• WisPolitics

Thursday, April 28, 2016

 7:51 PM 

Feingold says 'no big hurry' for Sanders to drop out of Dem primary

Dem U.S. Senate candidate Russ Feingold said today there's "no big hurry" for Bernie Sanders to drop out of the 2016 Dem primaries.

Feingold told reporters after a WisPolitics.com luncheon in Madison that Sanders will "do the right thing when the time is right." But the Middleton Dem declined to say whether Hillary Clinton is the presumptive nominee, saying "the people will decide."

He once again refused to say who he voted for in the primaries this month, saying he didn't even tell his wife. And he said he's still holding off on an endorsement because he wants the "process to play out."

"I think it's harmful to do something that would cause divisions when I could try to bring people together," Feingold said.

But he credited Sanders for the amount of enthusiasm his campaign has seen, especially from young people who are getting involved in politics.

"What he's doing is great," Feingold said. "He helped make Hillary Clinton a better candidate, and what he did on his own, raised issues that frankly I've been raising for decades that needed to be raised about the power of big money in politics and the predominance of Wall Street."

At the luncheon, Feingold also slammed Donald Trump's foreign policy speech, saying it often "didn't make sense."

Yet given his standing as the GOP front-runner, Feingold said, the public has to start "really listening to what he's saying, even though it can be confusing at times."

Trump yesterday laid out his foreign policy planks in a Washington address, providing few details but saying he would put "America First." One example, Trump said, is calling together a NATO summit so the U.S. allies can start paying more toward the alliance.

If that doesn't happen, Trump said, the U.S. "must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves."

But Feingold said NATO has been a "valuable bulwark" against the Soviet Union and Russia. Though there might be room for changes, Feingold said, Trump can't go around saying America needs to show the world "that we have their back" and then threaten to leave alliances.

"That doesn't really work," Feingold said. "So we're going to be listening carefully to what he has to say."

Listen to the luncheon

Listen to the Q&A with reporters

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

 3:10 PM 

Split GAB votes to request $250,000 from JFC to cover voter ID education campaign

A split GAB today voted 4-2 to request $250,000 from the Joint Finance Committee to cover a voter ID education campaign ahead of the fall elections.

The request would account for almost all of the $267,000 JFC has in its reserves, and members of the board questioned how effective an ad campaign would be in educating voters about the requirement, which was in place for this spring’s elections.

Judge Gerald Nichol made the motion, saying it would allow the Elections Commission, which will succeed the GAB July 1, to determine how best to use the money.

But Judge Harold Froehlich said the board was just “spinning its wheels” seeking the money.

“I think this whole effort to get more money for advertising is not going to go anywhere,” he said.

See more in today's PM Update.

-- By JR Ross

 8:19 AM 

State GOP names national convention delegates

Gov. Scott Walker, first lady Tonette Walker, Lt. Guv. Rebecca Kleefisch and AG Brad Schimel are among the 18 at-large Wisconsin delegates who will be pledged to Ted Cruz at the national convention.

Others on the list include state Chair Brad Courtney, RNC members Steve King and Mary Buestrin, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, of Rochester, state Sen. Duey Stroebel, of Saukville, state Rep. Dean Knudson, of Hudson, and former Gov. Tommy Thompson.

Walker campaigned for Cruz in the days leading up to the Wisconsin primary, while Vos was one of several lawmakers who flipped from Marco Rubio to Cruz. Thompson chaired John Kasich’s campaign in Wisconsin.

Cruz won the 18 delegates after finishing first in the statewide results of Wisconsin’s April 5 primary. He won another 18 delegates for winning six of Wisconsin’s eight congressional districts. Donald Trump won the other two, and those delegates were selected at congressional district party events earlier this month.

The Wisconsin GOP Executive Committee met over the weekend to select the 18 at-large delegates and 18 alternates. Under the constitution, the party consults with the candidate who won the at-large delegates -- in this election, Cruz -- in selecting the people who fill those roles as well as the alternate. The constitution also states delegates are bound to their candidates unless they release them or receive less than one-third of the vote during any round on the convention floor.

The at-large alternates include: Sen. Alberta Darling, of River Hills; Sen. Mary Lazich, of New Berlin; Rep. John Nygren, of Marinette; Rep. Jim Steineke, of Kaukauna; Rep. Tyler August, of Lake Geneva; former Gov. Scott McCallum; and former U.S. Rep. Mark Green.

Three of the guv’s current or past aides also were named alternates: Keith Gilkes and Stephan Thompson, who head Walker’s state campaign; and Jim Villa, who was Walker’s chief of staff while he was Milwaukee County exec and is now vice president for university relations for UW System.

See the full list.

Friday, April 22, 2016

 3:15 PM 

Walker presidential campaign cuts debt, still owes $952,000

Gov. Scott Walker shaved $141,000 off his presidential campaign’s debt last month as he continued to pull in money from renting to other campaigns his extensive list of supporters.

Walker still had $952,256 left to pay off from his presidential bid, which ended in September. He’s been gradually paying down his outstanding debts since finishing 2015 with $1.2 million in debts and $153,460 cash on hand. 

He had $25,515 in the bank at the end of March.

See more in today's REPORT.
-- By David Wise

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

 8:43 AM 

Walker 'without a doubt' inclined to run in 2018

Gov. Scott Walker continues to signal his intentions for a re-election bid, telling a conservative media outlet he's inclined to run in 2018 "without a doubt."

Walker has ramped up the re-election talk in recent months. Following Ted Cruz's primary win in Wisconsin, he told WisPolitics.com others had encouraged him to seek re-election and "I said I'd love to run again in 2018."

Walker was asked by TownHall.com if he's inclined seek re-election to a third term.

"Yeah. I am, without a doubt. I love what I do," the site quoted Walker sas saying. "We get good things done. It's a benefit to the people of Wisconsin, but I think it also has a positive impact on people across the country if we can show other Republican governors and Republican lawmakers that even in a blue state like Wisconsin, we can get positive reforms done. And in turn, not only get elected, but see those reforms work for our people. I think that's a good thing."

Walker said he would not officially make a final decision until next year.

-- By Staff

 8:38 AM 

More than 250 state Dems seeking delegate slots at national convention

More than 250 people are vying to be delegates at the Democratic National Convention representing Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, according to a list the state Democratic Party released Tuesday.

Sanders won 48 of Wisconsin's pledged delegates, while Clinton took 38. That includes 31 for Sanders at the congressional district level and 26 for Clinton.

Those congressional district delegates will be selected May 1. The list released by the Dem Party includes the more than 250 people who have filed a statement of intent and pledge to support one of the candidates if elected. That makes them eligible to be picked as a delegate for the national convention.

The list also includes those who intend to attend the congressional district meetings to advocate for one of the more than 250 vying to be picked for the national convention.

Some of those vying to be a delegate for Sanders include: Kelly Westlund, who ran unsuccessfully for the 7th CD in 2014; Maureen May Grimm, who ran unsuccessfully for the 51st AD in 2012; and Milwaukee County Supv. Supreme Moore Omokunde, son of U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee.

Those vying to represent Clinton include: state Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine; Diane Odeen, who is running for the 10th SD this fall; and Melissa Schroeder, a longtime party activist and former DNC member.

The party's Administrative Committee will meet June 3 to select the other pledged delegates based off the statewide results.

