Tag: Doug La Follette

My final thoughts about the race for Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairperson and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin Convention

Just a couple of days before the opening of the 2015 Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) convention in Milwaukee, I’ll share my final thoughts about the race, which, despite the fact I live in Illinois, I’ve actually had a major role in.

First off, I’m going to raise an issue with the scheduled convention speeches. Tim Kaine, a former DNC chairman who absolutely failed at that job and later got elected to the U.S. Senate as a Democrat, is scheduled to be the keynote speaker of the DPW convention. This is despite the fact that Kaine represents Virginia, not Wisconsin, in the U.S. Senate. The DPW apparently can’t find a Wisconsinite to give the keynote speech at their own convention, despite the fact that Democratic statewide candidates in Wisconsin regularly get more than a million votes nowadays! While I’m an Illinoisan, I believe that state-level Democratic Party organizations should pick someone who is a resident of state where the convention is being held and a supporter of Democratic/progressive causes to give the keynote speech. Additionally, U.S. Representative Ron Kind and Secretary of State Doug La Follette were not listed as speakers on the list of speakers that I’ve seen. While I disagree with Kind over his support for President Obama’s free-trade deals, Kind is a Democrat and a federal elected official from Wisconsin, so he should be given a speaking slot, just like Mark Pocan, Gwen Moore, and Tammy Baldwin. Additionally, La Follette is the only state executive in Wisconsin who has been elected in a partisan race as a Democrat, so he should be given a speaking slot. Hopefully, all candidates for DPW Chair and other party offices elected by convention delegates are allowed equal speaking time before the vote for the office they are running for, and the winners are allowed to give victory speeches.

Now, I’m going to talk about all five of the candidates in the race for DPW Chair.

The candidate who I think should be the next chairperson of the DPW is Martha Laning. Laning, who is from the Town of Sheboygan in Sheboygan County, ran unsuccessfully for a Wisconsin State Senate seat last year. Prior to joining the DPW and entering electoral politics, Laning was a finance executive for Target and a key player in helping raise money to get Generations Intergenerational Center, a community center for both young and old people in Plymouth, Wisconsin, built and operating. Laning’s supporters include, but are not limited to:

  • Lori Compas, a professional photographer, the organizer of the unsuccessful, but valiant recall attempt against Republican State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, and the Democratic nominee in the recall election against Fitzgerald
  • Elisa Miller, who was Compas’s assistant campaign manager during her state senate campaign
  • State Senator Kathleen Vinehout, the legendary prairie populist from Alma who unsuccessfully ran in the Democratic recall primary for governor in the 2012
  • State Senator Mark Miller, who was briefly Majority Leader of the Wisconsin State Senate for several months after the 2012 recall elections
  • Former State Representative Sandy Pasch, who was the Assistant Minority Leader in the Wisconsin State Assembly prior to her leaving electoral politics last year
  • Pierce County Supervisor Mike Kahlow
  • Mary Lang Sollinger, a Democratic fundraiser who was briefly a DPW Chair candidate before dropping out of the race
  • Kelly Westlund, the chair of the Chequamegon Democrats (the joint Democratic Party organization for Ashland and Bayfield Counties along the Lake Superior shore) and a former congressional candidate
  • Progressive blogger Chris “Capper” Liebenthal
  • Progressive blogger Zach Wisniewski

If elected, Laning has promised to make the DPW more inclusive, and she has also promised to provide more financial support to county-level Democratic organizations in Wisconsin. Laning has been the most heavily criticized candidate in the race for DPW Chair, with most of the criticism being over her ties to Target (she did not have a direct role in any anti-union efforts at Target), false allegations that she’s opposed to reproductive rights (she actually supports reproductive rights), her being relatively new to the DPW (she only joined the party a year and a half ago, and this is something I don’t have a problem with), and her infrequent voting record (not everybody was born into a civic-minded family, and 2010 was a political wake-up call for many Wisconsinites who don’t support Scott Walker’s far-right agenda).

Up until a few days ago, I was supporting Jeff Smith, a former Wisconsin State Representative from the Eau Claire area, for DPW Chair. Jeff Smith’s campaign, which had focused heavily on bringing progressive messaging to the DPW, had energized many anti-establishment progressives in Wisconsin, most notably 1998 Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Ed Garvey and Mike McCabe, the founder of the progressive group Blue Jean Nation, both of whom are staunch supporters of progressive ideals. However, I pulled my endorsement of Jeff Smith after he sent a letter to DPW delegates promising to appoint Laning to the DPW Executive Director’s post if elected, which sounded to me like an attempt by Jeff Smith to set up a political patronage system within the DPW. Also, Jeff Smith bashed Laning while offering her a job at the same time, flagrantly violating the first rule of job offering, which is don’t criticize the person you’re offering the job while offering him or her the job. Jeff Smith has since dropped out of the race and is supporting Laning.

