• WisPolitics

Sunday, February 28, 2016

 6:00 AM 

Gallagher to run for 8th CD

Michael Gallagher, a Marine veteran who moved back to Wisconsin to work for Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential bid, announced Sunday he is running for the 8th CD as a Republican.

Gallagher said the country is at a crossroads and is being destroyed by career politicians and bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.

“I just can’t sit on the sidelines and let that happen,” Gallagher said.

Gallagher, who turns 32 this week, was born in Green Bay and moved to California after his parents divorced. He spent his summers in Green Bay, where his father stayed. After graduating from Princeton, he joined the Marine Corps and spent seven years on active duty.

He worked for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee for more than a year and then came back to Wisconsin to work as foreign policy director for Walker’s presidential bid. After Walker dropped out, Gallagher went to work for Breakthrough Fuel, an energy supply company. He also completed his doctorate in international relations at Georgetown.

Gallagher said Washington has lacked the political courage to tackle big problems, saying the nation needs to look at entitlement programs to save money, and called for expanding the nation’s defense. He said the military has been “destroyed by the sequester.”

“We’ve seen the consequences on the world state and the consequences of a president who refuses to lead on the world stage,” he said.

Gallagher joins fellow Republican Frank Lasee, a state senator from DePere, as the only announced candidates so far for the 8th CD. U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Sherwood, has announced he will not seek re-election this fall.

-- By JR Ross

Thursday, February 25, 2016

 2:22 PM 

Harris Dodd won't seek re-election to Senate

Freshman Dem State Sen. Nikiya Harris Dodd, of Milwaukee, announced today she will not seek re-election this fall.

"As the eldest of 13 siblings, I have never shied away from making difficult decisions or taking on tough challenges. My decision to not seek re-election is at the top of the list of many difficult decisions I have made," she said. "My love, passion, and commitment to improve conditions for citizens of Milwaukee will continue to be my driving force."

She is the first Dem state lawmaker to announce plans not to seek re-election this fall. She joins GOP Sen. Rick Gudex, of Fond du Lac, and Reps. Dave Heaton, of Wausau; Dean Knudson, of Hudson; Tom Larson, of Colfax; and John Murtha, of Baldwin, in deciding against seeking re-election this fall.

-- By Staff

 12:42 PM 

Marquette poll: State Supreme Court, Dem prez primary races close, Trump leads GOP field

The latest Marquette University Law School Poll found the race between Justice Rebecca Bradley and Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg neck-and-neck.

The survey also found Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton about even in Wisconsin's Dem presidential primary and Donald Trump leading the GOP field.

In the Supreme Court race, 37 percent of likely voters in the April 5 election backed Bradley, while 36 percent supported Kloppenburg. Twenty-three percent weren't sure. Among registered voters, it was even at 30 percent for each candidate.

In the Dem presidential primary, 44 percent of likely voters backed Sanders, while 43 percent supported Clinton. In January, that race was 45-43 in Clinton's favor.

On the GOP side, 30 percent of likely Republican primary voters backed Trump, while 20 percent supported Marco Rubio and 19 percent favored Ted Cruz. In January, Trump led at 24 percent, while Rubio was at 18 percent and Cruz 16 percent.

The latest poll results in the U.S. Senate race were largely unchanged from January. Now, Dem Russ Feingold was backed by 49 percent of respondents, while 37 percent favored U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh. In January, Feingold led 50-37.

The poll of 802 registered voters was conducted over landline and cell phones Feb. 18-21 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

The sample included 297 likely GOP primary voters, and those questions had a margin of error of plus or minus 7.5 percentage points. It also included 343 likely Dem primary voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 6.9 percentage points on those questions.

-- By JR Ross

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

 8:38 AM 

Donald endorses Kloppenburg

Milwaukee Judge Joe Donald has endorsed one-time rival JoAnne Kloppenburg for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, calling her the most qualified candidate in the race. 

Meanwhile, Kloppenburg and Justice Rebecca Bradley have agreed to two debates so far and are looking at other meetings ahead of the April 5 election, their campaigns said. 

Kloppenburg knocked Donald ahead of the Feb. 19 primary for endorsing Bradley in her 2013 bid to retain her then-seat on the Milwaukee County bench and later serving as a reference as she applied for a vacancy on the 1st District Court of Appeals. After the controversy erupted, Donald told WisPolitics.com he had been "bamboozled" when he backed Bradley and that he later realized she was only trying to position herself for the state Supreme Court. 

In Tuesday's statement, Donald said Kloppenburg shares his vision of an independent judiciary. 

"I also appreciate that her campaign is based on hope not fear: she is running because she believes deeply in the power of the law and our courts to make our communities and our State a better place for all our citizens," said Donald, who got 12 percent in last week's primary. 

Bradley campaign manager Luke Martz fired back, "There is only one candidate that has run a negative, partisan campaign - Joanne Kloppenburg and the evidence is in her ads and words. The citizens of Wisconsin deserve better than Kloppenburg's dishonest attacks on Justice Rebecca Bradley and her positive, issue focused campaign." 

 8:37 AM 

Bradley, Kloppenburg agree to two debates

Bradley and Kloppenburg have agreed to two debates in mid-March.

The first, according to their campaigns, will be a WISN-TV debate March 15 at Marquette University moderated by Mike Gousha.

The second will be a joint effort by Wisconsin Public TV, Wisconsin Public Radio and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It is set for March 18 in Madison.

