• WisPolitics


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

 1:49 PM 

Federal judge strikes down state's voter ID law

A federal judge today struck down the state's voter ID law, ruling it places an unjustifiable burden on the right to vote.

Judge Lynn Adelman also found the requirement disproportionately impacts black and Latino voters.

The law has been on hold since two Dane County judges overturned it in almost three years ago. But those cases have since been appealed to the state Supreme Court, which has not yet issued its ruling.

The federal case is a separate challenge that was filed by the ACLU.

In a brief statement, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said he was "disappointed" in the ruling and that he would appeal the decision.

The Advancement Project, one of the plaintiffs in the case, praised Adelman for his "commitment to democracy," saying the Wisconsin voter ID law was "indistinguishable from Jim Crow laws of earlier eras."

"We are encouraged the court concurred and took action to strike down Wisconsin’s voter ID law," said Advancement Project Managing Director of Programs James Eichner. "For those who believe that in a democracy elections should be free, fair and accessible to all, this is a victory of monumental proportions.”

-- By Jason Smathers


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

 10:15 AM 

PPP: Walker 48, Burke 45

A new survey from the Dem firm Public Policy Polling had Gov. Scott Walker edging Dem rival Mary Burke 48 percent to 45 percent.

In September, the firm had Walker up 48-42.

The poll found Burke's name recognition has spiked to 71 percent with those surveyed, compared to only 39 percent who had an opinion about her in September. Thirty-six percent of those surveyed had a favorable opinion of her, compared to 35 percent who had an unfavorable opinion.

Fifty percent of voters approved of the job Walker is doing with 47 percent disapproving.

Burke was supported by 86 percent of Dems surveyed, while Walker had support from 93 percent of Republicans. The poll found Burke edging Walker 46-44 with independents.

The survey also looked at 2016, when U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, will be up for re-election. Thirty-four percent of those polled approved of his job performance, while 36 percent disapproved and 30 percent had no opinion of him.

Johnson beat former Dem U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold in 2010. But the poll found Feingold with a 47-41 edge in a hypothetical rematch. Forty-six percent had a favorable impression of Feingold, while 36 percent had an unfavorable opinion.

Paired with U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, who has said he'll consider a 2016 Senate race, Johnson was up 41-39.

The survey of 1,144 registered voters was conducted Thursday through Sunday and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points. The firm said 80 percent of the surveys were done over the phone with 20 percent of interview done over the Internet to reach those who don't have landline phones.

-- By JR Ross


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

 12:07 PM 

Leibham third Republican to announce for open 6th CD

GOP state Sen. Joe Leibham announced today he will run for the 6th CD, saying he was on the "frontline with Gov. Scott Walker" in the effort to reform Wisconsin.

Leibham touted budget surpluses, lower taxes and a better job climate that he said was the result of that work.

Still, he noted Tuesday is "Tax Freedom Day" for Wisconsin, meaning all the income the average state taxpayer has collected since Jan. 1 covers their tax burden.

"Tomorrow you finally get to keep the money you have worked hard to earn instead of sending it to the government," Leibham was to say during his formal announcement at his Sheboygan home, according to prepared remarks released ahead of the news conference. "This in my mind is unacceptable. High taxes stifle job creation and suffocate individual initiative."

Leibham is the third Republican to get into the race for the 6th CD with U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, opting against seeking re-election this fall rather than face a primary challenge. State Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, and state Rep. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, have already announced plans to run for the seat.

Leibham, who was first elected to the Assembly in 1998 and the Senate in 2002, sought to play up his conservative credentials in his announcement. Among other things, he bemoaned "unprecedented debt, excessive taxation, burdensome government regulation and intrusion into the lives of free people and free enterprise, the growing entrapment of our fellow citizens into government entitlement, and the corrosion of our moral core."

“Whether it is taxes, regulations, or government intrusions like Obamacare, for the sake of
our nation, Washington needs to be reformed. And I want to lead that reform," Leibham said. "Throughout my life as an Eagle Scout, legislator and dad, I have used my conservative principles and positive personality to bring about much needed change."

-- By JR Ross


 10:24 AM 

Dem Harris officially in race for 6th CD

Winnebago County Exec Mark Harris said he has filed paperwork to run for the 6th CD and plans to focus his campaign on preserving Social Security, making college more affordable, shoring up the country's infrastructure and increasing the minimum wage.

