• WisPolitics

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

 11:15 AM 

Johnson releases new ad focused on his career

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson is up with a new TV spot emphasizing his career path, from a dishwasher to one of the founders of the PACUR plastics company.

The 30-second ad, which began running today, starts with the Oshkosh Republican talking about his first job washing dishes at a Walgreens grill for $1.45 an hour, the minimum wage at the time.

“Not many people start at the top,” Johnson says. “Most of us start at the bottom. I sure did.”

The ad then cuts to images of Johnson working at PACUR. He shows a photo of a machine used at the manufacturing company.

“Not only did I help install this machine, I also operated it, working 12-hour shifts at night,” Johnson says. “As the business grew, we added machines and created more jobs.”

Johnson closes the ad talking about his job as a senator.

“And now I’m working hard to keep Wisconsin prosperous,” he says, “and America safe.”

The ad is part of the Johnson campaign’s $1.3 million ad buy for June, a source familiar with the buy said. It is running statewide across TV and digital formats.

-- By Chris Thompson

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

 1:31 PM 

Walker presidential campaign owes $808K, trims debt by $91K in May

 Gov. Scott Walker's presidential campaign held $807,676 in debt at the end of May, according to the campaign's latest filing with the FEC.

That's down $91,000 from the $898,676 his campaign owed at the end of April.

The campaign reported $127,236 in revenue from May 1 to May 31 and spent $115,120

Unlike recent months, the bulk of Walker's receipts in May came from donations, with $90,095 reported from individuals and $5,000 from committees. Most of the donations were for less than $1,000, with one donation for $5,000 from Xcel Energy Employee PAC and nine donations of $2,700 each.

Those donating $2,700 included: People's State Bank President Mark Forsythe, of Prairie Du Chien; retiree Pamela Galloway, of Warsaw, Ind.; Fiduciary Management Chairman and CEO Ted D. Kellner and his wife, Mary Kellner, both of Mequon; homemaker Susanne Shore, of Omaha, Neb.; Jenner & Block attorney Ronald Wanke and homemaker Joyce Wanke, both of St. Petersburg, Fla.; and I Love This Bar and Grill General Manager Bryan Zabinski, of Winter Garden, Fla.

Other income included $14,380 for sale of office equipment and $16,650 from Granite Lists, a New Hampshire firm that rents out mailing lists. In April, Walker's campaign reported $49,584 from Granite Lists.

Top spending included: $25,000 to FLS Connect for telemarketing and data work; $16,520 to Google for online advertising; $15,000 to SCM Associates for direct mail; and $10,000 to Connectivist Media for online advertising.

Walker's largest remaining debt is to FLS Connect, which is owed $235,000 as of the end of May.

-- By David Wise

 12:59 PM 

New Gallagher ad emphasizes his military background

Mike Gallagher, a Republican candidate for the 8th CD, is out with a new TV spot highlighting his background in the Marines.

The 30-second ad on national security starts with an image of President Obama and a narrator saying, “He apologized for America and emboldened our enemies.” Next is an image of Hillary Clinton, and the narrator says, “She’s pledging four more years of dangerous weakness.”

The ad then switches to a photo of Gallagher in Marine gear before cutting to him speaking to the camera.

“I swore an oath to defend the Constitution against America’s enemies,” he says. “In Congress, I’ll honor that oath to keep Wisconsin safe.”

The narrator then says Gallagher will “secure our borders, rebuild our military and defeat radical Islamic terrorism.”

The ad closes with the slogan: “Marine. Conservative. Mike Gallagher.”

The spot started running in the Green Bay market last weekend on cable and local TV and is expected to continue through at least July 4. Gallagher’s campaign did not release the cost of the ad.

-- By Chris Thompson

Friday, June 17, 2016

 8:38 AM 

Johnson, Feingold express concerns over ban on guns sales to those on no-fly list

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson is hopeful the Senate can reach a bipartisan deal to prevent would-be terrorists from obtaining arms to carry out their attacks.

Still, a spokesman said the Oshkosh Republican is urging caution about preventing those on the no-fly list from buying guns, adding there are concerns about “using very large classified government lists with undefined criteria as the basis for removing an American’s constitutional rights.”

Johnson's Democratic rival Russ Feingold also is striking a cautious tone on the proposal, though he called for Congress to approve other gun-control proposals.

President Obama pushed the proposal in December following the San Bernardino shooting, and it's picked up steam again in the wake of the Orlando shooting at a gay nightclub.

The idea, along with a bill to expand background checks, is getting a vote in the Senate following a nearly 15-hour Dem filibuster.

“The senator will support an approach that achieves the shared goal while protecting Americans’ constitutional liberties and the due process of law guaranteed under the Constitution,” said Johnson spokesman Patrick McIlheran.

Feingold said the U.S. "absolutely must keep guns out of the hands of terrorists" but that Congress needs to make sure "it's not restricting the fundamental rights of American citizens without due process."

He also called for Congress to approve waiting periods on purchases, expand background checks and ensure people can't buy "unnecessary high capacity magazines that allow would-be killers to inflict massive harm in mere seconds."

"There are a host of commonsense, responsible safety measures we can take right now to help prevent tragedies like this from happening in the future," he said.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

 2:02 PM 

Pocan becomes ninth Wisconsin superdelegate to back Clinton

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan announced today he is backing Hillary Clinton, becoming the ninth Wisconsin superdelegate to pledge their support to the former secretary of state.

