Archive for the ‘Wisconsin politics’ Category
Folks, I have said this time and time again: Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) has a lot of explaining to do.
Well, last night 28,000 e-mails were released due to an Open Records request by several state newspapers due to one of the latest “John Doe” probes against Gov. Walker. (There currently are at least two and possibly three “John Doe” probes going on, but this one deals with former staffers convicted of electioneering on government time — basically, being paid to perform other duties, or doing election business on state time — a felony under Wisconsin law.) This specific “John Doe” probe was about Walker staffers who’d set up an illegal campaign network only steps from Walker’s own desk when he was still campaigning for the job of Governor and was serving as Milwaukee County Executive.
While my hometown newspaper the Racine Journal-Times buried this story for whatever reason, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and the Wisconsin State Journal — Wisconsin’s two biggest newspapers — came out strongly against what has since been found in the massive e-mail release.
Daily calls. Walker was hands-on. In April 2010, Nardelli sent an email to top aides saying Walker wanted 8 a.m. conference calls between campaign and key county staff “to review events of the day or of a previous or future day, so we can better coordinate sound, timely responses, so we all know what the others are doing.”
Cover blown, no more laptops. In addition to running a secret email system inside the Milwaukee County Courthouse, Walker’s aides used laptops to perform campaign work.
After prosecutors seized a computer of Walker aide Darlene Wink, who spent a good chunk of her time on the county dime posting positive comments about Walker online, Walker sent an email and ordered his aides, “no laptops, no websites, no time away during the work day, etc.”
Note that this last point is a particularly big deal as Scott Walker has insisted throughout that he knew nothing about the fact his staffers were doing campaign work while being paid by the city and county of Milwaukee — in short, committing felonies.
But if Walker truly knew nothing, why did he say “no laptops?”
And if he didn’t know anything, yet was a micro-manager otherwise, how is this remotely credible?
As Dee J. Hall of the Wisconsin State Journal put it, Walker “must have known” about the “private e-mail, laptop system.”
Mind you, neither of these reports go anywhere near as far as reporter Ruth Coniff of The Progressive, who notes that Walker’s scandal is far worse than New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s “Bridgegate”:
But Bridgegate is minor compared to the “John Doe” investigations that have dogged Walker for the last four years, landing one of his closest aides and longtime political advisers in prison.
…Six Walker staffers and associates racked up 15 felony convictions and three misdemeanors in the first John Doe investigation, begun in May 2010 — a secret probe into illegal campaign work on taxpayer time while Walker was county executive of Milwaukee.
Walker started a criminal defense fund — an unprecedented move for a Wisconsin governor — in response to the first John Doe. In total, he paid more than $650,000 for lawyers representing himself and his campaign committee, according to Jason Stein of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The first John Doe investigation ended on March 1, 2013 with no charges against the governor.
A second John Doe probe, begun in 2012, focuses specifically on illegal coordination between rightwing groups and the governor’s campaign during the recall election, according to Dan Bice of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
I posted all of this to give those who don’t live in Wisconsin some idea of what we’ve been living through here in the state. We’ve never had a Governor do anything remotely like what Scott Walker has been accused of doing.
And when Walker got through the first “John Doe” probe without being charged, Republican radio commentators (including Charlie Sykes of WTMJ-AM 620, perhaps the most widely-listened to conservative radio host in the state) called this a “Democratic witch hunt” and said Walker had been “vindicated.”
So the release of these 28,000 e-mails has been a stunner — at least to the Republicans who have to discuss it.
Note that most of the sitting Republicans in both the statehouse and in Washington, DC, have been ominously silent. Two of them, U.S. Representative Paul Ryan of Janesville and U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, are particularly close friends of Walker and were the fastest to say Walker was vindicated last year when the first “John Doe” probe ended without the Governor getting charged.
As state Sen. John Erpenbach (D-Madison) said on Ed Schultz’s show on MSNBC this afternoon, “This probe is far from over.” The Progressive has had a number of updates today, including this one about a chief investigator insisting that Walker used the illegal communications network (written by reporter Matthew Rothschild), and this one written by the staff of The Progressive that reports one of the now-convicted felons who used to work for Scott Walker, Kelly Reindfleisch, knew what she was doing was wrong.
This evidence is so damning, the Journal-Sentinel — a paper that endorsed Scott Walker twice (once in the 2010 election, and again in the 2012 recall) — has written an editorial calling for Walker to give the state of Wisconsin some answers. Now.