See the list:

 8:34 AM 

Spokeswoman: NRSC starting to reserve almost $2 million in TV, digital this fall in Wisconsin

The NRSC is starting to reserve almost $2 million in TV and digital time to run this fall in Wisconsin as U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, tries to fend off Dem Russ Feingold, a spokeswoman says.

Andrea Bozek said the National Republican Senatorial Committee is not releasing yet what markets it is targeting.

The $2 million in Wisconsin is a piece of the almost $28 million the NRSC is reserving in five states, according to Politico. That includes: $6.8 million to help Sen. Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire; $6.7 million backing Sen. Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania; $5.9 million to aid Sen. Rob Portman in Ohio; and $6.3 million in the Nevada seat being vacated by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Politico also reported the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee reserved $38 million, though Wisconsin was not one of the states targeted. 

-- By JR Ross

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

 7:30 AM 

New Feingold TV ad says he has 'tough, realistic plan to protect America'

Russ Feingold is out with a new TV ad featuring a Vietnam veteran who says the Dem Senate candidate has a “tough, realistic plan to protect America.”

The campaign released the spot as Feingold is getting hit on the air by a super PAC backing GOP U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson. Let America Work’s spot seeks to link Feingold to the “weakness” of President Obama’s foreign policy.

In the new Feingold ad, Dan Krehbiel opens the spot by saying, “We don’t need politicians playing games with attack ads” and there’s “a better way.”

Krehbiel says he read Feingold’s plan, and the Middleton Dem wants to: go “after the terrorists’ oil money and arms supplies,” combine targeted military force with better intelligence, and “work with Middle Eastern states to take on the terrorists in their own backyard.”

“Russ Feingold offers a tough, realistic plan to protect America,” Krehbiel says to close the spot.

Feingold’s campaign said it is a six-figure guy that is running statewide.

-- By JR Ross

Monday, April 18, 2016

 4:59 PM 

Lasee revises up fundraising total for 8th CD bid

State Sen. Frank Lasee now says he’s raised more than $161,000 for his 8th CD race and finished the period with $154,000 cash on hand.

Lasee, R-De Pere, initially announced late Friday he had raised $115,000, well behind the $520,332 pulled in by GOP rival Michael Gallagher.

Lasee’s campaign said he is filing an amended report to reflect the higher total. 

-- By JR Ross

 4:58 PM 

Feingold has cash-on-hand advantage over Johnson

Russ Feingold had about a $900,000 cash-on-hand advantage over U.S. Sen Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, at the end of the last quarter, according to their campaigns.

Their full reports covering January through March have not yet been posted to the FEC site as Monday afternoon. But Feingold’s campaign said last week he finished the period with $6.4 million in the bank after raising just more than $3.3 million.

Johnson’s campaign said today he had $5.5 million cash on hand after pulling in $2.1 million.
-- By JR Ross

Friday, April 15, 2016

 11:46 PM 

Lasee raised over $115,000 during first quarter

GOP state Sen. Frank Lasee announced late Friday he raised more than $115,000 during the first months of his campaign for the 8th CD.

His campaign said he finished the three-month period with more than $108,000 cash on hand.

GOP rival Michael Gallagher announced a week ago he raised $520,000 in his first quarter.

In his release, Lasee said he faced several obstacles in fundraising. That includes the final days of the legislative session, which ended in mid-March. Lasee also said he had hip replacement surgery shortly after announcing his congressional bid in mid-February.

-- By JR Ross

 4:17 PM 

Kapanke files to run against Shilling for old state Senate seat

Former GOP state Sen. Dan Kanpanke, of LaCrosse, filed with the GAB this week to challenge Dem Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling for his old Senate seat. 

Kapanke declined comment this week when contacted by WisPolitics.com, saying he would likely have an announcement later. 

Shilling knocked off Kapanke with 55.4 percent of the vote in a 2011 recall election sparked by the the Republican's support of Gov. Scott Walker's collective bargaining changes for public employees.

Kapanke, owner the college summer league baseball team the LaCrosse Loggers, first won the La Crosse-area seat in 2004 and was re-elected in 2008 with 51.4 percent of the vote even as Barack Obama won Wisconsin statewide by almost 14 percentage points. He later lost a 2010 bid for Congress against U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-LaCrosse. 

Shilling, meanwhile, was re-elected in 2012 with 58.3 percent of the vote.

Candidates for state office could begin circulating nomination papers today. They are due back to the GAB June 1.

-- By JR Ross

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

 4:03 PM 

Trump hires Rick Wiley as national political director

Rick Wiley, who managed Gov. Scott Walker’s brief presidential run, will now be the national political director for Donald Trump’s campaign.

In a news release today, Trump called him a “seasoned political expert with a very successful career in winning elections.”

“He brings decades of experience, and his deep ties to political leaders and activists across the country will be a tremendous asset as we enter the final phase of securing the nomination,” Trump said.

Wiley, the former RNC political director, said in the release voters are “hungry for an outsider to shake up Washington.”

See the release

 9:01 AM 

Ryan's fundraising operation pulled in $17.2 million in first quarter

Paul Ryan’s fundraising operation pulled in $17.2 million during the first quarter of 2016, his campaign said today.

The bulk of that money -- about $11.1 million -- was transferred to the House GOP campaign arm.

Meanwhile, Ryan’s personal campaign raised $4.6 million over the three-month period, which he finished with $7.6 million in the bank. Ryan’s campaign operation -- dubbed "Team Ryan" -- said that was the biggest war chest for any member of Congress.

Ryan has drawn a primary challenge from businessman Paul Nehlen, though the speaker's campaign has so far declined to comment on him.

Ryan's campaign also noted he is outpacing the fundraising operation of his predecessor, John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Ryan's transfers to the NRCC during the quarter included $6.3 million in March, an amount the campaign said was a record for a GOP House speaker. The top three quarterly transfers from Boehner ranged from $2.6 million to $2.8 million, Ryan's campaign said.

Comparing first quarters of a presidential election year, Boehner transferred $3.5 million in the first three months of 2012 to the NRCC, compared to the almost $11.1 million Ryan sent this quarter.

-- By JR Ross

 7:48 AM 

ACLU hails voter ID ruling, DOJ confident it will prevail

The ACLU is hailing a federal appeals court ruling that opens the door to those who have trouble getting a photo ID to vote without having to show one.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday sent the lawsuit back to a federal judge for further hearings. The law, which was in effect for the spring elections, remains in place.

“The court ruled that eligible voters facing difficulty obtaining ID have the right to challenge Wisconsin’s strict voter ID law,” said Sean Young, an attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “This ruling gives them the chance to go back to the lower court to make their case. This is a victory for the voters of Wisconsin.”

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has previously found Wisconsin’s voter ID law constitutional, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal.

But those who face “daunting obstacles to obtaining acceptable photo ID,” went back to court arguing they deserved relief from the requirement. A federal judge dismissed the argument, citing the 7th Circuit’s 2014 decision.

In Tuesday’s decision, the panel wrote the new arguments are different from the previous case in which the appeals court upheld the law. Then, the argument was an “inconvenience for some voters means that no one needs photo ID,” but now opponents argue “that high hurdles for some persons eligible to vote entitle those particular persons to relief.”

