Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Another Republican In The 6th Congressional District Race?

Yesterday, the FDL Reporter previewed the possibility of yet another candidate on the Republican side throwing their hat into the ring to replace retiring Congressman Tom Petri. This time, it's former Dodge Co. Sheriff Todd Nehls: 
Nehls, 53, who retired from his post as sheriff 13 months ago, feels his 35 years in law enforcement has provided him with significant experience and background to represent the people of the district. 
“I understand the issues and challenges people are facing due to the actions in Washington from those who have lost their way,” Nehls said in a news release issued late Monday night. “Historic budget deficits, failed foreign policy, reckless spending and government mandates all have the trickle-down effect upon the citizens of the 6th District.”
Sounds like a pretty typical Republican talking point press release.

So, aside from being sheriff, what else is in his background to qualify him for congress?
A decorated war veteran, Nehls served 36 years in the Wisconsin Army National Guard. He retired as a colonel in 2013. In 2004-05, he was deployed to Afghanistan and commanded troops along the Pakistan border. Nehls was awarded the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal. 
Nehls traveled extensively with the military in Canada, Germany, Nicaragua, Ukraine and Russia.
I don't give a crap your politics. That's a hell of a resume defending my right to write what I do every day here.  
“We need more representatives in Congress who have served and can provide the necessary background to our elected officials regarding the importance of a strong national defense and foreign policy,” Nehls said.
Agreed. While I don't want that to be misconstrued with having to constantly trying to prove our strength ahead of diplomatic foreign policy, I think he's right. We do need more vets in Congress right now.
Nehls has a portfolio of community service that includes serving as an alderman in Fox Lake and on school district committees. He and his wife, Susan, have been married for more than 25 years and have two sons and two grandchildren. 
“I consider myself as a person who reflects the population of the 6th District — hardworking and dedicated to the community,” Nehls said.
While he comes across as not so crazy as Sen. Grothamn, Rep. Strobel, or yesterday's other unsurprising announcement of State Sen. Joe Leibham's candidacy for the 6th Congressional District, I can only assume he will be drowned out in the sea of already elected and high conservative candidates.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Don't Say I Didn't Tell You... We Have a Candidate! Winnebago Co. Exec. Mark Harris For Congress

Don't say I didn't tell you I thought it was going to happen.

Today, Winnebago Co. Executive Mark Harris announced that he would be running for Congress in the 6th District.

I wholly support his candidacy.

From the Oshkosh Northwestern: 
In an interview with Oshkosh Northwestern Media, Harris called himself a “fiscally conservative progressive” who can bring Democrats, centrists and moderate Republicans together while Republican candidates push further to the right. 
“I would be a candidate that’s informing the public and telling them about the most serious problems facing us and how we can address them while other people might tell them more pleasant lies rather than harsh truths,” Harris said. “... I really think I’m probably closer to what this district has been used to than the names that have emerged so far on the Republican side.”
So, so true.

While there are many parts of the 6th District that trend exceedingly conservative, there are other parts where, while Republican as of late, have shown their ability to vote for Democrats. They aren't blood-red, they are common sense. That's probably the biggest thing Exec. Harris has in his corner, he's not some ideologue who can run on platitudes. He has a proven and rock-solid background as a county executive in a place that has urban manufacturing and rural agriculture.

He also seems to have a platform full of things that members of the house can actually have some involvement with. (Something I think is sorely missing with the platitudes spewed by the Tea Party):
He said he plans to focus on four key issues: 
• Properly funding Social Security and keeping it in its current form for present retirees and future generations instead of moving toward privatization. 
• Ensuring that university and technical college educations stay affordable for working and middle class families. 
• Properly funding federal highway programs to ensure funding is there for necessary projects around the country. 
• Raising the minimum wage to between 40 and 42 percent of the private sector’s average hourly wage, which was $20.31 in November 2013. The result would be an hourly minimum wage between $8.12 and $8.53, less than the $10.10 President Barack Obama and Democrats have championed. 
“The issues I talk about are kind of dry issues, but I think they’re the most important ones,” Harris said. “I will be a candidate that’s informing the public and telling them about the most serious problems facing us and how we can address them while other people might tell them more pleasant lies, rather than harsh truths.”
You can also view a roughly four minute video of Harris being interviewed by the Northwestern:

And, just for good measure, the WisDems chimed in on today's news as well. From Chair Mike Tate:

"The hard working people of the 6th Congressional District have a chance to vote for someone who will fight for them in Washington and not large special interests. 
"We're thrilled that County Executive Mark Harris will enter the race to succeed Rep. Tom Petri. His experience with balancing budgets and reducing debts, coupled with his solid stance on the issues, will make him a very formidable candidate for the seat. If elected, Harris will be a breath of fresh air compared to the extreme Tea Party antics that pervade Washington and create the gridlock we see in Congress today. 
"We are confident that our open primary process will yield the strongest possible candidate next year.”
And... Just in case you haven't heard enough from Mr. Harris and his beliefs, you can listen to him on "Between the Lines w/ Greg Stensland HERE. (THANK LORD THEY ARE BACK ONLINE WITH PODCASTS!) There's also some great analysis of the district and shape of politics in the district by Mr. Stensland. It's worth a listen if you like analyzing things with this race while keeping an eye on the big picture.

Lastly, Paul Fanlund explored Mr. Harris' announcement in THIS article from the CapTimes:
I wrote about Harris after his rumored run for governor. Then and since, he has been a critic of Scott Walker, charging the GOP governor presents himself as a fiscal conservative because he attacked public workers, but whose actual spending decisions and tax cuts will put the state into a budget bind after the 2014 election.
I like the fact that he put his name out there last year so people like me have an idea who he is and could keep an eye on him. Later, in this column, there is something that interests me as a young person - Social Security and education:
“So many people are out there telling young people that Social Security won’t be there when they need it,” Harris says. “The problem is just making adjustments so it is there.” 
He says he is also focused on the affordability of public higher education for working-class families: “When I was in college, the majority of the expense was picked up by the state,” about 80 percent on average. 
“That kind of flipped so that right now the public institutions are getting only about 20 percent” from sources other than tuition and fees. He says he understands that the federal government must reduce its deficit, but it should create incentives for states to invest more in public higher education. 
“We once recognized that the public would benefit in the long run from a more educated population,” Harris says. We will never get back to 80 percent public support, he says, but perhaps 40 or 50 percent is attainable.
Wow! Someone who wants to actually say that Social Security SHOULD be there for someone my age and believes that education is a long-term investment!? Sign me up!

Again, another article that is worth reading, as it gives a great expose of what a Congressman Harris would work for. Democrats have a candidate here that will satisfy those of us who like policy wonks. While he'll never be a firebrand who can go "rah-rah" with a cheering crowd, he's someone I can see making common sense decisions and working for the betterment of everyone in the district and not just monied interests.

Can We Stop Already?! A Full Time Legislature is GOOD!

I'm so sick and tired of people think that being a legislator is only a part time job. Especially at the state level.

Last year, Rep. Joe Sanfelippo set off these events when he targeted his former representative body, the Milwaukee County Board, saying that they really didn't deserve to be full time employees. Now, the idea is being tossed around (yet again) at the state level, somehow saying that the legislators we have aren't really deserving of their roughly $50,000 salary and $88/per day per diem.

WISN-TV in Milwaukee explored the possibility of a part-time board last night on their news, and that segment can be viewed HERE.

Me? I can't stand reports like this or the suggestion of a part-time legislature. I wish they would've given more time to Rep. Sandy Pasch as she made points that I found very truthful.

How would Rep. Mandy Wright be able to hold office as a teacher? She'd never be in her class every year come January or would have to drop classes at a moments notice to go off and take part in a 24 hour noticed committee hearing. What about a common shop worker? Would they ever be able to run for office knowing that they'd have to miss so much time? Why would a company keep them on?