As their editorial says:
Gov. Scott Walker needs to talk. He should hold a news conference to explain how much he knew about a secret email system as Milwaukee County executive. And he needs to let reporters ask as many questions as they want.
Why wouldn’t the governor want to clear up questions raised by the release Wednesday of 27,000 pages of emails related to a John Doe investigation into links between his county government staff and his gubernatorial campaign staff in 2010? State law bars public employees from working for political parties and campaigns while being paid by taxpayers to provide government services.
While I don’t often agree with the Journal-Sentinel about Wisconsin state politics, I am in full agreement here.
Scott Walker must answer these questions, fully and openly. And he’d best tell the truth.
Any other action does not befit the sitting Governor of Wisconsin.
** One, final thought: thus far, Democratic candidate for Governor Mary Burke has yet to say anything about this latest scandal. This seems, at best, nonsensical on her part. (Where is Sen. Kathleen Vinehout when we need her?)
Earlier today, Wisconsin State Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) announced that she will not run for Governor against millionaire Mary Burke. (Please see this article from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel for further details.) From her statement:
“The severity of the injury received in the car accident last month — a splintering of the bone in my upper right arm — and the time required to recover and rehabilitate make it impossible for me to run the intense, grass roots campaign that I want to run and would be necessary to win. …I wish success to Mary Burke and others who may offer their time and talents in leading our state.”
Folks, I knew this news was coming, but I’m still upset by it. As I wrote back in October, Mary Burke is an untested, unqualified candidate. Burke does not understand anything about the poor or those looking for work, has shown no empathy, either, and has offered no solutions as to how to grow the economy in the Southeastern Wisconsin area. Whereas Kathleen Vinehout is an eminently qualified candidate, a centrist who’s won election and re-election in a Republican-dominated area, someone who’s been both a dairy farmer and a college professor — and someone who was so committed to getting elected to the Senate that she sold off her own dairy herd to do it.
As I said in October:
From this vantage point, the only thing Burke has to offer is a whole lot of her own money to throw into the governor’s race. She has no record to run on. She has no idea how to improve things as a Governor because she’s never been elected to public office (excepting her current stint on the Madison school board). She officially has “no platform” and has made “no promises,” according to the Wisconsin State Journal . . .
While I completely understand Sen. Vinehout’s position — she was in a nasty car accident in a snowstorm that left her arm with a nasty fracture requiring an eight-hour surgery to put back together, and substantial rehab must now be required — it still makes me extremely upset.
Vinehout doesn’t have a lot of money, you see. But she has the right values for Wisconsin. She understands, as Mary Burke doesn’t, the plight of the working man and woman — she understands the self-employed, the unemployed, the fully employed, and works hard for every last one of us.
I am deeply impressed by Sen. Vinehout, and wish her all the luck in the world going forward. But her not running for Governor at this time — while completely understandable on a personal level — is a huge loss for Wisconsin.
And I refuse to say otherwise.
Yesterday, the influential group EMILY’s List (Early Money is Like Yeast) endorsed Democratic candidate Mary Burke for the 2014 Wisconsin Gubernatorial race. Their stated reason for doing so, according to the President of EMILY’s List, Stephanie Schriock, is that Burke has “been quietly changing the world for the better for years, by breaking barriers herself and by making opportunities for others to get ahead.”
But as the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s article said in an almost throwaway line, the person this really hurts is state Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma). Vinehout, one of the “Wisconsin 14″ who stood up to Republican Governor Scott Walker and left the state due to the controversial Act 10 repealing collective bargaining for most public employee unions, ran for Governor during the 2012 recall race but didn’t really have the money to contend with the two top Democratic candidates, former Madison County Executive Kathleen Falk and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Vinehout was my pick last time for Governor, mostly because I met her, listened to her positions, researched her, and knew that if the general public got any sense of her whatsoever — she’s a woman of substance who’s been a dairy farmer and a college professor, and is known as a “budget hawk” — I believed she’d beat Scott Walker. Vinehout’s district is more Republican than not, yet she’s won re-election in that district, which means she has bipartisan appeal.
By EMILY’s List endorsing Burke — a woman who’s never been elected to state office, though she was appointed to state Commerce Secretary by former Governor Jim Doyle — this significantly hurts Vinehout.
Worse yet, Burke is a millionaire in her own right and a former executive at Trek Bicycle, a company her father founded. (Please see this article from Blogging Blue about the problematic issues facing Burke if she continues her gubernatorial run.) Which begs this question: Is big money the only reason Burke is getting these endorsements?