That includes eligible voters unable to get an acceptable photo ID because of errors on their birth certificates or problems with other documents, which may no longer exist. The case also noted some of those seeking to vote need a credential from another agency, such as the Social Security Administration, that will not issue it without a photo ID from the Wisconsin DOT, which won’t produce a card until the other credential has been obtained.

“Plaintiffs’ approach is potentially sound if even a single person eligible to vote is unable to get acceptable photo ID with reasonable effort,” the court wrote. “The right to vote is personal and is not defeated by the fact that 99% of other people can secure the necessary credentials easily.”

DOJ spokesman Johnny Koremenos stressed the court found the law is “unquestionably constitutional” for those who have or readily can get an ID. 

The case sent back to district court is on a narrow issue considering DOT has created a way for people to get the cards free of charge.

“Given the overwhelming success of the DOT program, and the fact that our state's recent primary elections involved record turnouts, we are confident that we will prevail on the narrow issues that the court remanded on,” he said.

The appeals court wrote in its decision the district court should permit both sides in the case to examine how the state’s system works before addressing plaintiffs’ arguments.

-- By JR Ross

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

 2:30 PM 

Ryan on prez speculation: 'Count me out'

House Speaker Paul Ryan today sought to put to rest any more speculation he could become the GOP nominee for president.

Speculation has ramped up the Janesville Republican could be tapped as the party nominee if none of the current candidates collects the delegates needed to win the nomination outright. But Ryan told a Washington, D.C., news conference there is too much work to do in the House to allow the speculation to continue. 

"Let me clear," Ryan said. "I do not want, nor will I accept the nomination of our party." 

Ryan also had a message for party delegates, who will select the nominee. If no candidate has a majority of the delegates needed to clinch the nomination on the first ballot, they should choose someone who is already in the race for the nominee. 

"Count me out," Ryan said.

Ryan added he believes delegates should require in convention rules the nominee must be someone who has run for president.

-- By JR Ross

 11:09 AM 

Aide: Ryan to rule self out for presidential run 'and put this to rest once and for all'

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, will again rule himself out for a presidential bid during a news conference this afternoon at the RNC, an aide said.

With the GOP presidential race likely headed toward a contested convention, talk has ramped up about the possibility of Republican delegates selecting a nominee who is not currently in the race. Ryan, despite his insistence he is not interested in being the nominee, has been at the top of many lists for candidates who could be tapped in that scenario.

But a Ryan aide said ahead of the news conference, "He's going to rule himself out and put this to rest once and for all."

The news conference is scheduled for 2:15 p.m. Central.

-- By JR Ross

 8:37 AM 

Memo: Johnson raised $2.1 million in first quarter, about $1.2 million less than Feingold

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson raised $2.1 million in the first quarter of 2016, about $1.2 million less than Dem rival Russ Feingold pulled in.

Johnson’s campaign included the numbers in a memo sent to “interested parties” today that was obtained by WisPolitics.com. 

In it, Johnson's campaign expresses confidence about the state of the race, even though Feingold has consistently outraised the Oshkosh Republican since getting in the race. That includes the $3.35 million Feingold's campaign said the Dem raised during the first three months of 2016. Neither campaign has released their cash-on-hand number, and campaign finance reports are due to the FEC on Friday.

Johnson’s campaign has tried to turn Feingold’s fundraising advantage against him, knocking the Middleton Dem for backing off his pledge in previous campaigns to raise a majority of his money from Wisconsin residents. In today’s memo, Johnson campaign manager Betsy Ankney slammed what she viewed as the Dem’s “campaign finance hypocrisy.” She argued there “is no question, Feingold will have enough money to mount a formidable campaign -- but we are confident we will have the resources we need to win.”

Johnson also has consistently trailed Feingold in polling, though the latest Marquette University Law School Poll had him down 5 points among registered voters rather than the double-digit deficit he’s faced for much of the past year. 

The memo focused on last week’s results in the presidential primaries, when about 100,000 more people voted in the GOP race than the Dem contest.

Ankney argued Johnson is an outsider like Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz, who won their respective primaries, and Donald Trump, who placed second in the GOP race, and the environment favors such a candidate. Along with the turnout in the GOP primary, she cited Rebecca Bradley's win in the Supreme Court race as more evidence of "just how powerful the conservative apparatus in our state is" and that Wisconsin is trending Republican. She also cited the turnout in arguing a superior ground game will matter this fall. 

More than 2.1 voters turned out for the election last week, the best mark for an April election since 1972. By comparison, almost 3.1 million Wisconsinites voted in the 2012 election, which Barack Obama won by 213,000 votes. Republicans have not won a presidential race in Wisconsin since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Feingold campaign manager Tom Russell countered today by pointing out the Middleton Dem has outraised Johnson by more than $1 million in each quarter since getting in. He has now pulled in about $10.8 million for his campaign, compared to the $7.1 million Johnson has raised over roughly the same period.

Russell said Feingold's fundraising haul includes more than 30,000 Wisconsin contributions from all 72 counties and noted other trends such as Feingold relying on a base of smaller donors on which the campaign can "operate and grow," while Johnson "is overwhelmingly dependent upon a small group of very wealthy donors."

Russell also argued Feingold has "both the message and the resources to drive a strong campaign," while Johnson has a "crippling reliance on outside groups and Super PACs to handle both his funding and his message." The conservative Americans for Prosperity last week announced a $1.1 million TV buy to boost Johnson, while the super PAC Let America Work this week went up with an ad going after Feingold on national security.

"Third, Senator Johnson has embraced the culture of DC so aggressively that he’ll have a hard time appealing to Wisconsin voters, while Russ has been constantly traveling the state listening to voters and showing a real commitment to their concerns," Russell said.

-- By JR Ross

Editor's note: This post has been updated with comments from the Feingold campaign and additional details from the Johnson campaign memo.

Monday, April 11, 2016

 9:53 AM 

Barnes announces he'll run for Senate seat of fellow Dem Taylor

State Rep. Mandela Barnes, D-Milwaukee, announced this morning he will run for the state Senate seat now held by fellow Dem Lena Taylor.

Barnes, who was elected to the Assembly in 2012, has been eyeing a bid for some time. WisPolitics.com reported in December that he was laying the foundation to challenge Taylor in a primary.

“Now more than ever, we need fresh, transformational leadership with a vision to not only address our serious challenges, but also unlock our untapped potential," Barnes said. "As state senator, I will fight for a vision that ensures the best public education for our children, curbs the tragic and senseless epidemic of gun violence, and builds ladders of opportunity for our neighbors to thrive and succeed in life."

-- By JR Ross

 7:53 AM 

Feingold releases new TV ad touting his listening tour of all 72 Wisconsin counties

Russ Feingold’s campaign released a new TV ad today that touts his listening tour of all 72 Wisconsin counties. In the spot, he says the first thing about being a representative is “to talk to the people.”

Feingold’s campaign said the 60-second ad will run statewide starting tomorrow. It pegged the buy at six figures, but declined to release other details. The ad comes on the heels of the conservative Americans for Prosperity starting a $1.1 million TV ad campaign to boost U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh.

In his spot, the Middleton Dem notes he’s visited all 72 counties, listening to what people have to say, and “I’m still at it. So if you hear a knock at your door, it might just be me.”

The spot shows Feingold driving and going up to people’s doors. Some express surprise at seeing Feingold, and a man identified as Richard invites Feingold in. The spot then shows several scenes of people telling Feingold their concerns.

