State Political and Government News: Kohl endorses Barrett for GovernorWisconsin News
-- U.S. Senator Herb Kohl endorsed Tom Barrett yesterday in the Democratic recall primary for Wisconsin governor.
U.S. Senator Herb Kohl endorsed Tom Barrett yesterday in the Democratic recall primary for Wisconsin governor.
Kohl – who’s retiring this year – says he almost never endorses one fellow Democrat over others in a primary. But Kohl says this is no ordinary election. Also today, the AFL-CIO threw its support to one of Barrett’s challengers in the primary, Kathleen Falk. All labor unions who have made endorsements so far have thrown their support to Falk. The former Dane County executive has promised to veto the entire next state budget unless it restores collective bargaining privileges for most public employee unions. Most bargaining was taken away a year ago by Walker and his GOP legislative majority.
Two Democratic candidates for governor sparred last night over the way they would try to restore collective bargaining for public unions. At a forum in Madison, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk defended her promise to veto the entire state budget next year if it doesn’t restore union bargaining. But Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said it would only continue Scott Walker’s cuts to schools and local governments indefinitely, while Falk wrangles with lawmakers. That’s because the previous year’s budget legally stays in place for as long as it takes to agree to a new one. Barrett said quote, “If we want to have a permanent Scott Walker budget, that’s what we would be doing … we can’t play into (Republicans’) hands.” But Falk says her plan would be more effective than Barrett’s in restoring union rights. Barrett said he would call a special session to push the issue. The other two Democratic candidates – Secretary-of-State Douglas La Follette and state Senator Kathleen Vinehout of Alma – said they would both start talking to the unions immediately after they take office to hear their concerns. Dane County Democrats sponsored last night’s forum.
Four Republican U.S. Senate candidates tried to distinguish themselves last night at a forum in Waukesha. Former congressman Mark Neumann said he wanted to do away with federal tax credits and get government quote, “out of the business of picking winners and losers.” State Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald of Horicon said he would take as many of Governor Walker’s accomplishments to Washington as he could – and he would push for a national “right to work law” that does not require new private sector employees to pay union dues. Hedge fund manager Eric Hovde of Madison continued to slam what he called “career politicians” – and he called for a balanced federal budget and a withdrawal from Afghanistan as soon as possible. Rhinelander physical therapist Kip Smith said he would find ways to cut health costs, repeal the Democrats’ health reform law, and reduce the level of government. Former Governor Tommy Thompson did not attend last night’s forum. It conflicted with a campaign fund-raiser in Minneapolis – but he promised to attend future forums and debates. The GOP U.S Senate primary is just over four months away on August 14th.
Governor Scott Walker flew to Oklahoma City last night to help a conservative think tank raise money – and to praise Republicans for standing firm in cutting Oklahoma’s income tax. Walker spoke a friendly crowd at a fund-raising dinner for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. GOP leaders gave Walker a standing ovation when Governor Mary Fallin introduced him as quote, “the poster child for the nation in taking on tough battles.” Walker – who faces a recall election on June fifth -- said he campaigned on an aggressive, pro-job agenda, and he kept his promises after he was elected. Fallin told Walker quote, “The people of Oklahoma appreciate you … we admire your courage.” Well, not everyone, apparently. About 200 protestors and union workers rallied outside last night’s event and demanded Walker’s recall. Union electrician Scott Duff carried a sign saying “Stop the War on Workers.” He said they need things like retirement benefits, health care, and the ability to feed their kids.
Governor Scott Walker will have a primary challenge after all. The Government Accountability Board said Arthur Kohl-Riggs corrected problems with his nomination papers late yesterday. And after being kept off the GOP ballot, he was put back on after having 182 more nominating signatures than the minimum. Kohl-Riggs is a long-time State Capitol protestor. He said he’s running in the May eighth GOP recall primary to force Republicans to vote for Walker, instead of voting in the Democratic primary to try-and-give the governor a weaker challenger in the general election on June fifth. As it stands now, two Republicans and five Democrats will be on the primary ballot in the governor’s contest. Michael Mangan was kept off the GOP ballot yesterday for not having enough signatures. Kohl-Riggs originally had signatures struck because some sheets did not have the name of the person who collected them. He was given until tomorrow to correct the errors, but he got that done yesterday.
