• WisPolitics

Saturday, March 31, 2012

 11:54 PM 

Walker says he's learned lesson from collective bargaining fight

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PEWAUKEE -- An animated and defiant Gov. Scott Walker, in his first public appearance since his recall election became official, conceded he'd learned a hard lesson about acting first and explaining later regarding the collective bargaining measures he introduced last February.

"If I'd spent more time making the case in January and February, I bet taxpayers would have said, 'Governor, you have to fix this,' " he said Saturday. "Instead, I just went out and fixed it and explained later. I admit I learned a lesson from that and I'm going to spend a whole lot more time explaining things in the future."

"But if I've got to be wrong on something, I'd rather be wrong on fixing something then talking about something I didn't fix in the first place," Walker said to applause from Waukesha County Republicans attending the party's annual Lincoln Reagan Dinner Saturday evening at the Country Springs Hotel.

But Walker insisted the upcoming recall is not about collective bargaining.

"At any other time and any other circumstances, (our actions) would be almost a slam-dunk for re-election," said Walker. "We made our promises, we delivered on them, we made our state better, we're headed in the right direction. And yet on June 5, I'll be the only the third governor in American history to face a recall election. Why is that?"

Walker said his administration decided that in addition to asking public employees to contribute more toward benefits, "that we should give the good, decent hard-working public servants of our state, the nearly 300,000 people who work in our schools and our cities and towns and our state governments -- those great people who work hard for us every day -- we should give them the freedom of choice, the freedom to choose whether or not they want to be in a public employee union and no longer be forced to do this. That's the heart of this, that's what it's all about."

"That's why they bused and shipped and flew in all those people from out of state," said Walker. "That's why tens of millions of dollars was spent last summer against Alberta (Darling) and the others in recall elections and why they're going to spend tens of millions of dollars more against me and Rebecca (Kleefisch) and the four state senators."

"It's not because of collective bargaining, it's not because of pensions or health," Walker said. "It's because they want the money. Not the money for the workers, not the money for the members. They want the money so the special interests from out of state can continue to draw off of that money that will automatically go into their hands to pay for political activities in the future."

Still, Walker vigorously defended his actions last February.

"We couldn't wait a year, or two years. We couldn't wait for a blue-ribbon panel or another discussion. We had to act because the voters sent us to the state Capitol to act and not to talk," he said.

Walker urged the Republicans at the dinner to help him win the recall by contributing to the "three M's" -- message, manpower and money.

"The more we repeat the message, the better," Walker said, urging people to talk him up to others at the grocery store, church and at work. In asking for donations, Walker said, "You know, the media often talks about money as though it only comes from a handful of really wealthy people, but the reality is ... more than three-quarters of my donations came from people who gave me $50 or less."

-- By Kay Nolan


 11:36 PM 

Waukesha County GOPers hear from Romney, Santorum

Aside from Scott Walker, others speaking at the Waukesha County Lincoln Reagan Dinner were presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, along with U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, and Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus.

Romney steered clear of Wisconsin references in his remarks, except to chuckle at the fact that speedskater Derek Parra of California, whom Romney chose to help carry the American flag during the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, was able to "beat a bunch of guys from Michigan and Wisconsin and Minnesota."

Romney called Walker a hero, but did not talk about the Wisconsin recall or collective bargaining.

He did say he believed in the right for Americans to join labor unions, but said they should not be forced to join unions or pay dues "that unions just give to politicians."

Romney focused his remarks on President Barack Obama, saying Obama is trying to transform America into a government-centered society. Romney said if elected, he would stop Obama's health care plan "in its tracks" because he believes it could lead to government deciding what treatment patients can get.

Romney got the public support of Sensenbrenner, who announced that he'd already voted by absentee ballot for Romney. Sensenbrenner told the audience, "Unless we get together and unite behind the nominee, whether it's for president or Senate, we are going to end up being a party to the re-election of Barack Obama and the election of Tammy Baldwin, who's already a member of the United States Congress, as our United States senator."

In contrast to Romney, Santorum peppered his remarks with Wisconsin references, telling the audience, "I've been bowling almost every day I've been here" and adding that he has enjoyed eating brats and visiting Lambeau Field in Green Bay.

"Even a Steelers fan appreciates a great tradition," Santorum said of the Green Bay Packers. "I was going to do the Lambeau Leap, but it's a lot higher than it looks. And you know that padded wall? It's still really hard."

Santorum brought up the Wisconsin recall, saying it was strange as a presidential candidate "to come into a state where you're not the most important thing going on right now -- that was a little bit of a surprise."

Santorum said, "This state has now gotten the attention of the entire country because you had strong, principled conservatives who stood up and did the tough things even though it was a move back."

Santorum echoed Romney in saying that Obama stands for more government and less individual freedom.

"We are no longer 'we the people' with the government serving us. We are now subjects because we have given up that freedom to the goverment to provide for us," he said.

Of all the speakers, Ryan voiced the deepest concern over the upcoming recall elections in Wisconsin as well as national elections.

"I think it's dawned on some of us, if you want to be good at these jobs, you have to be willing to lose these jobs," said Ryan. "It's not about always being right and being popular, it's about doing what it right. This whole thing is coming to a crescendo. It's coming to a crescendo on June 5 here in Wisconsin, for Washington, for our country."

-- By Kay Nolan


 9:41 PM 

Barca won't run for guv

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Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca announced on his Facebook page today that he will not run for guv.

Instead, he writes, he will focus on retaking control of the Assembly.

Barca, D-Kenosha wrote it was a difficult decision.

"However, in the final analysis, my decision came down to what is best for all of us who are working together as a broad front to win back Wisconsin," Barca wrote. "In order to stop the assault we have seen on middle-class families we need to win the recalls to take back the governor’s office and a win a majority in the state Senate, however equally important we must achieve a majority in the state Assembly in this fall’s elections. All three parts of state government are essential to truly undo the serious damage that has been done this past year to the values we hold dear in Wisconsin."

-- By Staff


 9:31 PM 

Barrett: Walker started a civil war

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WAUSAU -- Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett continued the roll out of his third run for governor Saturday by comparing himself to a battlefield leader in a war started by Gov. Scott Walker, a politician with a vocabulary that doesn’t include the word compromise.

“We have spent 15 months in this state in a civil war,” Barrett said, a day after becoming the fourth Democrat seeking to oust Walker in a historic recall election this summer. “I don’t want our state to be divided. I want us to come together. The person who started this civil war is Scott Walker and I am here to end it.”

Barrett, who on Tuesday seeks to be elected to his third term as Milwaukee’s mayor, told a spring meeting of about 150 Marathon County Democrats at a labor temple in Wausau that Walker was a “divide and conquer” leader who dropped a “bomb” on the state with his successful plan to eliminate collective bargaining for most public workers.

“This was an ideological war to rip the unions apart in this state,” said Barrett, who in 2010 lost to Walker 52 percent to 47 percent.

“I am here to tell you I am the strongest candidate against Scott Walker.”

Barrett drew laughter from the crowd when he mentioned his “unsuccessful boxing career” at State Fair Park, a reference to his being attacked while helping to diffuse a domestic dispute. He also drew cheers on his verbal assault of Walker.

Barrett called Walker a politician interested in “kicking his political enemies when they were down” instead of trying to find solutions to problems.

“We all know what happens when someone drops a bomb. They either obliterate a village or people fight like they have never fought before,” Barrett said. “And that is what happened here in the state of Wisconsin.”

Walker decided rather than focus on jobs, he focused on “ripping this state apart,” Barrett said. “For the first time in my lifetime, we can’t talk politics in this state without getting mad at each other.”

Walker cares only about himself and his “ideological war,” Barrett said, blaming the governor for failing to resolve differences over a new mining law and a venture capital bill. “He cared about going around the country delivering his gospel according to Scott Walker.”

Fellow Dem guv candidate and state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, a one-time dairy farmer who takes pride in being described as “utterly effective” and known as the “candidate on a shoestring,” also addressed Marathon County Democrats. She said Walker has mismanaged the state budget by postponing debt payments more than any governor in Wisconsin history.

“There is a big interest payment coming due,” she said.

She characterized the recall as evidence of a “renaissance in democracy” in Wisconsin.

“The heroes who are working to save us are right here among us,” she said. “We must stop pitting business against labor as if they are enemies.”

Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin and a Dem running for lt. guv in the recall election against incumbent Rebecca Kleefisch, said compromise no longer exists in Wisconsin politics and it was time to end the “chaos.”

“It is time to recall Scott Walker,” said Mitchell, a 15-year veteran of the Madison Fire Department. “This is about justice. This is about the right side of history. Solidarity, brothers and sisters.”

-- By Bob Imrie


 8:22 PM 

Thompson says he's leaning toward Romney

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During the reception before the Waukesha County GOP Lincoln Reagan Dinner in Pewaukee, U.S. Senate candidate and former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson seemed ready to endorse Mitt Romney for president.

"Mitt Romney, 'cause he's going to win. He's the winner," said Thompson, when asked by WisPolitics which candidate he was leaning toward. "Romney is the best candidate to beat Obama," Thompson added.

State Sen. Alberta Darling also said she'd chosen Romney, as did Margaret Farrow, a former state legislator and lt. governor. Farrow said she sees Romney as "strong enough to stand up to foreign leaders in a way our president doesn't," an issue she says concerns her more than the nation's economy. "I have the sense that Romney is the one who could walk in and command respect for our country," said Farrow.

But Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, Rep. Joel Kleefisch and Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas all said they are still undecided. "I'm listening to all their speeches, but I haven't come out yet for any candidate," Vrakas said.

"I listened to Newt and Mitt this morning and hopefully will now hear Rick Santorum," Fitzgerald said. "But I think Romney will be it."

Kleefisch said he will wait to see which candidate is the most conservative.


 8:06 PM 

Walker about even with Barrett, Falk in new poll

A new poll obtained by WisPolitics.com has Gov. Scott Walker about even with possible Dem challengers Tom Barrett and Kathleen Falk.

The poll was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Inc. March 24-26, before Barrett announced he's running.

It found 48 percent of those surveyed backed Barrett, compared to 47 for Walker.

When paired with Falk, it was Walker 48, the former Dane County exec 47.

A memo on the poll found all three candidates doing well with their party's voters. With independents, 46 percent favored Walker to 43 percent for Barrett. The guv was favored by 46 percent of independents compared to 44 percent who backed Falk.

The survey of 504 registered and likely June recall voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

-- By JR Ross


 5:25 PM 

Four Dem guv contenders make first public apperance together

Kathleen Falk stressed Saturday to Milwaukee-area Dems that she’s the one who’s been on the campaign trail for the last two months laying a foundation to take on Gov. Scott Walker in the upcoming recall election, while Tom Barrett portrayed himself as the candidate who’s battle tested and ready for the race.

Barrett and Falk were joined by fellow Dem guv candidates Doug La Follette and Kathleen Vinehout Saturday in speaking to the state Dem Party's annual 4th Congressional District Convention. It was the first public appearance featuring all four candidates after Barrett jumped into the race Friday. The four will square off May 8 in a primary to see who will take on Walker in the June 5 recall election.

Falk said she is undeterred by Barrett's announcement.

"We have 37 days here and I've been out there working all last year side by side with citizens all across this state and that's why I've earned the endorsement of every single organization that has endorsed against Scott Walker," she said.

In her speech, Falk stressed her Milwaukee-born roots as the granddaughter of a bus driver, but also noted that her family lived many years in rural Waukesha County, where she developed a love for the environment.

"No matter where we are from in Wisconsin, we share the same values," she said. "We want a good education for our kids, a decent home, a good-paying job, and clean air and water. Governor Walker has assaulted and affronted each and every one of those core values."

Barrett told the crowd he's the candidate "who's been tested, who's been through the battles."

"I ran against Walker in 2010, and I feel as if I spent a year of my life saying, 'I know this guy. I know this guy He's on an ideological warpath. Listen to me,'" Barrett said. "I feel like I spent the next year of my life saying, 'I tried to tell you.'"

Barrett accused Walker of lacking commitment to Wisconsin for "failing to stick around" to help pass venture capital and mining legislation. And Barrett said Walker was more interested in punishing his political enemies than concentrating on job creation. He said union leaders had already agreed to concessions on health care and pension benefits when Walker went further and eliminated their ability to collectively bargain.

"This was an ideological war, and he had his opponents on the ground,” Barrett said. “They were crying uncle. With Wisconsin values, when you have someone on the ground crying uncle, you get off. But he didn't get off them. He kicked them again."

Falk earlier this month called on Barrett to support her campaign, arguing he had his shot at Walker in 2010 and now she get behind her bid.

She said in an interview after the event that she spoke with Barrett yesterday before he announced he was in.

"I said, 'We'll see you on the campaign trail,'" Falk said.

But she declined to say whether she had ever asked Barrett directly for his support, saying only, "We've been friends for decades so we speak regularly."

La Follette stressed his statewide reputation and his appeal to moderate voters, including Republicans whom he says were fooled by Walker and who should be embarrassed at the divisiveness created by the Walker administration. La Follette also blasted the trend of high campaign spending.

"Big money politics is a destructive force," La Follette said. "Democrat or Republican, we have to stand up against the tremendous power of big money."

La Follette said he's running because he couldn't stand by while Wisconsin is "being torn apart." and added, "It's clear that people didn't expect an attack on so many issues."

La Follette told WisPolitics.com that Barrett's decision to run for governor must have been a tough one because Barrett already has a job as mayor of Milwaukee, along with family responsibilities. La Follette said he has the advantage of being single, and that he is neither seen as a Madison liberal or a big city mayor.

Vinehout started her speech by describing the reason she was one of the14 Dem senators who fled to Illinois in an attempt to stall the vote on Walker's budget repair bill, which included the collective bargaining changes. She called Feb. 17, 2011, a life-changing date.

She said she took a call at 6 a.m. from fellow Dem Senator Mark Miller, advising her of the urgency of the situation and three hours later, she was intent on crossing the Illinois border.

“I knew they had the votes and we would lose if we went to the floor," she said. "We took the power that was given to us in the constitution to stop the process. We took back our power for our constituents. If I hadn't gone to Illinois to slow this bill down, I wouldn't have been doing my job."

Vinehout told WisPolitics.com she welcomes Barrett's entry into the gubernatorial race.

"I think it's a good thing. It will raise the profile of the race, it will bring more attention to this race," she said.

But Vinehout said she has the advantage of appealing not only to Milwaukee-area Democrats, but people in other counties, including those who lean Republican and may have voted for Walker in 2010. She also noted a majority of voters in her Senate district voted for Walker in 2010.

Vinehout argued none of the other Dem candidates can match her current state government experience.

"Since I've been in state government, I've dealt with every major issue a governor faces: health care, education, balancing the budget, figuring out how to make programs effective ... there's nobody that's running that has that current experience in state government."

-- By Kay Nolan


 4:42 PM 

Three GOP prez candidates address Faith and Freedom Coalition event

At the Wisconsin Faith and Freedom Coalition's Presidential Kickoff on Saturday, the Republican primary continued in full force. Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum all spoke to the gathering, as did U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville.

Addressing a crowd that organizers estimated at more than 1,000, Romney went after President Barack Obama, while Santorum tried to position himself as a candidate with a better chance to defeat the president. Gingrich continued to try to gain traction, as polls of Wisconsin primary voters show him well behind Romney and Santorum.

The crowd gave warm receptions to each candidate, but perhaps the loudest cheers were reserved for those not on Tuesday's ballot: Ryan and Gov. Scott Walker, who was not in attendance but received supportive statements from several speakers.

Ryan, who endorsed Romney Friday, said the country was at both a moral and fiscal tipping point. Ryan stressed the importance of the election. He said neither side would "completely vanquish" the other, but added the result could "set the trajectory for a generation."

Introducing Romney, Ryan said the GOP primary has been a good thing, but it can "come to a point where it is counter-productive." He expanded on his endorsement of Romney, saying that when he decides who to vote for as a citizen, he considers who would be the best president and who could beat Obama.

In his speech, Romney went after Obama for his economic policies.

"They just kill economic freedom. They make it harder and harder and put people back to work. And the proof is in the pudding, look at this recovery. The most tepid, weakest recovery we've seen since Hoover. This is a time for freedom, economic freedom. Not a time for a government-dominated society or economy."

Romney pledged to reduce the size of the federal government.

"If I'm president, we're gonna cut federal spending, cap federal spending and we're finally going to have a balanced budget amendment," he said.

While Romney focused his attention on Obama, Santorum used his speech to criticize the former Massachusetts governor, even though he only mentioned Romney by name once.

"He's uniquely disqualified," Santorum said.

In particular, the former Pennsylvania senator criticized Romney for his health care plan being used as a blueprint for Obama's Affordable Care Act.

"If you want ObamaCare repealed," Santorum said. "You have to make this election a mandate."

"You have one person who can make that case and you have one who can't," Santorum added.

Santorum went on to call health care reform Obama's "Achilles heel," and asked "why in the world the Republican Party would give that away?"

"I'm not going to run as a conservative," Santorum added. "I am a conservative."

For his speech, Gingrich was joined on stage by his wife Callista, a Wisconsin native. He focused on the role of religion in society and the size of government.

"The key to balancing the budget is very simple, we want to shrink the government to fit the revenues available," Gingrich said. "Not raise the revenues to catch up with Obama's spending."

Gingrich also spent a good deal of his speech on religion. He brought up founding documents and President Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address, noting the presence of religion in both. He also said the current administration contradicts itself on religious freedom, referencing recent events such as contraception coverage and the burning of the Quran.

"If you are a Christian they can oppose you," Gingrich said. "But if you are a radical Islamist, they owe you an apology."

-- By Arthur Thomas


Friday, March 30, 2012

 9:24 PM 

Barrett says announcing guv run before Tuesday's mayoral election shows voters his honesty

Tom Barrett said his decision to announce his bid for guv ahead of his mayoral re-election next week proves he'll be straight with voters and stands in sharp contrast to how Gov. Scott Walker "dropped the bomb" on public employees in stripping away their collective bargaining powers.

Barrett, who announced his guv bid Friday afternoon, told WisPolitics.com in an interview his decision may affect how people vote in Tuesday's mayoral election, but "I felt I had to be honest with them."

In contrast, he said, Walker hid his intentions to end most collective bargaining powers for public employees during their 2010 guv campaign.

"It really also sends a strong signal that I want to be honest with the people I serve," Barrett said.

Barrett, who lost to Walker in 2010, accused the guv of starting an ideological war in the state and slammed him for Wisconsin losing more jobs in 2011 than any other state.

"That to me really sealed the deal that we have to have new leadership," he said.

Barrett said he was also offended that Walker decided to use some money from a national settlement over the mortgage crisis to balance the state budget rather than helping homeowners.

