Tag: Chris Abele

ENDORSEMENT: Joseph Thomas Klein for Milwaukee County (WI) Executive

While many people are trying to paint next year’s race for Milwaukee County (WI) Executive as a two-way race between conservative incumbent Chris “Boss” Abele and Wisconsin State Senator Chris Larson, I’m not endorsing either of those candidates. Instead, I’m endorsing Joseph Thomas Klein, who is also running for Milwaukee County Executive.

You may remember Klein from his failed Pirate Party bid in the 19th Assembly District of Wisconsin last year. Now, Klein is running in an officially non-partisan race in a bid to become the chief executive of Wisconsin’s most populous county. I’m not sure if he was an ancestor of the Joseph Klein who is currently running for Milwaukee County Executive, but an individual named Joseph Klein (not the same Joseph Klein who is running for Milwaukee County Executive today) was a Socialist member of the Wisconsin State Assembly for one term from 1919 to 1921.

While Klein’s campaign has gotten virtually zero attention by the corporate media, the Milwaukee-area webgazine Urban Milwaukee recently published this article on their website about the GO Pass program. The GO Pass program is a program that allows disabled people and senior citizens to ride Milwaukee County’s bus system for free, and it’s running a massive budget deficit. Klein has a very interesting idea on how he’d fix Milwaukee County’s GO Pass shortfall:

The other candidate in the county executive election is Joseph Thomas Klein, the Wisconsin Pirate Party organizer. His position on the Go Pass program?

He notes that the Milwaukee County Transit System suffers from the fact that it has little support from the current majority in the state legislature. “MCTS is in need of a dedicated funding source, such as the before proposed additional sales tax,” he continues. “I would also like to see parking revenues from County-owned parking lots, street parking, and structures go into the transit budget. I would not be adverse to metering on Lincoln Memorial Drive (or in any park served by MCTS) if the revenue could make a summertime ‘Beach-Bus’ and Park service possible.”

“I like the GO Pass idea,” Klein says, “but perhaps it should have been better planned with a goal of minimizing erosion of fare-box revenue. The fact that the GO Pass has created a budget shortfall is more a function of poor planning and a lack of realistic budgeting by the County Board, than a condemnation of a program that should have innumerable social benefits.”

I love the idea of using parking fares to fund public transit! If elected Milwaukee County Executive, Joseph Klein will bring fresh, common-sense ideas to Milwaukee County. The same can’t be said for Abele and Larson, both of whom serve political power brokers and their own egos. As county executive, Abele has repeatedly attacked organized labor, progressives, and anyone else who disagrees with him, and he’s one of Scott Walker’s biggest allies. Among the things that Abele has done in office have included pushing to gut the Milwaukee public school system, pushing to prohibit Wisconsin counties from enacting living wage ordinances, defending money in politics, and being worse than Scott Walker on labor issues. Larson, on the other hand, is best-known for handing Republican Howard Marklein a seat in the Wisconsin State Senate (17th Senate District, 2014 election) by backing establishment lackey Pat Bomhack over progressive patriot Ernie Wittwer in the Democratic primary.

Should more than two candidates make the ballot, the non-partisan primary for Milwaukee County Executive would be held in February of next year, and the two highest vote-getters would move on to the general election. The general election for Milwaukee County Executive, also officially non-partisan, will be held in April of next year.

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Wisconsin Republicans pass awful state budget, and how legislators should handle criticism of their legislative proposals

The Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Assembly passed the most awful state budget in American political history in a 52-46 vote, and the budget is currently on Republican Wisconsin Governor and presidential candidate Scott Walker’s desk.

When I say that the Wisconsin budget that the Republicans passed is the most awful state budget in American political history, it’s not hyperbole, it’s the cold hard truth. The Wisconsin budget, among many other things, demonizes the working poor in Wisconsin by replacing the words “living wage” with the words “minimum wage” in state statutes, fast-tracks an expansion of a tar sands oil pipeline in Wisconsin and Illinois that will be even bigger than the Keystone XL pipeline would be, cuts funding to public K-12 and higher education in Wisconsin, effectively prohibits Wisconsin wineries from hosting weddings, and gives Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele even more unchecked power to sell off public property in Wisconsin’s largest county to his political cronies. This budget does a lot to pander to far-right voters that Scott Walker is trying to win over in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination and does virtually nothing to benefit the people of Wisconsin in any way. You can read press releases from Democratic Wisconsin State Representatives Melissa Sargent of Madison, Dianne Hesselbein of Middleton, Amanda Stuck of Appleton, LaTonya Johnson of Milwaukee, and Andy Jorgensen of Milton, as well as from Minority Leader Peter Barca of Kenosha, at the links in this sentence.