The campaigns said they're also considering several invitations to appear at other events. Both campaigns said they have confirmed with the Milwaukee Bar Association for a March 9 event and the Dane County Bar Association on March 22 at Madison Club.

Bradley, meanwhile, plans to attend a Jefferson County Bar Association event March 1, while Kloppenburg has confirmed for the Downtown Madison Rotary Club meeting March 23.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

 8:39 AM 

Abele, Larson spar over private security, funding for transit, parks, cultural facilities

Milwaukee County Exec Chris Abele Monday defended his use of a private security firm, recounting a previously undisclosed incident in which, he said, a man kicked open his home's front door and knocked down his daughters' babysitter.

Abele said the man repeatedly asked her if she was Abele's wife, as papers filled with "crazy" writings spilled out of his arms. He said afterward that happened a couple of years ago, and his campaign did not immediately release more details.

The incident came up during Monday's first post-primary debate between Abele and challenger Chris Larson following a question about public safety spending.

Larson, a Dem state senator from Milwaukee, said he would do away with the "Hollywood-style security," a reference to Abele's detail from a California firm that has also protected such figures as former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and actress Jennifer Lawrence.

Abele -- a millionaire who pays the firm's four-figure bill -- said security "is not a joke." He noted that both he and Larson have young children and said that if Larson ever needed security, Abele would help him get it.

Larson replied he had received a threat to burn down his house, but that he would be satisfied, like Abele's predecessors, with protection from law enforcement officers. Afterward, Larson said the threat came via Twitter during the tense 2011 debate over collective bargaining powers for public employees -- a time when Republican Gov. Scott Walker and other lawmakers also received death threats -- and it was reported to Capitol police.

The candidates, who meet in the April 5 general election, also differed sharply on funding for the Milwaukee County Transit System and for parks and cultural facilities.

Larson noted that, as a supervisor, he had supported a 2008 advisory referendum in which voters backed increasing the 0.5 percent county sales tax to 1.5 percent to wean parks, transit and paramedics off the county property tax levy. The Legislature never granted the county that authority, but Larson said he still wanted to push for it.

Abele said the sales tax was too regressive and that he would instead lobby the state for more aid for transit and other county programs. He added, "Every time we tax ourselves, we let the state off the hook" for cutting aid to local governments.

Otherwise, the debate followed the same script as the campaign to date, with Abele touting his five-year record of fiscal management and Larson attacking the incumbent for grabbing more power at the expense of the County Board.

Abele said his success in reducing the county's structural deficit and debt service payments had helped avoid service cuts and limit tax increases. Larson said the focus on reducing debt should not obscure the need to address deferred maintenance, such as the deterioration that forced the Mitchell Park Domes to close for repairs.

Larson said he would seek to roll back the most recent expansions of Abele's power: to sell county land not zoned for parks, without board approval, and to name a commissioner to take over failing Milwaukee public schools.

Abele noted the GOP-controlled Legislature and Walker approved his increased authority. He has previously said he would support rezoning parks now otherwise zoned and that his education commissioner wouldn't take over any schools.

Overall, Abele said voters "don't have to speculate about my ability" to manage county finances, and that he would continue to focus on "allies and solutions, not fights and enemies."

Larson accused Abele of an "election-year conversion" after seeking to increase his own power and privatize or sell off county assets. The challenger predicted he would win April 5 because the voters "don't just want false promises when it's an election year."

-- By Larry Sandler
For WisPolitics.com

Monday, February 22, 2016

 9:24 AM 

Vos: Murtha retiring from Assembly

State Rep. John Murtha, R-Baldwin, is retiring, Speaker Robin Vos said this morning.

Murtha, who turns 65 in August, was elected to his seat in 2006 and served as majority caucus chair this session.

He joins GOP Reps. Dave Heaton, of Wausau; Dean Knudson, of Hudson; and Tom Larson, of Colfax, in deciding against seeking re-election this fall.

UPDATE: Murtha said in a statement the Legislature has accomplished a lot during his tenure.

"When Republicans gained control of both houses in 2011, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate was at 8 percent," Murtha said. "By holding the line on taxes, reforming our administrative codes, and sticking to conservative principles, we created an environment for small businesses to grow. Today, the unemployment rate is at 4.4 percent. Just recently, we had our best one-month private sector job growth since 1992. Our economy has gotten better and I believe it will continue to get better."

-- By Staff

Thursday, February 18, 2016

 9:53 AM 

Larson won't seek re-election to Assembly, Nygren opts against 8th CD bid

GOP state Rep. Tom Larson, who is battling lung cancer, announced today he will not seek re-election this fall.

Meanwhile, JFC Co-chair John Nygren, R-Marinette, said he will not run for the 8th CD.

Larson, R-Colfax, said this is his third cancer diagnosis in as many years.

"I’m proud of the work that I’ve done in the legislature. I promised to balance the budget, cut taxes and bring more jobs to Wisconsin," said Larson, who was first elected in 2010. "With all of that accomplished, it’s time for me to step down to spend more time with my family."

Nygren cited his family in deciding against a run for Congress. His oldest daughter has struggled with addiction and has been an inspiration for a package of bills he's pushed through to combat heroin abuse.

"I took to heart Congressman Ribble's reasons for retiring, specifically when it came to his family," Nygren said. "At a time when my son is in high school, a daughter is leaving for college, and my oldest is taking great steps in recovery, now is not the time to make the move to Washington."

-- By Staff

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

 4:49 PM 

Counties besides Dane, Milwaukee contributed to close Supreme Court primary

A surge in turnout in Dane and Milwaukee counties clearly affected a tight Supreme Court primary only narrowly won by Justice Rebecca Bradley.

