State Government and Political Roundup: Final U.S. senate debate tonightWisconsin News
-- The two main candidates for Wisconsin’s open U.S. Senate seat will hold their third-and-final debate tonight.
The two main candidates for Wisconsin’s open U.S. Senate seat will hold their third-and-final debate tonight.
Republican Tommy Thompson and Democrat Tammy Baldwin will square off at eight o’clock on ABC-TV stations throughout the state – stations that carry the “Upfront” program hosted by tonight’s moderator, Mike Gousha. You can expect the two to keep sparring over health care reform, after Baldwin said yesterday she would she not push for a 100-percent government-funded health system like she did during her 14 years in the U-S House. Baldwin said she would try to make sure the Obama health reform law fits the needs of Wisconsin. Thompson’s campaign accused Baldwin of quote, “trying to cover up an extremist past” by highlighting her support for the Obama plan. As governor, Thompson occasionally ran into trouble for speaking off the cuff. And it will be interesting to see if he dots his “I’s” and crosses his “T’s” tonight, after what happened in their last debate eight days ago. Thompson went after Baldwin for taking campaign money from a group that opposes U.S. sanctions against Iran. But he got one word incorrect in identifying the group, and Baldwin dodged the issue by saying she never heard of that organization. The Marquette University Law School is hosting and sponsoring tonight’s debate along with WisPolitics.com and WISN-TV in Milwaukee.
Two Democratic state lawmakers have asked the federal EPA not to let the SS Badger car ferry keep dumping coal-ash into Lake Michigan after its permit expires in December. The ferry which runs from Manitowoc to Ludington Michigan has been looking for a cleaner way to handle its emissions – and until then, it’s seeking an extension of its dumping permit beyond December 19th. But Milwaukee Assembly Democrat Jon Richards and South Milwaukee Senator Chris Larson says it’s “unacceptable” to let the Badger continue what they call polluting Lake Michigan. And they said all ferries should play by the same rules. The Badger is in direct competition with the Lake Express car ferry, which crosses Lake Michigan between Milwaukee and Muskegon. This week, Lake Express owner Sheldon Lubar criticized Governor Scott Walker for asking the EPA for an extension. The governor’s office said it wanted the Badger to keep operating in a manner that safeguards Lake Michigan. Terri Brown of the company which owns the SS Badger said her group was disappointed that quote, “Mister Lubar used his considerable wealth and power to criticize Governor Walker for trying to help save the Badger.” An EPA ruling is expected this fall.
The man who ran Wisconsin’s transportation system longer than anyone else has died. 76-year-old Charles Thompson passed away at his Wisconsin Dells home this week. His oldest daughter, Julie Johnson, said he died from the Cruetzfeldt-Jacob degenerative brain disease which he had for almost a month-and-a-half. Thompson graduated from UW-Eau Claire. He was involved in a number of Wisconsin Dells businesses before he was appointed in 1992 as the DOT secretary by former Governor Tommy Thompson – who was no relation. Charles Thompson stayed in that post until he retired in 2000. Tommy Thompson told the Portage Daily Register that Charles Thompson was his best friend and quote, “an outstanding, caring, very intelligent, compassionate individual.” The former governor said he first met Charles Thompson when he asked him to help with a campaign for the state Assembly. And Tommy said quote, “He stayed with me from 1972 until he passed.” Tom Diehl, head of the Tommy Bartlett enterprises in the Dells, called Thompson a “visionary” on how to keep Wisconsin competitive in the world economy – and his imprint remains a part of the Dells’ tourism success. Charles Thompson’s funeral will be on Sunday in Wisconsin Dells.
Wisconsin’s presidential race heats up, as both major candidates and their running mates plan separate appearances over the next six days. The campaigning reflects the extremely tight race between President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney for Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes. Vice President Joe Biden is due in first. He’ll appear at UW-Oshkosh this morning, before moving on to UW-Parkside near Kenosha. It’s Biden’s fourth trip to the Badger State since Labor Day. On Monday, Romney will campaign in the Milwaukee area – but the details are not set yet. Romney has not been in the state since the day after he introduced Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan as his running mate. On Tuesday, President Obama will make his third state visit in recent weeks. The Democratic incumbent plans to visit Green Bay on Tuesday, as part of a two-day swing in three battleground states. Details of his Wisconsin visit are still to come. And finally, Ryan will make several campaign stops throughout his home state on Wednesday, before trick-or-treating with his three kids in his home town of Janesville.
Most of Wisconsin’s U.S House incumbents have a large financial advantage going into the final 1.1 days of their re-election campaigns. The latest federal reports were due last night. First-term Republican Sean Duffy of Weston has $650,000 in the bank, as he tries to win a tight contest against former state Senate Democrat Pat Kreitlow. Duffy has raised almost two-and-a-half million dollars since the first-of-the-year. Kritelow’s numbers were not immediately available. The other Wisconsin House rookie from two years ago, Sherwood Republican Reid Ribble, has $475,000 dollars in his fund, compared to 130-thousand for his Democratic challenger Jamie Wall. Wisconsin’s only open House seat is being contested in the Madison area. State Assembly Democrat Mark Pocan has raised well over a million dollars this year. His newest report was not available, but he had $135,000 in the bank at the end of September – while his GOP opponent Chad Lee has $8,500 available now. Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan of Janesville has three-million in the bank for his congressional re-election bid. His opponent, Democrat Rob Zerban, has $660,000 on hand. Republican incumbents Jim Sensenbrenner and Tom Petri, and Democrats Ron Kind and Gwen Moore, all have large financial edges over their opponents.
There’s a Wisconsin law that prohibits the type of comments that some U.S. employers are making to their workers about the possible losses of benefits – or even their jobs – if President Obama is re-elected. Earlier today, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel published an e-mail from Mike White, owner of the industrial equipment maker Rite-Hite. It said he respects his employees’ right-to-vote as they choose. But if the president is able to get the tax increases he has promised, White said he might not have the money to continue contributing toward employee health insurance or retirements. He did not threaten layoffs, as some CEO’s have done since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed businesses to become politically involved under its “Citizens United” ruling. This afternoon, the Journal-Sentinel said a Wisconsin election law prohibits employers from telling workers that if a particular person or party is elected, that a business would end-or-reduce its production – that salaries or wages would be cut – or anything else intended to quote, “influence the political opinions or actions of the employees.” White and his company have not commented further on the e-mail to their workers. Rite-Hite employs about 1,400 people throughout the world.
U.S. Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin says if she’s elected, she would not promote the idea of having the federal government pay for all Americans’ health care. It’s an idea she has promoted in the past as a member of the House. But at a news conference today, Baldwin said she would focus on starting up the Obama health reform package and quote, “address anything about it that isn’t working.” Baldwin says her previous support of a single-payer health system is irrelevant now, because the “Affordable Care Act” is now the law – and she helped pass it. She says the challenge now is to make it work for Wisconsin. But there continues to be resistance to the package within the state. Governor Scott Walker has refused to create a health insurance exchange that’s tailor-made for Wisconsin – and if the state doesn’t do it by next year, they’ll get a standard federal template to follow. State Democrats have pushed Walker to create exchanges that are favorable to Wisconsin. But the governor has said he’s counting on Republican Mitt Romney winning the White House – and keeping his promise to repeal the health act.