Neubert back in Assembly race as write-in

County GOP, elected officials offer candidate their support, turn backs on Schmidt
Lee Pulaski
City Editor

Dean Martin Neubert is seeking a second shot at the ring as he announced Sept. 8 he was running as an official write-in candidate for the Sixth Assembly District with elected officials and the chairman of the Shawano County Republican Party throwing their support behind him.

Neubert, a Hortonville resident, came in second to Bonduel resident Peter Schmidt in the primary election on Aug. 9, getting 2,093 votes while Schmidt received 2,156. The results shocked a number of public officials, county coroner Brian Westfahl among them,

“We were all shocked,” Westfahl said. “With the conservative values we have and the positive thinking we discussed, we felt Dean would be a good write-in candidate.”

Westfahl is not the only elected official who feels that Neubert would be a better choice than Schmidt. Shawano County Chief Deputy George Lenzner, who is soon to be sheriff, and Shawano Mayor Bruce Milavitz have also thrown their support behind Neubert and plan to campaign for him.

What has many in the county’s GOP turning their backs on Schmidt is the candidate’s criminal record. Schmidt was found guilty after pleading no contest to criminal trespassing and disorderly conduct, both misdemeanors after being initially charged with a felony in connection with an incident of Schmidt’s farm where a worker was choked.

County GOP Chairman Richard Kucksdorf said during a news conference that there is no room for criminals in the party.

“We are a party that believes in the rule of law and support the police,” Kucksdorf said. “Either we believe in that, or we don’t.”

Kucksdorf said that many people offered their support to help with Neubert’s campaign when the GOP had its booth at the recently concluded Shawano County Fair, whether it was to volunteer time to knock on doors or chip in a few dollars to get the word out.

“I feel very confident that we’re going to win this as a write-in,” Kucksdorf said. “From talking to various folks that serve on the county board and elected officials, if they only had to choose from the two that are on the ballot, they were going to vote for the one that had the lesser of the crimes and support the one with the lesser of the crimes.”

Besides Schmidt’s recent crimes, the Democrat running for the seat, William Switalla from Wittenberg, pleaded no contest in 2019 to a theft charge, while a felony charge of burglary was dismissed on a motion from prosecutors.

Neubert told Republican party members and the media that he made the decision to run as a write-in because of the support he was getting from key officials but mainly because he didn’t feel District 6 should be represented by someone with a criminal past.

“We need somebody with a moral compass, somebody that’s honest and has integrity,” Neubert said. “When approached about this, I was talked to about honesty and integrity many times, and that is why I decided (to run).”

Neubert said high gas and food prices, couple with inflation should be what Republicans are focused on, and having Schmidt running with concerns about his past only serves as a “distraction.” He acknowledged that write-in candidacies are uphill battles and that he wouldn’t even attempt it unless he knew he had community support in the district.

“Write-ins don’t usually work because they don’t have the support,” Neubert said. “I have the party support and the party endorsements.”

Kucksdorf, a retired Army colonel, jumped on the proverbial grenade and admitted the county Republican Party was to blame for Schmidt getting the primary nod, saying that it did not have a vetting process that would have discovered Schmidt’s conviction. While misdemeanor crimes do not disqualify people from holding public office, Kucksdorf said the party would have made it clear in its media appearances that they would not recommend a vote for Schmidt.

“We’re a small community and everybody knows everybody, so we take people at their word,” Kucksdorf said. “Well, welcome to the 21st century. We’ll have a vetting process going forward.”

Dick Martens, a retired engineer, said he voted for Schmidt in the primary election before finding out about his past. Martens said he regrets it.

“I was just under the assumption that Dean’s from Outagamie County, and he’ll only take care of Outagamie County, while the Shawano County guy would take care of Shawano County,” Martens said. “I want the chance to fix that.”

Schmidt replied to an email from NEW Media saying he was going to focus on his own campaign, which includes helping folks dealing with government overreach and inflation. Schmidt wrote that he’s going to stand up to “Madison-insiders” and the elites within his own party.

“I’ve been knocking on doors since the beginning of the race and people don’t have time for negative campaigning or party politics,” Schmidt said. “I’ll continue to run a strong, positive campaign because the folks here know me. They know my volunteer work in the community and church, my work on the farm and as a county board supervisor.