Earlier Friday, Walker's campaign slammed Barrett for increasing taxes by $48 million, hiking city spending by $338 million and watching Milwaukee's unemployment rate increase by 27 percent.

"Tom Barrett's record of failed leadership as mayor of Milwaukee has twice been rejected by Wisconsin voters," Walker spokeswoman Ciara Matthews said.

The RGA Friday also started its second spot slamming Barrett's record. The mayor said the first ad from the group persuaded him that Republicans wanted him to stay out of the race because they feared him getting in.

But first up is a Dem primary with former Dane County Exec Kathleen Falk, Secretary of State Doug La Follette and state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout.

Barrett declined to detail how he plans to contrast himself with Falk, who announced for the race shortly after recall petitions were turned in and has wrapped up a series of union endorsements. But he did say he would not make any pledges about restoring collective bargaining through the state budget, saying the document impacted too many other areas of government to make such a promise. Falk has been criticized by some for vowing to veto any budget that did not include the restoration of those powers for public employees.

Barrett also shrugged off the union endorsements Falk has, saying "what's great about the state of Wisconsin is it's the voters" that choose the candidates.

"All the candidates on the Democratic side are friends of mine, and we will continue to be friends," Barrett said.

"My message is really about Scott Walker and his failed leadership."

Critics contend Barrett only got into the 2010 guv's race after the White House pushed him to run.

Barrett said he did not speak with the president or anyone from the White House ahead of his decision and does not expect Barack Obama to campaign for him in Wisconsin.

"I fully expect that the president and his team will be focused on his re-election, as it should be," Barrett said.

Listen to the full interview

-- By JR Ross


 5:08 PM 

Falk, Walker weigh in

Kathleen Falk gave Tom Barrett an understandably warmer welcome to the guv's race than Scott Walker.

While welcoming Barrett, Falk also played up the work she's already done opposing Walker's agenda and noting the various Dems groups that have endorsed her.

"I have been working side by side with citizens around our state for over a year fighting hard against Gov. Walker’s extreme agenda," Falk said. "I have a plan to reverse the damage that Gov. Walker has done -- by bringing back openness, transparency, and accountability to government. It’s a battle to invest in education, repeal billions in tax giveaways to corporations, protect women’s health care and restore integrity to state government. Wisconsin needs to come together and we need jobs, and I am eager to heal our state and move us forward.”

Walker spokeswoman Ciara Matthews gave a preview of at least one attack the guv will likely toss at his latest challenger. She said property taxes have increased $48 million under Barrett, city spending has increased $338 million and Milwaukee's unemployment rate has gone up 27 percent.

“Under Mayor Barrett, Milwaukee has seen a dramatic increase in taxes and government spending, coupled with an astonishing loss of jobs. It is because of this dismal record, that Milwaukee has become the 9th poorest big city in the country," Matthews said. "Tom Barrett’s record of failed leadership as mayor of Milwaukee has twice been rejected by Wisconsin voters.”

-- By JR Ross


 5:04 PM 

Barrett to be in Wausau tomorrow

Wausau appears to be one of Tom Barrett's first stops for his guv campaign.

The Marathon County Dem Party sent an email late this afternoon announcing to members that Barrett will speak tomorrow evening at the party's spring dinner.

Fellow guv candidate Kathleen Vinehout was already scheduled to speak, along with 7th CD candidate Pat Kreitlow and legislative candidates.

-- By JR Ross


 5:01 PM 

Romney focuses on Obama in Appleton speech

APPLETON - Just days before Wisconsin's presidential primary, GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney turned his focus to President Barack Obama during a visit Friday to Lawrence University.

"America hasn't been working," said Romney, adding that Obama hasn't done enough to turn the country's economy around. "I believe we need freedom and opportunity to help grow the economy."

In his first visit to the Badger State before Tuesday's primary, the former governor of Massachusetts didn't mention any of his GOP competitors. Instead, he continually pointed out the differences between himself and Obama.

"He has spent the last four years laying the foundation for a new government-centered society, led by government. I will spend the next four years rebuilding the foundation of our opportunity society, led by free people and free enterprises."

After the Nov. 6 election, Romney told the crowd, "we can start again and this time we can get it right."

Romney was introduced by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, who endorsed him earlier in the day and called him a clear contrast to Obama. A packed crowd filled a theater at Lawrence University with an additional 300 people watching on a closed circuit TV in another room.

Throughout the speech, Romney touted his business experience, adding that the president doesn't understand that successful businesses create a successful America.

"Barack Obama seems never to have understood the basic point that a plant closes when a business loses money. So when this president attacks businesses for making money, and when his policies make it more difficult for businesses to make money, he is also attacking the very communities he wanted to help," Romney said. "That's how it works in America. Or at least that's how it works when America is working."

After Appleton, Romney headed to Milwaukee for a fish fry.

He's due to attend four Wisconsin events on Saturday, including two where Newt Gingrich and/or Rick Santorum are also set to appear.

-- By MaryBeth Matzek


 4:42 PM 

RPW rips Barrett out of gate

The state GOP wasted no time in taking a shot at Tom Barrett now that he's in the race for guv.

"Voters have no desire to take Wisconsin down the disastrous path Tom Barrett has led Milwaukee," RPW spokesman Ben Sparks said. "Even after being rejected by Wisconsin voters twice in his repeated bids for governor, he clearly has not taken the hint. Wisconsin rejected Barrett and elected Governor Walker by an overwhelming majority because they wanted to move Wisconsin forward from the 8 years of failed liberal policies that culminated in 150,000 lost jobs and a $3.6 billion budget deficit."

-- By Staff


 4:30 PM 

Barrett to run for guv

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced this afternoon he will run for guv.

Barrett, who lost to Scott Walker in the 2010 guv's race, sent an email to supporters this afternoon with the subject line "All in."

"This was not a decision I made lightly," Barrett wrote. "I love this state and I care deeply about our future. That's why I ran for governor in 2010 -- even though I knew it was an uphill battle. We ran a strong and energetic campaign fueled by your support and the support of thousands across Wisconsin."

Barrett, who joins a field that already includes former Dane County Exec Kathleen Falk, Secretary of State Doug La Follette and state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, said he will begin crisscrossing the state tomorrow.

"We need to bring our state back," Barrett wrote. "Wisconsin needs a governor who is focused on jobs, not ideology; a leader committed to bringing our state together and healing political wounds, not pitting people against each other and catering to the special interests.

"This is the governor I will be for the people of Wisconsin."

-- By JR Ross


 3:26 PM 

GOP to run placeholder Dem candidates in all recalls

Republicans will run "protest" or "fake" Dems in all six upcoming recall elections, including guv and lt. guv.

Insiders have expected Republicans to run candidates in the Dem primaries for four Senate seats to ensure their candidates are on the same general election ballot as Gov. Scott Walker to help with turnout.

There are already multiple Dems who have filed for their party's nomination for guv and lt. guv.

But the state GOP said it will run candidates in all six races to ensure "one clear date for the primary election and one clear date for the general election." It said it will not actively campaign for the candidates other than to collect nomination signatures to ensure their place on the ballot.

-- By Staff


 11:37 AM 

Candidates react to recall certification

Gov. Scott Walker's campaign said it has long anticipated that the recall election would move forward following the GAB's vote this morning, and predicted that voters would reject "this $9 million power grab by out-of-state special interests.”

"Now it is time for voters to examine the choice they will be faced with in June," Walker spokewoman Ciara Matthews said in a statement. "We believe a majority of Wisconsin voters will stand with Governor Walker’s record of laying the foundation for a more successful Wisconsin while moving the state forward and against the Democrats’ failed policies that would take Wisconsin back to the days of a $3.6 billion budget deficit.

Former Dane Co. Exec. Kathleen Falk told reporters after the GAB meeting that she'll continue to listen the voters of Wisconsin as a primary looms in just six weeks.

"We have these shared values here ... and Governor Walker has assaulted every one," Falk said.

State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout and Secretary of State Doug La Follette have joined Falk in the Dem field, while Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett continues to weigh a bid.

See more reaction here.

-- By Andy Szal


 10:31 AM 

Rasmussen: Romney 44, Santorum 34

The latest Rasmussen Reports survey finds Mitt Romney with a 10-point lead over Rick Santorum.

The survey found 44 percent of likely GOP primary voters favored Romney, while 34 percent backed Santorum. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul were supported by 7 percent each.

A week ago, a Rasmussen poll had Romney up 46-33.

This week's survey of 717 likely GOP primary voters was conducted Thursday and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

-- By Staff


 9:32 AM 

GAB finds sufficient signatures for Walker, Kleefisch recall elections

The Government Accountability Board has found opponents turned in enough valid signatures to trigger recall elections against Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.

The board this morning unanimously passed motions certifying those petitions, as well as petitions against four GOP senators found sufficient by the board earlier this month.

The board further directed GAB staff to file the certifications today, which would set up election dates on May 8 and June 5.

GAB staff found 900,939 valid signatures against Walker, up one signature from the board's original recommendation after staff located an individual -- Fungky Van Den Elzen -- previously thought to be fictitious.

Ultimately, 26,113 signatures were struck as insufficient with another 4,001 duplicates found on Walker's petition. The final total was more than 360,000 signatures above the 540,208 needed to trigger a recall election.

The board also verified 808,990 signatures on the petition against Kleefisch.

GAB attorney Michael Haas said that signatures were struck almost entirely because of incompleteness or errors, and "not because we detected any fraud."

