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UW Election Eye 2012

Campaign 2012 through the eyes of UW faculty and students

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You are currently viewing all posts written by Thor Tolo. Thor Tolo is an Emmy winning broadcaster with 18 years of major market experience. He earned his Master of Communication in Digital Media degree from the University of Washington while anchoring news for KOMO Newsradio. Before his four-year run as host of Live from Seattle, Thor anchored sports for NBC affiliate WKYC-TV in Cleveland, co-hosted one of America's first sports-as-entertainment morning shows (WKNR), anchored the 62-station Minnesota Vikings Radio Network, and hosted a nightly talk show for the world’s first radio station (KDKA) in Pittsburgh – where he freelanced for CBS affiliate KDKA-TV and Fox Sports.

May 31, 2012 at 10:21 AM

Upset union vet shows disdain for recalled Wisconsin governor

It didn’t take long after landing at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell Airport for passionate opinions to be shared with our UWEE team traveling all over a divided Wisconsin ahead of this Tuesday’s explosive governor recall election. MILWAUKEE — No sooner had I stepped aboard Bill Brewer’s shuttle bus than the friendly driver with the warm smile…


Comments | More in National | Topics: Local 200, Milwaukee, Recall election

May 28, 2012 at 2:00 PM

As much politics as patriotism in small Wisconsin town Memorial parade

The UW Election Eye team of Kirsten Johnson, Will Mari and Thor Tolo blanketed the Memorial Day parade in Beloit, Wisconsin. We found a few avid supporters of Gov. Scott Walker amidst a sea of blue Tom Barrett signs and stickers along the parade route. BELOIT, Wisc. – No sooner had Gov. Walker’s recall challenger,…


Comments | More in National | Topics: Beloit, control spending, deficit

May 26, 2012 at 5:54 PM

Slideshow: Gov. Scott Walker hugs Wisconsin border (and lots of supporters) in tiny Hudson

HUDSON, Wisc. — Showing the raw power of pure retail politics, Wisconsin GOP Governor Scott Walker made a sprint Saturday from Milwaukee to Stevens Point to Wausau to this small border town of 12,000 to rally supporters. In a bid to avoid becoming only the third governor recalled in U.S. history, Walker visited St. Croix County…


Comments | More in National

May 9, 2012 at 4:20 PM

Mourdock’s Indiana win leaves Lugar speechless

The Mourdocks

Senator-elect Richard Mourdock stole one last look at his wife, Marilyn, before they walked hand-in-hand to the stage of his GOP primary victory party in Indianapolis on May 8, 2012. (Photo by Thor Tolo/UW Election Eye)



Indiana Senator-elect Richard Mourdock’s victory spells the retirement of one of last remaining voices of  bipartisanship right of the aisle.

INDIANAPOLIS — Tea Party favorite Richard Mourdock dethroned six-term incumbent Dick Lugar by 20 points yesterday — sounding a siren for D.C. insiders and sending shock waves as far west as Washington State.

Moderation is fading from American politics as more extreme positions espoused by candidates like Mourdock triumph.


Comments | More in National | Topics: Dick Lugar, GOP primary, Indiana

May 8, 2012 at 9:30 AM

Live blogging from Indiana GOP primary election: Tea Party victory biggest Senate upset in decades

Look of a winner

Richard E. Mourdock finally steps out of an SUV with the glow of a winner at 8:44pm Tuesday at the Tea Party victory rally in Indianapolis. (Photo by Thor Tolo/UW Election Eye)

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock is poised to unseat six-term incumbent Dick Lugar. Indiana has carried the 80-year-old U.S. Senator to victory with no less than 67% of the popular vote every election since 1982. UWEE’s Thor Tolo is traveling around the Hoosier state  providing continuous updates throughout the day. Times are PST.

Update: In making longtime U.S. Senator Dick Lugar of Indiana the first-ever six-term senator to lose his or her seat at the polls Tuesday, Richard Mourdock has rocked this country’s political core and made it be known that the Tea Party – whatever one thinks of it – is not dead. His margin of victory is a staggering 20 points – 60% to 40%. Presidents would salivate at such numbers, including the one who once called Lugar his “favorite Republican.”