However, prior to the Republicans in the Assembly passing the state budget, Katrina Shankland, the Assistant Minority Leader of the Wisconsin State Assembly from Stevens Point, tried to amend the state budget to require that future proposals of non-fiscal policy measures in future state budgets get their own separate public hearing before a standing legislative committee (the Republicans rejected Shankland’s amendment). I criticized Shankland’s proposal, because it would not outright prohibit Walker or whoever else is Wisconsin Governor once Walker leaves office from proposing public policy in state budgets. Shankland responded to my criticism of her proposal via Twitter:

Anyone who holds political office, is running for public office, or is thinking about running for public office should take note of Shankland’s response to my criticism of her. She didn’t talk down to me, she didn’t belittle me, she didn’t attack me, and she didn’t try to change the subject. Instead, she directly addressed my criticism of her proposal by saying that she thinks that policy measures don’t belong in state budgets, and she defended her proposal by saying that the Republicans voted against allowing public hearings on policy proposals.

Katrina Shankland has been very respectful to me, even when I’ve disagreed with her, which isn’t often.

Corporate Democrat Chris Abele would represent Scott Walker’s third term in office if he were to run for and be elected Wisconsin Governor

Milwaukee County, Wisconsin Executive Chris Abele has been making public appearances outside of Milwaukee County in recent days. Recently, and to my knowledge, he’s appeared on a talk radio program in Madison, Wisconsin, and he’s also appeared at a Democratic Party picnic in Jefferson County, Wisconsin. Both of these locations are 60-90 miles or so away from Milwaukee, if I’m not mistaken. This seems to be unusual for Abele to make appearances at events outside of Milwaukee County.

While there was some speculation that Abele may run for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin next year, Russ Feingold is already running in that race, and, for someone who is not known as a big-time fundraiser, Feingold has raised a ton of money for his campaign, so I’m guessing that Abele thinks that he doesn’t have a realistic path to victory in that race, although I could be wrong about that. I’m speculating that Abele may want to run for Governor of Wisconsin in 2018, and, outside of a few social issues, Abele would pretty much represent Scott Walker’s third term in the Wisconsin governor’s mansion if he were to run for and be elected governor.

Before being elected the county executive of Wisconsin’s largest county, Abele once threw fireworks at a neighbor’s house. Since being elected Milwaukee County Executive, Abele has:

  • Enacted Scott Walker-style austerity measures in Milwaukee County, which have hurt Milwaukee County’s economy
  • Has openly antagonized Democrats, progressives, and labor union members
  • Tried to get the Republicans in the Wisconsin State Legislature to prohibit counties from passing living wage ordinances designed to boost local economies
  • Actively supported corporate welfare for the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks
  • Actively opposed efforts to allow Milwaukee County voters to vote in a non-binding referendum on whether or not they want to get rid of Walker/Abele-style big-money politics
  • Allied himself with Deanna Alexander, a far-right Milwaukee County Supervisor who has made overtly racist and sexist remarks about Democrats, women, and ethnic minorities
  • Spent large amounts of Milwaukee County taxpayers’ money on items like a large SUV for himself
  • Has repeatedly had his vetoes of progressive ideals overridden by the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors.

Chris “Capper” Liebenthal, a Milwaukee County employee and progressive patriot, has documented Chris Abele’s horrible track record as Milwaukee County Executive at his blog over the past few years.

Sadly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Chris Abele’s right-wing record as the county executive of Wisconsin’s largest county. When I say that Abele wouldn’t be significantly better as Wisconsin Governor than Scott Walker, it’s not hyperbole, it’s the truth. Hopefully, one or more actual progressives, or at least someone who believes that the government should serve the people and not big-money special interests, runs in the Democratic primary for Wisconsin Governor a little more than three years from now.

The special election that the Democratic Party of Wisconsin doesn’t want you to know about

There is absolutely nothing on the website or social media pages of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) that I have been able to find regarding an upcoming special election in the Waukesha-based 33rd State Senate District of Wisconsin, where Democratic candidate Sherryll Shaddock is running against Republican candidate Chris Kapenga.

