Shouty Wisconsin Recall Elections Preceded by Kayaking Protestors

All over but the shouting? Not in the Badger State, where the second round of contentious recall voting is today.

On Sunday, July 17, the Republican Party of Walworth County, Wisconsin, held a pleasant cruise and fundraiser aboard Lake Geneva's "Lady of the Lake" steamboat. The heat was not the only discomfort.

To get an idea of just how intense the political divide has grown in Wisconsin since the budget battles of the winter and spring, consider this: the GOP's boat was met with a small armada of protesters in kayaks holding signs protesting Republican Gov. Scott Walker, whom Democrats hope to recall from office as soon as it becomes legally possible. Yes, the Wisconsin recall effort now has a navy.

The protesters weren't done on the water though. Back at the dock, embarking and disembarking Republicans were met by a sizable crowd chanting in support of recalling Republican state senators who backed Walker's budget repair bill, along with the governor. Special guest Rep. Paul Ryan even got an earful, right in front of his kids.

As the video shows, even as his colleagues were meeting with Obama to debate the debt ceiling, Ryan was attending the annual fundraiser in his home state. Ryan even got his own Newt Gingrich "You're an embarrassment" Iowa moment when one in the crowd said to his face, in front of his children, "You should be ashamed of yourself." 

"Let's go kids," Ryan seems to say in the video, leading his kids away.

Several of those who were at the protest said that not only was Ryan the only one who took children onto the booze cruise, but that he seemed to use them as a buffer as he disembarked. Jenna Pope, a Madison resident who rented a boat along with four others to dog the cruise, accused Ryan of "using them to protect himself."

Those at the event confirmed a large police presence, including at least two police boats in the water that flanked the cruise and multiple state patrol cruisers onshore. Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefish had her own personal police escort.

The Lake Geneva event was well within Ryan's district, and could represent more trouble ahead for the congressman, who in 2012 will face Republican-turned-Democrat Rob Zerban. Zerban, while still trailing well behind Ryan, has already raised more for his campaign than any Ryan challenger. He's somebody Sara Schulz, a resident of Ryan's district and a protestor at the event, says she'll vote for and energetically support.

The protest also demonstrates how the continued Republican overreach in the state may have extreme personal consequences for state legislators who can barely go out public, even with their families, without verbal harassment. This appears to now be true even in their own "safe" zones outside of Madison. Lake Geneva and Walworth County are very Republican; Ryan won Walworth by a landslide three-to-one margin in 2010.

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Abe Sauer grew up shoveling cow manure and now covers politics. He is working on a book of humor about North Dakota.

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