Democrats and Hispanics have scored a victory in one of Wisconsin’s final re-districting disputes. Yesterday, three federal judges re-drew the boundaries of two state Assembly districts in Milwaukee, in order to give Hispanics a better chance of keeping at least one house seat. Earlier, the court said the Republicans who drew the new maps violated the federal Voting Rights Act, by splitting Milwaukee Hispanics into two districts to reduce their ability to elect at least one of their own to the Assembly. The judges asked the parties in the original redistricting lawsuit to try and reach an agreement on the final two districts. But they couldn’t, so the judges did it for them. The State Justice Department says it might appeal. The court had earlier upheld the other 97 Assembly districts and all 33 Senate districts – but the judges scolded the majority Republicans for drawing them in secret, and locking Democrats and others out of the process. The new maps will take effect in the fall elections. Critics say the GOP rigged them to give them a better chance of winning elections all the way until the next re-districting which follows the 2020 Census.
Eight years ago, Wisconsin drove Democrat Howard Dean from the presidential race. This year, it was Republican Rick Santorum. The former Pennsylvania senator suspended his White House bid yesterday, just a week after placing second to Mitt Romney in the Wisconsin GOP primary. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel elections’ analyst Craig Gilbert said Santorum was not able to build on his normal base of rural and evangelical voters. That was evidenced in part by the fact that only 23-percent of Wisconsin’s rural voters turned out for the Republican GOP primary – a much smaller turnout than in 2008, when 41-percent of rural voters cast ballots. At the same time, the Badger State had the second-highest total turnout in the country for the GOP primary, as almost 19-percent of all eligible voters cast ballots. New Hampshire has had the most, at 25-percent. Wisconsin’s turnout was the highest for a Republican primary since 1980, when Ronald Reagan edged George Bush I on his way to the Republican nomination. Also, Wisconsin Democrats tried putting a monkey-wrench into Romney. A statewide exit poll showed that of those who called themselves Democrats, 44-percent of those who crossed over and voted in the GOP primary had voted for Santorum, to just 24-percent for Romney.
The State Justice Department says it will not get involved in the John Doe probe into Governor Scott Walker’s former aides when he was the Milwaukee County executive. Justice spokeswoman Dana Brueck told the Journal Sentinel the state does not have the legal authority to take John Doe investigations away from elected district attorneys. But former Waukesha County DA Paul Bucher said he believed the state had the power to take over. He said the probe that’s being run by Milwaukee DA John Chisholm has quote, “leaked like a sieve,” and it has abused people’s rights and reputations with no legal opportunity for them to respond. The Journal Sentinel said the DA’s office has not leaked any stories to the paper about the nearly two-year-old probe, which has result in embezzlement and illegal campaigning charges against four aides. Bucher said reliable sources have told him that some of those involved in the DA’s public integrity unit have either signed Walker recall petitions – or had people close to them sign. The DA’s office said none of those directly involved in the John Doe signed the recall petitions – but 43 other office employees did sign. Bucher – who lost to Van Hollen in the Republican primary for attorney general in 2006 – would not confirm or deny that represents one-or-more people involved in the Doe investigation. But the Journal-Sentinel learned that Bucher has represented a client in the Doe probe.
A state appeals court says it’s constitutional for Wisconsin to prohibit felons from possessing firearms. The Second District Appellate Court in Waukesha struck down a challenge to the law. Thomas Pocian of Hartford said the ban on guns should not apply to him, because he did not commit a violent crime. He was convicted of felony forgery in 1986 – and he was hit with new charges after going deer hunting in 2008 while using his father’s gun. The appeals judges pointed to a federal ruling from 2010 which found it to be constitutional to ban felons from possessing firearms – and the judges said no state law on the subject has ever been struck down. The court said a felony is a felony – and because Pocian committed one, he can never legally possess a weapon.
If you claim Wisconsin’s two main income tax credits for the poor, you better make sure everything’s correct and legitimate – or you’ll have a better chance of being audited. The state Revenue Department has received a $40,000 federal grant to check mistakes and root out fraud by those who claim the Earned Income and Homestead credits. Spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis says Wisconsin is the first state chosen as part of an effort by the federal government to find mistakes and fraud in the Earned Income Tax credits. Both the state and federal governments offer the credit. It encourages low-income people to work by letting them get refund checks, even if they didn’t pay income taxes. A year ago, Governor Scott Walker and his fellow legislative Republicans reduced the state earned income credits by a total of 56-million dollars over the next two years – and the Homestead credit is no longer adjusted for inflation. The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau called both measures tax increases. But Assembly GOP finance chair Robin Vos of Burlington begs to differ. He said most low-income workers get more from the credit than they paid in taxes – and the new changes mean they get quote, “less free money than they did before.”