Currently, Burke sits on the school board in Madison. While there’s nothing wrong with that, this is the only position she’s ever been elected to in her life. Whereas Vinehout is a sitting state Senator who’s actually had to do something extremely difficult and take a stand — all while not getting paid in the process (as she is not wealthy, I’m sure this did not help her or her family much).
Overall, I’m deeply unhappy EMILY’s List has decided to endorse Burke. From this vantage point, the only thing Burke has to offer is a whole lot of her own money to throw into the governor’s race. She has no record to run on. She has no idea how to improve things as a Governor because she’s never been elected to public office (excepting her current stint on the Madison school board). She officially has “no platform” and has made “no promises,” according to the Wisconsin State Journal, which, as they put it, “has led some Democratic activists to express concerns about her candidacy” while union leaders and the main Democratic Party have largely been silent.
All these types of endorsements do is limit the prospects of candidates like Vinehout who might really have a chance if that big money came her way later on, favoring those who already have big money themselves or big money pledged, as now, from influential Democratic organizations.
Besides, I have a real problem with a woman who gets into a race but hasn’t a clue how to fix anything. Especially when an outstanding candidate like Sen. Kathleen Vinehout is available.
If I were the state Democratic Party Chairman, Mike Tate, what I’d do is throw money at Vinehout. Vinehout is by far the best chance we have in Wisconsin to take back the Governor’s chair. She’s articulate, she’s funny, she’s an impressive candidate “on the stump,” she has been both a dairy farmer and a professor (you don’t get that combination very often), and she’s had to stand up for what she believed in by walking out of the Senate and leaving the state as one of the “Wisconsin 14.”
At an absolute minimum, I’d want a primary if I were Tate in order to improve Burke as a candidate. Right now, Burke is a “one-percenter,” a millionaire who’s never had to face most of the issues most Wisconsinites face every single day. Vinehout, on the other hand, is not wealthy and has had to face every single last one of them and can relate to most if not all Wisconsin voters. If Burke has to debate Vinehout, Burke would either quickly improve or implode.
Either way, the state would win, the voters would win, and we’d get a far better chance to oust Scott Walker from the Governor’s chair.
One final thought: How does it improve democracy to run a well-heeled candidate with deep pockets who doesn’t have a clue how to run the state, especially when a much better candidate is available and all she needs is money to help her out?
Folks, I’ve been working on a short story for an anthology this past week. Between that and editing, I just haven’t had time to do anything else — no books got reviewed over at Shiny Book Review (SBR), no blogs got written since early last week, and even though I’ve had much to say as there have been plenty of targets (Wisconsin’s R Governor Scott Walker actually had the nerve to compare himself to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, if you can believe that), I just haven’t had the time or energy to spare for blogging.
However, as I have sent off my story to a friend for a quick read-over, I have enough time to comment very quickly on a few things. So here goes:
I think it’s ridiculous that people are praising Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig for his “vision” and “good sense” in suspending a number of baseball players today, the most high profile player of the lot being Alex Rodriguez. (The others include OF Nelson Cruz, SS Jhonny Peralta — yes, that’s how he really spells his name, it’s no misprint, and SS Everth Cabrera.) As former Brewers pitcher (and current New York Met) LaTroy Hawkins said today on Twitter:
PLEASE STOP PRAISING
And here’s my take on Bud Selig, again from Twitter:
Otherwise, I’m keeping an eye on the national political scene, as per usual, even though nothing’s getting done as the House of Reps (not to mention the Senate as well) are on a five-week paid vacation right now.
My take on that? Who the Hell else gets paid for doing absolutely nothing, then goes around telling people they’re “fighting Washington” as have the House Rs (or, if that doesn’t read well to you, the House GOP as led by Speaker John Boehner)?
I’m sorry. If you are an elected public official, as John Boehner is, you’re not fighting Washington — you are a part of Washington. Thus, you are a part of Washington’s dysfunctional culture. And you can either fix it, or not . . . but if you refuse, don’t be surprised when you’re thrown out the door next time around. (Or if your own seat is saved, your position may not be — which is why Boehner is likely to be the minority leader of the House next time if his inaction and lack of leadership keeps up.)
Granted, the House Ds aren’t doing much of anything, either, save bloviating and grandstanding — but they have no power, as there are far too many Rs to make anything the Ds do worth the time. Which is why I, personally, blame the Rs far more than I do the Ds.
Finally, I’m very glad that the current Wisconsin law as signed by Gov. Walker that restricts abortions has been placed in abeyance — that is, an injunction has been filed that blocks the law — by a federal court judge. I think that law needs to be studied in depth before it’s implemented, if it ever is. Because on its face, it’s yet another biased law by a bunch of people who, to be charitable, don’t seem to know what the Hell they’re talking about.