Harris, a Dem, told WisPolitics.com last week that he planned to get into the race and said today he has now filed the required paperwork to run.

"We've got some pressing matters that have to be dealt with, and some of them are going to require difficult choices," Harris said in a phone interview. "We have to be able to work across the aisle and reach compromise on these difficult choices."

Harris said all options are on the table to shore up Social Security, and he would like to see the maximum amount of a worker's pay subject to Social Security taxes increased. It's $117,000 for 2014 with the 12.4 percent tax rate split evenly between workers and employers. 

He said future federal revenue growth should be used to close the deficit, though he'd like some set aside for states to invest more money in public colleges and universities. He'd also like to see a bipartisan solution to maintain the federal government's investment in roads.

Harris also said he supports increasing the minimum wage. But he would like lawmakers on both sides to reach an agreement that would tie increases in the minimum wage to the average private sector wage. He said in 1968 the minimum wage equaled 54 percent of the average private sector wage, and it bottomed out at 34 percent in 2007. He'd like to see that set at 40 percent to 42 percent. Putting it at 42 percent now would mean a minimum wage of $8.53 an hour, he said.

-- By JR Ross


Monday, April 21, 2014

 8:37 AM 

Hulsey says he'll run for governor

State Rep. Brett Hulsey today announced he'll run for governor as a Dem.

"I am getting a great reception for my Get Wisconsin Working Again Plan as I travel the state," Hulsey said. "People want a real plan to get back to work, not more divisive politics."

Hulsey, of Madison, had drawn two Dem challengers in the 78th Assembly District after a string of bizarre incidents in recent years. His departure makes 21 incumbents who have decided to retire from the Assembly or seek election to another office.

-- By Staff


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

 11:44 AM 

New Walker ad proclaims 'Wisconsin is back on'

Scott Walker’s latest TV ad declares “Wisconsin is back on” thanks to the guv.

The spot, which went up on the air the same day Walker formally launched his re-election campaign, opens with a narrator saying “it had gotten pretty bad four years ago,” citing more than 130,000 jobs lost, a more than $3 billion deficit and taxes going on.

“Wisconsin’s future looked dark,” the narrator said. “But it’s different now. Wisconsin has turned around. The deficit is gone. Taxes are lower. And more people have gone back to work.”

The spot goes on to proclaim things like kids are going to college, families are planning vacations and “more are going to sleep knowing they have access to health care.” It says the state is investing in worker training with a goal that “everyone who wants a job, can find a job.”

“That’s progress. That’s what leadership feels like,” the narrator says to close the 60-second spot. “And thanks to Gov. Walker, Wisconsin is back on.”

Sources tell WisPolitics.com Walker's latest buy runs today through April 24.

-- By JR Ross



 9:24 AM 

Walker officially announces re-election bid

DANE -- Gov. Scott Walker officially kicked off his re-election campaign this morning, contrasting his work to turn around the state budget with the $3.6 billion deficit he inherited.

The governor, appearing with Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch at the first stop of a statewide tour today, touted the nearly $1 billion projected budget surplus, some $2 billion in tax relief and 100,000 jobs created during his tenure.

"That's the most exciting news of the day," Walker said of the job gains during an appearance at Dane Manufacturing.

Walker also said under his Medicaid changes, every family living in poverty has access to health care, while also touting his call last week for another two-year tuition freeze at University of Wisconsin System schools.

The governor said he and Kleefisch are running again because "we know there's more work that needs to be done," saying his vision for the next four years involves reducing dependency on government in favor of "hard work and personal pride."

"Wisconsin's back," Walker said. "Wisconsin is on the right track again."

Walker and Kleefisch were also set to appear in La Crosse, Chippewa Falls, Schofield, Green Bay and Milwaukee.

The governor did not mention presumptive Dem opponent Mary Burke during his remarks. Burke, who will be in Wausau and Superior today, knocked Walker's job creation efforts in response to his announcement.

"We are in our fourth losing season with this governor and his failed game plan," Burke said. "It's time for a new direction. It's time for Wisconsin to lead, not lag."

-- By Andy Szal


Monday, April 14, 2014

 4:50 PM 

Petri: Time was right to retire

NEENAH -- U.S. Rep. Tom Petri said he decided to retire for a myriad of reasons, but -- above all -- the time was right.