Walker and Kleefisch will be joined on the ballot in Senate districts held by Republicans Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau, Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls and Van Wanggaard of Racine, along with the seat previously held by Pam Galloway of Wausau.

The board also voted to make two databases used in the recall reviews available to the public on the agency website. One database would include a function allowing the public to search through the petitions.

GAB Director Kevin Kennedy said he expects the petitions would eventually be found to have deficiencies since "this is a very human process." But he said the margin on the petitions was "so overwhelming" that staff felt comfortable recommending sufficiency.

"I think we did exactly what we were required to do and then some," Kennedy said after the votes.

-- By Andy Szal


 9:13 AM 

RGA releases new TV spots going after Barrett, Falk

The Republican Governors Association released two new TV ads this morning going after Tom Barrett and Kathleen Falk.

The spots follow a similar format in which a computer screen is show and a woman does an Internet search for information on Barrett in the one spot and Falk in the other.

Both "searches" turn up information about Barrett and Falk raising taxes while unemployment went up under their watch.

The Falk spot says she's a long-time Madison politician backed by government employee unions, and the woman calls her a "typical liberal Madison politician, raised taxes and lost jobs."

"Kathleen Falk for governor? I don't think so."

The Barrett spot says his taxes and spending drove up unemployment and Milwaukee is
one of America's 10 worst cities for jobs.

"Spending up, taxes up, unemployment up. Gov. Tom Barrett? I don't think so," the woman says.

The RGA release does not say where the ads are running.

-- By JR Ross


 9:10 AM 

Ryan endorses Romney

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, this morning endorsed Mitt Romney for president.

Appearing on Fox & Friends just four days before Wisconsin's presidential primary, Ryan said Romney is "clearly that person" best positioned to beat Barack Obama.

"I am convinced that Mitt Romney has the skills, the tenacity, the principles, the courage and the integrity to do what it takes to get America back on track," Ryan said.

See the Romney campaign release.

-- By Staff


 8:29 AM 

NBC poll: Romney leading Santorum 40-33 in Wisconsin

A new NBC News/Marist poll out this morning finds Romney leading Santorum in Wisconsin.

Forty percent of likely GOP primary voters backed Romney, compared to 33 percent for Santorum. Eleven percent backed Paul, while 8 percent supported Gingrich.

The survey also found President Obama up double digits on each of his potential GOP rivals. He led Romney 52-35, Santorum 51-38, Paul 51-36 and Gingrich 56-31.

The poll also found Gov. Scott Walker just behind a generic Dem 46-48 and respondents split over his job performance 48-48.

The poll of 2,792 registered voters was conducted Monday and Tuesday and had a margin of error of plus or minus 1.9 percentage points; the subgroup of 740 likely Republican primary voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

See the polling memo


Thursday, March 29, 2012

 11:31 PM 

Gingrich jousts with college students at Marquette event

GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich traded sharp words with Marquette University students Thursday evening in Milwaukee during his first stop in the state ahead of next week’s presidential primary.

Speaking to about 300 students gathered at a campus Republican event, Gingrich started off sounding like a college instructor as he delivered an in-depth history of the Wright Brothers’ rise to fame -- noting that they spent their own money -- and describing how Abraham Lincoln made 14 references to God in his second inaugural address.

Gingrich said Americans should focus on values and innovation, citing his visit earlier in the day to the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee. He said the motorcycle company, born during a great era of innovation in 1903, reflected "a perfect example of entrepreneurship" for having fought back from near bankruptcy in the 1980s.

He also told the students he favored a personal savings account system to replace Social Security, arguing they'd be better off if they could invest the federal deductions set aside from their paychecks. He said his plan "would reduce wealth-inequality by 50 percent because every single American becomes a saver and now the entire country is the investment class, not just Wall Street."

Gingrich also blasted the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs as being run by "9-to-5 paper-based bureaucrats" who are being outwitted by "crooks who use iPads."

Gingrich then had some sharp exchanges with students during a question-and-answer period.

One student asked how Gingrich would help to stem the rising costs of college education. He answered colleges should emulate the College of the Ozarks, which operates on a work-study plan and said that college students themselves have contributed to bloated college costs: "You know, the size of the dorm you need, the quality of this you need, the quality of that you need. If we offered you a cheap college, you'd walk away from it," Gingrich said.

A female student who said she works in the Milwaukee Public Schools asked how he would champion education, including for students with special needs and for who English is a second language. Gingrich said "the poor would be dramatically better off" if there were a Pell Grant-like system to help parents choose private schools for elementary students and suggested that parents could then "find specialized institutions" for special needs children.

"You could actually voucherize those (special) services, too," said Gingrich.

He seemed annoyed when the student pressed him on aid for bilingual schools, telling her the best thing for people who come to this country is to immerse them in English and that many teachers in such classes are ineffective anyway. When the student protested that children who are bilingual grow up with higher IQs, Gingrich said, "I didn't say it was a bad thing, as long as they learn English first."

Gingrich angrily told a student who questioned his emphasis on Christianity that, "Jefferson said there should be no government religion, I agree with you. But Jefferson did not say the government would be anti-religion, which it has become. It takes down crosses, it blocks kids from praying in school, it creates an entire environment that is exceptionally anti-Christian and anti-Jewish."

Asked how he would help students coming from underprivileged homes to achieve adequate education, Gingrich said he'd favor giving impoverished kids their first job so they can learn the value of showing up and develop a sense of accomplishment from earning their own money.

-- By Kay Nolan


 11:16 PM 

Paul rallies mostly student audience

U.S. Rep. Paul rallied a mostly student audience Thursday on the UW-Madison campus in his first presidential campaign stop in Wisconsin this year, arguing for greater personal liberty and a reduced role for government.

Paul told the crowd of around 2,500 at the Memorial Union Terrace that young people are getting a “bad deal” because they are being forced to inherit a debt crisis and multiple wars, but encouraged them to stay involved in the fight for freedom.

“It’s great to see so much enthusiasm for the cause of liberty; we certainly need it,” Paul said.

Paul emphasized throughout his speech that the federal government has grown too large over the past few decades and pledged to cut spending by $1 trillion if elected president. He also called for the elimination of the federal Reserve, the income tax and the Patriot Act, all of which he said allow the government to have too much control over individuals’ lives. The crowd responded with chants of “End the Fed!”

“The opposite of liberty is big government,” Paul said. “If you think you can have big government and a lot of liberty, it’s not the case.”

Paul also criticized the United States’ increased military involvement around the world and called for an end to the war in Afghanistan.

“There’s no way we can expect war to solve all out problems,” Paul said.

Paul said that despite suggestions from the media, he has no plans to drop put of the race or compromise on any of his positions. The latest Marquette Law School Poll placed Paul a distant third behind Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum at 11 percent.

“What we need, really, is actually less compromise; we need coalition building, we need to bring people together,” Paul said. “I believe out Constitution and principle of liberty will bring us together.”

Even though Paul said the country is headed in the wrong direction, he told supporters they should remain confident because people are finally waking up and beginning to revive the ideal of liberty.

“When an idea’s time has come, it can’t be stopped,” Paul said.

-- By Adam Wollner


 2:12 PM 

GAB staff recommends certifying recall elections against Walker, Kleefisch

Government Accountability Board staff has recommended that the board certify recall elections for Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch at its meeting tomorrow morning.

According to a memo issued to board members today, staff will recommend that the board verify 900,938 signatures against Walker, well ahead of the 540,208 needed to trigger a recall election.

According to GAB release, staff struck 26,114 signatures and found 4,001 duplicate signatures of the 931,053 originally submitted by recall organizers.

Meanwhile, GAB staff is set to recommend verifying 808,990 of the 842,854 signatures originally against Kleefisch; her petitions also had to surpass the 540,208 total.

If the board signs off on the petitions tomorrow, initial elections would be set for May 8. Races requiring primary elections would then hold final recall elections on June 5.

The board is also set to take up tomorrow the certification of elections in four state Senate districts.

The board unanimously verified sufficient signatures against GOP Sens. Scott Fitzgerald, Terry Moulton, Van Wanggaard and Pam Galloway -- who resigned March 16 -- earlier this month, but delayed certifying the petitions in order to make sure they are all held on the same date.

-- By Andy Szal


 1:25 PM 

Rasmussen: Obama up double digits on Romney, Santorum

The latest results from Rasmussen Reports put President Obama up double digits on both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum in Wisconsin.

The poll, conducted Tuesday, found Obama up 52 percent to 41 percent on Romney and 51-39 on Santorum. It was conducted after Santorum began making visits to the state ahead of next week's GOP primary and amid a flurry of ads from the Republican candidates and the super PACs that support them.

The survey did not include questions on Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.

The telephone survey of 500 likely voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

-- By Staff

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

 9:33 PM 

Romney schedules visits for Friday, Saturday

Mitt Romney has now set his plans for his first visit to Wisconsin ahead of the primary.

The Wisconsin Faith & Freedom Coalition Presidential Kick-off has previously said Romney would attend that event on Saturday.

Romney’s campaign announced last night he will give a speech at Appleton Friday afternoon before heading to a fish fry at Serb Hall in Milwaukee.

His Saturday plans also include a town hall meeting in Muskego, dropping by a phone bank for Gov. Scott Walker and addressing the Waukesha County GOP’s Lincoln Day Dinner.

-- By Staff


 2:56 PM 

Mason to run for Turner's seat

Dem Rep. Cory Mason announced today he will run for Rep. Bob Turner's Assembly seat now that his fellow Racine Dem has decided not to seek re-election.