More blog updates when I have ‘em . . . and thanks for reading, as always.
Today, the United States Supreme Court struck down two laws, the federal Defense of Marriage Act (or DOMA) and California’s controversial Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in that state. With two different 5-4 rulings, the Supreme Court has affirmed that discrimination on the basis of whom people love is illegal — at least, if you are in one of the twelve states where gay marriage is legal already, the District of Columbia (where it’s also legal), or in California, where it’s soon to be legal again.
Here’s a link to a story on Yahoo regarding the overall historical impact of these two different decisions, what the groups on both sides plan to do next, and so forth and so on.
As for what I think? Well, I’m very pleased that the Supreme Court struck down DOMA and threw out California’s Prop. 8 (albeit on a technicality), because I believe everyone who’s above the age of consent and is in love with a supportive and loving partner should be allowed to marry that partner. Whether it’s a man and a woman marrying, two women, two men, or two transgendered individuals, what matters is the love — not the form of that love.
The only thing that bothers me about these particular decisions is the limitations placed upon them by the Supreme Court. In striking down DOMA, the Supremes basically said that if you legally married a same-sex partner in the various states where it either is legal now or has been legal in the past (and was legal at the time, such as in California until Proposition 8 was voted for by that state’s voters), the federal government must treat you as married. And that way, you have all the rights and privileges of a married couple — which is exactly as it should be.
However, if you’re in a state like Wisconsin, where we have a state-specific version of DOMA on the books, if you are a same-sex couple you still cannot marry under the law. You are still allowed to be legally discrimination against in taxation, adoption, and other issues, under the law. And unless and until we get a Democratic Assembly and/or a Democratic Governor, things are unlikely to change due to the bunch of radical Republicans we have right now in Wisconsin, as in addition to these radical Rs running the state into the ground, they also oppose same-sex marriage on reactionary terms — not on realistic ones.
In other words, the Rs in Wisconsin see marriage as a religious ceremony first, with statehood recognition of that ceremony coming second. (This does not really make much sense because many non-religious people or those who are religious but want to save on money go and get married before the judge in a courthouse in a non-religious ceremony. But it’s how they seem to believe.) The rights and privileges a married couple gets in Wisconsin cannot go to a same-sex couple — not even in Madison, which has had domestic partnership benefits for many years — because that’s what the radical Rs want.
I have news for these Rs. Marriage is for everyone. That’s basically what the Supreme Court said today, even though they stopped short of striking down other statehood bans like Wisconsin’s in their narrowly targeted rulings. If you are in love, and you want to get married, and if you want to raise a family, you should be allowed to get married and raise that family. Period.
This is one of the few cultural issues where the Rs have largely been out of step with the mainstream of Wisconsin and the rest of the country. For example, there are now three Republican U.S. Senators who are for gay marriage — Rob Portman of Ohio, who has a gay son, Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. There are a few others, like John McCain, who’ve said before that they have no problem with gay couples, per se, but they don’t think these couples should be allowed to marry. Then the rest of the Rs basically want to take the country back to the 1950s, if not earlier, on cultural issues — which isn’t likely to happen, fortunately for the rest of us.
In Wisconsin, I don’t know of any single one Republican Senator or Assemblyman who believes that same-sex marriage should be legal in all 50 states. (Or even just in Wisconsin.) All eighteen Senators oppose same-sex marriage; all sixty Republicans in the Assembly oppose it.
And, of course, Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker also adamantly opposes same-sex marriage, mostly on religious grounds.
Look. For the most part, I’m for most religions, providing they help people and give meaning and value to their lives. But when a religion insists that some people are better than others — in this case, a heterosexual married couple matters more than a same-sex married couple — that’s where I start to get upset.
And when a politician can’t even be bothered to say, “Look. I haven’t really studied the issues yet, but my religion has always said that gay people are sinful. That’s why I really cannot support marriage equality,” but stands behind the religious fig-leaf as if the religion is doing his or her thinking for him, that really bothers me.
My thought right now is that this issue, along with the new legislation that Scott Walker said he’ll sign that mandates that all women get trans-vaginal ultrasounds before having a medically necessary abortion (unless you’ve been raped or a victim of incest and have gone to report the same), is the most likely one to defeat the Wisconsin Rs.
