City of Sheboygan incumbents still in the race

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

With voter turnout lighter than predicted, all three incumbent Sheboygan aldermen competing in Tuesday's Common Council primary advanced to the April 6 general election, though two of them will have uphill battles to retain their seats.

Ald. Mark Hanna, 54, looking for a third term on the council, finished first in his 7th District primary, and will face Joel Hammen, 37, a bar manager at Blue Harbor Resort and Conference Center.

In unofficial totals, Hanna got 421 votes, Hammen, 95. Vicky Meyer, 50, a former alderwoman seeking to return to the council after losing her seat to Ald. Tom Bowers a year ago, got 81 votes and was eliminated.

In the 2nd District, Dennis Radtke and Ald. Vang Neng Vue — the city's first Hmong resident to serve on the council — will compete in the spring election. Radtke finished first in the primary with 185 votes, with Vue getting 98. Allen Brunke, 48, the deli manager of Ella's Dela, got 58 votes and was eliminated.

In the 1st District, Scott Versey, 33, an insurance salesman and business owner, advanced along with incumbent Ald. Ed Surek, with Versey getting 214 votes to Surek's 168. Collin Kachel, 32, a technical education teacher at Elkhart Lake High School, got 141 votes and was eliminated.

About 13 percent of the 11,502 registered voters in the three primary districts cast ballots Tuesday. Sheboygan City Clerk Sue Richards had predicted a turnout of around 20 percent.

Hanna, vice president of Maritime Financial Group/Maritime Insurance, credited his primary victory to the hard work he put in on his campaign and the strong reputation he's built as an alderman.

"I pride myself on being a voice of reason and a consensus builder, and I think that message came across loud and clear," Hanna said. "That being said, we're not going to stop the momentum at all."

Hammen, who's never run for elected office before, said he was very nervous in the days leading up the primary, but was excited to be advancing to the general election.

"I haven't slept in two days. I'm going to sleep well tonight," said Hammen, who felt his message of making Sheboygan a great place for families resonated with voters.

"I think I have a good message and some good ideas," Hammen said.

Vue said he was happy to be moving on to the general election and felt minority voters have valued his presence on the council.

"The Hmong community and minorities like being represented," Vue said.

Vue was appointed last year to the Common Council to fill the vacancy created when Bob Ryan was elected mayor.

Radtke believed his emphasis on downtown revitalization and neighborhood improvements connected with voters.

"I think the voters sent a message that they want a new direction with fresh leaders and fresh ideas," Radtke said. "I look forward to the upcoming election with Ald. Vue."

Surek, 68, a retired city human resources director who is seeking a second term on the council, could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

The low turnout was noticed by some pollworkers, who brought books to read during stretches when no one was voting.

At the 7th District poll inside the Quarryview Center, the vote totals were among the highest in the city, with about 270 people casting ballots by 4:30 p.m., but Wayne Haartman, Ward 13 chairman, described the voting as "pretty light."

Sharon Van Veghel, 65, voted for Hanna, along with her husband, John. They pointed out Hanna's involvement in city and community issues as a reason for their support.

"He goes to our church and he's done a lot for our community already," Sharon Van Veghel said.

In the 1st District, Bernard Dedering, 79, voted for Versey because of his experience as a small-business owner, which Dedering believes will be valuable as the city grapples with budget cuts.

"I want someone with some business sense. That's my main concern," Dedering said.

Thomas Brown, 71, said his vote came down to the candidate that would be most familiar with city issues, so he cast his vote for the incumbent, Surek.

"It's his experience," Brown said.


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