Tag: WI-AD-64

Gannon the Cannon gives the finger to a Democrat on the floor of the Wisconsin Assembly

Earlier today, Wisconsin State Rep. Bob Gannon (R-Slinger) flipped off Wisconsin State Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) during a debate about Gannon’s racist remarks about crime in Milwaukee:

Several Democratic lawmakers from Milwaukee chastised state Rep. Bob Gannon, R-Slinger, for his comments, which they believed were racially charged. After a heated back-and-forth, Gannon flashed Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, his middle finger and walked out of the Assembly chamber.

“It is wholly inappropriate to give somebody the finger, for God’s sakes, on the floor of the Assembly,” Barca said, asking for Gannon to be reprimanded.

Gannon later apologized for making the gesture. It was the state Assembly’s first time meeting in 2016.

Gannon has earned a reputation of being a loose cannon and a racist. Prior to this most recent incident, Gannon made remarks encouraging concealed carry weapon (CCW) permit holders to shoot and kill “scumbags” and blamed black people for Wisconsin’s economic problems, the latter of which prompted the floor debate over crime in Milwaukee.

Gannon makes me look mild-mannered by comparison, and anyone who has met me, either in person or online, knows that I have a temper. What Gannon did on the floor of the Wisconsin Assembly earlier today was extremely inappropriate, and people with Gannon’s attitude are why Wisconsin’s political climate is absolutely toxic these days. Wisconsin gave America kindergarten, and, quite frankly, kindergartners are more civil than Republican politicians these days.

The Washington County, Wisconsin Democratic Party issued this response to Gannon’s use of a certain inappropriate hand signal on the floor of the Wisconsin Assembly:

Granted, it would be an absolute miracle if Gannon were to lose re-election to a Democrat, but Democrats should run a candidate against Gannon. I would be willing to do an email interview with a Democratic candidate in the 58th Assembly Candidate of Wisconsin, if one were to run for that seat.

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ENDORSEMENT: JoAnne Kloppenburg for Wisconsin Supreme Court

Early next year, there will be an election to determine who will be elected to the seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court that was held by Justice Patrick Crooks prior to his death earlier this month. I whole-heartedly endorse JoAnne Kloppenburg, a Wisconsin Court of Appeals judge, for the seat.

Since this seat is vacant, but up for election early next year, Republican Governor Scott Walker will appoint someone to the seat, and that individual will serve the remainder of Crooks’s term. Next year’s election is for a full ten-year term, and I am endorsing Kloppenburg for the election to a full ten-year term. I would encourage Walker to appoint Former Wisconsin State Representative Kelda Roys to the Wisconsin Supreme Court seat, but Walker isn’t going to appoint her or anyone else who is not a full-blown right-wing ideologue.

Prior to becoming an appellate court judge, Kloppenburg served as a Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General under both Democratic (Peg Lautenschlager) and Republican (J.B. Van Hollen) state attorneys general, and she now serves as a state appellate court judge in Wisconsin Court of Appeals District IV, which covers 24 counties (map here) in the south-central, southwestern, and central parts of Wisconsin. If elected to Wisconsin’s highest bench, she’ll be an impartial interpreter of Wisconsin’s constitution and laws, not a judicial activist of any kind.

Walker will most likely appoint Rebecca Bradley, a Wisconsin Court of Appeals judge from the Milwaukee area, to the vacant seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Bradley was running for the seat prior to Crooks’s death and is still running for the seat. Bradley has earned a reputation as a far-right judicial activist. Bradley was once the president of the Milwaukee chapter of the Federalist Society, an organization of far-right judicial activists who believe in using the courts to implement a far-right political agenda that would cost America millions of jobs and undermine the civil liberties of the American people. Furthermore, Bradley is a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA), an organization that, among other things, supports voter suppression schemes designed to keep people from exercising their right to vote.

The third candidate in next year’s Wisconsin Supreme Court race is Joe Donald, a Milwaukee County circuit court judge, who, if elected to Wisconsin’s highest bench, would become the first elected black justice, and second black justice overall, on Wisconsin’s highest bench. While Donald has endorsements from some progressives, most notably Marquette University law professor Ed Fallone, he’s accepted campaign cash from Peter Barca, the Wisconsin State Assembly Democratic Leader who supported Scott Walker’s corporate welfare giveaway to the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks. Judges should be as independent as possible from state legislators and other elected officials, not accepting campaign cash from them.

If you’re a Wisconsinite who wants an actual justice who will interpret Wisconsin’s constitution and laws in a non-partisan manner, then vote for JoAnne Kloppenburg next spring! The non-partisan primary, provided that at least three candidates make the ballot (three candidates are currently campaigning for the seat), will be held in February of 2016, and the general election will be held in April of 2016.