Speaking to a town hall audience in Neenah, the Republican congressman refused to identify a cause for bowing out of his re-election bid, saying he didn’t think it was “fair” to single out just one reason. However, he acknowledge that a challenge in the upcoming election, combined with an already lengthy time in Congress, weighed on his mind as he made the decision.

“Sooner or later, you’re either booted out, die or retire,” Petri joked.

“No time is perfect, but this was pretty good,” Petri added.

-- By Jason Smathers


Saturday, April 12, 2014

 1:02 PM 

Stroebel jumps in 6th CD GOP primary

State Rep. Duey Stroebel announced today he's running for the 6th CD, the second Republican to jump into what could become a crowded primary.

Stroebel's announcement comes one day after U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, announced he would not seek re-election this fall.

Stroebel, who announced last month he was considering a bid, said in a statement he is "committed to running a strong, well-financed campaign based on conservative principles that put power back into the hands of the people.”

“As a small businessman, I cannot sit on the sidelines while Washington continues down a disastrous path of fiscal irresponsibility while working families struggle to make ends meet in the Obama economy," Stroebel said. "I’ve built a business from the ground up and created jobs, and I know what it takes to get the 6th District and America working again."

Stroebel, who owns a real estate management and development company, was elected to the Assembly in a spring 2011 special election.

He joins state Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, in the GOP field, while state Sen. Joe Leibham, R-Sheboygan, and John Hiller have said they are considering a bid. Others are expected to look at a run as well.

-- By JR Ross


Friday, April 11, 2014

 3:20 PM 

Petri won't seek re-election

GOP U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, will announce Monday that he will not seek re-election.

Petri's congressional office put out a statement this afternoon that the longtime congressman, facing a primary challenge this fall, will make the announcement at a town hall meeting in Neenah.

The announcement included no additional comment on the decision, which comes after state Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, announced plans to challenge Petri.

State Sen. Joe Leibham, R-Sheboygan, issued a statement this afternoon indicating he'll consider a bid to succeed Petri. State Rep. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, and John Hiller were also weighing bids.

UPDATE: Hiller said late Friday afternoon he is forming an exploratory committee for a possible run and will have an announcement soon.

-- By Staff


 11:53 AM 

Ellis: 'I don't fit in anymore'

State Sen. Mike Ellis, R-Neenah, said he is retiring because he no longer fits in the environment that has enveloped the Capitol, where compromise is no longer valued.

Ellis' statement announcing his retirement does not directly address his comments that were captured on video and released this week showing him discussing a potentially illegal campaign scheme. But he says his wife has been constantly harassed by those on the left and the right with a "camera shoved in her face" whenever she goes out in public.

In addition to saying he loved his wife too much to "continue this," Ellis bemoaned how "independent thought is attacked in our own backyard." He mentioned fellow retiring senators Tim Cullen, D-Janesville; Bob Jauch, D-Poplar; and Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center; in saying "I see that compromise is not valued in today's Capitol environment, and that means I don't fit in anymore."

"Special interests hold too much sway, instead of the voice of the people," Ellis said. "I'm a senator from a different era, and I value my integrity too much to compromise it any more."

-- By JR Ross


 10:49 AM 

Ellis to retire

Senate President Mike Ellis, R-Neenah, has decided to retire following the release of a videotape showing him discussing a possibly illegal campaign scheme. 

Ellis' office said the longtime lawmaker is not doing interviews today, but planned to release a statement. He called his hometown newspaper today to announce his decision.

Ellis, who was first elected to the Assembly in 1970 and the Senate in 1982, has been a top Dem target in this fall's election, and state Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber, D-Appleton, announced plans last year to challenge him.

He also has been a target of some conservatives, who have openly pined for a primary challenge for the cantankerous lawmaker. 

That talk ramped up after release of a video by the conservative group Project Veritas that showed Ellis -- a longtime campaign finance reform advocate -- at a Madison bar discussing the creation of a PAC and raising tens of thousands of dollars for his re-election campaign. After the tape was released, his campaign treasurer resigned.

-- By JR Ross


 9:23 AM 

Labor poll shows Sheridan 'well-positioned' for Dem primary run in SD 15

A poll conducted in the southern Wisconsin state Senate district being vacated by Dem Tim Cullen shows former Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan "well-positioned to make a strong run for the Democratic nomination" in the 15th SD.