Don't even start.

I understand the allure of the "citizen legislator" but in reality, it doesn't matter what a person does or did for a job before the make it to the legislature, THEY ARE ALREADY A CITIZEN and if elected, THEY ARE A LEGISLATOR! This isn't the 1940's or earlier when the vast majority of the state was made up of farms and people could be part-time legislators and tend their farms. It's also a vastly different world than that of the 1940's or earlier, and the advent of technological advances also necessitates the need for full-time legislators.

I don't want to have a legislator who isn't accessible on a daily basis. I want someone who's working in their office and going out meeting with the Noon Rotary, Jaycees, Red Hatters, and any other civic group that meets during the day. And, by default, I don't want that person to have to be some rich businessperson who's able to afford to run for office and not be at their other job.

I'm also so sick and tired of people thinking that the legislature only is "working" when they are in-session. It's the same ignorant crap logic that people use to say "teachers only work 6 hours a day" or "TV anchors only work 30 minutes a day." It stupid, ignorance that does nothing to advance society in 2014. Legislators have to spend countless hours doing background research, doing voter contacts, spending time in their communities, and any number of countless activities that aren't connected with campaigning that revolve around their duties as representatives of their district.

There was a day when the part time legislator made sense. I don't think that 2014 is one of them. I want my legislator to be a full-time employee, member of the Wisconsin Retirement System, having health insurance provided if need be, and have the job be something people desire to aspire to. Not just something that a millionaire does in his or her spare time.

I'm sorry WISN. Your report really wasn't any type of "point, counterpoint." It was just trying to gin up outrage by people who don't know what legislators all do.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Endorsed Before Officially Announcing? Former Rep. Roger Roth Announces Candidacy in 19th Senate District

Apparently we know who the conservative, Neo-Stalwart picked candidate is that will run in the 19th State Senate District - Former Assembly Rep Roger Roth.

The day started with THIS paltry release via WisPolitics: 
Appleton -- Former state Representative Roger Roth issued the following statement Monday announcing he plans to run for the open seat in Wisconsin's 19th state Senate District:

"I am encouraged by the tremendous outpouring of support from my friends, family and neighbors across the Fox Valley and I know that I can once again be a strong voice in Madison. I have always believed that it is an honor and a privilege to serve the people of Wisconsin and I greatly look forward to doing my part as a citizen legislator to continue moving our great state forward."

A formal announcement will follow.
Not a whole lot there that would make you jump up and down, right?

Well, just wait a few hours. Apparently, the conservative leadership has their pawn candidate!

THIS was released by Sen. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald early this afternoon:
State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald released the following statement regarding former State Representative Roger Roth's intention to run for the State Senate:

"I'm excited for Roger's campaign for State Senate. As a job creator, former legislator and veteran, Roger is the type of candidate we need to win the 19th State Senate district. Not only is Roger a proven leader, but a relentless campaigner who will take his message of economic growth, government reform and lower taxes door-to-door in the district. Roger has my endorsement and my full support in his coming campaign."
Wow, pretty big voice there in conservative Wisconsin politics trying to crowd out the field. But wait! There's one more announcement which can be found HERE: 

Governor Scott Walker released the following statement today announcing his endorsement of Roger Roth's candidacy for the 19th Senate District: 
Roger Roth brings a lot to the table in the race for State Senate - he has a proven record as a conservative and a small businessman, and he honorably served his country as an Iraq veteran of the U.S. Air National Guard. I am honored to endorse Roger for State Senate.
Playing the veteran card, small business, wow.... Might as well have a screeching eagle soar across the screen with that announcement.

Oh wow, would you look at that... All the other candidates who were considering running have decided to not run. Funny how that happens...

So, in case you were wondering, it looks like it's not Rep. Bernard-Schaber vs. Former Rep. Roth in the 19th State Senate District.

State Sen. Luther Olsen's Conversation With WisPolitics - FTW!