Wisconsin legislators to Scott Walker: YOU’RE FIRED FROM YOUR OWN CORPORATE WELFARE AGENCY!!!

It’s official…the members of the Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Legislature’s Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee (JFC) have effectively fired Scott Walker from the corporate welfare agency he helped create, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC):

The state’s Republican-led budget committee Thursday retained legislative oversight of Gov. Scott Walker’s troubled job-creation agency, removed the governor from its board and pledged further changes later this fall in the wake of a recent critical audit and a (Wisconsin) State Journal investigation.

The Legislature’s powerful Joint Finance Committee voted along party lines for the changes to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., but only after rejecting a series of Democratic ideas to reform the agency and more than an hour of debate during which even Republicans conceded that the agency needs fixing.

“We know that it’s time to reform this,” said Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson. “We can’t do it in the middle of the budget.”

Knudson even made the sobering admission that he didn’t believe in the mission of the agency – to leverage state tax dollars to help create jobs.

Walker has been the chair of the WEDC’s board of directors since it began operations in 2011. It’s not clear who would replace Walker on the WEDC board, although it would all but certainly be another Republican.

For those of you who haven’t been following the WEDC debacle in Wisconsin, I’ll provide a quick refresher. Since its creation in 2011, the WEDC has, among other things, mismanaged money, violated laws, has had officials spend taxpayer money on items like college football tickets and alcoholic beverages, handed out tax breaks to companies that have shipped American jobs to foreign countries, and has given loans to companies that haven’t paid back a single penny of the money that was loaned to them. In fact, State Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) and State Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) have both called for a federal criminal investigation into the WEDC’s activities. For U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to not launch an investigation would mean that Lynch and the Obama Administration are complicit in a cover-up of at least possible violations of federal law at the WEDC, so Lynch better launch an investigation, preferably right now.

For the JFC to fire Walker from his own corporate welfare agency is an obvious example of damage control by the Republicans in the Wisconsin State Legislature. Preferably, I’d like to see these state-level corporate welfare agencies replaced by North Dakota-style state economic development banks, but Republicans and corporate Democrats are never going to support anything like that.

A tale of three Wisconsin Democrats on economic messaging, part two

You may remember a blog post I wrote late last year on here in which I compared the political messaging of three Democratic members of the Wisconsin State Legislature, State Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, State Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, and State Representative Melissa Sargent, when it comes to so-called “right-to-work” legislation, which is actually wage theft legislation since it allows non-union employees at a shop in which wages and other benefits are determined by a collective bargaining agreement between organized labor and management to effectively steal wages and other benefits without paying for them in the form of union dues.

Now, that Wisconsin Republicans are formally pushing to implement wage theft legislation in Wisconsin, I’d figure I’d analyse the press releases that Barca, Shilling, and Sargent sent out earlier today.

Here’s the key part Barca’s press release:

“Governor Walker has called so-called ‘Right to Work’ legislation a distraction and apparently that’s exactly what he wants. By rushing to pass Right to Work in less than a week, clearly the governor and Republican legislators want to distract from how destructive their budget is for Wisconsin’s workers, students and middle-class families.

“Wisconsin is already lagging behind most of the nation in jobs and wage growth and ‘Right to Work’ would only make things worse. In fact, the average worker in Right to Work states makes between $5,000 and $6,000 less than the average worker in other states. And calling an extraordinary session will make the budget disaster Republicans have created worse since we’re already scheduled to be in session the following week anyway. What’s the emergency?

Here’s the key part of Shilling’s press release:

Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling released the following statement regarding the call for an extraordinary session of the Legislature to take up so-called “Right to Work” legislation:

“It is absurd that Republicans would fast-track legislation to interfere with private business contracts and lower wages for all Wisconsin workers at a time when our state is facing a massive $2.2 billion budget crisis.

Here’s the key part of Sargent’s press release:

“Let’s call this what it really is. Plain and simple, this is a wage theft bill,” stated Rep. Sargent.

[…]

“It is important that the treatment of our workers reflects the challenges and dangers that they face on a daily basis. This proposal would also suppress wages for the true profit creators, the workers, which are already growing at a slower rate than the national average, and further polarize our state,” continued Rep. Sargent.

“People struggling to find work and stay in the middle class do not need this divisive legislation. Instead, we should be supporting workers’ rights and helping to build the economy. I know that workers deserve the freedoms that unions provide. The freedom to take a sick day if they need to get well or help take care of a family member, the freedom to earn a family sustaining wage, and the freedom to work in a safe environment are things that I will always fight for.”