“We don’t need an economy that just works for CEOs,” Feingold says. “We need an economy that works for middle class and working families.”

The spot then closes with Feingold saying, “If you’re going to represent people, you don’t tell them what they think. You go out and listen to them. That’s how it starts.”

-- By JR Ross

 7:33 AM 

Johnson super PAC announces TV ad hitting Feingold on national security

A super PAC backing U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson today announced a new TV a going after Dem Russ Feingold on national security by seeking to link him to the “weakness” of President Obama’s foreign policy.

Let America work said it is a six-figure buy that will begin statewide Tuesday. It comes on the heels of the conservative Americans for Prosperity starting a $1.1 million buy to boost Johnson.

The spot highlights Feingold saying Obama was “going to be a very important president in our history with regard to foreign policy.”

The narrator responds, “Very important? How about very weak?” He then adds Feingold was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act.

“Now weakness has brought terrorists to America, putting us all at risk,” the narrator says.

The spot then replays Feingold’s praise of Obama before the narrator concludes the ad, “Russ Feingold, a risk we can’t afford again.”

-- By JR Ross

Friday, April 8, 2016

 1:35 PM 

Gallagher says he raised $520,000 in bid for 8th CD

Republican Mike Gallagher announced today he’s raised $520,000 in his bid for the 8th CD and will finish the first quarter of 2016 with more than $500,000 cash on hand.

Gallagher’s campaign said it was the best first-quarter fundraising haul for a first-time House candidate in Wisconsin. His campaign also said it has yet to find any first-time candidates nationally who weren't self-funders but still managed to raise as much in their first quarter after getting into a race.

The campaign said the vast majority of the donations came from individuals, with only $2,500 in PAC contributions. Gallagher did not put any of his own money into the campaign.

By comparison, outgoing U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Sherwood, raised $130,690 in his first fundraising period of 2009 ahead of his successful 2010 run to unseat then-Dem U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen. Ribble’s best haul in any quarter of that campaign was $338,749, according to numbers posted at the FEC website.

Kagen, meanwhile, raised $326,476 in the third quarter of 2005 as he mounted a run for the seat, though $250,000 was a personal loan. He raised just more than $1 million in the following quarter, his best of the campaign, though most of that again came out of his own pocket.

-- By JR Ross

Thursday, April 7, 2016

 5:10 PM 

Dem redistricting suit headed to trial

A Dem lawsuit challenging the Assembly map Republicans drew in 2011 as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander is headed to trial after a federal court rejected the state DOJ's request to dismiss the suit.

The trial, scheduled to begin May 24, will determine whether the court should adopt the Dems' proposed test for determining whether legislative districts were illegally gerrymandered. The three-judge panel of the Western District in Madison wrote Thursday there's a genuine dispute over what the Dem plaintiffs call the "efficiency gap" in the maps and if it's a strong indicator of a discriminatory effect. It would be "premature" to grant DOJ's motion for summary judgment, the panel said. 

DOJ spokesman Johnny Koremenos said, "While we are disappointed that the court decided to allow the case to go to trial, we are confident the State will ultimately prevail on the merits of the case." 

Getting to trial is a rare victory for someone challenging a map for being allegedly gerrymandered for political affiliation, and Thursday's ruling notes the U.S. Supreme Court has "struggled to determine the appropriate test for gerrymanders based on political affiliation." 

That has left it up to lower courts to find a workable standard for deciding the validity of a map, the ruling noted. 

Sachin Chheda, director of the Fair Elections Project that is organizing the lawsuit, said lawyers in the case tell him this is the first time in 30 years a lawsuit challenging maps solely on partisan gerrymandering grounds has made it past the motion to dismiss and will head to trial. Other gerrymandering cases the federal courts have heard, he said, have dealt with issues such as the racial composition of districts. 

Chheda said the suit wants the Wisconsin Assembly maps thrown out immediately. Nationally, the suit could lead to limits on how much states can draw districts for partisan reasons and lead to suits in other states. 

"If we win, there will be a national standard for how much partisan gerrymandering is too much partisan gerrymandering, and there will be an objective, mathematical standard that states can look at to say this map is too partisan," he said. 

The suit accuses Republicans of "packing" and "cracking" Dems in order to unconstitutionally maximize the number of Assembly seats they hold. 

Packing refers to concentrating a party's voters into districts they win by overwhelming numbers while cracking means divided them up into multiple seats so they fall short of the majority in each one. 

Republicans now control the Assembly 63-36, their largest majority in the chamber since the 1950s. 

The Wisconsin DOJ has argued Dems are naturally packed into a smaller number of districts because of where they live, such as urban areas.

At the heart of the suit is a standard the Dem challengers call the "efficiency gap," which they say captures the number of "wasted" votes in an election. It defines "wasted" as a vote cast for a candidate who loses or one for the winner in excess of what was needed for victory. 

The court wrote the Dems will have the burden at trial to prove GOP lawmakers acted with "discriminatory intent." 

The court told both sides today to prepare for a trial that lasts no more than four days. 

-- By JR Ross

 1:07 PM 

Bowen first Wisconsin superdelegate to back Sanders

State Rep. David Bowen, vice chair of the state Dem Party, is the first Wisconsin superdelegate to endorse Bernie Sanders for president, saying today “the voters on our side have spoken.”

Bowen, D-Milwaukee, committed to Sanders two days after the Vermont senator beat Hillary Clinton by 13.5 percentage points in Wisconsin’s Dem presidential primary. Sanders won every county but Milwaukee.

“We have two good candidates,” Bowen said in a phone interview. “But the Bernie Sanders platform has taken a hold in Wisconsin decisively.”

Wisconsin has 10 superdelegates, and six pledged their support to Clinton ahead of the primary.

Of those who remain uncommitted, state Dem Chair Martha Laning has said she'll back the party's eventual presidential nominee, DNC member Jason Rae will support the candidate who has the most pledged candidates going into the national convention, and U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, who represents the 2nd District around Madison, said last month he won't endorse a candidate until after the final state primary in June.

Bowen said his endorsement of Sanders also helps “bring some balance” to whom the state’s superdelegates are supporting. 

“I don’t want there to be a situation where so many Democrats in Wisconsin are supporting Bernie Sanders and there’s no superdelegate support for his campaign,” Bowen said.

-- By JR Ross

 9:15 AM 

Campaign: Feingold raised $3.35 million in first quarter

Russ Feingold's campaign said today the Middleton Dem raised $3.35 million during the first three months of the year in his rematch with U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh.

The haul tops the nearly $2.7 million Feingold raised during the last three months of 2015. That had been his best quarter since he announced his campaign last spring.

Feingold, who has outraised Johnson since getting in the race, has pulled in roughly $10.8 million so far.

The campaign said it collected 30,000 Wisconsin contributions this quarter and 96 percent of the donations were $100 or less.

The campaign did not announce how much Feingold had in the bank at the end of the reporting period. He reported $4.8 million cash on hand at the close of 2015.

-- By JR Ross

 8:30 AM 

Nelson to run for 8th CD

Outagamie County Exec Thomas Nelson will announce this morning he's running for the 8th CD to replace GOP Rep. Reid Ribble.

Nelson, a former Dem lawmaker who served as Assembly majority leader, has scheduled a news conference at his Appleton home to announce his intention to run, according to an updated media advisory he sent this morning. He will be joined by his wife and two children.