But a check of another half-dozen counties around the state shows other factors propelled JoAnne Kloppenburg to a closer-than-expected finish behind Bradley. 

All eight counties had several things in common: turnout was up yesterday compared to 2013, the previous three-way primary for the Supreme Court; Bradley underperformed Justice Pat Roggensack's percentages three years ago, even in deep-red areas; and Kloppenburg easily outpaced Ed Fallone.

Brown County epitomizes that. The county has become a key read in state elections with Republicans and conservatives needing to run up the score there to help offset Dem results in places such as Madison and Milwaukee. 

But while turnout nearly doubled -- 20,787 votes yesterday compared to 10,746 in 2013 -- Bradley captured just 47.6 percent of the vote. By comparison, Roggensack won 65.8 percent three years ago. Kloppenburg, meanwhile, won 38.5 percent in Brown County, compared to Fallone's 27.8 percent in 2013. 

Turnout in yesterday's Supreme Court race was 12.7 percent of voting-age adults, up from 8.4 percent in 2013. So while Bradley fell short of Roggensack for the share of the overall electorate, the new justice still pulled 252,102 votes to 231,822 for Roggensack. 

That was good for 45 percent of the vote yesterday, while Kloppenburg received 43 percent with 243,548 votes and Joe Donald came in a distant third with 68,447, or 12 percent. 

This was the first statewide run for Bradley and Donald; it was the second for Kloppenburg, who lost to Justice David Prosser in 2011. 

The difference between 2013 and 2016 was perhaps most stark in Eau Claire and La Crosse counties. 

Both are areas Dems tend to do well in during presidential elections, but Republicans have proven they can run even when turnout is lower. 

In 2013, Roggensack won 54.2 percent of the vote in Eau Claire with 5,130 people turning out in that race, while Fallone was at 40 percent. Yesterday, Kloppenburg won 60.2 percent of the 8,619 votes tallied there, compared to 32.6 percent for Bradley. 

In La Crosse County, Roggensack won 58.9 percent of the vote compared to 31.9 percent for Fallone in 2013 as 8,223 cast ballots. But Kloppenburg won the county with 56.9 percent of the 10,712 votes cast, compared to Bradley's 34.6 percent. 

When Bradley was appointed to the Supreme Court in October, some backers predicted she would be able to cut into the Dem base of Milwaukee County after serving on the circuit court and then the 1st District Court of Appeals there. But that didn't happen yesterday. 

Turnout almost doubled to 112,235 votes yesterday with contested primaries for county exec and mayor. Bradley won a plurality of the vote at 38.2 percent, while Kloppenburg took 36.6 percent. Donald took 25 percent in his home county. 

In 2013, Roggensack won 59 percent of the Milwaukee County vote. 

Bradley also fell behind Roggensack's percentages in Dane and the conservative collar counties around Milwaukee, where Republicans like to run up the numbers. 

See more in today's PM Update.

-- By JR Ross

 12:04 AM 

Larson tops Abele with all precincts reporting

State Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, topped Milwaukee County Exec Chris Abele in Tuesday's primary.

With all precincts in, Larson had 45 percent, or 48,258 votes, to 44 percent, or 47,550, for Abele, according to unofficial results.

-- By JR Ross

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

 10:55 PM 

Bradley: Positive message will continue, April electorate will be different

Justice Rebecca Bradley said her positive message in the primary helped her place first in the three-way race and predicted a different electorate come April than what turned out today.

She also downplayed any impact Gov. Scott Walker's appointment of her to the bench may have played in the primary.

"Voters appreciate I've run a positive campaign," she said. "I simply presented my qualifications and credentials along with my judicial philosophy, and I was well received."

With 98 percent of precincts in, 549,045 votes had been cast in the Supreme Court primary. In 2013, the last time there was a three-way primary for the court, 363,675 people voted in the primary.

Bradley said the presidential race has pulled voters' attention from the state campaign, but predicted more attention will be paid to the general election April 5.

She also did not think Walker played a role in how voters viewed her.

"Most people appreciate the governor was doing his constitutional duty to appoint a justice after the sad passing of Justice Patrick Crooks, and I am standing for election, so it's ultimately up to the voters to select their justice," she said.

-- By JR Ross

 10:44 PM 

Kloppenburg: 'Facts speak louder than money'

Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg said the results of the Supreme Court primary show people want to keep partisan politics off the court.

The conservative Wisconsin Alliance for Reform put $1 million into radio and TV boosting Justice Rebecca Bradley in the two weeks leading up to the primary. Meanwhile, Kloppenburg's campaign said earlier this month it was putting $200,000 into a TV buy that sought to tie Bradley to Gov. Scott Walker.

Kloppenburg again noted the tie between the two, noting Walker appointed Bradley to the Milwaukee County Circuit Court, the 1st District Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.

"Those facts speak louder than money," she said.

Kloppenburg said she will reach out to those who backed Joe Donald in the primary to prove she is the only true independent candidate in the race. 

Some observers viewed Kloppenburg as trying to portray herself as the only true progressive candidate in the primary, but she rejected that suggestion. She also expects outside groups now target her, much like in 2011, when third parties played a heavy role in her narrow loss to Justice David Prosser.

"The special interests supporting her will try to demonize me," Kloppenburg said. "They'll throw whatever they can and nothing will stick. They tried before, and I will stand up to them again."

-- By JR Ross

 10:27 PM 

Kloppenburg closes gap on Bradley

JoAnne Kloppenburg has narrowed the gap with Justice Rebecca Bradley as more returns come in.