So those of us who worked so hard to recall Scott Walker (myself included) may still have hope. This is an obstinate man we’re talking about, someone who firmly believes everyone in the state is behind him despite the recall evidence to the contrary. And he’s leading a radical party that’s done a lot of things that voters disagree with, to boot — so when he’s up for re-election in 2014, if we have a Democrat with statewide recognition to run against him (please, not Tom Barrett again — I like him, but he has proven he can’t win against Walker), we should be able to get him out.
As for me, I voted against Walker, signed the recall, voted to replace him, and will vote against Walker again in 2014. (I’m on the record as saying I’d rather vote for an empty paper bag rather than Walker, as that empty paper bag will do far less harm.) But I’m a realist. I know Walker hasn’t done what he said he would do — not with regards to jobs, not with regards to honesty and transparency, not with regards to anything, except for one (he kept his promise to turn down the money for light rail, as he found it unnecessary; however, in so doing, he also eliminated at least three hundred prospective new jobs) — and I want him out of there before he manages to harm the state even further.
My advice for the Wisconsin Rs is this — get with the program regarding same-sex marriage. This issue is not going to go away any time too soon, and most younger voters disagree with you and your stated beliefs on this issue. And if you are unwilling to change with the times, and admit that all marriages should be equal under the law, you will be voted out.
Maybe not in 2014. Maybe not even in 2016.
But you will be voted out.
And I, for one, will be very happy once you are, as you’ve done more than enough damage already.
Tonight, history was made in Wisconsin. Democrat Tammy Baldwin won election to the United States Senate over Republican former Governor Tommy Thompson. Baldwin becomes Wisconsin’s first female Senator and the United States’ first openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgendered Senator.
See this link from the Huffington Post for further details.
Here are a few words from Senator-elect Baldwin (via the above-mentioned link):
“Now, I am well aware that I will have the honor to be Wisconsin’s first woman U.S. senator. And I am well aware I will be the first openly gay member of the United States Senate,” she added, with the crowd drowning her out and chanting “Tammy! Tammy!”
“But I didn’t run to make history,” she continued. “I ran to make a difference –- a difference in the lives of families struggling to find work and pay the bills, a difference in the lives of students worried about debt and seniors worried about their retirement security, a difference in the lives of veterans who fought for us and need someone fighting for them and their families when they return home from war, a difference in the lives of entrepreneurs trying to build a business and working people trying to build some economic security.”
Baldwin’s former seat in the US House of Representatives was won by state Assemblyman Mark Pocan (D), who’s also openly gay. (Pocan is a liberal firebrand who should do an excellent job for the residents of Wisconsin’s 2nd District.) As GayPolitics.com put it, Pocan will be the “next out member of Congress.” Pocan’s win is also the first time one openly gay member of Congress has been succeeded by another in the same district (also per GayPolitics.com).
Congratulations, Senator-elect Baldwin and Representative-elect Pocan!
I’ve had a number of comments recently about various things, but none of them have reached the level of a full blog post. So here goes with the latest edition of Odds and Ends.
First, I’m taking the summer off from watching television. This is the main reason I haven’t written about the fourth season of “Drop Dead Diva,” despite all the hits I’ve had on my review of the season three finale. I do know that Fred the angel is off the show and there’s a new angel there instead — an impossibly gorgeous male who, sight unseen, bothers me. But that’s the only thing I’ve really gathered, aside from the fact that Kim Kardashian seems to have a recurring role this season.
Second, the Wisconsin GOP has, quite predictably, slammed the District 21 state Senate election, all because Democrat John Lehman won over R Van Wanggaard. Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester) has led a number of prominent Rs in proclaiming that the Racine elections had “numerous errors” and that supposedly, Racine County must get its act together before the November elections — all because we had the temerity to throw out our one-year Senator when the rest of the state held the course.
I have no problem with former Senator Wanggaard saying “I shall return!” as if he’s a modern-day incarnation of General Douglas MacArthur, because he’s a politician and that’s what politicians of either party tend to say. (Maybe not quite so stridently as Wanggaard. But then again, as the only R to go down on June 5, 2012, I suppose he must feel terrible.) Nor am I upset with Wanggaard for asking for a recount, pointing out various issues he and his staff have been alerted to, etc. — he’s a politician, so he has to say those things. And considering he lost by less than 2% of the vote, I suppose that’s his right.
My problem remains with the Wisconsin GOP as a whole; they didn’t slam Waukesha County in 2011 when there were massive problems there — problems that make the City and County of Racine’s issues look extremely small in comparison — because those problems benefitted them.