Nelson said shortly after Ribble, R-Sherwood, announced his retirement that he would consider a bid for the northeastern Wisconsin seat. But that talk cooled after the birth of his son, George, seven weeks ago.

Dems say since then, Nelson has been encouraged by the DCCC and others to get in the race, and some in the party view him as their best shot at winning the seat.

So far, two Republicans have announced plans to run: state Sen. Frank Lasee, R-De Pere, and Michael Gallagher, a former aide to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and former foreign policy adviser to Gov. Scott Walker's brief presidential campaign.

-- By JR Ross

This item has been updated to reflect Nelson's updated media advisory

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

 1:54 PM 

GAB pegs unofficial turnout at 47.35 percent, highest since 1972

The GAB today tweeted turnout yesterday was 47.35 percent, but official results will not be in until after the vote is certified in a couple of weeks.

That’s based off The Associated Press’ turnout figure of 2,106,726 in the presidential primaries and an estimated voting age population of 4,449,170.

That's the highest turnout has been since 1972, when it was 47.7 percent.

-- By Staff

 12:40 PM 

Delegate breakdown: Sanders 48, Clinton 38; Cruz 36, Trump 6

Bernie Sanders won 48 of Wisconsin's pledged Dem delegates, while Hillary Clinton took 38, according to a tally the state Dem Party released this afternoon.

Though Sanders rolled to a 14-point win in yesterday's primary, the party's proportional system for divvying up delegates means Sanders will not significantly eat into Clinton's lead nationally. What's more, six of Wisconsin's 10 superdelegates are backing Clinton.

On the GOP side, Ted Cruz won 36 of Wisconsin’s 42 delegates, according to results compiled by The Associated Press. That includes the 18 delegates at stake for the statewide results and 18 for winning six of Wisconsin’s congressional delegations. Trump picked up six delegates by winning the 3rd and 7th CDs, according to the AP.

Here's the congressional district breakdown provided by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin:

Delegate Level
CD 1
CD 2
CD 3
CD 4
CD 5
CD 6
CD 7
CD 8

-- By JR Ross

 9:02 AM 

Some final, final results

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, according to unofficial returns:

State Supreme Court:
Rebecca Bradley 1,017,083, 52 percent
JoAnne Kloppenburg 925,836, 48 percent

Dem presidential primary:

Bernie Sanders 567,858 votes, 56.5 percent
Hillary Clinton 434,168, 43 percent
Martin O'Malley 1,843
Uninstructed 1,451

GOP presidential primary:

Ted Cruz 531,129, 48 percent
Donald Trump 386,290, 35 percent
John Kasich 155,200, 14 percent
Marco Rubio 10,569, 1 percent
Ben Caron 5,608
Jeb Bush 3,156
Rand Paul 2,491
Uninstructed 2,288
Mike Huckabee 1,428
Chris Christie 1,310
Carly Fiorina 825
Rick Santorum 510
Jim Gilmore 242

Turnout in both presidential primaries:
2,106,366, 47.4 percentof eligible voters

-- By Staff

 1:12 AM 

Dropoff for Supreme Court candidates similar, but GOP prez turnout higher

Justice Rebecca Bradley and Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg saw similar drop offs in their vote totals compared to the top of the ticket.

But Bradley likely benefited from a GOP presidential primary that drew 100,000 voters more than the Dem race.

With about 98 percent of precincts in, the GOP presidential candidates had collected 1,073,048 votes, compared to 972,711 on the Dem side.

Meanwhile, Bradley had 990,840 votes, compared to 896,305 for Kloppenburg.

Bradley's vote total was 92.4 percent of the ballots cast in the GOP primary, while Kloppenburg's was 92.1 percent of the votes in the Dem race.

The overall turnout Tuesday also eclipsed the 2 million mark. The GAB had projected 1.75 million would turn out Tuesday, about 40 percent of the voting age population. Final numbers are not in yet. But Tuesday's turnout of at least 46.5 percent looks like the largest since 1972, when turnout was 47.7 percent, according to GAB numbers.

-- By JR Ross

 12:16 AM 

Dem spokesman: No final delegate tally until morning

State Dem spokesman Brandon Weathersby says the party will not have a final tally on the delegates won in Wisconsin's presidential primary until sometime Wednesday morning.

The party awards its delegates on a proportional basis. With 96 percent of precincts in, Bernie Sanders had 56 percent of the vote, but the final delegate tally has to be put through several steps. 

This year, Wisconsin has 86 pledged delegates with 57 awarded by the results in the eight congressional districts. Another 29 delegates will be divided up proportionally based on the statewide results.

Also, some districts are worth more than others. This cycle, the heavily Dem 2nd (11 delegates) and the 4th (10) are the biggest prizes. The 3rd CD is worth seven delegates, while the 5th is worth five. The rest are six delegates apiece. 

The party also has a six-step process to decide the delegates awarded in each congressional district.

-- By JR Ross

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

 11:39 PM 

Bradley congratulates Kloppenburg during victory speech

WAUWATOSA -- Justice Rebecca Bradley congratulated challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg on a hard-fought campaign and said she was always “very gracious” to her on the campaign trail.

To those who voted for Kloppenburg, Bradley said, “I am your justice, too.”

“Everything I said on the campaign trail I meant sincerely,” she said. “I will always follow the law regardless how I feel about it or the outcome of the case.”

Bradley spent much of her speech thanking her campaign team, family, volunteers and other supporters for their help in getting her elected to her first full term.

She also thanked Justices David Prosser, Annette Ziegler and Michael Gableman, all who were in attendance, retired Justice Jon Wilcox, Gov. Scott Walker, who appointed her to the court, and AG Brad Schimel, who she said gave her advice on the campaign trail.

Bradley thanked law enforcement and firefighters for their sacrifices to make communities safe and said law enforcement has recently been “subjected to some awful and unfair attacks.”

Bradley told reporters afterward she was “incredibly personally and professionally disappointed” at the negative attacks during the campaign that affected her, her family and others in her life.

Bradley had been subject to attacks in the campaign over ant-gay writings while she was in college, writings that opponents said equated birth control to murder, and allegations of an affair.

“It’s a horrible thing to go through as a public figure, but my family never asked to be attacked, or my friends or people from my past the way they were attacked, as well,” Bradley said.

Bradley said she hopes the results send a message that those types of attacks do not work in Wisconsin.

Bradley said that enduring the attacks has shown her she is stronger than she thought she was and that a lot of people can relate to how she changed over time.

“A lot of people could relate to me because a lot of people have said and done things 25 years ago when they were in college or in their youth that they are not proud of,” she said. “I know that I learned and grew as a person and have become a better person for that."

Bradley stressed her campaign pledge to be an independent voice on the court and to follow the law regardless of her personal opinions.

“Unfortunately my race was really politicized, so some people think that I bring a political agenda to the court,” she said. “I think they will see as my opinions and dissents are released just how independent I am.”

-- By David Wise

 11:18 PM 

Kloppenburg thanks supporters as she concedes Supreme Court race

Dozens of supporters watched Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg concede the Wisconsin Supreme Court election at the Brink Lounge Tuesday night.

Kloppenburg said it was not the result she had hoped for but was the result of a democratic process.

Supporters applauded as Kloppenburg said she would continue to serve Wisconsinities as a judge on the 4th District Court of Appeals and thanked campaign workers for their support.