Back at the height of the SB 286 (school accountability) battle in January and February, I remember remarking to several people, "If Luther Olsen is now the moderate on school issues, I'm scared." 

State Sen. Luther Olsen now probably the most "moderate" Republican in the Senate after the retirements of Sen.'s Schultz and Ellis. And that says something, because his conservative credentials are pretty solid. That is, unless you talk about education issues over the last two years. Then, if you are a Neo-Stalwart conservative, you'd think that he was a pinko commie. 

Wis Politics sat down with the Senator, and has a LENGTHY write-up on their website, which you can read HERE. It dives into many of the topics I've covered here on the Soapbox over the last two years, but especially the last year with regards to school issues.

It's a good "checkpoint" article, to show were the old ends and the new begin. Unfortunately, what it says to me, is that the voucher charter lobbies have their hands on the family jewels of a good many Republicans in the legislature.

From the article:
When Sen. Luther Olsen hears the word "recall" again, his response is fairly succinct.

"Bring it on," Olsen said. "I went through Act 10."
Oh yes folks, this talk is real. After his and Rep. Kestell's "No-confidence" votes from the 6th CD Republicans at their convention? Don't blink an eye. More on this in a little bit.
"If I'm the guy who is standing between getting rid of the Common Core and keeping it, I can go to sleep fine saying, 'Yeah, I think it's the right thing, and that's not a problem,'" said Olsen, R-Ripon
Wow... Pretty bold statement there from the Senator. Which is reason one of many that I put the "FTW!" in the title of this article. He doesn't care that people in the 6th CD gave him a no-confidence vote because of Common Core. And, as much as I have my own issues with Common Core, the agenda that drove it, the testing that seems to never end, it's not the same argument that conservatives are using, and I sure as hell don't want to scrap it whole-sale for something else.
The almost 20-year veteran of the Legislature spent most of his energy the past session focused on building a wide-ranging school accountability package, but the recall talk has begun because of his stance on the Common Core academic standards. A vocal minority in the GOP has called for his removal as Education chairman for what they feel was a lack of respect for those who say Common Core is wrong for Wisconsin's school children.
And people thought it was laughable to try and recall the governor over 2011 Act 10? Wow... While the Senator should keep his head held high because of politics, there still is the matter that this time, there would be a conservative challenger to him in what is unquestionably a red district. The Democrat's candidate in the recall, Margarete Worthington, while a very nice and willing opponent, wasn't a seasoned politician. Any election will be harder this time, period.
In particular, they charge Olsen was too dismissive when he held a Senate committee hearing on a bill to institute Wisconsin-specific academic standards. When Olsen told reporters before convening the hearing that he opposed the bill, it angered bill author Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, and others who had traveled to the Capitol to voice support for the measure.
Oh Boo-Hoo Sen. Vukmir! Give me a damn break! How many times have people walked in to testify to any number of items of legislation over the last four years knowing EXACTLY what the outcome was! Milwaukee County Board downsizing, lots of people came and voiced their opinion, but the votes were in and that was reported beforehand in the papers. Wow, I'm sorry Sen. Vukmir had to be off her high and mighty horsey for a few minutes to be with us minions who go though the dredges of testifying for something we fully believe in, yet know it's never getting approved, or stopped, or whatever.

I have zero sympathy for her on this.