Clinton now has a 9-1 edge for Wisconsin's 10 superdelegates over Bernie Sanders, who won the state's presidential primary in April with 56.6 percent of the vote. Delegates to this month's Dem state convention approved a resolution calling on the superdelegates to cast their votes 6-4 for Sanders to reflect the primary results, but that call is nonbinding.

Pocan, D-Town of Vermont, had been waiting for the conclusion of the primaries before announcing who he will support. Tuesday's Washington, D.C., primary was the final one ahead of the national convention next month in Philadelphia.

“Now that every single person has been allowed to cast their vote, it is evident that Hillary Clinton will be our nominee and I pledge my support to her in this endeavor," Pocan said in announcing his support. "I am proud of the way in which Hillary has taken on progressive issues such as universal child care, debt free college and a ban on military style assault weapons. I look forward to working with her to continue to promote progressive values. Democrats face a dangerous, racist fear mongerer this election and Hillary Clinton is more than up to the task of soundly defeating Donald Trump."

-- By JR Ross

 9:46 AM 

New Feingold TV ad says political system working overtime for CEOs

Russ Feingold released a new TV ad today, saying what he hears the most from people while knocking on doors and traveling to all 72 Wisconsin counties is “how hard it is to get ahead.

“One big reason: We have a political system working overtime -- for CEOs,” Feingold says.

The spot shows him behind the wheel of a black minivan and talking to people in various settings. Feingold goes on to call for protecting Social Security, making college affordable for families and “fixing a tax system that rewards companies for exporting our jobs.”

He closes the spot saying he approves the message, “because we need an economy that works for everyone.”

-- By JR Ross

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

 5:46 PM 

Dem superdelegate Laning backs Clinton

State Dem Chair Martha Laning, one of Wisconsin's 10 superdelegates, will support Hillary Clinton at next month's national convention.

Clinton now has the backing of eight superdelegates from Wisconsin, which Bernie Sanders won in April with 56.6 percent of the vote. Party Vice-chair David Bowen is the sole Wisconsin superdelegate supporting Sanders, while U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan has not announced who he will back.

At this month's state convention, Dem delegates passed a resolution urging the state's 10 superdelegates to split 6-4 for Sanders to reflect the results of the Wisconsin primary. The resolution is nonbinding.

Laning has said she will cast her vote for the party's nominee for president. Between the support of pledged delegates and superdelegates, Clinton has accumulated enough support to win the nomination.

"Last Tuesday, it became clear that Hillary Clinton will be that nominee," said Laning, who first announced her endorsement on the Devils Advocate radio show. "I’m excited to cast my vote for her, and excited to get to work to ensure that Wisconsin once again helps to elect a great Democrat to the White House."

-- By JR Ross

 12:46 PM 

Marquette poll: Clinton 42-35 among registered voters, Feingold 45-41

Hillary Clinton and Russ Feingold led in this fall’s races among Wisconsin voters in the latest Marquette University Law School Poll.

The picture, though, was slightly different for registered voters vs. likely voters.

In the presidential race, Clinton led Donald Trump 42 percent to 35 percent among registered voters. In the March poll, Clinton led Trump 47-37 percent among registered voters, which was unchanged from the month before.

Among likely voters, though, Clinton led 46-37.

The poll included a match up between Trump and Bernie Sanders, who led the businessman 56-31 among registered voters and 57-33 among likely voters.

In the Senate race, Feingold led U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, 45-41 among registered voters. In March, that margin was 47-42. 

Among likely voters, Feingold led 51-42, compared to a 3-point edge in March.

Poll director Charles Franklin said some of the difference in registered voters vs. likely voters could be attributed to those who say they will definitely vote this fall compared to in March. Then, 87 percent of Republicans said they were absolutely sure to vote. That dropped to 78 percent in June. For Dems, 81 percent said they were certain to vote in March. Now, it's up to 84 percent.

Franklin said the universe of likely voters typically doesn't firm up until late summer, so he focuses on registered voters until then.

The poll of 800 registered voters was conducted Thursday through Sunday, and the sample included 666 likely voters. Half of the interviews were conducted via cell phone. The margin of error for registered voters was plus or minus 4.4 percentage points, while it was plus or minus 4.9 percentage points for the sample of likely voters.

-- By JR Ross

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

 9:53 AM 

New Feingold TV ad hits Johnson on $10 million payment, tax breaks

Dem Russ Feingold is out with a new TV ad that slams Sen. Ron Johnson for a “sweetheart corporate payout” of $10 million. The spot also says Johnson voted for tax breaks that help companies ship Wisconsin jobs overseas.

The $10 million refers to the deferred compensation package Johnson received from PACUR, the plastics company he helped found, before joining the U.S. Senate in early 2011.

The spot opens with a clip from Johnson’s first TV ad of the campaign. The narrator in the Feingold spot says to listen carefully as Johnson says, “And I respect you enough to tell you the truth.”

“But here’s the truth,” the narrator says. “Before Sen. Johnson left for Washington, he paid himself $10 million, a sweetheart corporate payout.”

The narrator then says Johnson voted in Congress five times for tax breaks that help companies ship Wisconsin jobs overseas.

A woman identified as Lyla F. of Janesville says, “He campaigned as a job creator,” before Bruce P. of Janesville adds, “But Sen. Johnson helps companies ship jobs overseas.

Feingold closes the spot saying he approves the message, “because we need an economy that works for everyone.”