With 98 precincts reporting, Bradley had 45 percent, or 245,809 votes, to 43 percent, or 236,518, for Kloppenburg, according to unofficial returns.

-- By JR Ross

 9:52 PM 

Larson: Close results in Milwaukee County exec primary an endorsement of positive message

Dem state Sen. Chris Larson, who was badly outspent by Milwaukee County Exec Chris Abele in their primary, said his strong showing is an endorsement of the positive message he offers.

"It shows that people know we care about working families and we're going to keep fighting for them," Larson said.

Larson, who was on the floor of the Senate as returns rolled in, said his approach to the race includes a view that even if people disagree with him, "they can find me." He also said he has an appeal to voters because his Senate district includes both the city of Milwaukee and its suburbs.

"My heart and soul are in Milwaukee County," he said.

-- By JR Ross

 9:33 PM 

Barrett held under 50 percent, Abele, Larson neck-and-neck in Milwaukee County exec race

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett was at 45 percent in his four-way primary, while County Exec Chris Abele was neck-and-neck with state Sen. Chris Larson in their race.

With 92 percent of the vote in, Barrett was leading Ald. Bob Donovan 45-34.

In the county exec race, where 94 percent of the vote was in, Abele was edging Larson by 65 votes, according to unofficial returns.

-- By JR Ross

 9:12 PM 

Donald concedes

Milwaukee Judge Joe Donald has conceded, congratulating Justice Rebecca Bradley and Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg for advancing to the April general election.

Here is Donald's statement:

“I am proud of the campaign we ran and the issues we brought to the forefront. The influence of partisan politics and special interest money has a terrible impact on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and our entire judicial system, and I will continue to fight every day as a Circuit Court Judge in Milwaukee and a community leader to reduce the influence of politics and deliver justice fairly.

“It is also time for the citizens of Wisconsin and our elected leaders to seriously address the issue of mass incarceration. Our criminal justice system is not working for all citizens – especially people of color – and it is tearing too many families apart at great expense to taxpayers all across Wisconsin. I hope voters in April and in future elections continue to demand action on criminal justice reform.

“I congratulate Justice Rebecca Bradley and Judge Joanne Kloppenburg for advancing through the primary election this evening, and encourage them to address these important issues on the campaign trail this spring.”

-- By JR Ross

 9:03 PM 

AP projects Bradley will advance in Supreme Court primary

The Associated Press is projecting Justice Rebecca Bradley will advance to the April generation election.

With just less than half of the vote in, she was at 49 percent. JoAnne Kloppenburg was at 37 percent with Joe Donald at 14 percent.

-- By JR Ross

 8:31 PM 

Bradley, Kloppenburg out to early lead

Justice Rebecca Bradley and Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg are out to the early lead as returns start rolling in for their Supreme Court race.

With 19 percent of wards in, Bradley was at 52 percent, while Kloppenburg was at 31 percent. Milwaukee County Judge Joe Donald was in third at 17 percent.
-- By JR Ross

 5:13 PM 

Some Waukesha County locations running out of ballots

Higher than expected turnout in Waukesha County is causing some polling locations to run out of ballots.

“We’ve been having a ballot issue,” said Waukesha County Clerk Kathleen Novack. “Turnout was way higher than we ever expected.”

New Berlin Clerk Kari Morgan said the city did not receive all the ballots it requested from the county. That caused the city to run out of ballots at some of its wards early on, and it’s had to work with other ballots that take “a little longer” to process.

“It’s been a little crazy today,” she said.

Morgan attributed the spike in her city's turnout -- she predicts it will end at 20 percent -- to some voters believing the presidential primary is today. It is in April.

Brookfield is facing a similar issue, said City Clerk Kelly Michaels. The county clerk has provided them with photocopied ballots, but Michaels said today has “proved to be very difficult.”

“It’s been a pretty stressful day, to be honest with you,” she said.

The state’s Government Accountability Board, meanwhile, is reporting relatively low turnout and minor issues. For example, the agency has heard reports of a handful of poll workers mistakenly asking that addresses on photo IDs match what they have on file, even though state law does not require that.

“These are good learning experiences, and as far as we know, they’ve all been corrected,” GAB spokesman Reid Magney said. “But we’ll incorporate this into our training.”

-- By Staff

 3:03 PM 

City clerks report low turnout in spring primary

Turnout so far today is low but at its usual levels for a spring primary, city clerks say.

The city of Milwaukee, where there are primaries for mayor and county exec, is seeing “pretty comparable” turnout to its 2012 spring primary, said Neil Albrecht, the executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission. That’s when Mayor Tom Barrett was running for a third term.

“We had a very steady flow in the morning from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., and then it definitely slowed down,” he said.

Albrecht said he expects between 10 percent to 15 percent of voters to show up today.

Madison, meanwhile, reported turnout of 5.3 percent by 11 a.m. In February 2013, the last time there was a Supreme Court primary, Madison saw 2.5 percent of voters turn out by 11 a.m. and reported a final turnout of 11.1 percent.

Waukesha Clerk and Treasurer Gina Kozlik was seeing about 30 voters per hours at one of its larger locations.

“We’ve been steady so far,” she said.

-- By Staff

 1:59 PM 

Eleven school districts seeking $111 million via referendums

Eleven school districts from across the state are seeking voter approval today of $111.41 million in spending.

The Slinger School District is at the top of the list with two referendums, totaling $42.28 million. The district wants the money for, among other things, school building renovations and a new high school auditorium.

