State Journal: Purloined letter; Buying the carrots?

October 24, 1990 2 min read

An official of a Wisconsin teachers'-union local has stirred up a minor political tempest with a private memo he wrote attacking a state Senate candidate.

In a letter apparently meant for only a few political associates, J.W. Arends of the Wisconsin Education Association Council argued that the Republican candidate for the open seat, Gordon R. Connor, was a “carpetbagger” who had moved to Wisconsin only a few months before.

A copy of the letter somehow fell into the hands of Mr. Connor, who decided to make it a major campaign issue in the northeast Wisconsin district.

The weac is backing Mr. Connor’s Democratic opponent, Roger Breske.

In addition to maintaining that he had lived in America’s Dairyland for six years, the gop candidate was particularly critical of Mr. Arends’s referring to a decades-old dispute over a teachers’ contract in the little town of Laona.

Mr. Arends charged that the 1934 contract had required female teachers to live in a hotel owned by the Connor family, where they might have been more available to men who worked in a Connor-owned lumber mill.

In response, Mr. Connor held a press conference at which his grandmother and an elderly teacher denied the allegations, and demanded an apology from the union official.

But Mr. Arends has so far declined to do so, and argues that his letter must have been stolen from the mail.

In Arkansas, another letter written by an educator--this time for somewhat more public consumption--is creating controversy in the gubernatorial race.

The Republican candidate, Sheffield Nelson, is trying to build support in rural areas by charging that the Democratic incumbent, Bill Clinton, wants to consolidate small school districts.

Given the strong feelings that school consolidation can generate in small towns, it was not surprising that the Clinton campaign helped two small-district officials write to colleagues throughout the state hailing the Governor’s leadership in education.

Although the letter, which was on district stationery, was paid for by the Clinton campaign and the officials themselves, Mr. Sheffield was critical of the effort.

"[Governor Clinton] is holding out carrots with promises of more money, and apparently a few people are buying off on it,” he said through a spokesman. “It’s being done with the innuendo that all superintendents are backing Bill Clinton, when in fact we’re getting calls from superintendents who are upset with the mailing."--hd

A version of this article appeared in the October 24, 1990 edition of Education Week as State Journal: Purloined letter; Buying the carrots?