Bradley led the race throughout the night and many of Kloppenburg’s guests left her event before the judge took the stage more than three hours after the polls closed.

“Change is inevitable but progress is not,” Kloppenburg said.

Kloppenburg said the “hard-fought” campaign revealed “significant differences” between Bradley and herself but urged her supporters to maintain "our perspective.”

“Although I lost this race, I will never lose sight of the promise of our American system of justice,” Kloppenburg said.

To function as it should, the court system should be free from partisan politics, she added.

“Our courts cannot, ought not and must not be places where might makes right,” Kloppenburg said.

-- By Madeline Sweitzer

 10:52 PM 

Barrett: Poverty tops agenda for next term

Fresh off his re-election, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said his focus during his upcoming term will be addressing poverty in the state’s largest city.

Barrett said in a phone interview more city residents are working, but the poverty problem remains.

“That underscores there’s a wage issue in this nation, in this state and in this community,” Barrett said. “If you have people who have jobs who are still living in poverty, there’s a problem.”

Barrett said the minimum wage should be increased to help solve that problem, but pointed out the city cannot unilaterally do that. He said the state has to recognize it is an issue, adding other states have increased the minimum wage. California, for example, recently upped it to $15 an hour.

“It has an impact on other wage earners as well,” Barrett said. “The underlying issue is what happens when people are working full-time and they’re still not able to support their families.”

With 99 percent of the vote in, Barrett had 102,521 votes, or 70 percent, while Ald. Bob Donovan had 43,912 votes, or 30 percent.

Barrett, 62, will now be sworn in for his fourth four-year term as mayor. He said he’s not even thinking about whether he would run for another and credited the victory to voters wanting an optimist who believes in the future.

“I am optimistic, and I do believe in the future of this city,” Barrett said. “I reject the naysayers who want to tear the city down.”

-- By JR Ross

 10:26 PM 

Kloppenburg trailing her 2011 mark in Milwaukee County

Dane and Milwaukee counties are also key in statewide races, and Supreme Court candidate JoAnne Kloppenburg has yet to hit her marks from 2011 in either.

With almost 92 percent of precincts in for Milwaukee County, Kloppenburg had 54.3 percent of the vote. In 2011, she won 56.4 percent.

With 80.1 percent of the Dane County vote in, Kloppenburg was at 72.1 percent. In 2011, she won 73.3 percent.

-- By JR Ross

 10:12 PM 

Barrett, Abele win

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and County Exec Chris Abele will win re-election.

With 90 percent of the vote in, Barrett had 91,780 votes, or 70 percent, to 40,188, or 30 percent, for Ald. Bob Donovan.

With 92 percent of the vote in, Abele had 133,018 votes, or 56 percent, to 104,439, or 44 percent, for state Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee.

Donovan, who ran for mayor and to retain his Common Council seat, had a narrow lead in his district. With 81 percent of the vote in, he was up by 72 votes.

-- By JR Ross

 10:02 PM 

Bradley beating Prosser 2011 numbers in Brown, Winnebago counties

Another key area of the state to watch in the state Supreme Court race is the Fox Valley. 

Republicans and conservatives typically win the region, but Dems and liberals measure success by keeping the margin of victory down.

In 2011, Justice Prosser won 54.9 percent of the vote in Brown County. With 93 percent of the vote in, Rebecca Bradley was at 58 percent.

In 2011, Prosser won 52.2 percent of the vote in Winnebago County. With 88 percent of precincts in, Bradley had 56.6 percent of the vote.

-- By JR Ross

 9:40 PM 

Clinton, DNC chair congratulate Sanders on Wisconsin victory

Hillary Clinton sent a tweet congratulating U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on his victory in Wisconsin's primary tonight.

The former U.S. secretary of state tweeted: "Congrats to @BernieSanders on winning Wisconsin. To all the voters and volunteers who poured your hearts into this campaign: Forward! -H"

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz also congratulated Sanders and said Dems "will have the strongest candidate in November." And she blamed Gov. Scott Walker for reports of "long lines, worker shortages and confusion over the state’s restrictive Photo ID law," as well as some polling locations running out of ballots.

"Regrettably, this was the inevitable result of decisions made by Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP-led legislature to intentionally make it harder for students, women, minorities, working parents, the elderly, and the poor to vote," she said. "And this is not an isolated incident. What we saw in Wisconsin today is business as usual for the GOP."

-- By Polo Rocha

 9:37 PM 

Walker: Voters, including those at Cruz party urging him to run again in '18

MILWAUKEE -- A buoyant Gov. Scott Walker told WisPolitics.com after Ted Cruz's victory speech that voters "including people up on the stage" tonight are urging him to run in 2018.

"People just asked me up on stage; I said I'd love to run again in 2018," Walker said. "We'll make an official decision after this campaign."

"We helped get the message out, but the people of Wisconsin made it happen," Walker said when asked if he thought his support boosted Cruz in Wisconsin. "We knew if the message got out, he'd win."

When another reporter shouted out "Vice President Walker?" the guv just smiled and said, "We're worried about him being president."

-- By Kay Nolan

 9:34 PM 

Trump's campaign says Cruz 'worse than a puppet'

Donald Trump’s campaign said tonight’s results show he “withstood the onslaught of the establishment yet again.”

Spokeswoman Hope Hicks said in a statement U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz had the backing of Gov. Scott Walker, several talk radio hosts and many in the state’s GOP. And, she added, he faced millions of dollars of super PAC spending on ads attacking him.

“Ted Cruz is worse than a puppet -- he is a Trojan horse, being used by the party bosses attempting to steal the nomination from Mr. Trump,” she said. “We have total confidence that Mr. Trump will go on to win in New York, where he holds a substantial lead in all the polls, and beyond.”

Trump, she said, is the only candidate who can capture enough delegates to win the GOP primary “and ultimately defeat Hillary Clinton, or whomever is the Democratic nominee, in order to Make America Great Again.”

-- By Polo Rocha

 9:31 PM 

Bradley trailing Prosser's 2011 marks in WOW counties

Justice Rebecca Bradley has some ground to make up in Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee counties if she's going to pull the same percent of the vote there that Justice David Prosser did in 2011 as he won re-election by 7,004 votes.

The three -- dubbed the WOW counties -- are key for Republicans and conservatives in statewide races.

In 2011, Prosser pulled 71.5 percent of the vote in Ozaukee County against JoAnne Kloppenburg, who is again seeking a seat on the court. With 82 percent of precincts reporting there, Bradley had 64.3 percent of the vote.

In 2011, Prosser won 76.5 percent of the vote in Washington County. With more than 83 percent of precincts reporting, Bradley was at 72.1 percent.

In 2011, Prosser took 73.8 percent of the vote in Waukesha County. With 88 percent of the vote in, Bradley was at 68.4 percent.

-- By JR Ross

 9:30 PM 

Sanders claims momentum after projected Wisconsin win

Bernie Sanders tonight said his campaign has all the momentum in the race for the Dem Party's presidential nomination.

The Vermont senator, speaking at a rally in Laramie, Wyo., noted there were no televisions in the room, so he announced his projected Wisconsin victory to the crowd, drawing chants of " Bernie." He thanked the "people of Wisconsin for their strong support," and then ticked off the reasons why his campaign has the momentum.

"We have now won seven of the last eight caucuses and primaries," Sanders said, "and we have won almost all of them with overwhelming, landslide numbers."