As for Sen. Olsen, good for him to stand up and actually give them what they wanted. Nobody said that simply because there was a hearing means that the issue was going to be voted on!
Olsen said he felt the lengthy hearing was fair, and he heard from enough people afterward who said as much. But he acknowledges what Common Core opponents criticize him for -- that he doesn't take their concerns seriously.
In other words, he doesn't fall in line like a good conservative pawn.
When the first discussion was there, people were saying, 'Well, the standards weren't rigorous enough,'" Olsen said. "Well, they couldn't decide that. Then they were too rigorous. Then all of a sudden it was where they came from. Well now the last thing I read, if we have these standards it will be the end of civilization as we know it, because this is just taking over, mind control, changing our Judeo-Christian background and throwing out our history of our country and all of this stuff. And it's like, where does this come from? Because it's math and language arts. It's two subjects."
Can we market this as a bumper-sticker? This is EXACTLY what happened! Liberals, those of us in education, and other moderates who have issues with Common Core generally have issues with where they came from (and the hoards of conservative cash that bankrolled it), and all of the data collection that is associated with the damn tests that seem to never end. But from the conservative side, well, just look over that list again and you've got the idea. 9q
Olsen said he sees the Common Core standards as an improvement over Wisconsin's old standards and points to support from the conservative Fordham Foundation and business leaders like Bill Gates, who argue the standards are needed to remain competitive in a global economy. He wants to avoid a situation similar to Indiana, which dropped Common Core only to end up adopting something similar anyway.
Wow, so not bind talking points about other states that have dropped Common Core, but someone who's actually looked at what happened since? Jeez... Who'da thunk?
While he thinks that some groups are using the issue to "gin up" membership and hopes it will fade away after the 2014 elections, he also says the issue's staying power will likely depend on how Gov. Scott Walker handles it.

"The governor put the money in the budget for the [Smarter Balanced] test, and I was asking him and his staff all along, 'Is he going to stand strong on his position supporting this?'" Olsen said. "And all of a sudden, one day, he turned 180 degrees. 'Well, we can do better.' Well, I've been waiting to find out what 'better' is. I've been waiting to find out what 'more rigorous' is. I've been waiting to find out what's the problem is. It's easy to say this stuff, but there's nothing behind it. And when you say things like this, people believe it."
Here's reason number two I put "FTW!" in the title. He totally digs at Gov. Walker and his style of saying things and having absolutely NOTHING to back it up! Sen. Olsen was 100% hamstrung  by the Governor this past February. When going through the dredges of the "School Accountability Bill" SB 286, he wasn't really involved with trying to do any compromises. (More on that later.) Then, there was THIS which came out from the Journal-Sentinel on Common Core:
A bill that could halt the implementation of more rigorous and nationally aligned reading and math academic standards in Wisconsin's public schools was written for state lawmakers by Gov. Scott Walker's staff, new documents show. 
Drafting notes for the academic standards bill that's been hotly contested this week reveal that the governor's office initiated the proposal and tweaked it for weeks before forwarding it to senators such as Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) to introduce. 
That the governor supported the bill was already known; that his office created it was not. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel received the drafts through an open records request.
Can you blame the Senator for being fired up on this? Since February, where's the Governor been on this topic? The only person who's kept the "big picture" has been Sen. Olsen.

Good god, this is what scares me about Wisconsin... I'm wholly defending the actions of Sen. Luther Olsen! You'd think he was the second coming of Horace Mann...

Back to the WisPolitics article, which turns it's attention to the accountability packages of this past year:
After being tasked by Walker to come up with accountability standards along with Rep. Steve Kestell, Olsen unveiled his bill in the fall.

While the original bill featured timelines for sanctions on failing schools, it was roundly opposed by voucher proponents. After some changes, Olsen's next draft moved up sanctions against MPS schools and closed failing schools or converted them to charter schools. While this turned DPI against the bill, it also wasn't quite good enough for voucher school proponents.
Probably the most succinct thing I've ever heard on the whole accountability fiasco. I had diarrhea of the mouth in explaining it because of how quickly things changed and the drafts were done between each house of the legislature. I'll spare you the hotlinks, just search "SB 286" or "It's Worse Than We Thought."

And now, comes time number three where Sen. Olsen goes, "FTW!":
What we were trying to do was to say, 'let's see what happens,' and people of good faith sat at the table to try and do this," Olsen said. "But not everybody in my estimation were sitting there in good faith. I mean, we worked with the school choice people and gave them all the stuff that we could possibly give them in their area. But they kept moving the goal post and things like this. And finally we just got to the point where, 'I'm sorry guys, we can't go down there,' because we would have a sham." 
The school choice lobby aren't people of good faith?! I'm SHOCKED!!! No wonder Sen. Olsen quietly backed out.