Those words from Barack Obama – more than anything – may have been the fire the Tea Party desperately needed lighted to rally necessary support to overthrow the only other genuinely moderate Senator in Washington, D.C. besides Susan Collins of Maine. On his way out of “media lane” in that same community center, Mourdock turned to a top aide and said simply, “Wow, can you believe this?”

Update: 6:53pm. The next Senator from the great state of Indiana strolls out of the community center along North High School road and steps back into the waiting SUV.

New Indiana Senator signs on man's chest

Senator-elect Richard Mourdock signs a man's shirt just a few minutes following his emotional victory speech Tuesday night in west Indianapolis. (Photo by Thor Tolo/UW Election Eye)

Update: 6:31pm. Mourdock conducts his final one-on-one media interview of the evening, moves to his left, and begins signing autographs at a remarkable variety of places on people’s bodies – all keeping with his traditional, old-fashioned roots, of course.

Update: 5:46pm. Mourdock is asked what he might say during his victory speech. He hesitates, reaches for coat pocket, and says he “forgot script on his desk.” He isn’t joking.

Update: 5:44pm. Senator-elect Mourdock and Marilyn arrive in the back seat of a SUV – campaign “advance” staff all around them.

Update:  5:28pm. Indianapolis Police Officer tells me Mourdock and his wife, Marilyn, have left their Indianapolis home for the rally. (No formal ETA.)

Counting the minutes to Mourdock's arrival

When your own campaign staff is wondering what's up with the delay, you figure there must be a good reason. Read more Wednesday for why Mourdock arrived to his own victory party so late. (Photo by Thor Tolo/UW Election Eye)

Update: 5:26pm. “This anticipation is killing me,” said volunteer Bridget Eaker.

Update: 5:23 pm. Mourdock aide, laughing: “He’s killing networks’ opportunity to carry him prime time.” A good point.

Update: 5:04 pm. Mourdock now 13 minutes late. “But fashionably so,” said an aide. “Usually more prompt as down-homer.”

Update: 4:34 pm. MSNBC calls the race for Mourdock with only 17% of votes counted.

Update: 1:33 pm. Literally empty voting booths for 46 minutes mid-afternoon today at the Indianapolis Seniors’ Center. Generally speaking, six-term incumbent U.S. Senator Dick Lugar will surely benefit from lower turnout. However, on way into this parking lot early this afternoon, two drivers said they were taking an alley as a shortcut to make sure they would beat the rush were there one.

Obama Democrat voting Mourdock

Opal Steirling works out in Indianapolis Senior Center before casting her vote for Richard Mourdock on May 8, 2012. (Photo by Thor Tolo/UW Election Eye)

“I don’t know any of my Republican friends who are checking the box next to Mourdock’s name. But I do know a few who’ll be ripping the lever off for him,” joked Tomas Bachtell, a resident of east central Indianapolis.

As for 72-year-old Opal Steirling, the lifelong liberal Democrat said she will take advantage of Indiana’s “open” primary right after her workout to cast a vote for Mourdock.

“At this point,” she said. “I don’t care how crazy it sounds. It’s time for Lugar to go.”


Comments | More in National | Topics: Dick Lugar, GOP primary, Howey/Depauw

May 8, 2012 at 6:30 AM

Heartbreak in America’s heartland: Stories from a small Indiana town

Kristin & Totty Stalker

Kristin Stalker and her daughter Totty on her porch on May 7, 2012. She feels the pressure of living paycheck to paycheck while her husband still looks for work. Her daughter has health insurance through Kristin's employer, French Lick Resort. (Photo by Thor Tolo/UW Election Eye)


A 118-mile car ride across southern Indiana from Terre Haute to French Lick became a wonderful opportunity to explore the everyday lives of everyday Americans – their fears, their frustrations, and their heartbreaks.

FRENCH LICK, Ind. – Life is lived at two speeds in this quaint southern Indiana town: slow and slower. Truth is, the fastest thing ever recorded in French Lick may have been the fleeing of townsfolk after the economy crumbled four years ago.