The districts rounding out the top three in terms of amount requested are: the Rhinelander School District at $15 million and Eagle River's Northland Pines School District at $11.7 million. Both want voter approval to exceed state revenue limits for three years.

See the full referendum list.

-- By Staff

 11:00 AM 

Primaries today for Supreme Court, Milwaukee mayor, Milwaukee County exec

The polls are open today as voters determine which two Supreme Court candidates will advance to the April 5 general election. 

Justice Rebecca Bradley squares off against Joe Donald and JoAnne Kloppenburg in the only statewide race on today's ballot, with the top two vote-getters moving on to the April election. 

The Government Accountability Board has predicted a turnout of around 10 percent statewide. That's similar to the turnout for the 2011 Supreme Court primary, the GAB said. 

Local primaries include those for Milwaukee mayor and Milwaukee County executive. Voters in certain areas will also vote on school spending issues. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

 4:47 PM 

Lasee to run for 8th CD

GOP state Sen. Frank Lasee is running for the 8th CD, saying he has never been afraid to take on the establishment and has a record of cutting taxes.

“Big government’s greedy hand is robbing people of their liberty, looting the public treasury, rigging the system in favor of Washington politicians and lobbyists, and destroying the American Dream," Lasee said. "I want to downsize Washington, so we supersize freedom --- and restore the dream to live, work and prosper in the America we love."

As part of his formal announcement Sunday, Lasee, R-DePere, will lay out what he is calling a "liberty and prosperity plan." It includes: shrinking the size of government, balancing the budget, cutting spending, promoting market-driven healthcare solutions, securing the board, defeating terrorists and reining in "rogue government agencies like the IRS and EPA."

Other Republicans looking at the race include: Michael Gallagher, who was a foreign affairs adviser to Gov. Scott Walker's presidential bid; state Reps. John Nygren, of Marinette, and David Steffen, of Green Bay; and former state Rep. Chad Weininger, who now works for Brown County as the director of administration. 

-- By JR Ross

Thursday, February 11, 2016

 11:51 PM 

Dems, Kleefisch react to debate

State Rep. Dianne Hesselbein, D-Middleton, wasn't surprised that Hillary Clinton mentioned Gov. Scott Walker so often during Thursday’s debate. In fact, she thinks it’s a smart strategy.

Asked what it will take for Democrats to win Wisconsin, Hesselbein said, "Talk about Scott Walker a lot more. Five years ago today he dropped the bomb with Act 10."

Wisconsin Dems generally praised Thursday night’s debate, while GOP Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch said Clinton and Bernie Sanders failed to deliver a winning message during their two-hour meeting.

Clinton made several Wisconsin-specific references during the debate. But state Dem Chair Martha Laning downplayed that Sanders did not.

"I think it's great that we're talking about the issues happening here in Wisconsin, but again, all of the issues that were talked about tonight are important to the people of Wisconsin,” she said.

Clinton’s campaign last year signed a joint fundraising agreement with the state party, and a WisPolitics.com check of FEC reports shows it pulled in $345,689 during the last three months of 2015.

Laning said the Sanders campaign has not reached out to create a similar agre‎ement, nor was she aware of any paid staff from either the Clinton or Sanders campaigns.

But Sander‎s spokesman Jeff Weaver told reporters that the senator will "soon have a ground game" in Wisconsin. 

"I think Sanders will do well here," Weaver said.

Asked why Sanders failed to mention Walker, Weaver said the senator "has spoken on Governor Walker on a number of occasions."

State Rep. Mandela Barnes of Milwaukee, who has not endorsed in the race, declined to declare a winner in the debate, but expressed confidence that either Sanders or Clinton will occupy the White House in 2017.

He said the candidates addressed issues that are relevant to Milwaukee, including a discussion of the black male incarceration rate and the death of Dontre Hamilton while in police custody. Barnes said he is encouraged by the “more nuanced approach” to criminal justice discussed by the candidates, an approach he said is lacking among Republicans.

While Walker was the target of criticism during the debate, Barnes said he wanted to hear Sanders and Clinton further discuss the impact of the governor’s policies.

“The governor’s failures are always at the top of the list as a member of the Legislature,” Barnes said.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett hugged Kleefisch, who was at the debate hall to present a GOP response, and joked that she must have come around to the Democratic side because she'd attended the debate.

Barrett, who has gone on record of supporting Hillary Clinton, called tonight's debate "very substantive." 

"In contrast to what you've seen with the Republican debates, you had two adults that were talking about issues that affect Americans on a daily basis and you didn't have a circus atmosphere, you didn't have them attacking each other personally, and that's why I think the big winner here was democracy," said Barrett.

Kleefisch declared tonight's winner as "The Milwaukee Bucks -- because I didn't really hear anything on the debate stage that I thought was a winning argument." 

"What you heard tonight is a 74-year-old socialist versus a Goldman Sachs speaker under investigation by the FBI,” she said. “I don't think the American people are prepared to take on what either one of those things means for the United States’ future, both domestic policy-wise and our stature in the world."

Walker responded via Twitter to one of Clinton’s lines that mentioned him. Kleefisch said she hadn’t seen his response.

"But I'll tell you my reaction," she said. "It tells me they are still scared of Scott Walker. You know it's the anniversary of Act 10 today."

-- By Samantha Nash and Kay Nolan

 10:01 PM 

Clinton gets in second knock on Walker

Hillary Clinton got in a second knock on Gov. Scott Walker in her closing statement as she called for people to stand up for unions and working people, who she said are being attacked by “ideologues, by demagogues.”