Feingold's campaign said it will air in Green Bay, Wausau, Milwaukee and La Crosse/Eau Claire.

-- By JR Ross

 8:54 AM 

Bill Clinton to raise money for victory fund in Milwaukee June 24

Bill Clinton will be in Milwaukee on June 24 to raise money for the Hillary Clinton Victory Fund, according to a copy of the invite obtained by WisPolitics.com. 

Raising or contributing $100,000 will include a reception with the former president. Those who donate $33,400 per couple also will get a reception with Clinton, while donations of $2,700 qualify donors as "champions." 

Clinton established the victory fund with more than 30 state Dem parties, including Wisconsin. The first $2,700 from an individual goes to Clinton's campaign with the next $33,400 going to the DNC. Anything on top of that will be split up among 32 state parties up to $10,000 each, according to the invite.

-- By JR Ross

Sunday, June 12, 2016

 3:06 PM 

Clinton postpones Green Bay stop after Orlando shooting

Hillary Clinton's campaign has postponed Wednesday's campaign stop in Green Bay with President Obama due to the shooting in Orlando, Fla.

The campaign said in a brief statement this afternoon details on the rescheduled event will be provided as soon as possible.

-- By JR Ross

Friday, June 10, 2016

 2:53 PM 

GAB keeps Czaja, Subeck's Dem challenger on ballot

The GAB wrapped up its hearing on challenges to nomination papers in legislative and congressional races by unanimously voting to keep GOP state Rep. Mary Czaja on the ballot.

Czaja's nomination papers lists her address as the "Town of Skanawan, Irma, Wisconsin" on one section and just Irma in another. The challenge claimed she did not properly list her correct municipality.

Staff recommended rejecting the challenge, and the board agreed.

The board also unanimously rejected a challenge Assembly Dems filed to the nomination papers of Jacob Wischmeier, who is running against freshman Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison. The challenge questions if some districts were from inside the district and if they were legible, among other things. The board agreed with the state recommendation that he still had enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

-- By JR Ross

 2:21 PM 

Board agrees two Assembly candidates short of needed signatures

The GAB has agreed that two Assembly candidates came up short of the needed signatures to qualify for the ballot.

The staff review of the challenge found Independent David Alexander Aguayo in the 76th AD had more than a dozen signatures from outside the district. That left him below the threshold of 200 needed to qualify. 

A challenge also was filed to the signatures filed by Libertarian Jade Thomson in the 57th AD. The staff noted its own review of Thomson's nomination papers found he had 175 valid signatures, short of the 200 needed. It recommended denying his ballot access based on that review and dismissing the complaint as moot. 

-- By JR Ross

 2:17 PM 

Nehlen stays on ballot

A unanimous GAB voted to keep 1st CD Republican Paul Nehlen on the ballot for this fall's election.

-- By JR Ross

 1:57 PM 

Split GAB keeps Young on ballot

A split GAB voted to keep longtime Dem Rep. Leon Young on the ballot this fall, even as members expressed concerns that signatures he turned in above the maximum helped keep him above the minimum.

Young, D-Milwaukee, originally turned in 436 signatures, above the maximum allowed of 400. The initial staff review found 413 to be valid and certified 400 signatures. Young also filed 36 supplemental signatures that could be considered if needed.

Public defender Edgar Lin, who is running against Young in the primary, challenged his nomination papers on several grounds. That includes that anything Young turned in above 400 signatures should have been struck immediately. 

After reviewing the complaint, the agency found about half of Young’s signatures should be thrown out. If the signatures above 400 had been rejected at the outset, it would have left Young short of the number needed to qualify.

Young acknowledged he did a poor job of screening his nomination papers for signatures from outside the district. But he didn’t believe he should be penalized for going above the maximum signatures allowed.

“It sounds like my challenger wants to punish me for going above and beyond what was needed, and that’s wrong,” he said.

Judge Timothy Vocke echoed that view, comparing it to complaining “about an athlete that trains too much.”

But Judge John Franke likened it to an athlete on steroids. State law sets a maximum of 400 signatures that can be turned in, Franke noted, and should be followed, even if agency practice has been to accept more signatures than the limit.

“To me, the statute says what it says, and we ought to be enforcing it,” Franke said.

The board voted 4-2 to keep Young on the ballot, and Judge Gerald Nichol said while it would be unfair to punish Young now for following past practice, the issue should be taken up by the new Elections Commission.

-- By JR Ross

 12:00 PM 

Challenge dropped to 7th CD GOP candidate Raihala

A challenge to Republican Don Raihala's nomination papers has been dropped.

Attorney Eric McLeod, who represents the 7th CD GOP chair who filed the challenge, said he was unaware 26 signatures that were being challenged had been rehabilitated by staff. That puts Raihala at 1,041 signatures, and the challenge targets 39. Even if successful on all of them, he'd still be above the 1,000-signature threshold to make the ballot, and McLeod said it made the challenge moot.

Still, Raihala tried to persuade the board to hear the challenge anyway. But he was rebuffed.

Afterward, the Superior real estate broker said he wanted the opportunity to show the challenges were frivolous. He added it would have been embarrassing for those challenging him when he produced evidence he had that the signatures being challenged included veterans and some who had mental health issues. 

"I wanted to make sure I am fully cleared of any type of challenges to my integrity," said Raihala, who is making his third bid for the seat. He ran against Duffy in the 2014 GOP primary and in 2010 in the Dem primary.