There are stories here that warm your heart, soften your heart, and break your heart. Coasting down a hill to the corner of Wells and New York Streets Monday afternoon in this lunch bucket and beer town, I happened upon a story that crushes your heart.


Comments | More in National | Topics: French Lick, French Lick Resort, Indiana

May 6, 2012 at 7:55 AM

Tea Party poised for tectonic upset in Indiana Senate race

PAC rally for Mourdock

Ginni Schneider grabbed new GOP primary frontrunner Richard Mourdock for a hug at Tea Party rally in downtown Indianapolis on May 5, 2012. (Photo by Thor Tolo/UW Election Eye)

Richard Mourdock has surged past six-term incumbent U.S. Senator Dick Lugar in the latest poll ahead of Indiana’s GOP primary on Tuesday. UWEE caught up with the Indiana Tea Party favorite on his Saturday afternoon stroll of Indiana’s Veterans Memorial Plaza in Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS –  All signs suggest legendary Sen. Dick Lugar is going to lose Tuesday in a nationally watched Republican Party primary. That’s why I came to Indiana this weekend.

What I found was his likely conqueror, Richard Mourdock, walking around kissing babies and shaking hands with adults on Saturday at a Tea Party event. It was American retail politics at its best and most surreal.

Mourdock was prevented by Federal Election Commission (FEC) rules from appearing on stage at an event sponsored by the Political Action Committee (PAC) Freedom Works, but the FEC could not prevent Mourdock, the Indiana State Treasurer, from working the crowd at a Hoosier Conservatives Rally.

Certainly the government watchdog commission could not stop Mourdock from hugging Ginni Schneider, a loyal volunteer since before Mourdock’s most recent election to a two-year term as treasurer. “I love this man,” Schneider said with a big grin. “He’s Christian, he’s conservative, and he’s Republican. What more could we ask of him?”

In a scenario ripe for a “Daily Show” comedy skit critical of the Tea Party and PAC loopholes, Fox News commentator Michelle Malkin seemed ready to explode on the main stage because she was not able to point out Mourdock only a few yards away posing for pictures and signing autographs.

Mourdock — pronounced like Rupert’s last name — was unfazed. A widely respected poll released late Friday showed Mourdock enjoying a 10-point lead over Lugar, and Rick Santorum, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachman, have all provided endorsements.

“I’m so incredibly humbled by this turnout – this intra-party rebellion fueled by all these people who believe in the Tea Party,” Mourdock told me between a high five and kiss on the cheek of a woman standing next to him.

“I’ve run nine marathons in my life and when you make it to those last two miles, you stay steady. If you speed up, you cramp up. If you slow down, you run out of gas.”

What better metaphor could an Indiana politician have, with all those fast cars about to roar into town next weekend for the start of Indy 500 time trials?


Comments | More in National | Topics: Christine O'Donnell, Dick Lugar, Federal Election Commission

May 5, 2012 at 7:30 AM

Yearning for the Iraq War and a Former Commander In Chief

A chance meeting with three U.S. Army troops in an airport concourse led to one of the most fascinating series of interviews in my 25 years of reporting. These three shared their unbridled opinions on everything from America’s two most recent wartime presidents to why they choose to serve.

INDIANAPOLIS — Words flow off the tongue of U.S. Army Sergeant Jeremy Hansel like water from the fountain he drank from Friday at Indianapolis International Airport.

Here in Indiana, he said, “we vote for the man, not the party.” To hear this 13-year Army veteran tell it, Tuesday’s hotly contested Republican primary between six-term incumbent Dick Lugar and Tea Party challenger Richard Mourdock is exaggerated political theater that Hansel said diminishes the theater of war. He is a registered Democrat harshly critical of President Obama for whom he voted four years ago.

PFC Jamie Bachur & Sgt. Jeremy Hansel

U.S. Army PFC Jamie Bachur and Sergeant Jeremy Hansel at the Indianapolis International Airport on May 4, 2012. Bachur bopped Hansel with a water bottle after he said she was "desperate" to go fight overseas . (Photo by Thor Tolo/UW Election Eye)

“I’d rather save households [of unemployed Americans] than be president of the United States,” said Hansel, your prototype no-frills infantry sergeant so often portrayed in the movies. “I have a hard time agreeing with this withdrawal from Iraq ordered by the president. If some 80-year-old senator [Lugar] can keep us fighting for what’s right over in Afghanistan or Iraq, then that’s enough to get my vote.”