While the DPW is trying to ignore the fact that there’s an election scheduled to take place on July 21st, Sherryll Shaddock is the Democratic nominee in an upcoming state senate special election in Wisconsin. Shaddock is running against Chris Kapenga, who, as a state representative, tried to work with corporate Democrats like Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele to prevent Wisconsin counties from enacting living wage ordinances in order to boost their economies. Shaddock, on the other hand, supports fully funding public education, restoring Wisconsin’s once-proud tradition of good government, protecting Wisconsin’s environment, allowing women to make their own decisions regarding their reproductive health, and protecting local control over matters that are best left to local governments to deal with.

While it would be glorious if Shaddock were to win election to the Wisconsin State Senate, she doesn’t need to win the election in order to secure a moral victory for her party. Given how wildly unpopular Republicans have become in Wisconsin in recent months, and given that the 33rd Senate District is about 20 percentage points more Republican than Wisconsin as a whole is, if Shaddock were to secure at least 35% of the vote, then Democrats and progressives in Wisconsin can easily make the case that the Republican agenda is very unpopular in Wisconsin.

I strongly encourage voters in the 33rd Senate District of Wisconsin to show up at the polls on July 21st and vote for Sherryll Shaddock for Wisconsin State Senate.

ANONYMOUS GUEST POST: How the Washington Generals learned to stop worrying and love the Harlem Globetrotters

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The following blog post was emailed to me by an individual who I will not publicly name, but is a resident of the State of Wisconsin who I will refer to as Progressive Activist A. The blog post is almost completely unedited (I did make a slight edit to remove a reference to a graphic that was not provided in the email) and not originally written by me, but written by Progressive Activist A with help of unnamed Milwaukee County (WI) Democratic Party members. The blog post compares the Republican Party of Wisconsin to the Harlem Globetrotters and the current Democratic Party of Wisconsin leadership to the Washington Generals. Below this author’s note is the blog post, and below that are my notes about the blog post.


