Senior US politician in NZ on election day

ALEX FENSOME
Last updated 05:00 08/11/2012
Doug La Follette
BARRY HARCOURT
PATRIOT: Doug La Follette, the Secretary of State of Wisconsin, was in Manapouri on US election day yesterday.

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For most American politicians, yesterday would have been one of the most nerve-racking of their lives.

However, one senior member of the Wisconsin state government was relaxing on holiday in Fiordland.

Secretary of State Doug La Follette spent yesterday near Manapouri checking pest traps on the Kepler Track, before going to watch election coverage at a friend's house.

Wisconsin is one of the few states where the secretary is not in charge on election day, Mr La Follette said.

"Many years ago Wisconsin decided it wasn't a good idea to have an elected politician in charge of the election, and we have an independent board of five retired judges. I don't need to be there [and] I wanted to come to New Zealand at this time of year."

Mr La Follette, a Democrat, is not facing re-election himself. The secretary of state serves a four-year term, and he was last elected during the 2010 "midterm" elections.

A staunch member of the blue party, Mr La Follette was predictably scathing about Mitt Romney's record, policy and public statements, and said he expected Barack Obama to win a close race.

The Republicans would retain control of the House of Representatives and the Democrats, while the major party in the Senate, would not have enough votes to control it.

"I'm not looking forward to the next four years," he said. "Obama will be frustrated, much as he has been for the last 3 years."

He is on the Left wing of Mr Obama's party and is known as an environmentalist.

Although he has tried to enter national politics, he has never won selection as a candidate.

If he had been a New Zealander, he would probably have been in the Green Party. With America's two-party system, there was not the same kind of choice.

The partisan nature of US politics - shown by the bitter presidential campaign - was becoming more and more entrenched with the rise of the hardline Republican Tea Party, Mr La Follette said.

"I've been involved for quite a while now.

"I used to be a state senator and worked with Republicans some times . . . even six, eight, 10 years ago the disagreement wasn't so personal."

Tea Party candidates had a policy of no compromise, and sometimes drove their more moderate Republican colleagues to distraction, he said.

"The more sensible Republicans want to get something done."

New Zealand was dealing with many of the same political issues as the United States, but he said from his limited knowledge politics appeared to be much less divisive.

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