-- By JR Ross

 11:46 AM 

GAB rejects challenges to GOP candidates in 30th SD, 7th AD

The GAB is slowly making its way through the challenges to various nomination papers and has followed staff recommendations to reject those filed against the GOP candidates in the 30th SD and 7th AD.

The challenge to the papers of Eric Wimberger, a Republican running in the 30th SD against Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, sought to invalidate all of the nomination papers over the address Wimberger listed on his papers. His declaration of candidacy lists his address as 1145 ½ Pine Street, while his nomination papers listed it as 1146 Pine Street Upper. GAB staff found the address has two acceptable house numbers, and the board agreed.

State Rep. Daniel Riemer, D-Milwaukee, challenged the papers of GOP opponent Zachary Marshall to invalidate some signatures for having illegible information and containing signatures that were obtained from those who had already signed papers for other candidates running for the office. The staff recommended striking some signatures, but still found he had 208 valid ones, above the threshold of 200. The board agreed 4-2 after a lengthy discussion about the standard for determining whether a signature is legible.

In his appearance before the board, Riemer said he is not challenging Marshall’s integrity, but simply couldn’t make out who the people were listed on the nomination papers.

“I don’t think anything about his was done fraudulently,” Riemer said. “As was true with my own signature collecting process, mistakes get made, people write the wrong things.”

-- By JR Ross

 10:38 AM 

GAB kicks Libertarian off the ballot in 7th CD, puts off challenge to GOP candidate

The GAB has knocked off the ballot Libertarian Robert Burke in the 7th CD.

In reviewing the dual challenges filed to Burke's nomination papers, the staff found he fell below the 1,000 valid signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.

The board also put off for now a challenge to the nomination papers of another candidate in the 7th CD. The 7th CD GOP chair challenged the signatures turned in by Republican Donald Raihala, who filed to run against U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Weston. But the staff recommended rejecting the challenge. After a lengthy discussion, the board decided to put off a decision for now.

-- By JR Ross

 8:00 AM 

GAB staff recommends rejecting challenges to Czaja, Young nomination papers

The GAB staff is recommending the board reject challenges to the nominations papers of state Reps. Mary Czaja, R-Irma, and Leon Young, D-Milwaukee.

The staff memo prepared ahead of today’s hearing to review the challenges also notes one filed against Rep. Christine Sinicki, D-Milwaukee, has been withdrawn.

Of the dozen complaints the agency received, the staff is recommending the board deny ballot access to two candidates: Libertarian Robert Burke in the 7th CD and Independent David Alexander Aguayo in the 76th AD.

A challenge also was filed to the signatures filed by Libertarian Jade Thomson in the 57th AD. The staff noted its own review of Thomson’s nomination papers found he had 175 valid signatures, short of the 200 needed for the ballot. It recommended denying his ballot access based on that review and dismissing the complaint as moot.

See the staff memo.

-- By JR Ross 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

 1:05 PM 

Clinton, Obama to campaign in Green Bay Wednesday

Fresh off President Obama's endorsement of Hillary Clinton today, the pair will travel to Green Bay Wednesday to campaign together.

The Clinton campaign said the two will discuss building "on the progress we've made and their vision for an America that is stronger together."

The Green Bay market has become key in statewide races. Dem candidates don't have to win the market to take the state. But they typically have to hold down the GOP margin to improve their chances of winning statewide.

Clinton also is slated to campaign in Ohio on Monday and Pennsylvania Tuesday.

-- By JR Ross

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

 7:30 AM 

Seventh Wisconsin superdelegate backs Clinton after Tuesday wins

Hillary Clinton picked up another Wisconsin superdelegate after her wins in four states, including California, helped seal a majority of pledged delegates in the Dem presidential primary.

DNC member Jason Rae tweeted this morning that he will vote for Clinton to be the party’s nominee at the national convention in July.

That now gives Clinton a 7-1 split on Wisconsin superdelegates over Bernie Sanders, who won the state with 56.6 percent of the vote in Wisconsin’s April presidential primary.

Rae tweeted this morning, “Best way to honor will of people is to support person heading in to convention with majority of pledged delegates. That is @HillaryClinton.”

At the Dem state convention this weekend, delegates approved a resolution calling on the state’s 10 superdelegates to split 6-4 in Sanders’ favor to reflect the results of the April primary. The resolution was nonbinding.

-- By JR Ross

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

 3:43 PM 

Gallagher's first TV ad says he's 'back home' to run for Congress

Republican Mike Gallagher is running the first TV ad in his bid for the 8th CD, says he’s “back home” to run for Congress.

GOP opponent state Sen. Frank Lasee has sought to make an issue out of Gallagher’s ties to the district, calling him “DC Mike.” Gallagher was born in Green Bay and spent his summers there, but grew up in California, served in the Marines and then worked as an aide on Capitol Hill. He moved back to Wisconsin last year to work on Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential bid.

Meanwhile, Lasee’s residency has again flared as an issue with media reports about his DePere apartment being listed for rent online.

Gallagher’s ad opens with the narrator noting he was born in Green Bay and spent seven years in the Marines Corp. Following that service and two tours of duty in Iraq, “conservative Mike Gallagher is back home, running for Congress to take on the big challenges and defeat America’s greatest threats.” The spot shows Gallagher in a Green Bay Packers jacket, walking an elderly woman.

The narrator adds “once a Marine, always a Marine” as Gallagher is shown firing a gun at a shooting range.

Gallagher then says he approves the ad because he’ll do “what the career politicians won’t: fight and win.” 