In Wisconsin the Democrats are getting ready to practice democracy. In just over a week the Democratic Party of Wisconsin will be holding its annual, statewide convention.  There they will ask their delegates to vote to select a new Chair, or leader, for the statewide party.
The firmly blue, democratic leaning city of Milwaukee is the site of the convention. Milwaukee, the city that is surrounded by a collar of white suburbs that voted in Scott Walker as County Executive and then backed it up by voting in Tea Party darling in democratic clothing, mouthpiece and pawn of the uber-right Bradley Foundation, Chris Abele.
Oh well, democracy is a relatively new concept and is not yet perfected.  But still sometimes one has to wonder. Shouldn’t we be at least slowly moving towards a more perfect form of democracy?  As I look around it seems that not only are we no longer moving towards a more perfect democracy, but rather that we are running and leaping away from a more perfect democracy.
Most people by now should know that it is possible to become President of the United States by losing the popular vote (the vote of the citizens of the U.S. who cast ballots in elections) and winning the vote of the electoral college. But that rarely happens so most people shrug it off.  “That’s just politics” they say.
Most people by now should know that the combined Republican Party and Tea Party (or GOTea) has been working to prevent a great many Americans from voting.  Or at the very least, making it very hard for non-White, upper class Americans to vote.  This practice is called voter suppression and when you bring it up in discussion, most people shrug it off.  “That’s just politics” they say.
Between extreme redistricting and voter suppression techniques, the GOTea has sought to create a playing field for itself so tilted in their own favor that they can’t lose.  We have even seen them in Wisconsin pick their own judges in court cases who have allowed GOTea defendants to willfully destroy evidence and get away with it.
Kind of like the basketball team, the world famous Harlem Globetrotters.  You are all familiar with the Harlem Globetrotters right?  The Globetrotters are beloved and dazzle audiences as they…..well….trot all over the globe. Using trick shots, well practiced stunts and not to mention confetti, ladders, garbage cans and other props not allowed in the regular game of basketball, the Globetrotters delight their audience by essentially out-playing, out-tricking and out-cheating their perpetual counterparts, The Washington Generals.
The Globetrotters also bring to the show with them, their own referees who are part of the whole stage show. Referees who turn their back on the play off the game to watch confetti being sprinkled by one Globetrotter as the rest of the Globetrotters set a ladder up under the basket and practice a slam dunk, fire drill and score twenty points in five seconds. All the while their counterparts in the Washington Generals helplessly look on.
Everybody wants to join in the fun and be a Harlem Globetrotter. Nobody wants to be a Washington General.  Except in Wisconsin that is.  In Wisconsin there are some folks within the Democratic Party of Wisconsin who apparently have watched the Globetrotters decimate the Washington Generals by a typical score of say…..242 – 16. They watch and say, “man, it must be really nice to be a General!”
They probably don’t like the perpetual losing part as much as they love and adore the idea of having steady, lucrative work for life that doesn’t involve the risk of injury, the hard work and practice, the devotion required of players in the NBA.
They probably don’t tell themselves “I love to lose” but rather, they spin it into something like “It sure would be easy if all I ever had to do is show up and automatically end up in second place, just one step away from total victory.”  In other words, they think they would like to pursue being perpetual silver medalists, to use an Olympics metaphor.  They are refusing to realize that coming in second out of two is total and absolute failure.
And it is all about coming in second….as in second class citizens.  These would-be Washington Generals either haven’t thought about or don’t care about the people in Wisconsin who would become, have nearly become, second class citizens to the ultra rich and powerful.
And although there are five current candidates running for the office of Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, they are divided into two basic camps. Those who would learn from our past errors as well as the oppositions past victories and switch away from our previous losing ways in favor of a new winning plan.
And those who enjoy, indeed they profit from, the old status quo system.  It may mean that the citizens of Wisconsin lose and lose big, but by golly their jobs are secure as the old two party system is the only game in town.  Sure it may not have all the perks of winning every game, of being the Harlem Globetrotters.  But it does carry incredible job security to be a Washington General.
Under outgoing, current Chair Mike Tate, the DPW went from supporting, at least to some extent, all its candidates for legislative office in Wisconsin, to hitting up all its legislative candidates for cash for the DPW itself. They spoke of a 72 county plan but instead they concentrated on the heavily populated counties of Dane and Milwaukee which contain the cities of Madison and Milwaukee, and largely ignored the rest of the state as well as those who bravely entered the political ring as Democrats.
Also recently, the DPW has had only had one simple piece of advice for its candidates for legislative office.  And that message was “money, money and more money.”  The only way to win the DPW would say was to outraise and outspend the GOTea candidates.  Money was the answer to everything, the alpha and the omega.
One problem though, the GOTea has always been the party of corporate interests.  At a time when the GOTea is pushing for a nationwide takeover of American and state governments by the corporations, how in the world do you expect Democrats to be able to outraise and outspend the Republicans???  Farmers and factory workers, teachers and union members have all been financially decimated by Republican policy. They can’t donate more than the trillion dollar corporations and their billionaire owners.
But still the DPW kept saying that big money was the only possible solution to the problem of big money in politics. Democratic candidates had to have big money to pay for professional campaign staffers to come work for them in Wisconsin where the shiny suits and New Jersey accents stuck out like sore thumbs.  Folks in rural Wisconsin like anywhere else, don’t like people from out of state coming in and telling them how and who to vote for.
Mike Tate’s DPW kept telling candidates that big money for wardrobe specialists and hair stylists was the only way to win. Candidates would ask for the DPW’s VAN list, which is the list of democratic voters in their district and Tate’s DPW would say sure, for a couple of thousand dollars we will hit the print button on our computer for you.
