State Political and Government News: Sen. Hansen surivives recall attemptWisconsin News
-- Wisconsin Senate Democrat Dave Hansen of Green Bay will keep his job, after getting two-thirds of the vote in yesterday’s recall election. Also, Tea Party activist Kim Simac and corporate attorney Jonathan Steitz won Republican primaries, and will face two other Democratic senators next month.
Wisconsin Senate Democrat Dave Hansen of Green Bay will keep his job, after getting two-thirds of the vote in yesterday’s recall election. Also, Tea Party activist Kim Simac and corporate attorney Jonathan Steitz won Republican primaries, and will face two other Democratic senators next month.
Hansen was the first of nine senators to have his general recall contest. He got almost 21,000 votes, to around 11-thousand for Republican Dave VanderLeest – the man who organized the recall effort and was later attacked for a number of personal and legal problems involving his ex-wife. The 63-year-old Hansen has held his post for just over a decade. He said his victory creates momentum for the other Democrats, and his party called it the “first step toward winning back the majority in the Senate.” But Saint Norbert College professor David Wegge in De Pere said it only meant that Hansen had a “mis-match.” Wegge said the vote had little to do with the big issue in the recalls – the approval of the bill to limit collective bargaining by public unions, and Hansen and the other Senate Democrats leaving Madison for three weeks in a failed effort to stop the measure.
Elsewhere, Simac – the founder of the Northwoods Patriots – got 59-percent of the vote over Lincoln County Board Chairman Robert Lussow. Simac will now face Senate Democrat Jim Holperin of Conover in the August 16th general election. Steitz received 64-percent of the vote over Kenosha County Board vice-chairman Fred Ekornaas. Steitz will now try to unseat Senate Democrat Bob Wirch of Pleasant Prairie. Six Republicans will face their recall votes on August 9th, a week before the Democrats.
Wisconsin's U.S. House Republicans got behind a Tea Party alternative for balancing the federal budget that includes a constitutional ban on future deficits. The GOP-controlled House voted 234-190 yesterday for what Tea Party forces like Ashland’s Sean Duffy called a “cut, cap, and balance” plan. It seeks to avoid a default of the federal government, which the Obama White House says will happen if a deficit-cutting plan with tax increases is not passed by August second. The GOP continues to fight any tax hikes, and the Tea Party plan doesn’t call for any. Democratic Senate leaders called the package dead-on-arrival in their house, and President Obama opposes it. It includes $111-million-dollars in federal spending cuts next year – a cap on overall spending at the levels the House approved in April – and a constitutional amendment for a balanced budget. All five of Wisconsin’s Republicans went on record in favor of the plan. All three state Democrats voted no. Duffy called it a common-sense approach for getting the nation’s debt under control. As he put it, “The fact that we borrow 58-thousand dollars per second should put shivers up your spine.” Meanwhile, Obama says he favors a new bi-partisan plan from six senators. Observers say it’s way too complicated to pass by the August second deadline. It calls for a billion dollars in extra revenues.
Wisconsin has expressed an interest in getting federal money to improve early childhood learning programs. Republican Governor Scott Walker joined his counterparts in 35 other states and Washington D.C. in submitting notices-of-intent this week to apply. The Obama administration is putting up a half-billion dollars in competitive grants in what it calls the “Early Learning Challenge.” It’s designed to encourage states to expand their early childhood programs, and let more disadvantaged and low-income kids enter those programs. The new federal money is only a fraction of what Washington offered the past couple of years to encourage states to come up with innovative improvements in the nation’s public schools. Wisconsin applied twice for the funding, and failed both times to get it.
Governor Scott Walker’s campaign raised two-and-a-half million dollars in the first half of this year, as he apparently gears up for a possible recall effort. The State Republican Party said Walker got more than 30,000 contributions, at a time of massive protests and national publicity over his plan to limit public union bargaining. Eighty-percent of those donations were $50 or less. Walker’s camp said it spent a million dollars from January through June, and it has one-point-eight million on hand. Recall petitions against Walker cannot be filed until after he serves at least one year in office.
The Wisconsin State Assembly is scheduled to vote today on the state’s new legislative and congressional districts. Republicans drew the maps – and they did not get a single vote from the Democrats when the Senate approved them yesterday. The GOP turned down a request from a freshman Assembly Republican to move his district boundaries, so he doesn’t have to run against a fellow lawmaker next year. Under the new map, Andre Jacque of Bellevue would be in the same district as fellow freshman Republican John Klenke. Lines are not supposed to be drawn with incumbents’ political interests in mind – but that’s exactly what Democrats accuse the GOP of doing, saying they’re trying to cement their power base for a decade. They also say Republicans are trying to speed up the process so it gets done by the middle of next month, when the GOP could lose the majority in the Senate as the result of the recall elections. The new maps eliminate 11 Assembly incumbents who would have to run against neighboring representatives next year to keep their jobs. Republicans would face each other in three districts, and Democrats in two. The others would pit a Republican incumbent against a Democrat. The Senate’s proposed redistricting would only have one pair of incumbents squaring off – Racine Republican Van Wyngaard and Pleasant Prairie Democrat Bob Wirch, if he’s still around. Wirch faces a recall election next month.
The Wisconsin State Assembly is scheduled to vote today on giving thousands of long-term unemployed people an extra 13 weeks of jobless benefits. But the measure might be in jeopardy, after the Senate voted yesterday to drop a one-week waiting period to receive unemployment checks after applying. Lawmakers and Governor Scott Walker had approved the waiting period in the new state budget. They said it would save up to 56-million dollars a year, and help the state pay back one-point-four billion dollars it owes the federal government for keeping the benefit fund afloat during the recession. Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald and the governor’s office would not immediately say if they would support the benefit extension without the waiting period. Assembly Republican Joel Kleefisch of Oconomowoc said he thought the benefit delay was the right thing to do fiscally. He said his party would have to review the Senate’s action to decide how to proceed. The extension of the jobless benefits would help an estimated 23-thousand to $40,000 Wisconsinites who’ve gone through 73 weeks of payments. The new benefits would be funded by $89-million federal stimulus dollars that don’t have to be paid back. The Senate approved the measure 30-3. After the vote, Wausau Republican Pam Galloway changed her vote to yes – and New Berlin Republican Mary Lazich changed her vote to no.