West Bend businessman Steve Stanek is seeking the Republican nomination in the special election in the 58th Assembly District, but his biggest campaign contribution ever was to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a Democrat. Stanek donated $3,000 to Barrett in October 2010 at the height of the mayor’s campaign for governor against then-Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker.
“I was working for a business in Milwaukee and my boss held a campaign fundraiser and all the employees were expected to attend, and I attended,” Stanek said in a phone interview Thursday. “And at the time, I had absolutely no intensions of politics or anything in my future.”
“I guess you’re compelled to give when your boss asks you to attend a fundraiser,” Stanek said.
Stanek said he understands how the donation looks today.
“I understand what someone looking at it, I understand what they see,” Stanek said. “All I can tell you is who I am.”
At the time of the donation, Stanek worked for Alliance Federated Energy, a company with a focus on renewable energy technology. Stanek says that no threat was made by his employer regarding attendance at the Barrett fundraiser.
“Yeah, it was an important part of the business he was in,” Stanek said. “The company was trying to work with the city of Milwaukee.”
The special election in the 58th Assembly District was made necessary by the passing of state Rep. Bob Gannon in October. The special primary election is on Tuesday, December 19. The election will be January 16.
In addition to Barrett, Stanek also donated $500 to former state Senator Jeff Plale (D-South Milwaukee) in September 2010 during the Democratic Primary against Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee).
“Same boss, same time frame,” Stanek said. “I was employed there at the same time.”
Stanek also donated a total of $1,685 to former Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon). While Stanek was working for Alliance Federated Energy, he donated $500 to Gannon in 2014.
Stanek, an owner (with his wife) of Direct Disposal Solutions of WI, is self-funding his own campaign for the Assembly. According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Stanek has invested over $20,000 into his own campaign.
The next closest Republican in fundraising isWashington County Board Chairman Rick Gundrum (R-Slinger) who loaned his own campaign $16,500.