There were about 15 minutes left in Easter Mass at St. Anthony’s Church on 9th and Mitchell in Milwaukee Sunday where I’ve been ushering weekly since 1970. Catching my eye were two women who walked in and stopped in the back. One quickly introduced herself and I quickly responded with a smile, “I know exactly who you are.”
From Day One when Deb Kerr entered the race for state DPI Superintendent I have not been enamored, posting my criticisms periodically. Didn’t vote for her in the primary. My view is a minority opinion. Every Republican in WI from Ron Johnson and Scott Walker on down supports Kerr. Now here she stood with me in the vestibule of my place of worship, cordially greeting me, armed with brochures.
I politely informed Kerr and her campaign manager who accompanied her that normally we don’t allow electioneering inside the church, but they, in my words, “didn’t look too dangerous,” and that they could stay inside to talk to church-goers if no one from St. Anthony’s objected. And then I took advantage of this fortuitous situation since I had a few moments to speak with her individually, uninterrupted as Mass began to wrap up.
I told Kerr I was a conservative and was not going to vote for her opponent but as much as I’d like to vote for her I also mentioned that I found her to be too much of a Lefty.
“Why should I vote for you?”
She replied, “I’m not a liberal.”
“You’re a Biden-loving Democrat.”
Kerr didn’t deny it.
“But I have some conservative values.”
Kerr then launched into her support of school choice. Her visit to St. Anthony’s was strategic and smart. The school is the largest choice school in all of Wisconsin.
“You’re kind of a Johnny-come-lately on choice,” I said.
Again, Kerr wasn’t in denial. She essentially said a previous ex-campaign manager precluded her from being as vocal on the issue as she is now.
“I’ve been endorsed by Betsy DeVos,” she added.
“And Lena Taylor” I responded.
Shaking her head Kerr jumped in, “And Arne Duncan.”
The first person Kerr contacted for advice about her run? State Senator Alberta Darling, a Republican icon.
Kerr also talked about her 40 years of experience as opposed to her opponent’s six, and the millions of dollars in attack ads being spent against her.
The two of us had a very nice, cordial, respectful conversation.
“If I do vote for you and you win, God help you because cleaning up DPI will be a tough job.”
A current Kerr campaign official tells me Kerr is a conservative on education reform, contending she:
Will follow the law and trust parents.
Will support the instruction of phonics.
Remove ideology from classrooms and will not support ideology curricula.
Work with Republicans, not against them.
Will decentralize DPI.
Supports Republican school athletics legislation.
That might be all well and good. But if I choose decide to vote for Kerr and place my faith and trust in her it won’t be because of those talking points. My Kerr vote would be the result of our face-to-face church conversation where she didn’t dodge or make excuses about my concerns. Give her credit, she said all the right things. As they say in sports, my decision will come on game day.