The narrator closes the spot, “Marine, conservative, Wisconsin’s Mike Gallagher.”

-- By JR Ross

 10:00 AM 

Johnson launches first TV ad of re-election campaign

GOP U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson today launched the first TV of his re-election campaign, telling viewers career politicians manufacture “hogwash,” while he makes plastic.

The spot, part of a $1.3 million buy the campaign plans for June, shows Johnson walking on the floor of PACUR, the plastics manufacturing company he helped found more than three decades ago.

Clad in jeans and a blue shirt, Johnson walks among pallets, pointing to some he says are headed to China and others to Mexico. Johnson says some companies export jobs, but “We export our products.” Johnson adds it’s helping create more Wisconsin jobs, and “I’ve stayed put, right here in Oshkosh, for 37 years.

“Career politicians manufacture hogwash,” Johnson says to close the spot. “I manufacture plastic, and I respect you enough to tell you the truth. If you think it’s time for Washington to start facing reality, I sure could use your support.”

Johnson’s campaign declined to detail the markets in which the ad will run on TV. It is also running as a digital spot.

-- By JR Ross

Monday, June 6, 2016

 6:15 PM 

Five more challenges roll in

The GAB has received another five challenges to nomination papers, according to its latest update.

They are largely filed by Doug Haefele, the political director for the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee.

He is challenging the papers of:

*Jade Thomson, a Libertarian running against Rep. Amanda Stuck, D-Appleton.

*David Aguayo, who is running under the Independent-For the People banner in the 76th AD now held by Dem Rep. Chris Taylor, of Madison.

*Jacob Wischmeier, a self-described Bernie Sanders Democrat, who is challenging freshman Rep. Lisa Subeck, of Madison, in the Dem primary.

*GOP state Rep. Mary Czaja, of Irma.

Also, Donald Raihala, who is running for the 7th CD as a Republican, has challenged the nomination papers of Libertarian candidate Robert Burke. It is similar to one the 7th CD GOP chair filed against Burke.
-- By JR Ross

 5:14 PM 

Seven challenges filed to nomination papers

Seven challenges were filed to nomination papers Monday, including one against Paul Nehlen, who is challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan in the 1st CD GOP primary.

The Nehlen challenge was not yet posted to the GAB site late this afternoon. But Orville Seymer, the Milwaukee area conservative activist who filed it, said Nehlen did not list his correct address on the nomination papers or the municipality in which he lives.

“The whole thing was just kind of sloppy and incorrect,” he said.

Other challenges filed included:

*the 7th CD GOP chair trying to get two House candidates kicked off the ballot, alleging they don’t have enough valid signatures from people living in the district.

*challengers of Dem state Reps. Christine Sinicki and Leon Young seeking to invalidate enough signatures to knock the incumbents off the ballot.

*challenges to the papers of the Republicans running against state Sen. Dave Hansen and Rep. Daniel Riemer, both Dems.

The GAB is scheduled to hear challenges during its Friday meeting.

See the log of challenges.

-- By JR Ross

 5:00 PM 

Johnson spokesman: Trump should retract judge comments

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson believes presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump should retract his comments that an Indiana-born federal judge was biased against him in a lawsuit because of his Mexican heritage.

“Ron disagrees, just as he has in the past," said Johnson spokesman Brian Reisinger. "Ron will hold both candidates accountable when they’re wrong, and there will be plenty of opportunities to do so with a Washington career politician like Hillary Clinton. Wisconsinites respect honesty and know that Ron will always tell them the truth.”

Trump's comments prompted a series of elected Republicans to condemn the remarks. Over the weekend, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee did not back away from his comments on U.S. Judge Gonzalo Curiel in the suit against Trump University. Trump suggested the judge was biased because of his calls to build a wall along the southern border with Mexico. Trump added he'd have similar concerns about a Muslim judge hearing his case since he has called for a ban on Muslim immigrants.

Ahead of Johnson's statement, Dem opponent Russ Feingold's campaign questioned how long the GOP incumbent would remain silent on the issue, calling the comments "racist, pure and simple."

"The fact that Sen. Johnson refuses to immediately condemn them should trouble every Wisconsinite," said Feingold spokesman Michael Tyler. "Sen. Johnson's making it clear that his loyalty lies with Trump and Washington Republicans -- he's clearly not listening to Wisconsinites who value decency and respect. If this is what "The Ronald and The Donald" show looks like, Wisconsinites are in for a long and troubling general election."

-- By JR Ross

 2:12 PM 

Nehlen ad hits Ryan over border security, heroin epidemic

A new television ad from Paul Nehlen shows the Republican primary challenger to House Speaker Paul Ryan walking through the Rio Grande carrying a large tub labeled, “DRUGS.”

“Smuggling drugs into America shouldn’t be this easy, but it is,” Nehlen says in the ad as he carries the tub while walking through a narrow, shallow portion of the river in dark pants and a white shirt. 

“Cheap Mexican heroin is killing Americans in record numbers, and it’s got to stop," he says. "Paul Ryan’s had 18 years to fix this. He’s failed. I want to keep the cartels from killing our kids.”

The campaign wouldn’t release specifics about the buy, but said it is running on cable beginning this week and the buy cost “five figures.”

See the Nehlen campaign's release on the ad: 

 11:53 AM 

Former Rep. Fields files to run for old Assembly seat

Former Rep. Jason Fields, who lost his spot in the Legislature in a 2012 Dem primary, has filed to run for his old seat.