I still think that when he circulated his amendment in January, which never actually got a hearing, it was wholly against what he wanted to do. From everything I've read or watched of him before that, to what I'm reading right now, it was Sen. Olsen trying to give in to the voucher people as much as possible. But even then, that wasn't good enough.

It's at this point I'd like to remind you of a quote from this past January of Sen. Olsen's: 
Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) said he didn't have the votes yet to move his bill and could wait if need be until the next legislative session a year from now. The former school board president said he wanted to treat traditional public schools, charter schools and taxpayer-funded private voucher schools "the same and fairly." 
But "that's slipping away from me," Olsen said. "And when that slips away from me, I'm done."
Well, has it slipped away?
In the end, Olsen and others working on the bill compromised on a bare-bones measure that set a date for mandatory school data reporting and set the stage for work on a more comprehensive bill in the interim. But while Olsen hopes for a broader bill next session, he's not entirely optimistic it will truly deliver accountability for choice schools.  
"Even if we do have a report card, what I see, and if you look at the test participation in the choice schools, they're not participating very well," Olsen said. "It seems like those schools are talking their parents out of having their kids take the test. So even if we have a good report card, the whole nine yards ... if they don't take the test, you can't measure anything. So there's a back door to this." 
I love opt-out because of the craziness that these test deliver. So, my questing becomes - What's the next crazy idea they'll have because of the opt-outs?

But if there's one thing this article shows me, it's just how important Sen. Olsen will be on education matters the next two years.

Democratic Primary for Governor? #Facepalm

The people on the left who've been chiding the candidacy of Mary Burke and hoping another candidate would jump into the race just got their wish. Sadly, I don't think it will fulfill anyone's wishes: 
State Representative Brett Hulsey Announces Run for Governor-- Brett’s Get Wisconsin Working Again Plan would create thousands of jobs
Serious as a heart attack... Rep. Brett Hulsey is running for Governor.

The Represenative has been a reckloose recently, so I guess seeing this isn't wholly surprising. There were murmurs of it happening a while back...
Brett’s Get Wisconsin Working Again Plan reinvests $2.1 billion to create clean energy jobs, increases job training, public school, UW system, and technical college investments, reverses the Walker tax increases on working families and seniors, saves babies and reduces abortions, protects communities from strip mining, and creates a Penokee Hills State Park instead of one of the world’s largest strip mines. 
With sunshine and rainbows for everyone!

If you want to see the definition of a "distraction campaign" this is it. He's also making a sad, sad ploy for rank-and-file union members to vote for him:
A former union vice president, Hulsey will make restoring worker safety, rights and bargained a top priority. “We should restore workers’ rights and reverse Gov. Walker’s unnecessary pay cuts immediately to jump start our economy and create safer workplaces,” Hulsey said. “Gov. Walker’s statement that we were ‘broke’ was rated a ‘Pants on Fire’ lie by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. These extreme cuts were not needed.” Hulsey offered many amendments to reverse the Walker Unfair Despair Act 10 during the 61 hours of Assembly debate

(Creepiness aside), Rep. Husley is a nice guy. He does know a lot about environmental issues and his work with clean energy groups makes him speak with some intelligence in the legislature. However, his issues with buying cars with campaign cash, creepy encounters with children at Madison beaches, and leaving the Democratic Caucus in the Assembly have left him a shadow of his former self and the person I first saw in 2011 on the floor of the Assembly.

Rep. Penny Bernard-Schaber on "Up Front w/Mike Gousha"

I love Rep. Bernard-Schaber as a politician. She's exactly the type of person you want representing you in the legislature.

I've often recalled the story of the Rep. being the first elected official I ever spoke at length with in a casual setting. The 2011 State Democratic Convention was certainly an eye-opening experience, and meeting her in a hospitality suite and having a half hour conversation really did a lot for affirming my faith in how average people can be elected to the legislature. It wasn't a "holier than thou" experience when we met, it was just sitting at a table and sharing beers, while talking about the Fox Valley.