Mason's current Assembly seat was split into four districts under the maps Republicans drew last summer, putting him in a much more GOP-leaning seat than the one he has represented since 2007. About half of his current district was put into the newly drawn 66th, along with much of Turner's current district.

-- By Staff

 12:42 PM 

Turner won't seek re-election

State Rep. Robert Turner, D-Racine, announced today he won't seek a 12th term in the Assembly.

In a statement, Turner said that he "felt it was time to give the electorate a chance to choose a new Representative."

-- By Staff

 12:17 PM 

Thompson leads Baldwin in Rasmussen poll; Neumann, Fitzgerald lag

A new poll from Rasmussen shows former Gov. Tommy Thompson with a slight edge on Democrat candidate Tammy Baldwin in the U.S. Senate race.

The poll released Wednesday shows 48 percent of likely voters would vote for Thompson in the general election. Only 44 percent of respondents would vote for Baldwin. However, the lead is still within the poll's margin of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Both former Congressman Mark Neumann and state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald trailed Baldwin in the surveys. In both questions, 48 percent of survey respondents said they'd vote for Baldwin, while 40 percent said they would vote for Neumann or Fitzgerald.

The surveys did not include recently declared candidate Eric Hovde.

The telephone survey of 500 likely Wisconsin voters was conducted Tuesday. Rasmussen polls are usually dismissed by Democrats, who say the polls lean toward Republicans.

-- By Jason Smathers

 10:24 AM 

La Follette to run for governor

Secretary of State Doug La Follette this morning announced his candidacy for governor in a likely recall election.

La Follette, who has been in his second stint as secretary of state since 1983, joins former Dane Co. Exec. Kathleen Falk and Sen. Katheen Vinehout of Alma in the Dem primary field. In a Capitol press conference this morning, he took aim at Falk over out-of-state fundraising.

"I was expecting a David vs. Goliath situation with Mr. Walker and his millions of out-of-state monies," La Follette said. "But now I see I face two goliaths. … I am saddened to see this primary election has turned into a big money, out-of-state money influence (campaign) with super PACs telling us how to vote."

-- By Staff

 8:13 AM 

Appeals courts asks Supreme Court to take voter ID suits

The 2nd District Appeals Court today asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take up the state's appeal in the NAACP's voter ID lawsuit.

A Dane County judge ruled the voter ID law violated the state Constitution and issued an injunction preventing enforcement of the requirement.

The appeals court wrote in its certification this morning there are four key questions, including whether the Wisconsin Constitution provides greater protections of voting rights than the U.S. Constitution.

In a related move, the 4th District Court of Appeals has asked the Supreme Court to also take up the voter ID suit filed by the League of Women Voters.

The court said the case "presents a purely legal issue as to whether the photo identification requirements of Act 23 are unconstitutional on their face."

The court also addressed the 2nd District's move to certifiy the NAACP case to the Supreme Court, saying "it seems desireable to have all of the currently pending state court constitutional challenges before the Supreme Court so that they may be promptly resolved."

-- By Staff

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

 1:32 PM 

Marquette poll has Romney leading Santorum, close guv's race

Mitt Romney leads Rick Santorum among likely GOP primary voters, according to the latest Marquette University poll released today.

Meanwhile, Gov. Scott Walker was neck-and-neck with potential Dem challengers in the expected recall election.

The survey found 39 percent of GOP primary voters surveyed backed Romney, compared to 31 percent for Santorum. Ron Paul was backed by 11 percent of those surveyed, while 5 percent supported Newt Gingrich.

A month ago, the Marquette poll found Santorum leading Romney 34-18.

In the expected guv recall election, the poll found Walker backed by 47 percent of respondents, compared to 45 percent for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who has not formally entered the race. Walker led former Dane County Exec Kathleen Falk 49-45.

In January, the Marquette poll found Walker up 6 points on Barrett and 7 points on Falk.

Walker also led state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout 49-41 and Secretary of State Doug La Follette 49-42.

In a potential Dem primary, the survey found 36 percent of respondents backed Barrett, compared to 29 percent for Falk. Vinehout and La Follette were supported by 8 percent each.

Without Barrett in the race, Falk led the three-way contest with 54 percent, compared to 15 for La Follette and 12 for Vinehout.

The poll interviewed 707 registered Wisconsin voters by both landline and cell phone from Thursday through Sunday. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

The survey included 349 respondents who said they would vote in the April 3 GOP presidential primary. The margin of error for that sample was plus or minus 5.4 percentage points.

There were also 370 respondents who said they would vote in the Dem guv primary. The margin of error for that sample was plus or minus 5.2 percentage points.

-- By Staff

 10:08 AM 

Federal court agrees to fix redistricting map, limits possible changes

A federal court this morning agreed to fix the redistricting maps Republicans created last year to create a majority-minority Latino Assembly district in Milwaukee.

It also made clear in its order that it was looking only at changes to Assembly Districts 8 and 9 after Dems suggested to the court over the weekend that additional seats may have to be altered to meet the court's concerns.

The three-judge panel ordered the parties involved in the case to meet at least once in an attempt to agree on proposed changes to the two Assembly districts. If they cannot, the parties can file their own suggested changes, as can anyone else who'd like to suggest a change.

But the court also noted the proposed changes should be limited to the outer boundaries of Assembly Districts 8 and 9.

-- By Staff

Monday, March 26, 2012

 2:20 PM 

GAB projects turnout of 35 percent

The GAB estimates turnout for next week's spring election and presidential primary could hit 35 percent.

Government Accountability Board Director Kevin Kennedy said the projected turnout of 1.5 million would be similar to the number of voters that went to the polls for the presidential primary in 2008, which was held in February.

“The Republican presidential nomination is still very contested, just as the Democratic nomination was very contested when Wisconsin voted in 2008,” Kennedy said.

According to the GAB, the highest voter turnout for a spring presidential primary since 1960 was 50.2 percent that year.

The GAB noted there will be six Republicans on the presidential ballot. Michele Bachman and Jon Huntsman did not respond to the state's requests to remove their names from the ballot after they dropped out of the race. They will join Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum on the ballot.

President Obama is the only one on the Dem primary ballot.

-- By Staff

 11:18 AM 

Romney touts endorsements by 7 GOP lawmakers

Mitt Romney's presidential campaign rolled out seven endorsements by GOP state representatives this morning.

In addition to previously announced state co-chairs Sen. Alberta Darling of River Hills and former Sen. Ted Kanavas of Brookfield, the campaign listed new endorsements by Reps. Mark Honadel of South Milwaukee, Chris Kapenga of Delafield, Dan Knodl of Germantown, Dale Kooyenga of Brookfield, Jim Ott of Mequon, Jeff Stone of Greendale and Gary Tauchen of Bonduel.

-- By Staff

 9:18 AM 

Mailers from pro-Romney super PAC slam Santorum

A trio of mailers from the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future link Rick Santorum with Hillary Clinton and slam his positions.

Two of them charge Santorum sided with her to let felons vote.

“It makes you wonder what other crazy ‘Washington ideas’ Rick Santorum has,” one of them reads.

Another proclaims “Wisconsin’s time has come. Choose the right candidate and move forward in the fight to defeat Obama.”

It then goes on to compare the positions of Romney and Santorum.

-- By Staff


Sunday, March 25, 2012

 9:15 PM 

Santorum rallies supporters in Fond du Lac

FOND DU LAC – Rick Santorum urged supporters Sunday to ignore the “pundit class” that’s giving him little chance to beat Mitt Romney and made a personal appeal to voters here, saying he has “similar roots” to those from Wisconsin.

“I know how important it is to small town and rural America to mine, to drill, be able to harvest timber, have the opportunity to go out and make things through manufacturing and processing jobs,” Santorum said at a bowling alley.

“We want to have made in America stamped on everything we buy here in America.”

As he did in Milwaukee on Saturday, Santorum blasted both Romney and President Obama on health care, trying to link the former governor’s efforts in Massachusetts with the federal health care law approved in 2009.

“Why in the world would a Wisconsin voter nominate the one person in America who authored the blueprint for Obamacare?” he asked.

Coming off a big win in Louisiana, Santorum was greeted before a large and boisterous crowd.

“That’s why I do these rallies,” he said. “I want you to get a chance to see me warts and all. I want you to be able to look in the eyes and say this is a guy I can trust.”

Santorum said people are saying it would take an act of God for him to win this election and said he believes in acts of God. He also proclaimed his policies aren’t written on an Etch-a-Sketch, rather they’re written on his heart, in one dig at Romney.

Santorum also ripped into what he said is Obama’s reluctance to drill for oil and get it anywhere but the Middle East.

“It’s a ripple effect,” Santorum said. “Obama is making us more dependent on those who want to kill us.”

He said Obama has a two-letter energy policy -- no.

-- By Jim Cryns


 9:10 PM 

Gingriches coming to Wisconsin

Newt Gingrich will be on the Marquette University campus Thursday for his first campaign stop in Wisconsin head of the state's April 3 primary.

Meanwhile, his wife will be in the state all week.

Newt Gingrich will follow up Thursday's rally with a stop Friday at Kroll's West in Green Bay and Saturday at the Wisconsin Faith & Freedom Coalition's Presidential Kick-off in Waukesha.

Callista Gingrich, a Wisconsin native, begins her state swing tomorrow with stops in Hudson and Eau Claire.

See the campaign schedule.