The comment was a reference to the collective bargaining changes Walker pushed through in 2011 that limited public employees largely to being able to bargain on wage increases, which were capped for inflation. Today is the five-year anniversary of Walker introducing the proposal.

The line prompted applause from the crowd. Clinton went on to say that Wall Street, "big oil" and others still have too much influence. But even if all of that went away, she said, there would still be the “indifference, the negligence that we saw in Flint,” racism, sexism, and prejudice against gays, bisexuals and those who are transgender.

“And we would still have governors like Scott Walker and others trying to rip out the heart of the middle class, making it impossible to organize and stand up for better wages and working conditions,” she said.

-- By Staff

 9:10 PM 

Clinton, Sanders answer question on Wisconsin incarceration rate for African Americans

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders fielded a question on Wisconsin's incarceration rate for African Americans in Thursday's debate.

The question was submitted by Claudia Looze, a producer for WisconsinEye, a public affairs network.

Sanders went first, calling for an end to what he said is the over-policing of black neighborhoods. He said blacks and whites use marijuana at an equal rate, but African Americans are four more times more likely to be arrested.

He also called for police reform, saying he hoped all can agree they’re tired of seeing videos on television of police shooting citizens -- often African Americans -- who are unarmed. 

“What we have got to do is make it clear that any police officer that breaks the law will in fact be held accountable,” Sanders said.

Clinton’s answer to the question included a mention of Dontre Hamilton, who was shot and killed by a white police officer in a Milwaukee park. An internal affairs investigation that led to the officer’s dismissal found the incident began after the officer tried to pat down Hamilton. After Hamilton resisted, the officer tried to use his baton. But Hamilton took it away and struck the officer, who then shot him 14 times, according to the report.

Clinton said Hamilton should still be alive and said she supports recommendations from President Obama’s policing commission.

She then said there are other racial discrepancies in Wisconsin and others that are part of incarceration rates.

“When we talk about criminal justice reform and ending the era of mass incarceration, we also have to talk about jobs, education, housing and other ways of helping communities do better,” she said.

-- By Staff

 8:31 PM 

Clinton gets in dig on Walker while knocking Sanders' free college plan

Hillary Clinton got in a dig on Gov. Scott Walker as she knocked Bernie Sanders’ plan to provide free college.

Clinton said Sanders’ plan relies on guvs like Walker contributing $23 billion on the first day to make college free.

“I’m a little skeptical about your governor actually caring enough about higher education to make any kind of commitment like that,” Clinton said to applause.

Sanders did not reference Walker in his response or Clinton’s slam on his plan, stressing that he believes in providing a free college education.

“That should be a right of all Americans, regardless of the income of their families,” Sanders said.

UPDATE: Walker responded to Clinton, tweeting, ".@HillaryClinton, while you took big speaking fees, we froze tuition 4 years in a row to make college affordable. #DemDebate"

-- By Staff

 8:14 PM 

WisPolitics.com panel: Wisconsin April 5 open primary could be pivotal in presidential race

WAUWATOSA -- Wisconsin's April 5 open primary could prove pivotal for the remaining presidential candidates, a panel of political experts told a WisPolitics.com luncheon today.

Democratic pollster Paul Maslin predicted the Republican race would be down to three candidates by then and that the Bernie Sanders-Hillary Clinton race would be a long fight.

"Is Hillary Clinton still the favorite? Yes. But a much weaker favorite than before," Maslin said in Wauwatosa at the UW-Milwaukee Innovation Accelerator.

Former Madison-area GOP Congressman Scott Klug, now with Foley & Lardner, predicted the three Republicans left April 5 would be Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and a more establishment figure such as Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush or John Kasich.

Klug said the primary and caucus calendar and lack of winner-take-all events could mean a deadlocked convention.

Maslin, Klug and Journal Sentinel Washington bureau chief Craig Gilbert did not rule out that this weird election season could result in a Sanders vs. Trump general election this fall.

"Theoretically. I don't think you can rule it out. But not probable," Klug said.

"Anything is possible," Gilbert said.

"Entirely possible," is how Maslin put it.

Maslin said Michael Bloomberg would be in the race now if it weren't for the Electoral College and figuring out the state-by-state math to become president. But he said Bloomberg will have to decide soon because of filing deadlines. Gilbert quipped that if Bloomberg gets in, U.S. voters in November could be choosing between three New Yorkers.

The luncheon came in advance of the Sanders-Clinton debate at UW-Milwaukee.

Gilbert said he was interested to see whether Clinton attacked Sanders more directly. Maslin predicted Clinton would be sending messages to African-American and Latino voters.

The three pondered an audience member commenting that Sanders and Trump weren't that far apart in their rhetoric.

"People are mad and frustrated and angry," Klug agreed. "Both are tapping into the same thing. The question is whether either of them can rise above 35 percent."

"The big difference is Bernie Sanders is kind of an ideological candidate," Gilbert said. "What's (Trump's) ideology? One's a personality; one's an ideological candidate. ... There's like eight ideologies in your average Donald Trump speech."

Maslin added he wasn't sure whether "celebrity or ideology is more powerful in America" now.

"I think there is some similarity here. ...(early voters are saying), 'You have failed. I am willing to try this,'" he said.

-- By Staff

 6:57 PM 

Protesters gather outside Dem debate

MILWAKEE -- As darkness falls, dozens of protesters are gathering outside UW-Milwaukee. 