Also the DPW kept telling candidates that they, like the DPW itself, needed the big money, corporate spin doctors of firms like Nation Consulting.  A huge player in the public relations business if they wanted to win their elections, it was the only way. Pay our specialists, pay our consultants, pay our hairdressers and image people.  Money, money, money and spend, spend, spend.
Guess how that worked out?  All three branches of Wisconsin government are firmly in GOTea control.  In other words, the big money, spend, spend and spend some more plan did not work.  It did not work at all!  In fact it worked so poorly that Mike Tate knew last year that he was going to have to step down as Chair of the DPW.
And so we will be saying goodbye to Mike Tate as Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.  And in all honesty Mike Tate is a good person with a very democratic heart. Things just came apart under his watch, not all of it his fault by any means, but things really came apart for his party in Wisconsin.
But in some ways, depending on who wins the election to replace Mike Tate, it could end up as essentially we have a new Tate.  Consider it Mike Tate version 2.1.  We may be stuck with the status quo, to keep trying to raise big money to give to the consultants, campaign managers from out of state, old friends and career cronies.  In other words we could all end up with a big plan to stay the same, which is to concede that the GOTea will always be the Harlem Globetrotters and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin should remain as it has, the Washington Generals of Wisconsin politics.
And this is why a good many people are very concerned about the candidacy of Jason Rae.  Jason Rae has been part of the big money, spin doctoring business  And Jason Rae many people scared that he is going to copy Mike Tate’s plan from the last election.  That seems to be how Rae plans on winning his bid for Chair of the DPW. Only this time there is a huge difference, this time focusing on Milwaukee County and forgetting completely about the rest of Wisconsin could actually work out for the Jason Rae big money machine.
You see, under the election rules of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, the Chair will be elected from among 5 candidates by plurality after a single round of voting. This means that getting 21% of the vote is all you need to win.
And guess what? Under the current (but hopefully not the future) way that the DPW chooses delegates to vote for its Chair and other officers, Milwaukee alone has enough votes to take it all.
And so Jason Rae and the staff of Nation Consulting have been focusing on Milwaukee with a fevered interest.  They know there is big money at stake for themselves in Milwaukee, even if it is only second place, Washington Generals money.  Hey its the only game in town folks.
And a big part of the Rae/Nation machine has been focusing hard, daily, on claiming for itself, the Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.  We have received so far, thirteen requests by Milwaukee County Democratic Party members to use this blog to let people know that under Rae/Nation, that the Chair of the Milwaukee County Dem Party is choosing their delegates to the state convention based on how much they support Jason Rae.  If you do not support Jason Rae and pledge to vote for Jason Rae, then you don’t become a delegate and you don’t get to go to the convention and vote for your candidate of choice.
Democracy?  Democrats?  Check the definitions at the top of this page again if you need to.  Because these tactics hardly represent the concept of democracy or the mission of the Democratic Party.
Now technically by the bylaws, charter and constitution of the DPW, Chairs are allowed to subjectively screen party members to find the best, most active people and reward them with delegate/voting status at the convention.
The system was not meant to be used to push for one candidate and one candidate only.  But the loophole exists and Rae/Nation is pushing it for all its worth to promote their own interests which are of course, going to be mostly financial in nature.
So under the current system, which most of the party seems to want to change to be more inclusive, our next Chair could be elected with the support of only 21% of the delegates over the opposition of 79%. This is not a recipe for party unity. This is a recipe for party implosion and even death.  And that would mean the complete and final decimation of any reasonable quality of life for Wisconsin’s citizens for as far as anyone can see into the future.
And Nation Consulting and its people in the Democratic Party are out to make it happen.  Big names in party politics, seemingly unconcerned about the DPW becoming the perpetual losers in Wisconsin politics, the Washington Generals of the badger state.  They are looking after their own interests first and let the rabble be damned is what is happening if you judge them by their actions and not their professionally spin doctored words.
Not that Thad Nation, owner and bossman of Nation Consulting has reason to care about the Washington Generals, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin or any of the state’s citizens.  Although Thad Nation is a known political insider to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, he is a huge financial supporter of the GOTea.
It sounds quite insane when you hear it altogether, doesn’t it?  Get rid of Mike Tate because his plan didn’t work out at all but hire his Jason Rae to maintain the losing plan so that the big dogs and insiders can maintain a lucrative lifestyle.  Why would anyone vote for that?
Let me ask you again….why would anyone vote for that?  There is no darn good reason to, not a one!  At a time when Wisconsin is not only socially but economically and politically torn apart, now is the worst possible time to maintain the status quo, to stick with the plan that so far has never worked.  Now is the worst possible time to stick with big money in government, special interests and shady, backroom deals.
Now is the best possible time to return to open and transparent politics in Wisconsin which are to the benefit of everybody. Now is the best time to return to politicians being held accountable for their actions and being made to work for all citizens of the state, not just their donors and the lobbyists.  Now is the worse time to maintain the status quo as our state sinks lower and lower in the rankings, as our standard of living lowers, as our people flee to other states in search of work and security.
Now is the worst time to vote in favor of the recent status quo.  Now is the worst time to give up on ever being a Harlem Globetrotter.
Thank you to the members of the Democratic Party of Milwaukee County who reached out to us and trusted us to write and promote this article, we hope we have done right by you all.