-- By Staff


 1:13 PM 

GAB, feds agree to extensions for late absentee ballots

The Government Accountability Board today announced that 65 municipalities will have additional time to count overseas absentee ballots in next month's spring election after their municipal clerks failed to meet federal deadlines to mail the ballots.

State clerks faced a Feb. 18 deadline to mail the ballots for the April election, which falls under the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act because of the state's presidential primary.

DOJ officials said the clerks who failed to meet that deadline violated the MOVE Act, but the department and GAB agreed to a consent decree allowing more time to count ballots in those areas.

Under the agreement, the deadline for counting absentee ballots will be extended according to the length of delay after the Feb. 18 deadline. A GAB statement said at least 227 ballots were sent late, with delays ranging from two days to more than three weeks.

“The vast majority of the 1,851 municipal clerks do a great job," said GAB Elections Division Administrator Nat Robinson in the statement. "But we have that small number of clerks who are consistently noncompliant with requests and noncompliant with the statutory requirements for reporting. We spend a great deal of staff time pleading with and cajoling them just to comply with the statutory requirements for reporting."

GAB Director Kevin Kennedy said the decree will remain in effect through the fall 2012 elections.

-- By Andy Szal

 12:54 PM 

Sen. Holperin won't seek re-election

State Sen. Jim Holperin, D-Conover, announced this afternoon that he won't seek re-election this fall.

"Politics and legislating are fascinating and fulfilling work and I’ve enjoyed 20 years of it in the State Assembly, State Senate and as a cabinet secretary," Holperin said in a statement. "I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world, but now there are other things I want to do."

-- By Staff

 10:46 AM 

Rasmussen: Romney 46, Santorum 33

A new poll out today by Rasmussen Reports finds Mitt Romney with a double-digit lead over Rick Santorum among likely Wisconsin GOP primary voters.

The survey found 46 percent of those surveyed favored Romney, while 33 percent backed Santorum. Ron Paul was supported by 8 percent, while New Gingrich was backed by 7 percent.

The telephone poll of 1,000 likely GOP primary voters was conducted Wednesday and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The survey also included questions about the performance by Gov. Scott Walker and President Barack Obama, who would be the strongest candidate against the president, and who respondents thought would win the GOP nomination. Those results were reserved for subscribers.

-- By Staff


 9:18 AM 

RGA starts new TV ad slamming Barrett, Falk

The Republican Governors Association is out with a new TV ad today that knocks Tom Barrett and Kathleen Falk on taxes and spending.

The spot, which does not mention Gov. Scott Walker or the expected recall election, opens with a hand pushing the up button at an elevator and a female voice saying, “Going up.”

A male narrator then says government spending went up $300 million under Barrett, while taxes went up every year but one and unemployment got 27 percent worse.

He then says property taxes went up every year under Falk and unemployment tripled.

“Barrett and Falk, taxes and spending up, and the economy,” the male says before the female voice cuts in, “Going down.”

A release from the RGA says the spot began today, but does not say where it’s running.

While Falk has officially announced for the guv's race, Barrett has said he will make an announcement on his plans shortly after the GAB decides next week whether to certify the recall petitions against Walker.

-- By Staff

Thursday, March 22, 2012

 1:59 PM 

GOP leaders vindicated, exploring options

Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, and GOP Senate Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau say they're exploring options with the Department of Justice on how to proceed following today's court decision on redistricting.

The two issued a joint statement saying it was vindicating to have 130 of 132 legislative districts and all eight House districts upheld. The statement did not address calls from Dems to come back to the Capitol to rework the maps or the court's offer to let lawmakers try to tweak the lines between Assembly districts 8 and 9.

“Our state constitution requires new district maps every 10 years to reflect changing
population, and that’s exactly what the legislature delivered," they said. "The 8th and 9th Assembly districts represented a unique challenge, and that’s why we
authored three different alternatives at the time."

GOP Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen noted any appeal of today's court decision would be heard directly by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The judgments made by the Wisconsin Legislature have largely been vindicated," Van Hollen said. "No constitutional defects were found and what began as a scattershot attack on every aspect of these laws has come down to a single finding that one line between two districts should be adjusted. While the intent of the maps was to create two assembly districts where Latino voters were likely to be dominant, the Court concluded that it was better to draw the line so that Latino voters were more concentrated in one of the districts.”

-- By Staff

 1:03 PM 

Voces de la Frontera exec director says group 'vindicated' by redistricting decision

Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera, said today the court's redistricting decision is a "momentous act" and "we feel we have been vindicated."

The group sued over the composition of Assembly districts 8 and 9, which the court today found to be unconstitutional.

Neumann-Ortiz said at a news conference at the group's office on Milwaukee's south side that the lesson to be learned from this is that the kind of secrecy employed by the GOP denied the true participation of the community and could have been avoided.

"This is a vindication that we were right," she said. "If the Republican Party had chosen to honor the pubic process instead of operating in secrecy, there would have been the opportunity for a meaningful discussion and debate," she said. "Instead, it only serves as a lengthy and costly lesson."

Peter Earle, the lawyer who argued to case for the group, said the GOP actions, particularly the meeting in a lawyer's office were "unconscionable" and that Republicans were attempting "to privatize the legislative process."

"There is no place for secrecy agreements," Earle said. "Most importantly, the 8th Assembly District must have a Latino citizen voting age majority of 60 percent."

State Rep. JoCasta Zamarippa, D-Milwaukee, said the Democrats are "ready to get back to Madison and correct what they did wrong." She said she would like to see the map redrawn beyond the 8th and 9th districts.

The resignation of Sen. Pam Galloway that left a 16-16 split in the Senate means "there's going to be some push and pull" over the redistricting, she said.

Rep. Josh Zepnick, D-Milwaukee, said "it's our view that the whole thing needs to be redone. We have a lot of work that needs to be done."

Earle said that if the Legislature does not act, the court will do the job.

-- By Marie Rohde

 11:20 AM 

Leggie Dem leaders knock Republicans on redistricting, say ready to re-work maps

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, and Senate Dem Leader Mark Miller of Monona knocked Republicans today following today's redistricting decision and said they are ready to re-work the maps.

“The Federal Court confirmed today what we’ve maintained all along: The Republicans, behind closed doors, without input from any Democrats and at great expense to the taxpayers of Wisconsin, concocted unconstitutional legislative maps," Miller said. "Their secretive efforts have failed Wisconsin."

The court ruled two Assembly districts need to be redrawn because Republicans failed to create a majority-minority Latino district. While it raised concerns about the number of residents that it believed had been needlessly moved among districts, it dismissed that part of the lawsuit against the maps.

Still, Barca called on a redrawing of the maps that is fully open and transparent and does not move so many people.

“Republicans created blatantly partisan redistricting maps designed to protect them from accountability," Barca said. "They hid the process from the taxpayers, even signing unprecedented secrecy oaths with their taxpayer-funded attorneys. This took the partisanship to extreme levels never before seen in this process."

-- By Staff

 10:44 AM 

Santorum lines up weekend events in Wisconsin

Republican Rick Santorum has added a series of events in Wisconsin over the weekend in addition to previously announced plans to appear at the Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin event Saturday in Milwaukee.

According to Santorum's website, he'll also be at Lakeshore Lanes in Sheboygan later Saturday before heading to Bellevue.

He has rallies planned Sunday at the Ledgeview Bowling Lanes in Fond du Lac and the Roma Club in Racine.

-- By Staff


 10:34 AM 

Romney cancels March 31 Milwaukee fundraiser to do political events, starts TV ad

Mitt Romney has canceled a planned fundraiser March 31 in Milwaukee.

Ted Kanavas, Romney’s state chair, said the former guv plans to instead do political events in Wisconsin that weekend in advance of the April 3 primary. The schedule was still being worked out, he said.

Meanwhile, Romney's campaign says he's running a TV ad in Wisconsin that touts his conservative record and efforts to balance the budget while Massachusetts governor without raising taxes.

The spot opens with Romney saying he'd spent his career in the private sector and faced a $3 billion deficit when he became guv. Some suggested raising taxes or borrowing money to fix the shortfall.

But he says he cut spending, balanced the budget every year and left office with a $2 billion rainy day fund.

As he speaks, the ad cuts to shots of Romney on the campaign trail as various headlines flash across the screen, the last one proclaiming "Boldest GOP Agenda Since Reagan '80."

“The principles of business work in government, and it’s high time to bring those principles of fiscal responsibility to Washington, D.C.,” Romney says to close the ad.

-- By JR Ross


 10:10 AM 

Ann Romney makes campaign stop in Middleton

Ann Romney told a small crowd outside the Middleton Public Library this morning that after her husband dropped out of the GOP race in 2008, "I was not going to do this again."

But despite the attacks and misrepresentations that come with a presidential campaign, Romney said she changed her mind because "this country is worth fighting for."

"We're fighting about ideas and we're fighting for the future of America," Romney said.

She said the country risks passing on an "almost unserviceable debt" to future generations, touting Mitt Romney's work resolving fiscal issues in the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics and as governor of Massachusetts.

"He's going to apply those same principles to the presidency," Romney said.

She added she's glad Wisconsin faces an important primary decision following Romney's victory in the Illinois GOP primary on Tuesday.

"We're looking at starting to feel like this is coming to a close soon," Romney said.

The former Massachusetts first lady is also set to appear today at a diner in Milwaukee.

A handful of protesters also attended the Middleton event, but stayed quiet during her brief speech.

One man held a sign taped to a broomstick reading, "Mitt swept our jobs away to Red China. Shame!"

Another wore a t-shirt reading, "My other car is two Cadillacs, too" -- a reference to a comment the former governor made about his wife's cars during a stop in Michigan last month.