The March 29-31 poll, conducted by FM3 Research for labor-trade groups, shows Sheridan in what pollster Paul Maslin called "a virtual dead heat" with declared candidate state Rep. Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville.

According to the survey, Ringhand registered 21 percent of those polled while Sheridan garnered 20 percent of respondents. If leaners were included, the total was Ringhand 31 percent, Sheridan 29 percent, and 39 percent undecided.

The poll also showed, according to Maslin, that Sheridan's 2-to-1 favorable rating indicates "that any possible damage to his image from the lobbying controversy in his final term as speaker is minor."

The poll surveyed 305 likely August primary voters in the 15th SD over landlines and cell phones. The margin of error was plus or minus 5.6 percent.

See Maslin's polling memo


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

 9:56 AM 

Pridemore announces retirement

Rep. Don Pridemore today announced he won't seek re-election this fall.

"One criticism of too many elected officials is that they do not know when to move on. Now is my time," said Pridemore, R-Erin, in a statement.

He's the 18th member -- and 12th Republican -- to announce plans to step away at the end of this term.

-- By Staff


Monday, April 7, 2014

 1:19 PM 

SEIU backs Richards in AG race

The Service Employees International Union has endorsed state Rep. Jon Richards for attorney general, Richards' campaign announced today.

SEIU State Council President Dian Palmer called Richards, D-Milwaukee, "the best choice for Democrats in the primary election," where he's set to face Dane Co. DA Ismael Ozanne and Jefferson Co. DA Susan Happ.

"Jon Richards has been a champion for workers during his time in the state Legislature, and he’ll be a champion for working people as attorney general," Palmer said in a statement.

Richards said in the statement he'll "continue to do everything I can to make sure workers are treated fairly and with dignity."

-- By Staff


 11:13 AM 

Severson won't seek re-election

State Rep. Erik Severson today announced he will not run for re-election in the 28th Assembly District.

Severson, R-Osceola, said he'll continue working at the Osceola Medical Center and spend more time with his family after the conclusion of his term.

"I went to Madison to put Wisconsin’s fiscal house back in order and create an environment where businesses can thrive," said Severson, first elected in 2010, in a statement. "Since I started, Wisconsin has passed three different property and income tax cuts, putting money back into the pockets of the taxpayers."

Severson becomes the 17th member of the Assembly -- and the 11th Republican -- to opt against re-election this fall.

-- By Andy Szal


Friday, April 4, 2014

 11:02 AM 

Rep. Pasch not running for re-election

Rep. Sandy Pasch, D-Shorewood, says she will not seek re-election to the Assembly.

In a statement released this morning, the assistant minority leader said family health matters and personal circumstances led her to rule out a reelection bid for the 10th Assembly district.

“This decision did not come lightly, as having the honor and privilege to serve the greater Milwaukee area since 2009 has been one of the most humbling and meaningful experiences of my life," Pasch said.

With Pasch's announcement, there are now 16 members of the Assembly who have made clear they're not returning:

Garey Bies, R-Sister Bay
Janet Bewley, D-Ashland
Penny Bernard Schaber, D-Appleton
Fred Clark, D-Baraboo
Mike Endsley, R-Sheboygan
Dean Kaufert, R-Neenah
Steve Kestell, R-Elkhart Lake
John Klenke, R-Green Bay
Bill Kramer, R-Waukesha
Dan LeMahieu, R-Cascade
Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green
Jon Richards, D-Milwaukee
Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville
Pat Strachota, R-West Bend
Mary Williams, R-Medford
Sandy Pasch, D-Shorewood


-- By Staff


Thursday, April 3, 2014

 9:04 AM 

Grothman to challenge Petri in 6th CD primary

State Sen. Glenn Grothman today announced he will seek election to the 6th Congressional District this fall, challenging longtime incumbent Tom Petri of Fond du Lac in a GOP primary.

Grothman, R-West Bend, said in a statement he is "troubled about our country’s future," citing rising spending and debt levels and increased dependence on government assistance programs.

"While there are more things to do in Madison, again and again many of the problems require changes in federal law," Grothman said. "Whether it be welfare reform, education reform, or fiscal responsibility, we need changes from Washington. The next six years will determine the fate of America."