Sanders pointed out his momentum also is defined by his rise in the race despite being considered a "fringe campaign" and national polls now showing him with a significant lead over Donald Trump in head-to-head match-ups.

 -- By Chris Thompson

 9:25 PM 

Kloppenburg supporters gather at Madison watch party

An intimate crowd of Judge Joanne Kloppenburg’s campaign workers and supporters gathered at the Brink Lounge in Madison to await Wisconsin Supreme Court election results Tuesday night.

Prior to receiving Court results guests enjoyed drinks and free pizza while socializing and watching the presidential primaries’ results.

The crowd had a small negative reaction to news that Texas Senator Ted Cruz had won but gathered around the television and applauded throughout Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ victory speech.

“Are you guys Bernie fans?” one guest joked.

-- By Madeline Sweitzer

 9:16 PM 

Abele maintaining lead in Milwaukee County exec race

Milwaukee County Exec Chris Abele is maintaining his lead over state Sen. Chris Larson as returns continue to come in.

With 77 percent of the precincts in, Abele was at 106,821 votes, or 56 percent, to 82,652 votes, or 44 percent.

-- By Staff

 9:12 PM 

Cruz says party uniting behind his campaign

MILWAUKEE -- Ted Cruz tonight called his projected GOP primary victory in Wisconsin evidence the Republican Party is uniting behind his campaign.

Speaking at Serb Hall in Milwaukee, Cruz called it a bad day for both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, who was projected to lose Wisconsin to Bernie Sanders.

The Texas senator predicted he would win the Republican nomination either before or at the GOP convention in July, and he predicted victory over Clinton in fall. Cruz said his victory in Wisconsin shows his growing momentum in light of his recently capturing delegates in Utah, Colorado and North Dakota.

"Tonight, Wisconsin has lit a candle guiding the way forward," Cruz said to cheers from the crowd. "Tonight, we once again have hope for the future."

Cruz used the opportunity to take shots at Trump, saying the media three weeks ago said "Wisconsin was the perfect state for Donald Trump." That drew boos from the crowd.

But Cruz told the audience, which included Gov. Scott Walker and other GOP state legislators, the tide has turned in the GOP race for the nomination.

"Tonight is a turning point," Cruz said. "It is a rallying cry."

Ahead of Cruz taking the stage, Gov. Scott Walker called tonight's Wisconsin primary a "tremendous victory" for Cruz and a "turning point" in the election.

"We understand what it means to have principled, conservative leadership because we've done it in Wisconsin," said Walker, who endorsed Cruz.

"This victory is bigger than just Wisconsin," Walker said. "This is the night when we can look back and say that was the time that turned the tide of this election to bring Ted Cruz home to be the nominee of this party."

Cruz ended his 21-minute speech with a shout-out to Walker.

"And governor, I look forward to coming back to the state of Wisconsin this fall. And in November, for the first time since 1984, painting the Badger State bright Republican red," Cruz said.

"Hillary, here we come!"

 -- By Kay Nolan

Editor's note: This post has been updated with Walker comments.

 8:56 PM 

Bradley's election night party underway, Sen. Darling predicts close outcome

WAUWATOSA -- Justice Rebecca Bradley's election night party at the Crowne Plaza in Wauwatosa is getting underway.

About 50 people have arrived so far, chatting in small groups and watching election returns on two televisions set up in the corner of the room.

Bradley briefly stopped by before leaving to watch returns from home.

Justice Rebecca Bradley
Bradley didn't address the crowd as a whole or speak with media, but instead walked around the room thanking supporters, sharing hugs and posing for photos.

A Bradley spokeswoman said the justice will plans to return after results are in to deliver remarks.

Sen. Alberta Darling, who was among the first elected officials to arrive, predicted a close outcome. The River Hills Republican said high turnout for the election, particularly in the conservative counties surrounding Milwaukee, bodes well for Bradley. Others in the crowd include GOP AG Brad Schimel and Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon. 

Refreshments include a cash bar and a spread of hot hors d'oeuvres and cold sandwiches and vegetables.

-- By David Wise

 8:49 PM 

Bradley up early

With more than 20 percent of the vote in, Justice Rebecca Bradley is up on Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg.

Bradley had 53 percent to 47 percent for the challenger.

-- By Staff

 8:42 PM 

Kasich's campaign says nomination contest 'wide open'

Ohio Gov. John Kasich's campaign says the Wisconsin primary results tonight mean “the nomination contest is now wide open.”

Several TV networks are calling the race for Cruz, the Texas senator. Kasich’s chief strategist, John Weaver, sent a memo to reporters before polls closed saying the results are “solidify the fact that no candidate” will reach the required 1,237 delegates before the GOP convention in July.

Weaver pushed back on claims from Cruz and Donald Trump that Kasich is spoiling their results. Weaver said they’re blaming Kasich instead of admitting “their own electoral and political shortcomings.”

Weaver also said Kasich is more competitive in northeastern states, where the next six contests will take place. The campaign’s internal data, Weaver said, show Kasich just behind Trump in those states and leading him in several Dem districts.

“John Kasich is the only candidate who can unite the Party and win the White House,” Weaver said.

-- By Polo Rocha

 8:10 PM 

Kennedy: Long lines near Marquette, UW-Green Bay

GAB Director Kevin Kennedy said there were long lines at precincts on the Marquette University and UW-Green Bay campuses as the polls closed.

Those in line at 8 p.m. will be allowed to vote.

Kennedy said some of the delays had to do with students, some of whom were registering for the first time and may not have been prepared for the new requirements of Wisconsin's voter ID law. The requirement was in place for only one race in 2012 before it was challenged in the courts. It was enforced at the February primary for the first time since that 2012 race.

City of Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Neil Albrecht said the lines at Marquette were largely due to students coming in and registering for the first time.

"We've got 11 registrants working," he said. "That's as many as we can fit in the space. A lot of them are having to get students IDs to meet the photo ID requirement."

-- By JR Ross

 8:02 PM 

CNN early exit polls: Cruz, Sanders up

CNN is reporting its early exit polls had Ted Cruz leading the GOP primary and Bernie Sanders up in the Dem race.

Host Wolf Blitzer warned the numbers could change as more exit poll results roll in.

But the network reported Cruz was favored by 47 percent, Donald Trump at 36 percent and John Kasich 14 percent.

On the Dem side, it was Sanders 55 percent, Clinton 44 percent.

-- By Staff

Editor's note: This post has been updated to correct the headline.

 8:00 PM 

The polls are closed

Polls across Wisconsin are now closed, though those who were in line at 8 p.m. will be given the opportunity to cast their ballots.

-- By Staff

 6:05 PM 

Early exit polling out

The first round of exit polling is out.

CNN reports almost two-thirds of GOP primary voters identified themselves as Republicans, while close to a third said they were independents. Self-identified Dems make up almost three-fourths of their primary voters, while independents were the other quarter. Also, about one-third of Republicans said they made up their minds in the past week, while the rest had decided before that.

ABC reports two-thirds of Dem primary voters called themselves liberals, including a quarter who say they're "very liberal." Both would break records in Dem primaries going back to 1976.

ABC reports on the GOP side, three in 10 Republican primary voters say they're "very conservative" and four in 10 are evangelicals, about the norm for the state.

