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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Walker tours state in campaign kick-off

In announcing his re-election bid today, Republican Governor Scott Walker vowed to keep putting tax relief "back into the hands of the people who earned it."  He also touted the creation of a 100,000 jobs in Wisconsin during his term -- something Democrats pounced on.  

The Democratic Governors Association and the campaign group "Emily's List" noted that Walker never reached the halfway point of the 250,000 jobs he promised to create when he ran for office in 2010.  In a joint statement, the groups also said Walker is quote, "one of the most vulnerable incumbent governors in the nation."  Walker announced his re-election plans at a plant in Dane, near Madison -- and he's spreading that news during appearances in most of Wisconsin's TV markets like Chippewa Falls, La Crosse, Schofield and ending up at State Fair Park near Milwaukee.  Walker's announcement also includes a new TV with his new campaign slogan, "Wisconsin is back on."  His Democratic opponent, Mary Burke, reiterated that Wisconsin is 35th in the nation in the pace of its private sector job creation.  The former Trek Bicycle executive said quote, "Walker's game plan has failed." Walker, however, says he deserves another four years in office because he turned Wisconsin around in his first four.   He also mentioned a tuition freeze at the UW, which he wants to extend for another two years if he wins.  About 200 people attended his initial rally, where the governor was joined by his lieutenant Rebecca Kleefisch.  The announcement comes on the first day that candidates can circulate nomination papers for the fall partisan elections.   Walker defeated Milwaukee Mayor, Democrat Tom Barrett, by almost six-percent points in 2010, and by seven points in his 2012 recall election.  


Another big blast of winter is in the offing for far northern Wisconsin.  The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch from late tonight through Thursday morning.  Six-to-12 inches of heavy wet snow are in the forecast in the far northwest from Superior to Bayfield -- 6-to-10 inches in the Park Falls region -- 7-to-11 inches from Minocqua to Florence -- and 4-to-8 inches from Barron and Ladysmith northward.  At least parts of northwest Wisconsin can expect snow late tonight, a rain-and-snow mix overnight, and then all-snow again tomorrow.  Central Wisconsin can expect a wintry mix.  Meanwhile, it continues to be downright cold for this time of year.  Temperatures were in the 20's-and-30's at mid-day under partly to mostly cloudy skies.  Wind chills were generally in the teens-and-20's.  Madison tied an 86-year record for today with an overnight low of 18. 


A school official says it will take about two weeks to rebuild a pair of classrooms that were damaged in a weekend storm in Manitowoc County.  In the meantime, pre-kindergarten and Montessori students have been moved to the gym of the Cleveland Elementary School -- which continues to operate while repairs are made.  A temporary roof was installed on Sunday, a day after straight line winds blew off part of the old roof, and heavy rains waterlogged the two classrooms.  Staff members sent yesterday removing supplies, shelves, and tiles that were damaged.  District superintendent Joe Sheehan said if crews had not spent Sunday vacuuming, he's not sure how far the water would have spread.


Wisconsin's largest airport had more air traffic in February than the same month a year ago.  Mitchell International in Milwaukee reports a one-point-one percent increase in passengers during the month.  January had a decrease of one-and-a-half percent, which airport officials blame on bad weather.  In a statement, Mitchell noted that snowy weather in the eastern and southern U.S. grounded 49,000 flights, and delayed 300,000 others. Officials said around 30-million airline passengers were affected nationwide by the poor weather. 


Thousands of Wisconsinites could lose their power after today, if they don't start paying up on their past-due electric bills.  The state's annual winter moratorium on utility shut-offs ends at midnight.  We Energies, the state's largest electric company, has around six-thousand customers who risk being cut off.  The utility has been working to reach those people for about a month, to encourage them to work out payment plans which could spare them from being shut off.  We Energies' spokesman Brian Manthey said number of people facing disconnections is about the same as a year ago -- but they owe 10-to-15 percent more money.  That's no surprise, considering how long and cold this winter has been.  State officials say they've provided home heating assistance to just under 200,000 households this past winter.  That's about five-thousand more than a year ago.  Low-income residents can still get help.  More information is available by calling the following toll-free number -- 866-HEAT-WIS.


A north-central Wisconsin man denies killing his estranged wife and dumping her remains in a swamp.  Fifty-year-old Mark Bucki of Merrill testified in his own defense today in his trial in Lincoln County.  He told jurors and he and 48-year-old Anita Bucki mutually agreed to get divorced, in the hours before she vanished in late April.  Prosecutors said Bucki made his wife disappear by stabbing and strangling her, then tossing her remains in a remote area about 20 miles away.  Earlier, witnesses testified that Anita had talked about getting back together with her husband just before she was murdered.  The case could go to the jury as early as today.  Bucki is charged with homicide, strangulation and suffocation, and hiding a corpse.


No criminal charges will be filed against three Concordia University students who were suspected in a sexual assault incident in downtown Milwaukee.  Deputy District Attorney Kent Lovern said he could not round up enough evidence to win a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.  The private Mequon school says it's conducting its own investigation of the incident, which was reported the night of March 14th on Milwaukee's Water Street.  Concordia officials say they continue to cooperate with Milwaukee Police in its investigation.   


A 74-year-old Marshfield man has pleaded innocent to stealing over $50,000 from his father, and playing most of it in the Nigerian and Australian lotteries.  Delbert Weiler entered his plea after Wood County Circuit Judge Greg Potter found enough evidence to put him on trial for felony embezzlement.  He's due back in court May 30th.  Police have said that Weiler got caught up in a scam, and he needed money to pay for it.  Prosecutors said Weiler had the power-of-attorney for his 96-year-old father -- and he apparently thought he could take six-thousand-dollars a year from one of his father's accounts as reimbursement for work he had done for him.  A woman told police last fall that she thought somebody was exploiting her father -- and her brother had allegedly put large amounts of money into an account for his own business.  Officials said up to $40,000 were put into the foreign lotteries.


The Coast Guard has accused an officer of having abusive sexual contact with a female staffer while he was working in Milwaukee.  Officials said 30-year-old Petty Officer Joshua Raymond of Deerfield faces tentative charges of attempted sexual assault, and making false statements to an investigator last year.  The Coast Guard now says Raymond faces a type of grand jury proceeding in which court material proceedings could be ordered -- or his charges may be dropped.  His lawyer says Raymond will plead innocent.  He was assigned to the Coast Guard's Milwaukee station at the time of the alleged incidents.  He was transferred to Grand Haven Michigan after the investigation.