Grothman said Petri was "a decent, genial person" -- though the release did not mention the him by name -- but that the incumbent "does not have the sense of urgency which the above statistics should engender."

See more in today's PM Update.

-- By Andy Szal


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

 8:39 AM 

Kaufert wins election as Neenah mayor; Milwaukee County board pay cut referendum passes easily

Tuesday’s spring election saw the passage of multiple school district referendums, approval of a measure to cut Milwaukee County Board’s pay and the election of state Rep. Dean Kaufert as mayor of Neenah.

Kaufert has said he wouldn’t run for re-election to his Assembly seat if he won his mayoral bid. He defeated incumbent Neenah Mayor George Scherck with 58 percent of the vote.

In Milwaukee County, the referendum to cut board supervisors’ pay in half and eliminate future health and pension benefits passed with 71 percent of the vote. The cut will take effect in 2016.

In other election results, Waukesha Mayor Jeff Scrima lost his position to attorney Shawn Reilly, who bested the one-term mayor by more than 2,000 votes, while Wisconsin Rapids Mayor Zach Vruwink held on to his seat -- defeating former Mayor Mary Jo Carson -- despite a last-minute incident in which Vruwink violated state election laws by taking a picture of his ballot.

In the only contested county executive race, incumbent Manitowoc County Executive Bob Ziegelbauer, a former state Assemblyman, defeated coroner Curtis Green to capture his third term in office.

And among the largest of the 36 school district referendums under consideration, voters approved increased school spending in Green Bay ($20 million), Kettle Moraine ($49.6 million), La Crosse ($20.9 million), Oshkosh ($27.6 million) and Sauk Prairie ($34.6 million). Voters in the Prescott School District approved two of three referendums (it denied the second question to raise revenue limits by $4.26 million to build an auditorium) and those in West Salem split on the two questions, approving a measure to pay for security costs at an elementary school but denying $32 million for a new middle school.

Sheboygan Falls voted down its two school district referendums totaling $30.2 million, while a referendum for $30 million in additional funding for the Wisconsin Dells School District failed by a handful of votes, according to unofficial results.

-- By WisPolitics.com staff


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

 5:11 PM 

Rep. Kestell, Assembly Ed chair, announces he won't seek re-election

Rep. Steve Kestell, R-Elkhart Lake, announced today he won't seek re-election.

Kestell, the chair of the Assembly Education Committee, and Senate Education Chair Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, had come under fire from GOP opponents of Common Core standards for not doing enough to support a bill that would eliminate those standards. Three separate congressional GOP caucuses passed resolutions of no-confidence in the last two weeks targeting Kestell and Olsen.

Kestell's statement didn't mention those efforts, only saying he made the decision after talking with his family.

"During my years in the state legislature, I've worked every day to uphold the belief that elected officials should strive to do the right thing, for the right reason, and in the right way," Kestell said. "I am proud of what we've accomplished together, and I look forward to new challenges as the future unfolds."

Read his press release


 10:46 AM 

Mayoral races, referendums headline spring election

It's been four years since Wisconsin last saw a spring election without a statewide race on the ballot.

And that means voter turnout -- which eclipsed 20 percent last April -- is likely to drop to just over half that amount on Tuesday, according to Government Accountability Board projections.

Still, there's considerable action on today's ballot at the local level, headlined by races for judicial seats and local government positions -- including a slew of contested mayoral races.

Waukesha is the largest city to hold a mayoral contest today, according to a WisPolitics.com review of sample spring ballots. First-term incumbent Jeff Scrima will face off against attorney Shawn Reilly, who won a four-way primary last month. Several other large Milwaukee suburbs also have mayoral contests on the ballot, including Brookfield, Franklin, Muskego and South Milwaukee.

Elsewhere, one mayoral race could also have an impact on the state Legislature. Longtime GOP state Rep. Dean Kaufert is challenging third-term Neenah Mayor George Scherck and has said he likely won't seek re-election to his Assembly seat if elected.

In addition, three of the state's 11 county executives are also on the spring ballot, but only one has a contested race: Manitowoc County Executive Bob Ziegelbauer, the former state rep who's being challenged by county Coroner Curtis Green.

The spring ballot also features a slew of referendums on issues from school funding to campaign finance reform to, in Milwaukee County, limiting the pay of county board supervisors.

See more on the spring election here and here.

Find your polling location here.


-- By Andy Szal


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