-- By Staff

 5:35 PM 

Madison, Milwaukee students turning out for vote

Students in Milwaukee and Madison are getting out the vote today, according to early reports.

UW-Madison officials said in a press release this afternoon student participation in the election "has largely gone smoothly with upswings during breaks between classes and at lunchtime." The university reported it had issued 3,332 free voter ID cards as of 3:15 p.m. that students could use at the polls. That included more than 750 today.

In Milwaukee, Neil Albrecht, the city’s Election Commission executive director, cited "a tremendous volume of same-day registration," particularly around the Marquette University, UW-Milwaukee and Milwaukee School of Engineering campuses.
-- By Chris Thompson

 4:37 PM 

Waukesha clerk: Trump wasn't in polling site or inside 100-foot buffer where electioneering banned

Waukesha City Clerk-Treasurer Gina Kozlik said Donald Trump did not go inside one of her city's polling sites this morning during a stop and was not inside the 100-foot buffer where electioneering is banned.

The GAB this morning said it received a complaint Trump was campaigning at a polling site and may have gone inside.

Kozlik said in a phone interview she drove to the polling site to speak directly with the chief inspector.

"He was not outside the rules," she said of Trump.

Kozlik said her office got a heads-up Trump may be stopping by the polling site, though she wasn't sure how the notice was sent to her office. Still, she reached out to the fire station where the polling site is and the police to let them know. She also had barricades set up 100 feet out from the polling site to designate the area where electioneering is prohibited.

-- By JR Ross

 1:23 PM 

GAB receives complaint Trump was campaigning at Waukehsa polling site

The state Government Accountability Board received a complaint today that GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump was campaigning at a Waukesha polling site.

Under state law, campaigning is not allowed within 100 feet of the entrance to a polling site.

GAB Elections Division administrator Michael Haas said the agency has reached out to the Trump campaign to make sure it is aware of the restrictions.

"We’re trying to just alert them to what the rules are and make sure it’s not happening at other polling sites," Haas said.

The agency received an email from a man whose wife voted this morning at Fire Station No. 5 off Summit Avenue in Waukesha. He included a photo of Trump outside the polling site, asking the agency if his activities violated state law.

Haas said the agency was told by the local clerk's office Trump entered the polling site. The Waukesha clerk did not immediately return a call, and Trump's campaign did not respond to an email.

UPDATE: Trump's campaign has posted to its Facebook page video of the candidate outside a polling place, taking pictures, signing a hat and greeting voters.

See the video.

UPDATE 2: Haas said the GAB has now reached Trump's legal counsel to raise the issue. Trump's campaign pointed to an Election Board advisory opinion from 1978 that was reaffirmed by the GAB about candidates at polling sites. The campaign argued it left open the possibility that candidates could be at polling sites without violating the electioneering statute.

"I told them we advise candidates not to be in the polling place based on the definition of electioneering," Haas said. "I guess I would say there was not any agreement about whether there was a violation."

Haas added the local clerk was now unsure if Trump entered the polling site and was visiting there this afternoon to collect more information.

-- By JR Ross

 12:06 PM 

Kennedy: Big turnout, but 'hardly any problems'

GAB Director Kevin Kennedy said turnout has been high at the polling places he’s checked today, but the spring election was running smoothly so far.

The agency, which is overseeing its final statewide election before being replaced by a new entity this summer, has projected 1.75 million state residents will vote today. That’s about 40 percent of eligible voters and would be the highest turnout for an April election since 1980.

Kennedy said, if anything, the projection may end up on the low side.

“Everybody has got a big, big turnout, but hardly any problems,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy had checked four polling sites outstate this morning and was working his way toward Milwaukee, making additional stops.

Kennedy said there have been small anecdotal reports of a voter, for example, forgetting her ID in the car and needing to retrieve it before being allowed to vote. But he said having the requirement in place for the February election seems to have helped somewhat.

The agency also had issues this morning with its https://myvote.wi.gov/ site. Some trying to access it had trouble getting on, but that issue had been resolved.

-- By JR Ross

Monday, April 4, 2016

 9:15 PM 

GAB: More than 200,000 absentee ballots already cast for spring election

More than 200,000 absentee ballots have already been returned for the spring election, more than double the number cast in the last spring election that featured a presidential primary.

The GAB said as of late Monday, municipal clerks had reported 225,973 absentee ballots had been issued and 209,169 had been returned. That included 136,947 issued in-person in clerks’ offices.

In April 2012, 94,859 absentee ballots were returned out of more than 1.1 million cast. Of those absentee ballots, 27,085 were cast in-person absentee.

The GAB has projected 1.75 million Wisconsin residents, 40 percent of eligible voters, will turn out for the spring election. That would be the highest turnout since 1980 for an April election.

The three counties with the most absentee ballots returned as of late Monday were: Milwaukee County (36,421); Waukesha County (28,218); and Dane County (25,297). 

Absentee ballots must be postmarked by Election Day and received by the clerks’ offices by 4 p.m. Friday to count.

-- By JR Ross

 8:31 PM 

Sanders claims momentum in Wisconsin's Dem primary

MILWAUKEE -- U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders emphasized his electability over Donald Trump and the momentum his campaign is seeing against Hillary Clinton before an animated crowd today.

Sanders said that after being considered a fringe candidate at the beginning of the race, polls show him beating Trump by “huge margins” and that he has beaten Clinton in six of the last seven contests. 

“Not only have we won them, we have won them by landslide victories,” Sanders said to applause from the crowd at the Wisconsin Center. 

Sanders had originally planned the rally, his last before the Wisconsin primary, for the BMO Harris Bradley Center. But attendance at a Sunday rally in UW-Madison’s Kohl Center drew about half of the crowd Sanders saw one week earlier at a different location in Wisconsin’s capital city, and today’s rally was moved to the smaller venue. Sanders’ campaign estimated a crowd of 2,400 attended Monday night.

Sanders focused on themes he’s hit on in other speeches this week, knocking Republican governors for what he described as them trying to suppress the vote and railing against money in politics. 

He also expressed support for free college and student loan refinancing, rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, raising the minimum wage, gender pay equality, immigration reform, improved conditions for African Americans and Native Americans, environmental protection, universal health care, and reforming the criminal justice system and the nation’s drug laws. 

Sanders called for investing in education over prisons. 

“We are going to invest in young people’s education, not jails and incarceration,” Sanders said to cheers. “Our job is to keep people out of jail. I want to remind you, it costs less money to send a kid to the University of Wisconsin than to lock them up."

To loud rounds of applause and shouts of “Bernie, Bernie,” Sanders also repeated his criticisms against Gov. Scott Walker over voting rights, union rights, and abortion. 

Sanders said that while the Affordable Care Act has improved the nation’s health care system, 29 million people still lack health insurance and people with insurance face high deductibles and high drug prices. 

“We have to do what every major nation does, and that is pass a Medicare for all, single-payer system,” Sanders said. 

Sanders said change comes from the bottom up, pointing to the struggles for women’s rights, same-sex marriage and the gains made by the movement to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

Sanders said the establishment and the media want people to believe that conditions cannot change.

“Do not believe that,” Sanders said. “If we stand together and if we have a vision, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.”

Sanders called for supporters to turn out to vote and to bring others to the polls.

“Let us make Gov. Walker unhappy tomorrow,” Sanders said. “Let us have a huge voter turnout.”

-- By David Wise

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