Another candidate running for DPW Chair is Joe Wineke, who is from the Verona area in Dane County. Wineke is a known quantity to those who knew him as DPW Chair, as he had a very successful record (albeit one aided greatly by a wildly unpopular George W. Bush being in the White House at the time and two elections featuring national Democratic landslides) in the four years he was DPW Chair. Wineke has, among other people and groups, the support of the United Steelworkers (USW) union, progressive talk radio host John “Sly” Sylvester, and progressive bloggers Jud Loundsbury, Michael Leon, and Jeff Simpson. However, the last time Wineke was DPW Chair, he was also a lobbyist for AT&T, which has fought for laws making it easier for them to jack up telephone service rates in Wisconsin, other states, and at the federal level, which rightfully outraged many Wisconsin progressives.

Yet another candidate running for DPW Chair is Stephen Smith, a former Wisconsin State Representative from Washburn County in the northern part of the state. Although Stephen Smith and Jeff Smith share the same last name, I’m almost certain they’re not related, but I’m not 100% sure of that. Stephen Smith is the most obscure of the five candidates for DPW Chair, and I predict that he’ll get the least amount of votes from convention delegates.

In my opinion, the worst candidate for DPW Chair is Jason Rae, a Democratic National Committee (DNC) member from Milwaukee who also works at the Milwaukee-based consulting firm Nation Consulting. To put it mildly, Rae represents the destruction of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Rae represents a desperate attempt by former Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle’s cronies, the DNC, and Nation Consulting to keep their death grip on the DPW, which has caused Democrats to lose a lot of offices in the six years that Mike Tate has been DPW Chair. In fact, I strongly suspect that Rae wants to use the DPW as a cash cow for Nation Consulting and other political consultants and insiders connected to him. Rae himself has a very vindictive attitude (in fact, he thinks that people shouldn’t question him or candidates that the Democratic establishment supports, which is a textbook example of a royalist mindset), and many of his supporters have used blogs and social media to attack me, other progressives, others who don’t strongly agree with Rae and/or the current Democratic leadership, and those who are running against Rae for DPW Chair, often in downright vicious ways (examples here). In fact, the attacks I’ve had to deal with from Rae’s supporters have been the nastiest attacks I’ve ever had to deal with. Rae’s supporters include, among others:

  • Jon Richards, a former Wisconsin State Pepresentative who got only one-third or so of the vote in the 2014 attorney general primary in Wisconsin (losing the primary to Susan Happ, who ran a terrible general election campaign, losing to far-right Republican Brad Schimel)
  • Tanya Lohr, the head of the DPW County Chairs Association (DPW CCA), the Washington County Democratic Party chairwoman, and a former state senate candidate
  • Sachin Chheda, a former Jim Doyle aide, former Milwaukee County Democratic Party chairman, and Nation Consulting employee
  • Marlene Ott, the Milwaukee County Democratic Party chairwoman who has tried to fill her county’s delegate slate with as many Rae supporters as possible
  • Graeme Zielinski, the disgraced former DPW communications director who has been busted for drunk driving multiple times
  • Melissa Schroeder, the current First Vice-Chairwoman of the DPW
  • Michael Basford, the Dane County Democratic Party chairman who ran Scott Resnick’s unsuccessful campaign for Mayor of Madison earlier this year (Resnick lost badly to incumbent Paul Soglin)
  • Brandon Savage, the guy who ran Chris Moews’s unsuccessful campaign against far-right gun nut David Clarke in last year’s race for Milwaukee County Sheriff and the most hateful person I’ve ever interacted with online
  • Andy Suchorski, the corresponding secretary of the Milwaukee County Democratic Party and Nation Consulting employee (although he tries to hide his role at Nation Consulting on the Milwaukee County Democratic Party website, and he tries to hide his role at the Milwaukee County Democratic Party on the Nation Consulting website).

The main problems that many Democrats and progressives who follow Wisconsin politics have with Rae is that he’s not significantly different than Mike Tate and, most importantly, he’s an employee at Nation Consulting, a firm that is led by Thad Nation, who has indirectly given tens of thousands of dollars to right-wing front groups that have opposed Democratic and progressive causes. Additionally, Rae is too closely tied to the national Democratic establishment and that he either is or was an associate director for Wired Wisconsin, a Thad Nation-led, AT&T-backed political front group that has fought to make it easier for landline telephone companies in Wisconsin to jack up the rates they charge customers. My blog post exposing the ties between Nation Consulting and right-wing groups that have opposed Democratic and progressive causes has caused Rae’s supporters to go completely nuts since I wrote that blog post, and it’s drawn the attention of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Wisconsin’s largest newspaper, and the Milwaukee-area webgazine Urban Milwaukee.