Here’s some of my own notes regarding the blog post:

  • Chris Abele is the current Milwaukee County Executive, first elected to that post in a 2011 special election to replace Scott Walker, who vacated the post to become Governor of Wisconsin. Abele has governed Milwaukee County in a very conservative manner, in fact, he’s a political ally of Scott Walker despite being a Democrat.
  • Although not mentioned by name in the blog post, the Milwaukee County Democratic Party Chairwoman is Marlene Ott. The blog posts references Ott, who has endorsed Rae, trying to fill her county’s delegate slate with as many supporters of the Jason Rae for DPW Chair campaign as possible.
  • The blog post contains a large number of grammar errors, which I’ve left in the blog post because I’m not the one who originally wrote it.
  • Actually, 20%+1, not 21%, would be the minimum percentage of delegates that a candidate for DPW Chair in a five-way race would need in order to be mathematically able to win.
  • The reference to That Nation being a funder of Republicans is a reference to Coalition for the New Economy, a political organization led by Nation, giving money to right-wing political organizations that have supported Republican candidates and/or right-wing causes.
  • The Milwaukee County Democratic Party members who helped write the blog post were not named by the person who sent me the blog post.
  • The blog post is displayed without lines between paragraphs due to a bizarre technical problem that I’ve not been able to fix.

Martha Laning: The Corporate Candidate for Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairperson

It’s official: Martha Laning, who we last saw running unsuccessfully for a seat in the Wisconsin State Senate and running television ads claiming that far-right Republicans, who have, over the past few years, implemented a destructive agenda that has hurt Wisconsin’s economy and reputation, have “good ideas”, is running for state party chairperson of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW). Additionally, political fundraiser Mary Lang Sollinger officially dropped out of the race for DPW Chair on the same day Laning entered the race.

Since not long after current DPW Chairman Mike Tate decided not to run for re-election after leaving the DPW in shambles after six years of his failed leadership, Jason Rae, a Democratic National Committee (DNC) member, has been the insider candidate for DPW Chair. Now, Martha Laning is the corporate candidate for DPW Chair.

Laning has only recently entered the race for DPW Chair, but she’s already made a noticeable campaign blunder. Laning unveiled a campaign website that includes a “Why I’m Running” page riddled with grammar errors, such as failing to properly capitalize the first letters in the words “Democratic Party” more than once, referring to northern Wisconsin as “the north woods” instead of “the Northwoods”, and using the past tense verb “needed” to refer to elections that are scheduled to take place in the future. Additionally, the “Values” page of her campaign website also includes grammar errors, including using the grammatically incorrect phrase “equality opportunity” when either “equality and opportunity” or “equal opportunity” would be grammatically correct. I find it shocking that someone who was a business executive prior to entering politics would make repeated grammar errors on a campaign website for a state Democratic Party leadership post.

Regarding some of the promises that Laning has already made as a DPW Chair candidate, I do like a couple of ideas that Laning has, including expanding the geographical distribution of DPW staffers across the state, instead of having most or all of the party’s staffers in one city, and supporting year-round DPW offices, something that at least one other DPW Chair candidate, Jeff Smith, also supports. However, there are some terrible ideas that Laning has. One of Laning’s terrible ideas is to deepen the DPW’s relationships with partner organizations, and Laning cited Wisconsin Progress and Fair Wisconsin as two organizations that she wants the DPW to work more closely with. While I know very little about Wisconsin Progress, outside of the fact that they’re an organization that trains Democratic candidates to run for public office in Wisconsin, the fact that Laning wants the DPW to be more closely tied to Fair Wisconsin sets off alarm bells to any progressive who has followed Wisconsin politics for the past few years. While Fair Wisconsin is a pro-LGBT rights organization, and LGBT rights are supported by nearly all Wisconsin Democrats, Fair Wisconsin has received a lot of its funding from Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, who has implemented a right-wing corporate agenda as the county executive of Wisconsin’s largest county. Among the things that Abele has done as Milwaukee County Executive include vetoing nearly every item of progressive legislation that the progressive-controlled Milwaukee County Board has passed, strongly opposing worker’s rights, publicly opposing efforts to put a non-binding referendum on the Milwaukee County ballot calling for a federal constitutional amendment to get rid of the undue influence of money in politics, and attempting to convince the Republicans who control the Wisconsin State Legislature to prevent counties from passing living wage ordinances. The fact that Laning wants the DPW to partner with an organization that is funded heavily by someone like Chris Abele indicates to me that Laning is not one bit serious about moving the Democratic Party of Wisconsin in a more progressive direction.

Who will emerge as the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s standard-bearer?

