Afternoon State News Briefs: Nine counties swung between parties since 2000Wisconsin News
-- One analyst calls them the “Nimble Nine.” Nine Wisconsin counties carried Democratic President Barack Obama in Tuesday’s elections, after going with Republican Scott Walker for governor in June, Obama in 2008, and Republican President George W. Bush in 2004.
One analyst calls them the “Nimble Nine.” Nine Wisconsin counties carried Democratic President Barack Obama in Tuesday’s elections, after going with Republican Scott Walker for governor in June, Obama in 2008, and Republican President George W. Bush in 2004.
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel analyst Craig Gilbert identified the nine always-swinging counties as Racine, Richland, Juneau, Marquette, Winnebago, Door, Forest, Lincoln, and Sawyer. And Gilbert said Monroe and Chippewa counties would have made the list as well, had Obama not lost in those places by less than one-percentage point. On the other hand, two dozen counties can be counted on to carry the same party year-after-year. Milwaukee and Dane counties get the most publicity for being solidly Democratic – so it’s no surprise that they’ve endorsed the Democratic hopefuls in all three White House contests since ’04, plus the Walker recall contest. Kenosha County is also constantly in the Democrats’ corner, along with Rock, Iowa, La Crosse, Portage, Menominee, Ashland, Bayfield, and Douglas. Waukesha is often cited as the state’s most Republican county. The other so-called “red” counties since ’04 are Walworth, Ozaukee, Washington, Dodge, Sheboygan, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Taylor, Saint Croix, Polk, Vilas, and Florence.
GE Healthcare is getting bigger. The Milwaukee-based firm said today that it bought a company that makes ultra-sound screening products to detect breast cancer. GE Healthcare purchased “U”-Systems, which is based in Sunnyvale, California and Phoenix. GE said the company has created the only ultra-sound system in America that screens for breast cancer in women who have more than 50-percent dense breast tissue. Scientists say women with dense tissues in over three-fourths of their breasts are six times more likely to suffer from breast cancer. The “U”-Systems’ technology produces improved images of dense breasts, making it easier to doctors to find potential problems. GE Healthcare already makes digital mammography and MRI equipment for breast testing. The firm employs over 6,500 people in Wisconsin.
Milwaukee attorney Vince Megna announced his candidacy for the State Supreme Court this morning. He’s the first publicly-declared challenger for the seat now held by Justice Pat Roggensack. Earlier today, Marquette Law School professor Ed Fallone said he was considering a run. Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi said earlier this week that she, too, was thinking about getting into the race. Megna has become known for representing buyers of defective vehicles who seek compensation under the state’s Lemon Law. He has also been a vocal critic of Governor Scott Walker. Megna said he made up his mind about running during the past day – and he’ll stay in the race regardless of who else runs. A February primary would be required if three-or-more candidates file enough nominating signatures. The general election is set for April second. Fallone and Sumi both said they’d like to ease the personality clashes and public discord among the Supreme Court justices in recent years. Sumi’s possible candidacy got a lot of media attention. That’s because she was the judge who struck down the Republicans’ public union bargaining restrictions – which Roggensack helped restore.
Madison Police now say a burglary suspect shot by an officer overnight died at the scene. Spokesman Joel DeSpain said police were called to a burglary-in-progress around 2:45 a.m. at a home just east of Madison’s downtown. He said an officer got into a physical confrontation with the suspect – and during the struggle, the officer shot the alleged intruder. No one else was hurt. The victim was in his 30’s. The officer is a 15-year veteran of the Madison police force. He’s been put on administrative leave – a standard procedure as police conduct an internal investigation.
A Caterpillar forest products plant will close next year in southern Minnesota – and some of the work will be moved to its plant in northwest Wisconsin. About 100 employees are expected to be let go, when Caterpillar shuts down its Owatonna, Minnesota plant on March first. John Carpenter, the head of Caterpillar’s forest products division, said the shut-down was necessary for the company to become more efficient and productive. Part of Owatonna’s work will be done at Prentice in Price County – and some of it will also move to a facility in LaGrange, Georgia. Caterpillar will continue to employ 20 engineers in Owatonna. But it’s not clear where they’ll go, because the firm says it plans to sell its factory there.
Governor Scott Walker says he might let Wisconsin use a standard federal health insurance purchasing exchange, and not adopt a plan that’s tailored to the Badger State. The Republican Walker told reporters in La Crosse yesterday he doesn’t want to give up state control over the health purchasing system. But he said there’s a question over how much flexibility the state can have in developing its own exchange. Walker said if a state cannot really run a plan as it sees fit, quote, “It might be a better argument to let it be run by the federal government.” Walker was hoping the Obama health reforms would be a moot point, since his fellow Republican Mitt Romney promised to throw out the mandates had he been elected president. But Obama won – and with both houses of Congress politically split again, Walker is resigned to the fact that the law will continue. The governor promised his final decision would go beyond his belief that the health law is a “bad idea” for Wisconsinites. Democrats and health advocates say Walker only has a week to come up with a tailored-made exchange for the state – or else it will be stuck with a template from Washington come 2014. But Walker insists the state has until next fall to make its decisions. Also, the state may have to use its own money to create an exchange. Walker returned $38-million federal dollars for that purpose.
A northwest Wisconsin sheriff is saying more about an effort by some of his employees to cover up for a co-worker suspected of child sexual assault and domestic abuse. Burnett County Sheriff Dean Roland said an investigation was ordered, after dispatchers ignored a report from another agency that a Burnett County deputy was being investigated. WXCE Radio in Amery said nine employees were disciplined, and some lost their jobs. An arbitrator ruled that two dispatchers violated department policies by not preserving 911 calls about the matter, and keeping the deputy’s name out of their reports. The arbitrator upheld one of the firings, while another was disciplined and re-instated. Roland says two other deputies who were fired are appealing their terminations – and they’re still getting paid. The sheriff said he hopes those cases can be resolved soon. As for the deputy suspected of abuse and child sex assault, a decision is still pending on whether criminal charges will be filed. For now, the officer is on paid leave.
For the second time this year, officials are cracking down on an “Occupy Madison” encampment several blocks away from the State Capitol. About a dozen homeless people set up tents last month, at the same place where they spent last winter before being ordered to leave in May. Mayor Paul Soglin said the tents go against city-and-state laws. He said the Occupy camp turned into a public nuisance last winter – and it became a popular place for crime. But homeless advocate Brenda Konkol said the campers feel safer in a group, instead of scattering into wooded areas. Mayor Soglin says the homeless campers have choices to stay in shelters.