A pack-a-day smoker with 13 tattoos – “One for every year I’ve been in the Army,” he joked – Hansel has a work ethic as blue as his language. He was among the first troops to cross the border into Iraq during the March 2003 invasion.

“I’m desperate to go back even after three tours,” said Hansel, nodding toward Army Private First Class Jamie Bachur. “And so is she.” Bachur grabs a water bottle and playfully bonks her superior on his arm.

“I personally hate politics. I just want to go overseas to join the fight to be part of a bigger picture,” said Bachur, a staunch Republican whose parents met as active duty Army veterans themselves. Like Hansel, she is anxious to exonerate the legacy of Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush.


Comments | More in National | Topics: Afghanistan, Baghdad, Barack Obama

May 1, 2012 at 11:30 AM

Penn State Muslim responds to bullying with a smile

I stepped out into the pouring rain on Penn State University’s campus, expecting to unnerve any challengers of what I believe as a conservative Christian. Two hours later, I left the gorgeous campus with a new friend, a new attitude, sharper perspective, and a softer approach.

STATE COLLEGE, Penn. — My first impression of the young woman seated in the sea of computers in Penn State’s Pattee-Paterno Library was the intensity in her eyes as she studied.

Noora Albraiki was bullied not far from Penn State University's Paterno Library where she studied on April 21, 2012. (Photo by Thor Tolo/UW Election Eye)

Noora Albraiki was bullied not far from Penn State University's Paterno Library where she studied on April 21, 2012. (Photo by Thor Tolo/UW Election Eye)

My second impression was her warm smile, as I approached her cubicle to ask if she had a few minutes to talk politics.

“Well I could use a break,” she said, “so let’s go over to the fountain.”

Noora Albraiki looked exhausted. Two days earlier the petite Muslim woman was strolling across campus when a young man passing out literature starting shouting in her direction. Albraiki said the fellow was a Christian missionary who began to bully her about her religion being “wrong.”

“It really made me sad,” she said, “but I wasn’t going to let his bullying make me feel intimidated. It upset me how he was totally making fun of what I believe [while] showing me how Jesus — how Christianity — is the only way. He wanted to show me his religion is right, but he kept teasing me and teasing me and wouldn’t let me speak.”

I understood what she was saying. I am an evangelical Christian, and I often struggle with how best to share what I believe. But my biggest frustration is usually with those who do believe as I do; not with those who don’t.


Comments | More in National | Topics: Dubai, Evangelical Christian, Muslim

April 30, 2012 at 11:30 AM

Pennsylvania parallels with Washington State politics obvious to PA Governor

When UW Election Eye was invited to the residence of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, we discovered a remarkable number of similarities between Pennsylvania’s political climate and that of Washington State.

HARRISBURG, Penn. — Gov. Tom Corbett was glued to his son’s big-screen TV on Sunday, April 22, settling in to his rec room’s easy chair for a Stanley Cup playoff game between his two largest constituent cities: Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. That’s just about the time our UW Election Eye team got waved past the plain-clothed state patrolman on the mansion’s front steps and greeted by the Commonwealth’s First Lady, Susan Corbett.

UWEE's Corbett interview site

Mellon Parlor is around the corner from the site of our exclusive interview with Gov. Corbett on April 22, 2012. It was completed in December 1968. (Photo by Derek Walker/UW Election Eye)

“Call me Sue,” she said, reaching for our jackets and hanging them up in the closet of the Grand Hall entrance. The tone was set for our afternoon.

Minutes later, Gov. Corbett strolled across the wooden floor into a spacious, brightly lit Erie Room — wearing a light blue shirt and holding a soft drink in his left hand. If he is losing sleep over his current 39% approval rating, he sure doesn’t look like it. Even Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s approval rating is higher than Corbett’s, despite Walker facing a rare recall election in early June.


Comments | More in National | Topics: attorney general, Mellon Parlor, Pennsylvania governor

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