While these include some ideas that none of the five candidates for DPW Chair support, here’s my own recommendations for what the next DPW chair should do:

  • Operate the party as independently of the DNC as reasonably possible
  • Run the party in as much of an inclusive manner as reasonable possible
  • Use progressive messaging on the DPW’s social media accounts, and make promoting progressive values a key part of the DPW’s operation
  • Encourage various Democratic organizations to use progressive messaging, although allow them to use their own messaging if they wish to do so
  • Provide a template for various Democratic organizations in Wisconsin to use so they can build easy-to-use websites, if they wish to use the template
  • Design a new DPW website to put progressive values, voter registration info, membership registration info, etc. on the front page, not pictures of Scott Walker
  • Allow for the creation of a DPW Progressive Caucus
  • Push for reforms to the DPW’s election process for state party officers to prevent county-level party officials from filling their delegate slates for favored individuals and allow multiple rounds of voting if one candidate doesn’t get a majority on the first ballot…if it takes amending DNC rules to do so, push for the necessary changes to the DNC rules
  • Eliminate the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee (ADCC) and the State Senate Democratic Committee (SSDC), two slush funds used by Democratic state legislators in Wisconsin to funnel money to political candidates
  • Prohibit county-level Democratic organizations in Wisconsin from covering multiple counties, as is currently the case in Ashland and Bayfield Counties…One county, one county-level Democratic organization
  • End all payments by the DPW to political consultants and consulting firms, including, but not limited to, Nation Consulting
  • Fire everyone in the current DPW leadership who can be fired by the chair and hire progressive-minded people to fill positions in the DPW
  • Invest more in county-level Democratic organizations
  • Quit praising Republicans in official DPW messaging
  • Emphasize workers’ rights, marijuana legalization, restoring public education, and other progressive ideals that the DPW hasn’t been as forceful in advocating in recent years in party messaging

I also provided some suggestions for the next DPW Chair in this blog post.

Regarding who I think will win the DPW Chair’s race, I think that Jason Rae, Joe Wineke, or Martha Laning all have realistic chances of winning, and it appears to me like it’s a three-way race between the two. Unfortunately, I think Rae is a very slight favorite. However, Wineke may have more support than I think he does, and Laning may be able to win over enough undecided delegates, which there’s probably quite a few of, to win. I think that Jeff Smith will get several percent of the convention vote, and Stephen Smith will probably get around one to two percent of the convention vote. I’m predicting that the delegate count will be in the mid-to-high 1,000’s, probably around 1600-1700 total delegates voting for DPW chair and other DPW officers.

This will be my final blog post in regards to this year’s race for the leadership of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. I thank everyone who has viewed my blog and supported my work exposing the inner workings of the current DPW leadership and Nation Consulting. The DPW Convention will be held June 5 & 6 at the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, located at 1721 West Canal Street in Milwaukee. Given how important Wisconsin will be on a national scale in the 2016 elections, ensuring that someone other than Jason Rae is elected DPW Chair is an absolute must for Democrats to have any chance of winning Wisconsin next year. I recommend that DPW delegates vote for Martha Laning for DPW Chair.


When it comes to climate change, nobody is going to shut me up

Wisconsin has become the second state to ban public employees from talking about climate change, when the Wisconsin Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (Wisconsin BCPL) voted 2-1 along partisan lines to ban Wisconsin BCPL employees from talking about climate change. State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk and Attorney General Brad Schimel, both Republicans, voted for the measure, while Secretary of State Doug La Follette, a Democrat, voted against it. Currently and as far as I know, Wisconsin’s climate change gag order only applies to Wisconsin BCPL employees.

This is clearly an attempt to gag Wisconsin BCPL Executive Director Julia Nelson, whose father, Former Democratic U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, came up with the idea for Earth Day. Apparently, Adamczyk and Schimel have not read the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which gives Nelson and everybody else in this country free speech rights. Furthermore, Adamczyk and Schimel apparently think that the Wisconsin BCPL is their plantation where they can control every single aspect of Nelson’s life. Adamczyk and Schimel are clearly violating Nelson’s First Amendment right to free speech, and that is highly unacceptable.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, is going to shut me up when it comes to climate change. Recent climate change, caused primarily, if not exclusively, by human activities like pollution, has already had a major negative impact on this country. For example, global climate change has either led to, or made worse, California’s ongoing drought and flooding in coastal areas caused by rising sea levels.