-- By Andy Szal


 9:46 AM 

Federal court declines to rule on which lines should be used in recall elections

The federal court weighing in on the state's redistricting maps declined to rule whether the new lines Republicans created last summer should be used for the upcoming recall elections this year.

The panel noted a state suit raising a similar question is currently pending and found there is "no question ripe for determination before us at this time." It noted the GAB's decision to use the lines in place since 2002 appeared "sensible" considering the Wisconsin Constitution's command to redistrict only once every 10 years.

"If, however, a time comes when the GAB proposes to take a different action, either on its own or by virtue of a state court ruling, and there is a live controversy, plaintiffs may return to this court and present whatever arguments they may have on this question," the court noted.

-- By Staff

 9:17 AM 

Court finds lawmakers failed to create majority-minority Assembly district for Latinos, but leaves maps intact otherwise

A federal court this morning ruled Republicans failed to create a majority-minority Assembly seat for Milwaukee's Latino community and offered lawmakers the chance to tweak those lines.

But the court otherwise left intact the maps the GOP created last summer, ruling that while more than a million Wisconsinites were moved needlessly, "the resulting population deviations are not large enough to permit judicial intervention under the Supreme Court’s precedents."

The ruling enjoins the GAB from implementing the map in its current form.

The court stressed in the ruling that its ruling on Assembly districts 8 and 9 is not intended to affect any other seats. It added that re-drawing those lines must occur within the combined outer boundaries of those two seats to avoid impacting other districts.

The three-judge panel also gave lawmakers the first opportunity to address the districts, "but it must act quickly given the impending elections." Nomination papers for the fall elections can be circulated beginning in mid-April.

The court noted a UW-Madison poli sci professor who testified for the plaintiffs laid out an option of moving the lines so tweaking them "should not be an impossible task."

The panel also rejected a challenge to the congressional map Republicans drew that made the 7th CD more favorable to GOP freshman Rep. Sean Duffy.

-- By Staff

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

 1:08 PM 

Petrowski announces for 29th SD

GOP state Rep. Jerry Petrowski announced today he will run for the 29th SD to replace fellow Republican Pam Galloway, who resigned her seat last week.

Petrowski, R-Marathon, and Rep. Mary Williams, R-Medford, said last week they would consider running to replace Galloway, who faced a recall election and said she resigned because of illness in her family. But Williams appeared at a news conference today in Wausau to praise Petrowski's candidacy.

Petrowski said he believed as state senator he would have the opportunity to have a greater influence on the issues facing the 29th SD.

"This election should not be about partisan politics," Petrowski said. "It should be about how we best move forward by working together."

Dem Rep. Donna Seidel, who has already announced plans to run for the seat, said this afternoon Petrowski has supported the same "extreme" agenda in the Assembly that Galloway did in the Senate and voters do not support.

"They want to make sure that our kids continue to receive a quality education, everyone has access to affordable health care and that we return to our tradition of clean and open government," she said. "Pam Galloway did not represent these values and neither does Jerry Petrowski."

 9:51 AM 

Fitzgerald spokesman to seek Assembly seat

John Jagler, spokesman for departing Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald and a former radio host in Milwaukee, this morning announced his bid for an open Assembly seat.

"It will be my goal to keep Wisconsin moving forward, to standup against special interests who seek to halt economic expansion, and to bring common sense solutions to a fractured state legislature," Jagler, of Watertown, said in a statement.

The 37th AD is currently represented by Dem Rep. Andy Jorgensen of Fort Atkinson. But Jorgensen has decided to run in a neighboring Assembly district against GOP Rep. Evan Wynn after Republicans redrew the lines for the 2012 elections, leaving the seat open. The redrawn 37th includes Watertown, Columbus and DeForest.

UPDATE: This post has been edited to correct the district Jagler is seeking.

-- By Staff

Monday, March 19, 2012

 11:12 AM 

Recall effort against Jauch officially underway

Members of Citizens for Responsible Government officially filed paperwork today to start a recall petition drive against Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, over his vote against the GOP-version of the iron mining bill.

The paperwork was filed by Shirl LaBarre, most recently known for her 2010 run for the 74th Assembly district seat, which she lost to Janet Bewley, D-Ashland. LaBarre said that Jauch did not listen to his constituents and that residents "have had it."

"Throughout this process, we have heard Sen. Jauch say, 'I am for responsible mining', while all along he meant 'I am for no mining in Wisconsin,'" Labarre said. "The political rhetoric spewed by Sen. Jauch is surpassed by no one."

At the same time, retiree and Iowa County CRG member Dan Curran filed paperwork to explore a recall against Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, over his mining vote.

-- By Jason Smathers

 10:57 AM 

PFFW's Mitchell announces for lt. guv

MILWAUKEE -- Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, today announced his campaign for lt. guv, saying Republican Rebecca Kleefisch should be recalled because she is a rubber stamp for Gov. Scott Walker.

Mitchell was a key figure in last year's protests at the Capitol over Walker's collective bargaining changes and has been talking about a possible lt. guv bid for several months.

"Now I could sit on the sidelines and throw stones," Mitchell said. "But in order to make lasting change, we have to work from the inside out."

Mitchell said he hoped to serve as a liasion between the governor and the community is elected and pushed his message beyond collective bargaining for public employees, talking about the state's economy.

“We need to work like hell to start creating jobs,” Mitchell said.

-- By Arthur Thomas

 10:47 AM 

Spokesman: GAB still studying Supreme Court decision

A GAB spokesman said the agency is still studying a Supreme Court decision to lift an order that prevented the agency from regulating issue ads.

A coalition of conservative groups sued the GAB seeking to stop it from enforsing the regulations, one of three suits filed over the rules.

In dealing with the suits, the GAB has already agreed to drop the rules.

"We're still assessing the impact of it," spokesman Reid Magney said.

The court this morning unanimously agreed to vacate its order preventing the GAB from enforcing the issue ad rules. But it split on why.

Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson wrote that she and fellow Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and Patrick Crooks believe the GAB has the authority to enforce the rules and the regulations do not violate the state or federal constitutions.

Justices Pat Roggensack, Annette Ziegler and Michael Gableman believe the court should not have taken original jurisdiction in the case.

Justice David Prosser withdrew from the case.

-- By Staff

Friday, March 16, 2012

 10:45 AM 

Seidel says Galloway announcement doesn't affect her plans

Rep. Donna Seidel, D-Wausau, said that while the news of Sen. Pam Galloway's resignation took her by surprise, it does not change her plans for the recall election.

"I'm running because people throughout the district have convinced me that they want change in direction in Wisconsin and they want someone representing them that shares their values of maintaining quality public education, making sure everyone has access to our quality health care and returning to a Wisconsin with a reputation of clean, transparent, open government that we've had in the past," Seidel said.

Seidel said she has not heard from Galloway yet, but that she wishes her well.

-- By Jason Smathers

 10:26 AM 

Galloway to resign Senate seat, but GAB director says election still on

GOP state Sen. Pam Galloway is resigning her Senate seat because of illness in her family, Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said.

Galloway, one of four GOP senators facing a recall election, was expected to make a formal announcement later today.

GAB Director Kevin Kennedy said the announcement will not end the planned recall election for her Wausau area Senate seat.

Kennedy said the board's policy has been that a public official cannot resign in an attempt to negate a recall effort. He also noted the board has already found there were enough signatures to trigger an election.

"We can fill the vacancy more quickly and at less cost to he taxpayers as well as keeping intact the general policies that you don’t short circuit the constitutional recall process," he said.

Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said he understands there will be speculation that the recall election was a factor in Galloway's decision. But he said it did not influence her and he felt pretty good about her chances to survive the election this summer.

State Rep. Donna Seidel, D-Wausau, has already announced plans to run for the seat in the recall.

"I knew people would jump to that conclusion, but that is really not what this is about," he said.

Fitzgerald said there are provisions in Senate rules for dual control of the chamber and he hoped to meet with Minority Leader Mark Miller next week to discuss them.

-- By JR Ross

Thursday, March 15, 2012

 5:13 PM 

DOJ files appeal in voter ID cases

The Department of Justice requested today that two appellate courts stay both voter ID injunctions in advance of the spring elections.

DOJ filed an appeal with the District IV Court of Appeals, attempting to overturn the permanent injunction granted in the League of Women's Voters case. They've also requested a stay of Monday's permanent injunction and an expedited briefing process. The District IV court covers central and southwestern Wisconsin.

In that filing, DOJ argues that Dane County Judge Richard Niess misread the Article III, Section 2 of the state Constitution. The plaintiff and judge argued that section limits authority of the Legislature to enact laws governing voting and elections in Wisconsin and that the voter ID law went beyond that authority. DOJ argues that provision does not limit the Legislature's authority.

DOJ filed also a petition to appeal the temporary injunction in the NAACP case with the District II Court of Appeals, which covers areas of Waukesha and southeast Wisconsin excluding Milwaukee. They are also asking that court to expedite the process.

In that petition, DOJ argues that the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Indiana voter ID case made clear that both procedural problems obtaining ID and financial difficulty in obtaining a birth certificate copy were not enough to completely invalidate the law.

They also argue that testimony by UW professor Kenneth Mayer showing 220,000 are without proper ID -- which Dane County Judge David Flanagan noted was a "substantial" portion of the population --says nothing about whether those people are prevented from obtaining it, something the state claims is not the case.

“We have made these appellate filings far ahead of the timelines contemplated for appeal so these matters may be reviewed and concluded in anticipation of the April election,” Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said.