Currently, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) lacks a true standard bearer of any kind. This is because Democrats have virtually no power in Wisconsin state government: not counting federal offices like U.S. Senate and U.S. House seats (Democrats hold one of the two U.S. Senate seats and three of the eight U.S. House seats in Wisconsin) and officially non-partisan offices like state superintendent (which is held by a de facto Democrat who is ideologically center-left), Democrats are in the minority in both chambers of the Wisconsin State Legislature and, of the five officially partisan state executive offices, only the nearly powerless office of secretary of state is controlled by Democrats.

Steven Walters of WisconsinEye (basically a Wisconsin version of C-SPAN) named a long list of Democrats in this column for Milwaukee-area webgazine Urban Milwaukee a couple of weeks ago, some of which could emerge as a standard-bearer of the DPW:

  • State Senate Minority Leader-designate Jennifer Shilling: Shilling, who is from La Crosse in the western part of the state, was recently elected to be the new Democratic floor leader in the Wisconsin State Senate after the previous Democratic floor leader, Chris Larson, meddled in a Democratic primary in a state senate race in the southwestern part of the state, which pissed off progressives and led to an ultra-conservative Republican winning the general election. Shilling has represented the La Crosse area and rural areas to the south of La Crosse in the state senate since winning a 2011 recall election. I don’t expect Shilling to have a ton of influence on the state party beyond the Democratic state senate caucus, although she could emerge as a regional standard-bearer in the western part of Wisconsin.
  • U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin: Baldwin, who is from Madison, is the highest-ranking Democratic elected official in Wisconsin. However, Baldwin hasn’t shown any interest in building the state Democratic Party organization, and she has mostly been a backbencher in the U.S. Senate in her first two years in office. Walters implied that Baldwin could have a considerable amount of influence over the state party, including having influence over whether or DPW Chairman Mike Tate runs for another term, in the coming years.
  • Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Mike Tate: Tate has been the DPW Chairman since 2009. However, Tate is absolutely hated by the progressive base of the party, and he’s built up a losing track record in the six years he’s been on the job. Additionally, Tate could decide not to run for another term as DPW Chairman, in fact, there have been high-grade rumors that Tate will step down at the end of his current term in June of next year, but Tate has been trying to deny those rumors in recent weeks. Tate is too tainted to be a standard-bearer of the state party.
  • Former Governor Jim Doyle: Doyle, who is from Madison, was Governor of Wisconsin for two terms from 2003 to 2011, and is now a partner at the law firm Foley & Lardner, which is now represented in Wisconsin state-level politics by a Republican lobbyist. Doyle has played a mostly behind-the-scenes role in the state party since leaving electoral politics, and Doyle remains unpopular in Wisconsin, even with many in his own party, so he’s not going to re-emerge as any kind of standard-bearer of the party.
  • U.S. Representative Ron Kind: Kind, who is from La Crosse, has represented much of the western part of Wisconsin in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1997. Kind is one of two Democrats (the other being former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold) who are believed to be considering running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Ron Johnson in 2016, in fact, Walters indicated there is a gentlemen’s agreement (or a de facto one) that Kind runs against Johnson if and only if Feingold doesn’t run against Johnson. Kind is already the standard-bearer of the Democratic Party in his region of the state (he’s built up a ton of institutional loyalty that has allowed him to win re-election by larger than normal margins despite having a centrist voting record that would normally result in Kind drawing progressive primary challengers, something that Kind has been able to avoid). However, Kind has repeatedly turned down opportunities to run statewide in recent years, so I doubt that he’d actually run against Johnson.
  • Former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold: Feingold, who is from Middleton in the south-central part of the state, served three terms in the U.S. Senate from 1993 to 2011 and is now a U.S. State Department envoy. Feingold reportedly plans to return to Wisconsin sometime early next year, and he could run for his old U.S. Senate seat. Feingold is still very well-liked by the progressive base of the party, although Feingold is not a party-building type of person that could become a standard-bearer of the state party.
  • U.S. Representative Gwen Moore: Moore, who is from Milwaukee, has represented Milwaukee and nearby suburbs in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2005. Moore has never shown any interest in building the state party outside of the Milwaukee area, where she’s been a standard-bearer of the Democratic Party in that part of the state for years.
  • U.S. Representative Mark Pocan: Pocan, who is from Madison, has represented much of south-central Wisconsin in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2013. As Walters noted, Pocan is more interested in building the Democratic Party at the national level than the state level. While Pocan is one of several individuals who may run for U.S. Senate in the event that neither Russ Feingold nor Ron Kind run, he’s not going to emerge as a standard-bearer of the DPW.
  • Madison School Board Member Mary Burke: Burke, who is from Madison, has been a member of the school board in Wisconsin’s second-largest school district since 2012 and was the Democratic Party’s nominee for governor this year, losing to Republican incumbent Scott Walker. Burke has publicly stated that she’s done with statewide politics, so her influence over the state party will be minimal, probably limited to donating money to Democrats.
  • Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ: Happ, who is from Jefferson in the south central part of the state, was the Democratic Party’s nominee for attorney general this year, losing to Republican candidate Brad Schimel. Happ has kept a very low profile since the November elections, but, if Happ were to run for re-election to the Jefferson County DA’s post, she would probably be the #1 Republican target in the entire state in 2016. It’s not clear as to exactly how much of a role Happ wants in building the state party, although she’s never struck me as a party-building type of person.
  • State Senator Bob Jauch: Jauch, who is from Poplar in the northwestern part of the state, is retiring from the Wisconsin State Senate after having served seven terms from 1987 onward. Jauch may have some limited influence over the Democratic Party in the northern part of the state, but that would be it.
  • State Assembly Assistant Minority Leader-designate Katrina Shankland: Shankland, who is from Stevens Point in the central part of the state, has represented much of Portage County in the state assembly since 2013 and is only 27 years old. Shankland has indicated that, despite representing a very progressive district, she intends to develop a centrist style of leadership that could alienate progressives, possibly hindering any effort by her to become a standard-bearer of the DPW.
  • State Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca: Barca, who is from Kenosha in the southeastern part of the state, has represented parts of Kenosha area in the state assembly since 2008 and is the Democratic floor leader in the state assembly. Prior to that, Barca was the U.S. Representative for the Janesville/Racine/Kenosha region of the state for less than a full term from 1993 to 1995. Barca has quite a bit of influence over the state assembly Democrats’ campaign efforts, but his influence over the state party doesn’t extend beyond that.
  • State Representative Evan Goyke: Goyke, who is from Milwaukee, has represented part of Milwaukee in the state assembly since 2013. Goyke unsuccessfully challenged Peter Barca for state assembly minority leader after this year’s elections. Goyke is probably on the outs in the eyes of the party establishment, so he’s, more than likely, not going to have any role in building the state party.
  • Dane County Executive Joe Parisi: Parisi, who is from Madison, has been the county executive of Wisconsin’s second largest county since 2011. Walters indicated that Parisi wants to play a bigger role in the state party’s future, but it’s not clear what role Parisi wants to play.
  • Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson: Nelson, who is from Kaukauna in the northeastern part of the state, has been the county executive of Outagamie County since 2011. Prior to that, Nelson was the Democratic Party’s unsuccessful nominee for lieutenant governor in 2010 and served in the state assembly from 2005 to 2011. Walters indicated that Nelson wants to play a bigger role in the state party’s future, but it’s not clear what role Nelson wants to play.