Fields, of Milwaukee, took advantage of an extended deadline to file for the 11th AD after Rep. Mandela Barnes, D-Milwaukee, failed to file the proper notification of noncandidacy. 

Barnes, who defeated Fields in that 2012 primary, is now challenging state Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, in the August primary. 

The new deadline to file is 5 p.m. today.

Darroll Gibson, of Milwaukee, filed last week to run for the seat, as did Brandon Jackson. The GAB staff originally found problems with Jackson's nomination papers, saying he didn’t turn in any valid ones due to problems with the headers on the sheets. Jackson had until 5 p.m. today to file supplemental nomination papers, and he was listed with 214 valid signatures as of 4 p.m.

-- By JR Ross

Editor's note: This post has been updated to reflect the new number of valid signatures for Jackson.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

 5:18 PM 

Dem Party denies WisPolitics.com convention table for straw poll over party rule

In a departure from past practice, the state Dem Party says it won't let WisPolitics.com buy a table at this weekend's convention to conduct a straw poll, because the independent news service refused to abide by a new national party rule banning such questions about the presidential race.

The state party cited delegate selection rules for 2016, saying they prevent such straw polls from taking place at official events. The rule reads, "For the purpose of fairly reflecting the division of preferences, the non-binding advisory presidential preference portion of primaries shall not be considered a step in the delegate selection process and is considered detrimental." The party defines "non-binding advisory presidential preference event" to include beauty contest primaries and straw polls.

The rule goes on to say state parties must "educate the public that a non-binding presidential preference event is meaningless" and they, along with presidential candidates, "should take all steps possible not to participate."

WisDems spokesman Brandon Weathersby said the party wants the convention to be open and welcome to members of the media.

"We do however ask all attendees, media including, to respect the rules of the party and the convention, including the exclusion of Presidential straw polls," he wrote in an email.

WisPolitics.com has regularly since its launch in 2000 conducted straw polls at state party conventions. Parties have not overseen or endorsed the straw polls or had veto power over what questions were asked.

A WisPolitics.com straw poll at last year's state Dem convention in Milwaukee showed Bernie Sanders finishing a strong second to Hillary Clinton, a result national media took as an early sign the Vermont senator -- then often described as a long-shot for the White House -- could appeal to the party's progressive base.

The news service also conducted a straw poll at last month's GOP state convention, where party activists were asked who they wanted to see as Donald Trump's running mate. The poll also included a question about whether Republican activists planned to vote for Trump, Clinton, a third-party candidate or sit out the presidential race this fall. Nearly 20 percent of those participating weren't ready to support Trump.

State GOP spokesman Pat Garrett slammed Dems for the party's decision.

"Wisconsin Democrats have completely thrown transparency out the window this year, and now they are paying the price after Party bosses in Washington DC put their finger on the scale to unfairly prop up Hillary Clinton's campaign," Garrett wrote in an email.

In 2006, the state GOP, along with attorney general candidates Paul Bucher and J.B. Van Hollen, asked WisPolitics.com to exclude from its convention straw poll any question about the AG's race. They cited an agreement the candidates reached to discourage straw polls and a convention endorsement vote. WisPolitics.com declined the request.

WisPolitics.com did not provide this year's planned questions to the Dem Party during discussions over a straw poll this weekend.

 -- By JR Ross

 2:44 PM 

Ryan endorses Trump, says he can help House Republicans make ideas reality

Speaker Paul Ryan endorsed Donald Trump in an op-ed he submitted today to his hometown newspaper, writing the presumptive GOP nominee can help House Republicans make their ideas reality.

Ryan, R-Janesville, in recent weeks has said he wanted to hear more from Trump before endorsing him. In the op-ed submitted to the Janesville Gazette, Ryan acknowledged those differences and wrote he will continue to speak his mind.

Still, Ryan wrote his focus has been on the House GOP agenda, and after conversations with Trump, he is confident the businessman "would help us turn the ideas in this agenda into laws to help improve people’s lives. That’s why I’ll be voting for him this fall."

Ryan knocked Hillary Clinton in the piece, writing electing her president "would mean four more years of liberal cronyism and a government more out for itself than the people it serves."

He called this fall a choice not just between two people, but of two visions for America with House Republicans offering a better way ahead.

"Donald Trump can help us make it a reality," Ryan wrote.

-- By JR Ross

 8:51 AM 

Feingold slams Johnson over 'dark money,' Tomah VA

Dem Russ Feingold Wednesday hit U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson on "dark money" ads and the Oshkosh Republican's role in the Tomah VA prescription drug scandal.

Feingold, speaking to reporters after a rally at the Bartell Theatre in Madison, rejected criticism he has gone back on his word not to accept help from so-called dark money groups. He said he doesn't have a super PAC, but Johnson has had such groups "pay for his campaigns, for his ads."

Feingold said the average contribution to his campaign is $50, and 96 percent of the contributions are for $100 or less.

That is a "huge contrast" to Johnson's campaign, Feingold said.

"When you see millions of dollars' worth of ads from the Koch brothers and others," he said, "that is having dark money pay for your campaign."

Feingold, though, acknowledged there are third-party groups running ads against Johnson. But he said they're not super PACs.

"These are independent groups," Feingold said, "and I frankly don't like the system and intend to overturn it."

Feingold also went after Johnson on the Tomah VA report.

