Media Trackers previously reported several people who know former Door County Economic Development Corporation Caleb Frostman were surprised when he announced his candidacy as a Democrat rather than Republican candidate for the June special election to fill the 1st District State Senate seat. While Frostman did not respond to any Media Trackers inquiry, talk show host Josh Dukelow addressed the question in a Monday interview with Frostman on WHBY-AM, Appleton.
Despite suprise from those around him on his run as a Democratic challenger, Frostman told Dukelow “it wasn’t a big secret.”
“I actually took it as a gigantic compliment, our work there, I’m really proud of our accomplishments in that they were incredibly non-partisan that we put the mission above partisan politics. That improving the economic vitality of that county and it’s residence was what we focused on, not whether someone was a Democrat or Republican. When you treat people with respect and you put the mission above partisan politics folks tend to like the work that’s getting done and they tend to like engaging with you. So I was pleased that people had no clue, it wasn’t a big secret, but I also did prioritize our accomplishments and our work over any partisan rankers. It didn’t surprise me and economic development seems to be a more conservative dominated field and we worked really well together and i’m proud that i’m able to put that stuff aside if the mission is important, and at DCEDC it certainly was.”
Frostman describes it as people “not having a clue” that he was a Democrat. It’s not that his ideology was ambiguous. Those around him clearly thought he was a conservative Republican. A source who is familiar with the operation of the DCEDC told us that he was shocked to learn Frostman was running as a Democrat. He said as DCEDC Executive Director, he saw Frostman’s values and goals parallel with those of the Walker administration.
When I heard he was running as a Democrat…I thought the whole thing was paradoxical. He talks a good game; he seems like he’s very conservative. He seems like he’s all in favor of economic development initiatives that Walker supports and just has that kind of persona about him. So when I heard that I was like wow, that just doesn’t sound right. I think we’re all kind of wondering what’s going on.
Another source commented:
“Based on all the things that he works on, all the things the economic development corporation stands for, and all the things that are very similar to the Walker Administration, you just think well yeah, he must be a conservative,” he said with a laugh. “I was shocked. I was like what? You gotta be kidding me?”
Dukelow also mentioned that Frostman told the Door County Pulse growing up he had conservative role models, and voted for George W. Bush in 2004. Again, he told Dukelow that Democrats didn’t seem to mind his past:
“I think they are fired up. I did growing up in Green Bay my main male role models were pretty conservative and warned me not to let Madison turn me liberal when I went down there for college. So I did vote for George W. Bush in 2004, I thought he was a guy even though I had sobered up by then I thought I’d want to have a beer with that guy, and it took being around folks in more marginalized communities that were being affected by legislation in a really negative way to get me to think a little bit more broadly about the impact of legislation, the impact of policy, and so that’s kind of what turned me to the left if you will.
The reaction has been great I think the folks are excited to have a person that’s got the perspective of having some pretty hefty private sector experience as well as I’ve mentioned it many, many times probably the biggest threat of the fabric of my identity is being a hunter, so being a proud outdoorsman, I think that bodes well with folks on both sides of the isle and it’s a big part of what guides my values and what I want to do for the first senate district.”
Despite finding it a compliment that those around him assumed he was a Republican, Frostman failed to respond to five separate requests from Media Trackers seeking comment about the perception. Dukelow asked Frostman about it in response to Media Trackers’ reporting. Frostman claims he transitioned from right to left more than a decade ago. Voters may be interested to know that those around him couldn’t notice the change. And as Frostman appears unwilling to respond to Media Trackers’ requests for comment, perhaps others in the media will explore his current ideological leanings. You can find the full podcast with Dukelow and Frostman here.
Alec Zimmerman, spokesman for the Republican Party of Wisconsin commented on the issue:
“Caleb Frostman is nothing more than a political opportunist who will say and do whatever to help his chances at getting elected to a district he just recently relocated to. There’s no doubt that Frostman would be a rubber stamp for the same failed, backward policies that Democrats continue to campaign on.”