Saturday State News Briefs: GOP candidates converge on WisconsinWisconsin News
-- Republican presidential candidates are starting to visit Wisconsin with the primary coming up a week from Tuesday.
Republican presidential candidates are starting to visit Wisconsin with the primary coming up a week from Tuesday.
Rick Santorum is in the state this weekend and Mitt Romney visits a week from today. The campaign of Texas Congressman Ron Paul says he is going to hold a town hall meeting next Thursday on the Madison campus of the University of Wisconsin. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich hasn’t scheduled any Wisconsin visits so far.
They think he has the best chance to win. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is the favorite among Republican voters in Wisconsin. Rasmussen Reports says its most recent survey shows Romney favored by 46 percent of likely Republican voters in the state primary. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum was the choice of 33 percent of the people responding. Texas Congressman Ron Paul and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich trailed far behind, neither getting more than eight percent. A whopping 84 percent of those questioned think Romney will be the eventual nominee and 59 percent said they think he would offer the strongest opposition for President Obama.
Less than a week after the retirement of Republican state Senator Pam Galloway gave Democrats the feeling they could take over that chamber, another state Senator has dimmed the optimism. Democrat Jim Holperin says he’s not running for reelection in November. He says he made the decision after thinking it over for a long time. Three Republicans serving in the Wisconsin Senate must face recall elections in May or June. Right now, with Galloway’s departure, each party holds 16 seats in the Senate.
Kathleen Falk says Tom Barrett should step aside and support her Democratic candidacy for governor in the Walker recall election. Barrett lost to the Republican Walker in the last gubernatorial contest in 2010, and the Milwaukee mayor said he would announce soon whether he’ll go for a rematch. But today, Falk said Barrett had his chance -- and she supported him in 2010, so he should support her this time. There are two other announced Democratic candidates in the gubernatorial recall contest – Secretary-of-State Doug La Follette and Alma Senator Kathleen Vinehout.
The Government Accountability Board says local clerks aren’t living up to their responsibilities and getting ballots to members of the military so they can vote. The federal government has decided to take the state of Wisconsin to court over the matter. The GAB says 65 municipal clerks sent the ballots out late. Another 347 never responded to requests from the GAB about when the ballots were mailed. The board admits it can’t do much to the clerks who missed the deadline – or the ones who didn’t respond. It says it simply doesn’t have the tools or the authority to force the clerks to comply. This is the second time the federal government has taken the state to court over this law.
A Fond du Lac jury acquits former state Senator Randy Hopper of first-offense drunken driving charges. The not guilty verdict was reached yesterday. Hopper had been arrested last October after another motorist reported a driver weaving on the roadway. Hopper told the court Thursday politics played a role in his arrest. The Republican said his vote to eliminate collective bargaining for more state workers had brought on threats which were made against him. Hopper lost his seat in a recall election last August which was brought on by that controversial issue.
Among several bills signed by the governor yesterday was legislation which strengthens the presence of hunting and fishing interests on the Natural Resources Board. Starting in 2017, one member of that board must have an agricultural background and three should hold a hunting, fishing or trapping license in at least seven of the last 10 years before being nominated. Opponents of the law called it a power grab for hunters and fishermen. They say the board is too heavily-weighted against those who advocate for recreational activities like bird-watching and hiking.
Final toxicology results are still several weeks off, but the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner has ruled the death of 28 year old Thomas Hecht an accident. He went missing nearly two weeks ago after a pub crawl on Water Street. Hecht was last seen at Rosie’s Tavern. Surveillance video from the bar show Hecht staggering and wearing back and forth. Later video shows him walking alone, but it isn’t known how or when he wound up in the Milwaukee River.
The warmer weather this spring has motorcycle riders hitting Wisconsin roads, with state transportation officials reminding them to use their heads about safety. Motorcycling fatalities were down last year, but one state official points out that 92 percent of those killed weren’t wearing a helmet at the time. In the past that number has been closed to 65 percent. This is leading to a call to action by the DOT. Bikers are being urged to voluntarily strap on a helmet each time they ride.
Now that eight Milwaukee police officers have been reprimanded for strip searching suspects, more people are coming forward to say it happened to them. One man told a Milwaukee television station officers routinely strip searched him and never found anything illegal. He says people were afraid to speak out for fear of retaliation. Those strip searches are illegal.
High-end apartments or condominiums could be built on a three-acre site along the Milwaukee riverfront. Wangard Partners has agreed to purchase the property, saying preliminary plans include construction of a 200-unit complex which could benefit from the nearby Brady Street night life and shopping district. The property is located at North Water and East Brady. The company says it is also developing the 68-unit complex on Water Street, near Humboldt Avenue.
State officials announced a new task force today to try and reduce high minority unemployment in the Milwaukee area. Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson says the new group would look at current job training programs in the region. And it would recommend a focus on skills that prepare and connect minorities with job opportunities. Newson said the task force would especially deal with quote, “the unacceptably-high unemployment rate among black males.” A recent UW-Milwaukee study found that only 45-percent of working-age black men in the city had jobs. Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and Milwaukee Assembly Democrat Elizabeth Coggs will co-chair the next group. Its membership is still being finalized, and it plans to start a series of public meetings in the next few weeks.