So, if an election goes the Rs way, even if there are terrible and systemic problems with a County Clerk like Waukesha’s Kathy Nickolaus, the Rs are OK with it. But if the election goes the way of the Ds, the Rs aren’t standing for it, even though whatever problems Racine had were due to an overwhelmingly high turnout (the highest on record for any election, including Presidential elections), nothing more. That’s why the WI GOP’s stance regarding Racine County’s recall election smacks of sour grapes as well as political expediency; I remain unimpressed.
Third, what on Earth does the United States House of Representatives, led by Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner, think they’re doing taking vote after vote to repeal Obama’s national health care plan? (Especially as they know, just as the rest of us do, that the US Senate will never go along with them.) Here we are in a jobless recovery; the economy, overall, is terrible. We need jobs, we need more economic development, and we need it right now. Yet they’d rather waste our time, and our taxpayer dollars, by taking these unnecessary votes. This is political grandstanding and it should not be tolerated. Period!
Fourth, are the Milwaukee Brewers going to get any better this year? And will Zack Greinke stay a part of the team? Stay tuned.
Fifth, and finally, the summer is a bad time for me. It’s not just my asthma, or other associated summertime health woes, which have been exacerbated as we’re having one of the hottest, driest summers on record in SE Wisconsin. It’s that I have a number of important dates on the calendar that I observe — my wedding anniversary. My late husband’s birthday (even though he didn’t observe it). Etc. — and the fact that I must observe them alone, always alone, is a trial.
Look. I despise the fact that I’m a widow. (Very few people will come right out and say this, but I will.) If I had the power, my husband would be alive right now and I’d not be typing out these words. But I’m human, mortal, fallible, all that, and I don’t have that power.
What I do every day is to try to find some meaning, some purpose, in whatever remains of my life. I continue to write (as you see). I continue to edit. I play my instruments. I compose music when I have the time, energy, and ideas. I talk with my friends, as I’m able . . . all the things I have to do in order to continue to stay alive in any sense.
But of course it’s difficult to be without the love of my life. I’d be lying if I said anything else.
And that difficulty is made much worse because the person who understood me best since that time is also dead — my good friend Jeff, whom I’ve discussed many times on this blog. That I haven’t been able, as of yet, to go to Colorado and make any peace whatsoever with his passing has assuredly not helped.
I know it doesn’t matter — would never matter — to Jeff where I mourn. But it would help me to go there and visit the places he told me about. Which is why at some point I will go there; it’s just a matter of when. Let us hope that down the line, I will find enough work at a good rate of remuneration, so I can finally take that trip.
The recount for Wisconsin state Senate District 21′s 6/5/2012 election is over. Former Senator John Lehman (D-Racine) has won and is officially Senator-elect. According to the Racine Journal-Times (under a “breaking news” header), Lehman’s margin of victory is 819 votes as opposed to the 834 votes he had after the official canvass; this means Senator Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) is now, officially, former Senator Wanggaard until and unless he files an appeal in District Court.
The Mount Pleasant Patch has a longer and better article, available here, that shows the final vote totals as Lehman 36,358, Wanggaard 35,539, and has a statement from Senator-elect Lehman:
“It shows that we won the election and all of these allegations of voter irregularities are false and are really much ado about nothing,” Lehman said. “The results from election night have been proven correct through tape and tallly totals.”
But, as I expected, Wanggaard is still crying fraud (from his statement):
“Anyone who argues that this recount was a waste of time, or that we do not need voter, ID, either wants to conceal these potential fraudulent activities or hasn’t been paying attention,” Wanggaard said in statement released this afternoon. “The list of problems now includes missing pages in poll books, missing signatures, wrong voter numbers, wrong and unverified addresses and most shocking of all, unsealed and sealed and reopened ballot bags – all without explanation. None of these issues would have been discovered if not for the recount.”
Of course, as I said all along, I was for the recount — for the same reasons I believed Joanne Kloppenburg deserved to know the truth regarding her race against David Prosser for the state Supreme Court last year. She, too, ran into some real problems — much bigger ones, in fact, than Wanggaard – with regards to opened/unsealed ballot bags, ripped and torn ballots, tape totals that didn’t match, tape dates that didn’t match, and many other inconsistencies and outright errors — yet the Government Accountability Board still certified that election. She went for a state-sponsored recount (as that race was within 1/2 of a percent and thus eligible for state assistance); many Republicans cried foul at the time, saying that the result was unlikely to change anything and because of that, Kloppenburg shouldn’t put the state through the recount. Even with the problems in Waukesha County, which were legion.
And, of course, the recount didn’t change very much; the tallies tightened, but Prosser still won. The only thing to come out of that recount was this: seventy-one of our seventy-two counties in Wisconsin do a good job conducting elections, while Waukesha County is a horror show.