Across the street from the debate hall, activists were waving signs and chanting. In addition to the retired teamsters, a group of high school and college students are protesting the Alberta Clipper extension to the Enbridge pipeline.

Holding signs shaped like oil drops, as well as others "shaped like the drops of water we're trying to protect," student organizer Cassie Steiner said the group wants to hear Bernie Sanders' and Hillary Clinton's response to their concerns.

"Both Bernie and Hillary have come out in opposition to the Keystone XLPipeline, but have not talked about the Enbridge Pipeline, so we're urging them to communicate their stance on these tar sands projects," Steiner said.

Steiner, a recent UW-Whitewater grad, said students belonging to the group, Wisconsin Youth Tar Sands Resistance, come from UW campuses across the state, as well as some out-of-state colleges, especially in Kalamazoo, Mich., where a tar sands oil spill occurred, and Minnesota, which, like Wisconsin, has a pipeline running through it.

Steiner said she was expecting at least 100 protesters to show up, but noted "many are having trouble finding a place to park."

A group of young men who say they are "campus Republicans," are chanting "Cure the Bern," a take on Sanders' campaign slogan, "Feel the Bern."

When someone thought they had yelled, "Kill the Bern," the youths quickly said, "Oh no, that would be too extreme. We'd never say that."

While some of the College Republicans' signage also targeted Clinton, Thomas Dougherty, the UWM College Republican chair, said Sanders messaging seems to resonate with millenials.

“Most of his base is college students,” Dougherty said. “I think he appeals to people on different types of social media.”

But he warned conversations on sites like Reddit.com can be one-sided, prompting his organization’s outreach efforts at the debate. Dougherty said it is tough for Republicans to reach younger voters, and said he would like to see more voter education targeting college students from the GOP.

Dougherty said voter outreach and discussion is the primary motivation for the group’s presence outside the debate.

“I’m not out here to sway anybody’s opinion, but when we have a conversation, that’s what moves the country forward,” Dougherty said.

-- By Kay Nolan and Samantha Nash

 5:23 PM 

Journalists, audience gathering ahead of tonight's Dem presidential debate

An estimated 400 local and national journalists are expected at UW-Milwaukee for tonight's Dem presidential debate.

The Zelazo Center's Helen Bader Concert hall where the debate will be held is relatively small -- about 500 people will be in the audience. The crowd will include 25 UWM students, chosen by a Student Association lottery.

While most of the people grabbing a meal in the student union, listening to iPods or walking between classes are millennial-aged students, a group of gray-haired, grim-faced older men just entered, carrying protest signs.

"We're all retired Teamsters," explained Mike Bogdonovich, 72, of Milwaukee, who said the group hoped to call attention to the plight of retirees who paid into the Central States Pension Fund. "They took our money away -- all of us."

Bogdonovich said Bernie Sanders is sponsoring a bill in Congress to try to get not such a drastic cut or no cut at all, though he's not aware if Hillary Clinton has a stance on the issue.

"We're just trying to call more attention to it," he said.

-- By Kay Nolan

Monday, February 8, 2016

 1:11 PM 

Bradley tops both rivals for January fundraising

Justice Rebecca Bradley raised $87,922 last month, topping both of her rivals in this spring's state Supreme Court race.

Bradley's haul included $27,342 from committees, according to a cover sheet her campaign released. She also spent $156,299 and had $107,883 cash on hand Feb. 1. She listed $4,492 in obligations and $102,500 in outstanding loans. That debt is leftover from her 2013 campaign to retain her then-seat on the Milwaukee County bench.

Joe Donald raised $35,678, while JoAnne Kloppenburg pulled in $55,924.

 -- By JR Ross

 11:41 AM 

Kloppenburg outraises Donald in January

Appeals Court Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg outraised Milwaukee County Judge Joe Donald last month in the Supreme Court race.

Fundraising numbers for Justice Rebecca Bradley were not yet available this morning. Reports covering activity between Jan. 1 and Feb. 1 are due to the GAB today.

Kloppenburg raised $55,924, spent $19,544 and had $268,724 in the bank as of Feb. 1, according to a cover sheet her campaign released. She also had $6,217 in incurred obligations and $157,000 in outstanding loans.

Kloppenburg got a boost through $18,450 in committee contributions, while Donald listed none.

He raised $35,678 for the period, spent $24,601 and had $206,801 in the bank. He also listed $7,500 in loans, according to his cover sheet.

-- By JR Ross

 10:37 AM 

Donald's first TV ad says politics shouldn't be 'in our courts'

Supreme Court candidate Joe Donald is going up with a new TV ad that bemoans politics on our TVs, radios and computer screens and in our mailboxes.

As he mentions politics on “our computer screens,” a man shakes his head and shuts a laptop that has a picture of Justice Rebecca Bradley and Gov. Scott Walker.

“But one place it shouldn’t be is in our courts,” he says in the spot, which his campaign said is slated to begin Tuesday.

Donald then says he’s been guided for 20 years by the principle that rich or poor, black or white, Republican or Democrat, “Under the law, we are all the same.”

“Politics does not apply,” Donald says. “That’s why I’m running for the state Supreme Court and why I’m asking for your vote.”

-- By JR Ross

Sunday, February 7, 2016

 9:08 PM 

Kloppenburg's first TV ad knocks Bradley, Donald

Supreme Court candidate JoAnne Kloppenburg is out with a new TV ad that slams Justice Rebecca Bradley as Gov. Scott Walker’s "crony."

The 30-second TV spot also knocks Joe Donald for supporting "Rebecca Bradley, Walker’s choice, twice."

