Barb Caffrey's Blog

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Archive for March 28th, 2012

Local and State Politics: Turner to retire, Mason to run; also, a Dem. primary in Wanggaard Recall Race

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The Racine Journal-Times is reporting tonight that my long-time Assemblyman, Robert Turner (D-Racine), is going to retire.  Turner represented District 61 for twenty-two years; his initial plan was to run in the newly-moved District 66, but that has now changed.  Here’s a link to the story:

Turner has been an outstanding Assemblyman, and I’ve deeply appreciated his service to the 61st District and to Racine (as he also served on the Racine City Council from 1976 to 2004).  I’d been looking forward to casting my vote for Turner in District 66; as of a week to ten days ago, Turner’s plans were to run in this new district, but this has obviously changed.

The only good news about all this is that Cory Mason, currently the Assemblyman for the 62nd district, is going to move.  This will allow him to run for the District 66 seat; because Mason has been an extremely responsible, and responsive, legislator, I know I’ll still have a quality person to vote for.

There’s good reason for Mason to move into District 66, you see — his current district was re-drawn to make it much more difficult for Mason to win.  Only 10% of his previous constituents would’ve stayed with him; the rest would be all new.  (This, most likely, is why Mason had been considering a run for Lieutenant Governor.)

Take a look at this map (also available at the Journal-Times link above):


As you can see by the map, only one district — the newly-moved 66 — has much of an urban presence.  The other three districts that have any portion of Racine County all have a significant rural presence, meaning they’re more likely to be able to be won by Republicans (or right-leaning Independents) than by Democrats.

This re-drawing of maps — most properly called “redistricting” — is what I’d been talking about for the past few months with regards to that three-judge Federal panel.  They, and they alone, had the authority to force the state Legislature to re-draw the maps in a more fair and equitable manner; they did not choose to do so, though they did admit that what the Rs did amounted to unethical, immoral, and improper behavior.  But nothing rising to the level of illegality could be proven, which is why only Assembly Districts 8 and 9 (in Milwaukee) will have to be re-drawn even though much of the rest of the map is a mess, too.

Moving on, former Senator John Lehman (D-Racine) will have a challenger in the upcoming Senate recall race for District 21, which means a Democratic Primary will have to be run in May.  (See this link, also from the Journal-Times, for further details.)  This challenger is Andrew Mielke; he’s 28, not a registered Democrat, and didn’t sign the petitions to recall Governor Scott Walker, Lieutenant Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, or Van Wanggaard.  But Mielke insists he isn’t a “fake Dem” in the same sense as the six obviously fake Democrats who ran against the Democratic opponents in 2011’s recall races in order to give the state Republicans six more weeks to raise money and try to either retain their seats (four of the six incumbent Rs held their seats) or knock off some Democrats (all three D incumbents held their seats); he says his social views are progressive, and that the reason he’s running is because the people of Racine deserve a Democratic choice in the recall election.

The Democratic Party of Racine has endorsed former Senator Lehman, and said they’re not going to change their minds; they also said (paraphrasing from the Journal-Times article from March 22, 2012) that they’d really like this guy Mielke to get in there and register as a Democrat if he really is one.  (Seems fair enough to me.)

I’ve never heard of this guy Mielke, and I’m reasonably active in local and state politics; I go to some area meetings (would go to more if circumstances allowed), I’ve met many people who wanted to recall Walker, Kleefisch, and Wanggaard, and I’ve also met people who didn’t think Wanggaard, etc., should be recalled but weren’t happy with him, either.  This latter category seems to be the one Mielke is in, which is why it’s so odd that he’s running for office; as he’s completely unknown to Racine-area voters, it’s unlikely he’s going to do very well, especially as Lehman was a very good Senator (and before that was a very good Assemblyman).

Whether Mielke is a “fake Dem” or not, it really doesn’t matter; all Mielke is doing by entering the race now is to give Wanggaard six extra weeks to raise money in order to try to retain his seat.   This is a crucial election for Wanggaard, because if he does retain his seat, this is the one and only shot voters have to get him out; he’ll be ensconced until 2014 if he’s retained.

Complicating matters further is the whole redistricting issue I’ve discussed above, as it also applies to the state Senate districts.  Wanggaard will have a much safer seat to defend in 2014, providing he doesn’t get recalled in 2012.  (Lehman, should he run and win, would most likely have to move in order to stay within the boundaries of the new District 21 as most of the city of Racine will be enclosed in the new District 22 along with most of the city of Kenosha; District 22 is presently held by Bob Wirch, D-Kenosha, who plans to run again for re-election.)  So this is also the one shot Racine voters get to tell Wanggaard what we think of the terrible redistricting “process” — one that caused nearly all R legislators, including Wanggaard, to sign “non-disclosure” (read: secrecy) agreements so the public wouldn’t know what they were doing until it was too late and couldn’t be changed.

Wanggaard doesn’t seem to like to do the public’s business in the light of day, which is why you should vote to oust Wanggaard in June when we’re finally able to recall him. Regardless of party affiliation, we deserve transparency, openness, and honesty in our government at every level.  Wanggaard didn’t provide that, which is why he must go.