presidential race

Mark Green won over incumbent Jim Doyle 18,781 to 14,154 in the 2006 gubernatorial race

Scott McCallum beat Doyle here 13,319 to 9,764 in the 2002 race

Similar numbers can be found in presidential and gubernatorial elections dating back to 1978.

So, what’s the point of a Democratic rally in Elkhorn?

Lars Prip of Afton attended the rally with his family, which included 9-year-old Taveon Prip.

The elder Prip waved what he called a Liberty flag that was reminiscent of the American Revolutionary War as he stood on a street curb.

He said the flag represented people who are under attack by Walker just as freedom-loving people were by the British.

Prip said he doesn’t expect one small street rally to make a big impact on state politics, but many rallies will prompt change.

“Every little bit helps,” Prip said. “Everything we do will make a difference.”

Taveon enjoyed his role of blowing a duck call while waving a protest poster.

“My grandpa brought me here,” an excited Taveon said with pride as protesters chanted “this is what democracy looks like.”

Prip patted the head of his grandson.

Rally organizer Ellen Holly, an Elkhorn Middle School teacher, said the numbers of protesters are growing in conservative Walworth County. Residents who were not politically motivated before are now getting out of their homes and walking the pavement, she said.

By rally’s end more drivers were blowing their horns in support of the protesters.

The driver of a septic tank truck waved and honked his horn in support.

A passerby gave a protester a $10 bill to drop into the group’s donation jar. Prip heartily waved his flag. His grandson honked away on the duck call.

Last updated: 5:50 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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