16 elected officials and soon-to-be elected officials I’d like to meet in person

Since this will be my last blog post of 2014, I’d like to take the opportunity and list 16 elected officials and soon-to-be elected officials that I’d like to meet in person someday.

16. Minnesota State Representative Carly Melin (D-Hibbing) – Melin, a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives from the Iron Range region of the state, is like me in many ways: Progressive on a wide range of issues, millennial, not from a large city, loves to use Twitter, and not afraid to criticize Republicans and corporate Democrats.

15. U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston, Illinois) – Schakowsky is one of the most progressive members of my home state’s delegation to Congress, especially on economic issues like the minimum wage and worker’s rights. We don’t have too many politicians who are willing to stand up for worker’s rights here in Illinois, but she’s one of them.

14. Montana State Representative Amanda Curtis (D-Butte) – Curtis won’t be an elected official for much longer after losing her bid for a U.S. Senate seat in Montana, but Curtis is surprisingly progressive for a Montana Democrat. She’s a supporter of background checks on gun sales and she’s progressive on many other issues. Also, she also seems like a wonderful person to be around.

13. Michigan State Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) – Whitmer won’t be an elected official for much longer, but, during her two terms as a Michigan State Senator, she was a fearless advocate for progressive ideas and a vocal critic of the far-right Republicans that run Michigan’s state government.

12. Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette (D-Kenosha) – The only member of the La Follette political family (which produced legendary progressive Robert M. “Fighting Bob” La Follette) that is still in public office, Doug La Follette has served as Wisconsin’s Secretary of State for decades (although his office has very little power nowadays); prior to that, he was a Wisconsin state legislator who was known for championing environmental protection.

11. U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Hennepin County, Minnesota) – Klobuchar is perhaps the nicest elected official in the entire country, and she’s built up a solid track record of serving her constituents in Minnesota as a U.S. Senator. I’m not exactly sure what Klobuchar’s hometown is, so I’ve listed her by her home county instead.

10. U.S. Representative John Lewis (D-Atlanta, Georgia) – Lewis, one of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s, is an important person in American history, as he fought to end the Jim Crow laws that discriminated against Black Americans for over a century after slavery was abolished.

9. U.S. Representative Mark Pocan (D-Madison, Wisconsin) – Pocan, by some measures, has the single most progressive voting record of any member of either house of Congress, and he’s also a cool guy.

8. U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Burlington, Vermont) – Sanders, who is considering running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, is a strong progressive, especially when it comes to his opposition to rampant income inequality.

7. Dane County, Wisconsin Supervisor Jenni Dye (D-Fitchburg) – Most of you probably don’t know who Jenni Dye is, since she’s a local elected official in Dane County, Wisconsin (specifically, a county legislator), but she is a Twitter master, an all-around cool person, and a strong supporter of women’s rights. Dye is elected to an officially non-partisan office, although she is a known Democrat, so I’ve listed her as such.

6. U.S. Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-Tuscon, Arizona) – Grijalva is a strong progressive from a congressional district that includes much of southern Arizona. Grijalva understands better than anyone else the issues that Hispanics face in this country.

5. U.S. Representative Alan Grayson (D-Orlando, Florida) – Billed as a “Congressman with Guts”, Grayson is a notorious progressive firebrand who is often willing to speak his mind in support of progressive values and ideals on a wide variety of issues. More importantly, he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get progressive ideals enacted into law, even against conservative opposition.

4. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Cambridge, Massachusetts) – No, she’s not running for president, but, make no mistake about it, Elizabeth Warren is the elected official that scares Wall Street fat cats more than any other. She is a fearless advocate for protecting consumers from Wall Street greed and is progressive on many other issues as well.

3. Illinois State Representative-elect Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago) – The only person who is not currently an elected official (although, in just a couple of weeks, he’ll be sworn in as one), Guzzardi ran as a progressive for a state house seat in Chicago’s North Side, took on the corrupt Chicago Machine in the Democratic primary, and won.

2. Wisconsin State Representative Chris Taylor (D-Madison) – One of the most progressive members of the Wisconsin State Assembly, Taylor is a fearless advocate for progressive ideals on a wide range of issues. Prior to entering electoral politics, Taylor ran Planned Parenthood’s Wisconsin political operation.

1. Wisconsin State Representative Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) – If I could only meet one elected official that I like in my entire lifetime, it would be Melissa Sargent, the Democratic member of the Wisconsin State Assembly from the East Side of Madison. Sargent is a fearless advocate for collective bargaining rights, raising the minimum wage, reproductive rights, equal pay for equal work, internet privacy, legalization of recreational marijuana, and many other progressive ideals. More importantly, Sargent is a down-to-earth person who cares about people.