The spot notes Bradley has been appointed by Walker to three judgeships in three years as the words “Walker appoints political crony Bradley” appear on the screen.

The narrator then says Bradley is "backed to the hilt by right-wing special interests" and knocks Donald for backing her. The narrator then says Kloppenburg is "different. We can count on her."

"Independent, principled, experienced, JoAnne Kloppenburg for justice. For us," the narrator says to close the spot.

-- By JR Ross

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

 6:57 PM 

Roth won't run for 8th CD

State Sen. Roger Roth announced today he won’t be among the candidates running in the 8th CD, saying it’s “not the right time” for his family.

Roth came in second in the 2010 GOP primary for the seat, losing to U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble, who announced Saturday he won’t seek a fourth term.

Roth, R-Appleton, said although he's gotten calls encouraging him to run, his top priority is being “the best father and husband I can be,” noting he has two kids and is expecting a third in April.

“The problems facing our country are very real,” Roth said in a news release. “Our nation deserves leaders who are willing to set aside political rhetoric in favor of governing. While I believe I can be that voice in Washington, I know that right now is not the right time, and therefore I will not seek the GOP nomination for the 8th Congressional District.”

See the release here.

-- By Polo Rocha

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

 9:04 AM 

Bradley starts radio ad

Justice Rebecca Bradley's campaign is going up with a new radio ad saying she understands "that it's not her job to make laws, but to interpret them."

The spot features a girl coming home from school and telling her mom she learned about the state Supreme Court. The mom notes there's an election to pick a justice this spring, and the daughter says it's an important vote because justices "have to uphold the constitution."

"I know, and that's what I already know I'm voting for Justice Rebecca Bradley," the mom says. "One of the hardest jobs of a judge is to make decisions based only on the law as it's written. Justice Bradley understands that it's not her job to make laws, but to interpret them."

The spot closes with Bradley asking listeners for their support in the Feb. 16 primary.

Her campaign said the 30-second spot is running statewide starting today. 

-- By JR Ross

 8:15 AM 

Possible candidates line up for 8th CD

At least half a dozen GOP state lawmakers are looking at a run for the 8th CD now that incumbent Reid Ribble, R-Sherwood, has announced he will not seek re-election this fall.

Meanwhile, Outagamie County Exec Tom Nelson, a former Dem lawmaker who ran for lt. guv in 2010, says he has received calls urging him to run and he owes "it to those family, friends and supporters to give this opportunity to continue to serve Northeast Wisconsin due consideration."

He touted his work as county exec, including a stable tax rate, AAA bond rating and economic growth he attributed to "the lost art of bipartisanship and working together, an approach that would serve the US Congress well."

Those taking a look at the race on the GOP side include: state Sen. Frank Lasee, of De Pere; state Rep. John Macco, of Ledgeview; state Rep. John Nygren, of Marinette; state Sen. Roger Roth, of Appleton; and state Rep. Dave Steffen, of Green Bay.

State Rep. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, said he is watching to see how the field develops and likely would get in only if he's disappointed with the crop of GOP candidates.

Also, GOP sources have said Michael Gallagher, who was an adviser to Gov. Scott Walker's presidential campaign, has been making calls about a bid.

Lasee and Roth would not have to give up their seats for a bid, and Lasee said he'll talk with family and constituents while also praying about a run. He didn't have a hard timeframe for a decision.

"Looking at the federal government, there's a lot to do there to move in a whole different direction," he said.

Roth finished second to Ribble in a four-way GOP primary for the seat in 2010. Roth said he hopes to have a decision on a bid this week.

"I want to give it careful consideration," he said. "At the same time, I know there's an urgency to get this done."

Nygren, co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, said family will be a major consideration as he weighs a bid.

He has authored a series of bills to battle opiate addiction and has been open about his daughter's struggles. He said things are going great for Cassie Nygren and he wants to be part of her life as she makes positive changes. Meanwhile, his other children are a senior and freshman in high school.
"My concern is we wouldn't have as much of those family opportunities if I decide to run for Congress," Nygren said. "That's first and foremost."

Macco won his Assembly seat in 2014 after losing a 2012 bid for the state Senate. He was traveling back to Wisconsin today and said he hadn't had a chance to discuss a bid with his wife.

"The biggest driver for me is what would be an objective, a good reason for me to want to go and serve in the federal government as opposed to what I'm able to do here," he said.

Steffen said as he weighs a bid "by far the most important thing will be: Is it the right time for my family?"

Several possible candidates have ruled out bids. That includes Dem state Reps. Eric Genrich, of Green Bay, and Amanda Stuck, of Appleton, both of whom told WisPolitics.com today they won't run.

 7:42 AM 

New WAR TV ad says Bradley gets a fair, impartial judiciary protects rights

The conservative Wisconsin Alliance for Reform’s new TV ad says Justice Rebecca Bradley gets that a “fair and impartial judiciary protects all of our rights.”

The narrator in the spot, which started today, says colleagues call her “measured, fair, willing to work with anyone” while judges applaud her “insight, hard work, compassion.”

The narrator goes on to say as a judge, Bradley has helped sexually exploited children and has promoted youth mentorship. Meanwhile, her record has “earned praise” from more than 100 judges, prosecutors and sheriffs from both parties.

“Tell Rebecca Bradley you believe in a fair and independent judiciary,” the narrator says to close the spot.

The WAR says it is a significant statewide TV buy ahead of the Feb. 16 primary. The liberal One Wisconsin Now has pegged the first week of advertising at $450,000.

-- By JR Ross

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