Flanagan today declined a DOJ request to stay his temporary injunction pending the appeal, rejecting DOJ's assertion that his ruling conflicted with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on voter ID.

In his decision, Flanagan wrote that his ruling could not conflict with the federal court ruling on the Indiana voter ID law, as that suit was based on the U.S. Constitution and this suit alleges a violation of the Wisconsin Constitution.

"The Crawford decision does not consider what is permitted or what is protected by the Wisconsin Constitution and thus it has little or no useful application in this matter," Flanagan wrote.

-- By Jason Smathers

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

 9:22 AM 

Judge grants GAB more time to review recall petitions, making May 8 likely for recall primaries, June 5 for general

Dane County Judge Richard Niess today granted the GAB more time to finish its review of recall petitions, which would likely result in recall primaries on May 8 and general elections on June 5.

The GAB sought and was granted an extension to March 30 to finish its review of petitions against Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.

Niess originally gave the GAB an extension to March 19 to finish reviewing the recall petitions against Walker, Kleefisch and four GOP state senators.

But the agency said in a court filing it wouldn't be finished by that deadline. It has completed the reviews of the recall petitions filed against four GOP state senators and has done everything on the Walker and Kleefisch petitions except its check for duplicate signatures.

The agency says it will be able to finish a “sufficient portion” of those checks in time to be able to decide by March 30 whether recall elections should proceed against Walker and Kleefisch.

The filing also argued it’s in the public interest to hold all six elections -- if certified -- on the same day and that a delay also be granted to avoid holding a general election the day after Memorial Day, which the previous deadline of March 19 would require.

-- By Andy Szal

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

 5:21 PM 

Recall committees, targets, GAB agree on extension to finish reviewing recall petitions

The recall committees, their targets and the GAB are all in agreement that an extension should be granted to finish reviewing the petitions against Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, according to a court filing.

The state Department of Justice filed a formal request with a Dane County judge today seeking to push back the deadline for the GAB to certify the recalls to March 30. Judge Richard Niess, who will consider the request at a hearing tomorrow, originally granted the agency an extension to March 19 to finish the work.

But the filing argues the GAB won't be finished by that deadline. It has completed the reviews of the recall petitions filed against four GOP state senators and has done everything on the Walker and Kleefisch petitions except its check for duplicate signatures.

The agency says it will be able to finish a “sufficient portion” of those checks in time to be able to decide by March 30 whether recall elections should proceed against Walker and Kleefisch.

The filing also argues it’s in the public interest to hold all six elections -- if certified -- on the same day and that a delay also be granted to avoid holding a general election the day after Memorial Day, which the current deadline would require.

Granting the requested 11-day extension would push the primary back to May 8 with a general election June 5.

Some Dems had complained about the request following yesterday’s meeting. But the attorney representing the recall committees signed today’s stipulation.

Attorney Jeremy Levinson, who represents the recall committees, said Dems want the elections held as soon as possible, but are satisfied with the projected date of June 5 for a general election if the extension is granted.

"At this point, we're banking on certainly and avoiding going even deeper into June," he said.

-- By JR Ross

 12:37 PM 

DSCC head: Lack of primary to help Baldwin

Guy Cecil, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, predicted Wisconsin's four GOP candidates will try to "out right-wing each other" in the primary, while Tammy Baldwin will be able to spend the next eight months appealing to a broader base of voters.

Cecil said in an interview with WisPolitics.com that Baldwin's lack of a primary opponent will help her as she prepare to take on Jeff Fitzgerald, Eric Hovde, Mark Neumann or Tommy Thompson.

He said the Madison congresswoman's biggest hurdle at this stage of the campaign is her lack of name ID statewide. But he noted she has been competitive against the GOP candidates she's been paired with in public polls and voters will be more attracted to her message of rebuilding the middle class than what Republicans have to offer.

"That's what people want to hear about. They're not interested in side shows about contraception," Cecil said.

Cecil called Wisconsin a top-tier state for Senate Dems as they look to hold onto their majority. In addition to five pickup opportunities in places like Massachusetts and Maine, he included Wisconsin along with Missouri and Montana among the party's top seats to defend.

That also means "everything is on the table" in terms of the support the DSCC will offer Baldwin, from TV ads and fundraising help to grassroots organization. He also said the president's operation will benefit Baldwin come November.

Democrats have 23 seats to defend this fall, while Republicans have just 10. Dems now have a 53-47 majority that includes two independents who caucus with them.

Cecil also accused Republicans of turning off female voters by turning every issue from the economy to debt relief about women's health and predicted that would come back to bite them in November.

They're the ones who have been waging his battle, not Democrats," he said. "I believe the majority of voters in Wisconsin as in the rest of the country believe that women should have access to contraception."

-- By JR Ross

 8:17 AM 

GAB counts more than 900,000 signatures in Walker recall, 800,000 against Kleefisch

After completing its first two rounds of review, the GAB has counted more than 900,000 signatures submitted in the recall attempt against Gov. Scott Walker and 800,000 against Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.

That's short of the number initially claimed by anti-Walker forces. Recall organizers originally claimed they had submitted 1 million signatures seeking Walker’s recall, almost twice the 540,208 needed to trigger an election.

The GAB says it counted 931,042 in the petitions submitted against Walker and has so far stricken 25,495, leaving 905,547.

For Kleefisch, 842,860 were originally submitted and 29,125 stricken, leaving 813,735.

Following the GAB meeting yesterday, the next step is a hearing tomorrow in Dane Co. court affecting the timetable for recall elections against Walker, Kleefisch and four GOP state senators.

-- By Staff

Monday, March 12, 2012

 1:24 PM 

Judge grants injunction halting enforcement of voter ID law

A Dane County judge today granted a permanent injunction preventing enforcement of the state's voter ID law, ruling the Legislature and guv exceeded their authority in enacting the requirement.

Judge Richard Niess noted in his eight-page ruling the state Constitution guarantees every resident 18 or older the right to vote and only allows the government to exclude those who have been convicted of a felony and have not had their rights restored or judged incompetent.

"The government may not disqualify an elector who possesses those qualifications on the grounds that the voter does not satisfy additional statutorily-created qualifications not contained in Article III, such as a photo ID," Niess wrote.

-- By JR Ross

 1:22 PM 

GAB to seek shorter extension that could put recall general election June 5

The GAB today approved a shorter extension than what the staff had originally sought to finish its review of recall petitions against Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.

The agency expects to go to court Wednesday to seek an extension to March 30 to finish its review. If granted, any primaries would be held May 8 with a general election to follow June 5.

The staff's original suggestion could have resulted in a primary May 15 and a general election June 12.

A Dane County judge would have to approve the requested extension.

-- By Andy Szal

 11:42 AM 

GAB finds petitions sufficient for recall elections against four GOP state senators

The GAB voted unanimously today that petitions filed against four GOP state senators were sufficient to trigger recall elections.

The elections against Sens. Scott Fitzgerald, Pam Galloway, Terry Moulton and Van Wanggaard will be set later. That's expected to happen after the GAB receives word on its request for additional time to finish reviewing recall petitions also filed against Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. The GAB hopes to set all of the recall elections for the same days.

-- By Andy Szal

 9:53 AM 

Hovde out with two new radio ads

GOP U.S. Senate candidate Eric Hovde has released two radio ads, which call for action on the national debt and chastise the "greed" Wall Street.

The first ad, entitled "Big is Bad,” claims both Wall Street and the "financial incompetence" of Washington are destroying the economy. He criticizes President Obama for doing little to rein in the "phony investment schemes" of Wall Street.

"Career politicians like Barack Obama are bought and paid by Wall Street, and Wall Street has lost its moral compass," Hovde says.

The second ad, entitled "Debt,” claims that the rising U.S. debt has put the nation in "worse shape than most European countries."

-- By Jason Smathers

Friday, March 9, 2012

 6:27 PM 

DOJ asks court to stay injunction against voter ID law

The state Department of Justice has filed for a stay of the injunction against the state’s Voter ID law.

“For close to a year, Voter ID has been the law of this State. It has already worked in the most recent elections. An injunction now, this close to the April election, will confuse people about what is required and discourage them from obtaining a qualifying ID. If, as we hope, the injunction is overturned before the election, those relying on the injunction may be left without an opportunity to obtain their IDs by the date of the election,” Attorney General Van Hollen said in a press release.

Read the DOJ release

 4:04 PM 

State regs on legal defense funds

Under Wisconsin law, public officials are only allowed to create a legal defense fund if they are being investigated for or charged with a violation of campaign finance laws or prohibited election practices.

A spokesman for Gov. Scott Walker did not immediately respond to a request for comment on what justification he used for establishing the fund. He announced previously this year hiring two defense attorneys to help him deal with the probe.

The Government Accountability Board has an overview of the regulations for legal defense funds. According to the document, legal defense funds can only be used for expenditures stemming from an investigation, being charged or a conviction.

Officials cannot solicit direct contributions to their legal defense funds. Instead, they are allowed to transfer contributions from their campaign accounts to the legal defense fund if a donor consents.

Lobbyists cannot contribute, and their past contributions cannot be transferred to the legal defense funds. The official creating a legal defense fund has to file a report with the GAB to identify each person who contributed more than $50 to the legal defense fund during the past year.

UPDATE, 6:05 p.m.: A Walker spokeswoman said the fund was established under the guidance of the GAB but she had no other information on the rationale for establishing it. She reiterated that Walker has been told he's not a target of the John Doe probe.

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