Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Roundup: Our Republican U.S. Senate primary primer

Republican U.S. Senate hopefuls Jeff Fitzgerald, Eric Hovde, Mark Neumann and Tommy Thompson prepare for their final debate.
Republican U.S. Senate hopefuls Jeff Fitzgerald, Eric Hovde, Mark Neumann and Tommy Thompson prepare for their final debate.

One of the most competitive four-way Wisconsin primaries in memory culminates Aug. 14, 2012 as voters choose a Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate.

The front-runners in public opinion polls -- Tommy Thompson, Eric Hovde and Mark Neumann -- have attacked one another, with the least-funded of the four, Jeff Fitzgerald, hoping his low-key campaign will produce an upset victory.

The winner face U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, who is unopposed in the Democratic primary, in November. The seat is being vacated after 24 years by Democrat Herb Kohl.

PolitiFact Wisconsin has fact-checked some three dozen statements made by the four Republicans. Here’s a sampling of the ratings for each candidate.

Fitzgerald

We have rated four statements by Fitzgerald, the Wisconsin Assembly speaker, since he entered the race.

Fitzgerald got a Mostly True for saying Baldwin had sponsored only three bills that became law and for saying he "won" the contest for the state Republican Party’s endorsement.

His claim that Minnesota and Indiana had passed right-to-work laws was rated Half True (Minnesota hadn’t), but his bold claim that "Obamacare" contains the largest-ever tax increase on the middle class contained paper-thin evidence, earning Pants on Fire.

Hovde

We’ve rated eight statements by Hovde, the millionaire businessman and political newcomer.

Hovde got a Half True for claiming that Thompson is a lobbyist who has lobbied during the campaign. Thompson works for a law firm that does a lot of lobbying, but he isn’t a registered lobbyist.

Hovde also got Half True for claiming that Neumann voted four times to raise the U.S. debt. Those votes were part of a historic drive to balance the budget and were wrapped into huge fiscal bills, something that wasn’t mentioned.

Hovde earned a False for a three-pronged attack suggesting Thompson backed "Obamacare" because he misused quotes made by Thompson and Obama, taking them far out of context.

(To be sure, Thompson in recent years has made comments for and against legislation that became the Obama reform law, leading us to rate as Half True a claim by Club for Growth, an anti-tax group, that Thompson supported "Obamacare.")

Neumann

We’ve rated nine statements by Neumann, the former two-term member of Congress.

Neumann received a Half True for stating that Hovde supported spending billions for high-speed rail and bank bailouts. Hovde backed the rail spending only after it was clear a stimulus bill would pass and, though he backed a bank bailout, it wasn’t, as Neumann suggested, the one that became law.

For attacks on Obama, Neumann earned a False for saying "Obamacare" was the largest tax increase in history (it’s near the top) and Pants on Fire for an over-the-top claim that not only the president but his team are socialists.

Thompson

We’ve rated 14 statements by Thompson, the best known of the candidates, going back to before his Senate campaign was official and he was considering entering the race.

The former governor criticized Hovde’s lack of voting, but his own claim that he has voted "every year" was rated False. His charge that Hovde refused to pay property taxes was Mostly True, as a Hovde company -- paying lower property taxes because land was designated as farmland -- had to pay penalties for not farming the land.

On his record as governor, Thompson earned a False for claiming he never raised taxes (he did, even if they were outnumbered by his tax cuts) and saying unemployment during his tenure was the lowest in the United States for 40 straight months.

But he earned Mostly True ratings for saying "we ended welfare" (the major welfare program nearly went away during his tenure) and saying that Wisconsin’s overall tax burden went down.