Additionally, some other individuals who Walters did not name could emerge as the standard-bearer of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. I’ll go ahead and name some of them:

  • State Representative Chris Taylor: Taylor, who is from Madison, has represented parts of the Madison area in the state assembly since 2011. Taylor has a very large following among progressives in Wisconsin, although she declined to run for statewide office this year and has, in recent months, kept a somewhat lower profile than early on in her career in the state assembly. However, Taylor is rumored to be considering a run for governor in 2018. It’s not exactly clear as to how much of a role Taylor wants in the future of the DPW, although she seems to be very ambitious.
  • State Representative Melissa Sargent: Sargent, who is from Madison, has represented parts of the Madison area in the state assembly since 2013. Sargent is very well-respected among Wisconsin progressives, and she has been very vocal on a number of issues in recent months. More importantly, Sargent is very ambitious and appears to be interested in playing some sort of party-building role in Wisconsin.
  • Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele: Abele, who is from Milwaukee, has been the county executive of Wisconsin’s largest county since 2011. Abele is rumored to be considering a run for U.S. Senate in 2016 and is a large DPW donor, however, he’s absolutely hated by progressives for a large number of reasons, and he’s seen as a divisive figure within the party, which will hinder any attempt by Abele to put his stamp on the DPW.

Additionally, there’s the possibility that some little-known political figure could come from total or near-total obscurity and emerge as a powerful force in the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

It will be interesting to see who, if anybody, emerges as the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s standard-bearer in the coming months and years.