The Senate's Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, chaired by Johnson, held a field hearing in Tomah Tuesday to discuss the report and question VA leaders about the investigation into prescriptions at the hospital.

Feingold said he immediately noticed one thing about the report.

"I'm not mentioned anywhere," he said. "And that's because it is completely false that the Koch brothers and others have run an ad suggesting that somehow we had something to do with it."

He called the ads hitting him over Tomah "shameful" and a clear indication Johnson will "cynically try to exploit the death of a veteran to try to save his political neck." In 2014, Jason Simcakoski, a 35-year-old Marine Corps veteran, died from a drug overdose while at the hospital.

A super PAC created by the Koch brothers has attacked Feingold on the issue in a TV ad, and Feingold has knocked Johnson on it in a spot of his own.

VA officials at the hearing Tuesday took responsibility, Feingold said, but Johnson never did.

"And he should tell them to not run these ads," Feingold said. "He says, 'Well, it's free speech.' But it also is free speech to tell somebody they should stop doing something."

Johnson's campaign countered Feingold for his "hypocrisy" on dark-money ads, including a new spot out from an abortion rights group.

Johnson's campaign has also been critical of Feingold for an event he did last month with the League of Conservation Voters, which has run ads targeting the GOP incumbent.

"Senator Feingold continues to say one thing and do another. After repeatedly railing against 'dark money' he's gladly showing his face with a group whose dark money arm is fueling his bid to claw his way back to Washington," said Johnson spokesman Brian Reisinger. "Senator Feingold apparently doesn't care that this Washington D.C. group's job-killing agenda would hurt Wisconsin farmers and families -- he's only concerned about his own political ambition."

Reisinger also rejected Feingold's call on the Tomah ads, noting Johnson has said he is responsible for his own words "and so is everyone else."

Reisinger also focused on Johnson's response to the Tomah VA scandal in response to Feingold's criticism over the ads. He said Johnson took "immediate and effective action" once he became aware of the tragedies. That includes the investigation that resulted in the report released Tuesday.

"By shining the light of day on Tomah, those responsible have been held accountable -- they are no longer in a position to do further harm to veterans. Ron has done his job," Reisinger said. "It is Senator Feingold who is politicizing tragedies."

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

 1:53 PM 

Party execs see different outcomes in swing-state status

The executive directors of the state's Dem and GOP parties agree Wisconsin is a swing state.

The direction of that swing, though, is a matter of debate between Dem Kory Kozloski and Republican Mike Duffey.

The two party execs agreed on Wisconsin's swing-state status at the start of a WisPolitics.com luncheon yesterday at The Madison Club. Kozloski explained that by saying he expects a lot of national focus on Wisconsin leading up to the general election because of the open seat in the 8th CD and the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Ron Johnson and Dem challenger Russ Feingold.

Kozloski and Duffey then launched into their reasons for expecting voters to back their parties up and down the ballots in fall. Kozloski cited a Public Opinion Strategies poll out this week by GOP pollster Gene Ulm that showed Hillary Clinton ahead of Donald Trump in Wisconsin by 12 percentage points.

"I think certainly Donald Trump's numbers certainly have to be very concerning for him in Wisconsin," Kozloski said, "when you look at his unfavorables that we've seen over the last several months in every poll that has come out."

But Duffey pointed out it's still early for polls, and the Wisconsin primary was only last month. Give it time, he said, for momentum to build toward the general election.

Plus, Duffey said, Clinton has her own problems.

"You can't neglect the fact that Hillary Clinton's unfavorables are incredibly high in the state of Wisconsin," he said. "On April 5, she won one county. So, to suggest that she's got enthusiasm on her side in the state of Wisconsin, I think, is not representative of the entire picture."

Here are their partisan takes on other top races:

Johnson-Feingold Senate race 

Duffey and Kozloski made it clear the Senate race is a top priority.

Kozloski said Johnson, R-Oshkosh, has been down to Feingold in every poll conducted on the race and has trailed Feingold in fundraising in each of the past three quarters. The Democratic Party of Wisconsin's exec also said Trump could be a weight around Johnson's neck in the race.

Johnson, Kozloski said, either has to endorse Trump and risk losing votes or go it alone.

"Sometimes he seems to be saying he's going to support Donald Trump," Kozloski said. "Other times, he seems to be saying, 'Well, I'm not really sure if I'm going in that direction.' He's got to make a pretty clear decision about which way he's going."

Duffey, though, said the first-term senator elected in 2010 is a "citizen legislator" who fits perfectly the role of outsider voters this cycle seem to crave. And if trust is a factor for those voters, he said, Feingold is at a disadvantage after breaking pledges not to take money from outside the state or from lobbyists.

On top of that, the Republican Party of Wisconsin exec said, Feingold will have Clinton at the top of the ticket with all of the secretary of state email and Benghazi scandal attached.

"If I'm the Democrats, I'm concerned about Hillary Clinton," he said, "who's the consummate Washington insider tainting the fact that Russ Feingold has spent 30 years in public service, accomplishing nothing other than getting elected repeatedly."

8th CD race

With an open seat in the 8th CD following U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble's retirement, both execs see opportunity.

Duffey said the Sherwood Republican set the bar high for the district, and he expects the winner of the Republican primary to find the path toward taking the seat. The GOP candidates are Sen. Frank Lasee, R-De Pere, and Mike Gallagher, a former Marine who also worked for the U.S. Senate's Foreign Relations Committee.