In this recount, what came out is this: there were some inconsistencies. Wanggaard picked up, roughly, twenty votes overall. Some bags were open and/or torn, but not anywhere near to the point things were at in Waukesha County; the tape totals and tape dates were, for the most part, accurate — in short, this was a cleanly-conducted election that proves that Wendy Christensen, Racine County Clerk, does an excellent job even in high-turnout, record-setting elections like this one.
So now that the recount is over, whither Wanggaard? My guess is that he’s going to attempt to tie this up another round and file a lawsuit in court alleging election fraud. But doing so is unlikely to get him anywhere, mostly because the allegations of wrongdoing by Republican operatives are so much smoke and mirrors, meant to obscure the valid point that the voters have spoken and Wanggaard has lost. (The fact that Democrats have also alleged problems with these same Republican operatives, including voter intimidation and “electioneering,” something that is illegal under Wisconsin law, just hasn’t seemed to get much traction, though the Mount Pleasant Patch mentioned it a week or so ago even though I can’t find the link right now.)
For whatever it’s worth, here’s my advice with regards to Sen. Wanggaard: The recount was worthy, but it’s over. The voters have been heard; the original results stand. Now, Sen. Wanggaard, it’s time to do the right thing, what the voters expected of you when they voted you out, and admit that John Lehman has won. Then, go and enjoy the rest of your life.
However, Sen. Wanggaard, if you instead attempt a futile and time-consuming lawsuit a la former United States Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN), you’ll only prolong both your own agony and the agony of your Senate district, with almost no likelihood of winning in court. This will spend time, effort, and money to little purpose. In this dismal economy, there’s absolutely no excuse for that.
That’s why I urge you, Sen. Wanggaard, to bow to the will of the voters of your district. You’ve been voted out. Now do the right thing, concede this election, and go live your life. Because assuredly you have far, far better things to do than to file frivolous lawsuits in court.**
And we, the voters of District 21, have far better things to do than worry about when our new Senator, John Lehman, can be sworn in. Because in case you haven’t noticed it, Racine needs serious economic development, soonest. So the sooner you, Sen. Wanggaard, do the right thing and bow out, the sooner he, Sen. Lehman, can get on with helping out the citizens of Racine (city and county alike). Because we desperately need the help that only our duly-elected state Senator can provide.
** Unlike state Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester), I do know what the word frivolous means and am using it precisely.
As I expected, Van Wanggaard, the recalled Senator from Racine’s District 21, has requested a recount. Wanggaard was declared the official loser of the District 21 race by 834 votes this past Tuesday, and at that time he said he was “weighing his options.” Because of the recount request, former Senator John Lehman (D-Racine) must now wait for the recount to officially, and finally, send him back to Madison as District 21′s next Senator.
The recount will begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday, June 20, 2012, at the Racine County Courthouse.
Here’s a link to some video the Racine Journal-Times took of Lehman’s commentary after Wanggaard requested the recount:
Basically, Lehman says he has “a lot of confidence that the vote total will hold up.” He also said he has great faith in the Wisconsin election system, and that he looks forward to going back to Madison to “begin the healing process.”
Here’s a link to the actual story:
On the flip side, Wanggaard says that once upon a time, Judge Dennis Barry (now deceased) was down by about 700 votes in an election. Barry requested a recount, and it was found that Barry actually won by 900 votes.
Note that I was unable to find any reference to this election online, and that I’ve lived in Racine for many years and do not remember any such occurrence. (I’m not saying it hasn’t happened. But I am saying that I cannot find it and don’t recall it personally.)
Whereas I do recall that in 2002, Democratic incumbent Senator Kim Plache (D-Racine) lost by 773 votes to Republican Cathy Stepp. Plache did not request a recount; instead, she conceded.
Recounts are expensive, which is one reason many Republicans last year lambasted the Kloppenburg-Prosser state Supreme Court recount, even though percentage-wise, it was closer than the 1.12% margin between Lehman and Wanggaard. (Granted, recounting one Senate district is much less onerous and far less expensive than recounting a whole state, but the principle is the same.)
In this case, Wanggaard had to pay a $685 filing fee to request the recount. He did that today.