While Barca and Shilling are talking about the negative effects of wage theft legislation, such as driving down wages and interfering with negotiated contracts, they’re still primarily referring to the legislation as “so-called right-to-work” legislation, which does nothing more than reinforce the right’s absurd talking point about union busting and wage theft. Sargent, on the other hand, is referring to right-to-work legislation as “wage theft” legislation, which reinforces the notion that such legislation allows non-union workers to effectively steal union-negotiated wages and benefits without paying for them, is referring to workers and consumers as “profit creators” (after all, without people earning salaries, there’d be nobody to buy goods and services and help businesses prosper), and is talking about the various freedoms that unions and workers’ rights provide. I find Sargent’s messaging, which is recommended by the Forward Institute, a Wisconsin-based progressive think tank, to be far more effective than the messaging that most other Democrats use.

The Cap Times misrepresents Peter Barca press release on Wisconsin right-to-work-for-less legislation

In a blog post which I have since deleted, The Cap Times, a left-leaning newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin, published this article, which made it sound like Peter Barca, the Minority Leader of the Wisconsin State Assembly, wasn’t even talking about the negative effects of so-called “right-to-work” legislation that is actually wage theft legislation.

In reality, Barca’s full press release, which The Cap Times did not bother to link to on their online article, did mention that wage theft legislation drives down wages:

Wisconsin is already lagging behind most of the nation in jobs and wage growth and ‘Right to Work’ would only make things worse. In fact, the average worker in Right to Work states makes between $5,000 and $6,000 less than the average worker in other states…

Even though the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and other far-right news media outlets in Wisconsin are more notorious for this kind of garbage journalism, even left-leaning news media outlets in Wisconsin, like The Cap Times, have been known to publish garbage journalism as well from time to time.

I apologize to Representative Barca for the misguided outrage I directed towards him earlier today.

A tale of three Wisconsin Democrats on economic messaging

Most, if not all, Democratic members of the Wisconsin State Legislature are opposed to so-called “right-to-work” legislation that allows non-union members to benefit from union contracts without paying union dues, but, when it comes to conveying their opposition to right-to-work legislation that Republicans intend to propose in Wisconsin sometime after the new state legislature is sworn in, some Democrats are using different messaging than others.

Peter Barca, the Minority Leader of the Wisconsin State Assembly from Kenosha, is mostly railing against political polarization in his opposition to right-to-work legislation:

After (Republican State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald) indicated the Senate would move quickly on right-to-work, Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca called on Gov. Scott Walker to bring discussions to a halt.

Barca, a Kenosha Democrat whose district includes a portion of Racine County, said the issue would be too polarizing when the parties should focus on working together.

“I call on Gov. Walker to put the brakes on this divisive issue that clearly will damage Wisconsin’s middle class,” Barca said in a statement. “As the governor himself previously indicated, this would be an extremely polarizing policy at a time when we should be working together to improve Wisconsin’s economy.”

Jennifer Shilling, the Minority Leader-designate of the Wisconsin State Senate from La Crosse, is trying to play the “Republicans in disarray” card in her opposition to right-to-work legislation:

Both Barca and Shilling are using the wrong kind of messaging when it comes to opposing so-called “right-to-work” legislation, since they’re mostly talking about things like political polarization and division (or perceived division) within the Republican Party of Wisconsin and not talking about how terrible the legislation would be for Wisconsin. In fact, I’ve seen far too many Democrats try to duck certain economic issues entirely in their messaging.

One state legislator in Wisconsin who is using messaging that actually attacks right-to-work legislation is Melissa Sargent, a very progressive Democratic member of the Wisconsin State Assembly from Madison. Earlier this month, Sargent slammed right-to-work legislation by calling it “wage theft” legislation and referred to consumers, who, by spending money on goods and services, are responsible for the vast majority of economic activity in this country, as “profit creators”:

By referring to so-called “right-to-work” legislation as “wage theft”, Sargent is criticizing right-to-work legislation itself for what it really is: a right-wing plot to drive down the wages and benefits of workers. By referring to consumers as “profit creators”, Sargent is emphasizing that, when workers earn money at their jobs, they stimulate the economy by spending it on groceries, gasoline, and other goods and services. Sargent is using the recommended messaging of the Forward Institute, a Wisconsin-based progressive think tank led by, among others, Scott Wittkopf and Julie Wells, when it comes to opposing right-to-work legislation, and Sargent is the only Democratic state legislator in Wisconsin that I know of who has used at least some of the Forward Institute’s economic messaging.

There are both right ways and wrong ways to oppose right-to-work legislation, which is the moral equivalent of legalizing shoplifting because it allows non-union workers at any given workplace to benefit from the wages, benefits, etc. negotiated by a labor union without paying for the wages, benefits, and so on in the form of union dues.

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.