Outagamie County Exec Tom Nelson is on the other side. The former state lawmaker drew praise from Kozloski, who called him the hardest-working candidate he has met.

Kozloski said the race will be among the most-watched by the national Democratic Party.

"He's going to have the resources," he said. "He will outwork any candidate in the race, and I'm very confident in November he will be the next congressman from the 8th Congressional District."

Duffey disagreed.

"And I'm sure Tom Nelson is a nice guy," he said. "But somebody who ushered through the Doyle spending increases and tax increases is not somebody that's going to represent what I believe is what the voters of the 8th district want."


The GOP has dominated the past several cycles in the state Senate and Assembly, but Duffey said his party still will be on "offense" in fall.

Of the Republican candidates on the ballot, Duffey specifically named Green Bay lawyer Eric Wimberger, who is challenging Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, in the 30th SD, and former GOP state Sen. Dan Kapanke, who is taking on Dem Minority Leader Sen. Jennifer Shilling, of La Crosse.

"Despite the historic majorities, I believe there's some vulnerabilities in the Democratic state Senate candidates," Duffey said, "and we've got a great set of challengers in the western and northern part of the state."

On the Dem side, Kozloski made special mention of:

*Winnebago County Exec Mark Harris, who is running to fill the 18th SD seat vacated by the retiring Sen. Rick Gudex, R-Fond du Lac;

*Waupaca Mayor Brian Smith, who is mounting a challenge against Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, in the 14th SD;

*former Dem Rep. Mandy Wright, who lost her Wausau-area seat by 85 votes in 2014 and is running to fill the 85th AD spot left open by retiring Rep. Dave Heaton, R-Wausau;

*and Jeff Wright, of Plain, who is challenging Rep. Todd Novak, R-Dodgeville, in the 51st AD.

Duffey said GOP candidates can take credit for balancing the state deficit, pushing the unemployment rate below the national average and raising the labor participation rate to the highest in the country.

"I think that there's a good-news story," he said, "for the governor and the Legislature to tell."

But that story also includes the state being 35th in job creation, 50th in entrepreneurship and saddled with 10,000 layoff notices last year, Kozloski said. He said candidates such as Joint Finance Committee member Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, will have to explain that.

"These candidates, people like Tom Tiffany, now have to run on that record and people asking, 'What have you done? What has changed here in Wisconsin over the last six years?'" Kozloski said. "And the answer that people are coming up with is, quite simply, nothing."

Listen to the luncheon discussion.

-- By Chris Thompson

 1:09 PM 

Source: Johnson campaign reserving $1.3 million on TV in June

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson's campaign is reserving $1.3 million on Wisconsin TV this month, according to a source familiar with the buy.

While other groups have gone up on TV on Johnson's behalf, this will be the first TV ads of his campaign this year. The source noted Johnson is going up on the air at roughly the same point as he did in 2010, when he went on to beat then-Sen. Feingold, D-Middleton, that fall. 

Then, Johnson waited until late spring to announce his campaign and rode a GOP wave as less than 2.2 million people voted that fall. Wisconsin turnout in the last two presidential years has been around 3 million. 

-- By JR Ross

 9:08 AM 

Ryan faces crowded field of challengers this fall

House Speaker Paul Ryan is looking at challenges from two Dems, a "Trump Conservative," a Libertarian and an Independent this fall.

Meanwhile, fellow Republican Paul Nehlen, who has attracted the most attention of Ryan's possible rivals, faces a 5 p.m. deadline to turn in enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Nehlen was not listed among the candidates who have registered to run for the 1st CD. In addition to Ryan, R-Janesville, two candidates have turned in their nomination papers: Ryan Solen, a Mt. Pleasant Dem, and Spencer Zimmerman of Janesville, who lists his party as "Trump Conservative."

Dem Tom Breu of Janesville, Libertarian Jason Lebeck of Janesville and independent John Eleniewski have filed their campaign registration statement, declaration of candidacy and economic interest statement, according to the GAB. All need to turn in at least 1,000 valid signatures from the district to qualify for the ballot.

In other House races:

2nd CD: Dem Rep. Mark Pocan, of the Town of Vermont, has turned in his nomination papers. Republican Peter Theron, who lost bids for the seat in 2008, 2010, and 2014 has registered to run.

3rd CD: U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, has turned in his signatures. Dem Myron Bucholz had not turned in his by the close of business yesterday.

4th CD: Dem Rep. Gwen Moore, of Milwaukee, Libertarian Andy Craig and independent Robert Raymond have all turned in their signatures. Republican Weldon Carnahan of Milwaukee and Dem Tony Lee of Green Bay have filed other forms, but had not turned in their nomination papers, according to the GAB's latest update.

5th CD: Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, Dem Khary Penebaker and Libertarian John Arndt turned in their nomination papers yesterday.

6th CD: Two Dems have filed their nomination papers to challenge freshman U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeulah, who also has filed his. They are Sarah Lloyd of Wisconsin Dells and Michael Slattery of Maribel.

7th CD: Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Weston, is one of four candidates to turn in nomination papers so far. The others are Dems Mary Hoeft, of Rice Lake, and Joel Lewis, of Wausau, and Libertarian Robert Burke, of Hudson, while three others have registered to run.

8th CD: Four candidates have turned in their nomination papers for the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Sherwood. They are Dem Tom Nelson, of Appleton, and Republicans Mike Gallagher, of Green Bay; Frank Lasee, of De Pere; and Terry McNulty, of Forestville. Four others have registered to run.

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