What’s more troubling than this recount request is that Wanggaard’s camp has trumpeted in the media that there were problems at various wards in Democratic areas (particularly at the Cesar Chavez Community Center, which is news to me as that’s my polling place) that rose to the level of “election fraud.” The Racine Sheriff’s office is investigating to see if any election fraud has occurred; I’d not worry so much about this except for the fact that Wanggaard is a former police officer and sits on the Police and Fire Commission in the City of Racine. This doesn’t mean the Sheriff’s Department will do anything wrong; in fact, I’d be astonished if they did. But it does mean that it appears the reason Wanggaard’s concerns about election fraud were taken more seriously than other, reported concerns, is because the Sheriff’s Department knows Wanggaard well and is more likely to believe him.
Yet I’ve heard that at other polling places, especially in Republican wards, Democrats were harassed. Nothing’s being done to investigate this by any police or Sheriff in the entirety of District 21, even though at one ward there was one person who was allowed to stay who apparently harassed every single person she saw if she felt they were going to vote for a Democrat. Why is it that this person, who apparently stayed at the polling place for five hours and strongly appears to have done something against the law in Wisconsin (it’s called “electioneering” and it’s not allowed within 100 feet of a polling place), hasn’t been investigated even though it truly appears by her actions, she interfered with the vote on June 5, 2012?
Is it because this person is alleged to be a Republican bigwig from Lake County, Illinois? (If so, that’s plain, flat wrong.)
Getting back to this particular election, Wanggaard lost fair and square. Here’s why:
- Wanggaard is well-known in this area as a former policeman and police union representative.
- Wanggaard alienated and angered people by voting against collective bargaining, especially due to being a past union representative who’s benefitted from collective bargaining.
- Wanggaard was unresponsive to the voters in this area when asked to explain what he’d done, much less why he’d done it.
These three things were more than enough to get him recalled.
As for the story about former Judge Barry, Judge Barry was a good man, a well-respected man. If it’s true that there was a problem, once upon a time, with votes being inaccurately counted and an election swinging the other way (as the Racine Journal-Times hasn’t yet referenced the election Wanggaard is discussing, and because I haven’t been able to find out anything regarding such an election online — meaning it may have pre-dated the rise of the Internet), I’d want a recount in Wanggaard’s place, too.
But I’ve said all along that I am in favor of a recount (mostly because I was in favor of Kloppenburg’s recount last year and unlike some Rs, I’m not a hypocrite). So bring on the recount . . . but don’t expect it to change things overmuch.
In other words, John Lehman is still Senator-elect for District 21, and once the recount is completed, Lehman will officially be sent to Madison to take up his duties as state Senator. Period.
Edited to add:
The blog Badger Democracy has an interesting article you should read. In short, every public official who has a hand in this recount is either a Walker appointee or is a dyed-in-the-wool Republican (or both). This is both concerning and distressing, but the conclusions being drawn are even more so:
The bottom line here is simple – each of the players in this case – DA Chiapete, Sheriff Schmaling, former DA and now Judge Nieskes all have a vested political and financial interest in the outcome of this case. This is an obvious attempt to use unfounded claims of “vote irregularities” to block the electoral process – a highly hypocritical move for the GOP machine, smearing Milwaukee DA John Chisolm and the John Doe Investigation (Chisolm has prosecuted Democrats and Republicans alike during his truly non-partisan terms). All three of these GOP shills should recuse themselves and appoint an independent investigator if they truly believe a crime was committed.
But they won’t – look for a case in a GOP-friendly court (such as Waukesha County), based on these so-called “irregularities” to enjoin the GAB from certifying the election, as the case makes its way through the courts – and the Senate remains at 16-16 until November. Both Racine County DA and Sheriff’s Department refused comment to Badger Democracy on an “ongoing investigation.”
All I can do is hope that this will not happen, though I have seen such delaying tactics used before by the Republican Party — in Minnesota, where Republican United States Senator Norm Coleman lost narrowly in 2008 to Democrat Al Franken — in fact, Coleman lost by only 312 votes — but delayed Franken being able to take his new seat as US Senator by eight months due to various legal challenges.
Granted, that election had some things in it that this one doesn’t — namely, it was a three-party race, and the difference, percentage-wise, between Franken and Coleman was about .01% (that is, one one-hundredth of a percent).
This election isn’t nearly that close, percentage-wise, and obviously there were only two parties involved in this race — the Democrats, represented by Lehman, and the Republicans, represented by Wanggaard.
If the Rs decide that they’re better off to employ a similar “delay as long as possible” strategy, they will certainly erode public faith in the election system of Wisconsin. And considering that many, including myself, are wondering if all the vote totals in every county were exactly as stated in the Walker/Kleefisch recalls due to possible problems with electronic voting machines, that might not be a really good wasp’s nest to kick up right now.