It's that reason why I've been a huge supporter of her's and was thrilled that she decided to take on Sen. Mike Ellis this fall. But, with the Senator retiring, this leaves an even greater chance that she'll be able to win the election in an area of the state that has been represented by a dying breed of moderate Republicans.

Her conversation with Mike Gousha is located HERE, and you can experience some of Rep. Bernard-Schaber's realism and down-to-earthiness.

They cover a wide range of topics including how the issue of school vouchers will now play an even bigger role in shaping the race. She comes back with a very true statement saying that people in the valley support their public schools and don't want to see anything harm them. Just remember, the voucher lobby is going to be fighting for this seat tooth and nail.

Give the whole conversation a watch. Great person, great conversation, and exactly what we need in a candidate right now at this stage in the game.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

WisDem's Video on Gov. Walker's 250,000 Job Promise

I've never been able to figure out the Wisconsin Democratic Party's YouTube account, or if the WisDems09 account is truly the account of the party. But whatever the case, myself and apparently a lot of the establishment of political watchers in this state, missed this excellent video they put out on April 15th regarding Gov. Walker's 250,000 jobs promise and lack of follow-through:

Free Speech - xkcd Style

From the amazing web-comic xkcd. You have no idea how often I as a social studies teacher have to explain this to people:

More 6th Congressional District Talk - Manitowoc & It's Fertile Democratic Soil

While this morning's post on the crowded 6th Congressional District election for Congress focused on all parties involved, there was an article from three days ago I failed to mention.
THIS article from the Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter  focuses on the race in context of Manitowoc, and also introduces another possible candidate on the Democratic side to the mix.
MANITOWOC — The potential 2009 mayoral election battle between Justin Nickels and Kevin Crawford never came off. 
But, five years later, the two men said this week they are strongly considering competing for the same, larger political prize — the 6th Congressional District seat that will be vacant upon Tom Petri’s retirement after serving as a U.S. Representative for 35 years.
The article goes in-depth to the scope that the political landscape has been shaped in the area over the last few years, where both candidates came from, their times as mayor of the city, and what their aspirations are for the future.

It's a great read, and a good in-depth look at how considering a run for higher-office must be weighed between opportunity, job security, and party allegiance.

I'm just mad I didn't reference it in this morning's article.

Catching Up In The 6th Congressional District - Who Are the Candidates?

With the retirement of Congressman Tom Petri in the 6th Congressional District, the field looks to become more crowded, and very quickly, with candidates.

We already know that on the Republican side State Sen. Glenn Grothamn is taking a "free shot" at the seat. His Senate seat isn't up for reelection this fall, and he announced a primary challenge before Con. Petri's retirement, and one could argue expedited the retirement process by the Congressman.

Rep. Duey Srobel has also announced his candidacy and was on "Up Front" this weekend.
"For a while now, we've been looking for more conservative leadership." 
Apparently, this guy's never been north of Fond du Lac along Highway 41 in the district, as it's hardly the conservative bastion that rural Cedarburg is. Folks, if you want to be scared, just look at Rep. Strobel and his comments on any number of issues during this discussion with Mr. Gousha. His comments on Obamacare are completely out of touch with people of the lower classes who've had their health care cut, shifted, and changed for years under the old system.

Then, there will be State Sen. Joe Leibham's announcement on his candidacy this Tuesday, and whether or not he also throws his hat into the ring. It's an apparent race to the conservative bottom in the 6th Congressional District! With the way the district's party has been voting on things like no-confidence votes for two senior members of the legislature and succession from the United States, one has to wonder what the hell's going on with those who are only casual voters who tended to vote for the moderate Republican. I guess for a better feeling on that, we'll have to wait until after the August primary.

So far, the only two names floated for the Democrats have been Manitowoc Mayor Justin Nickels and Winnebago Co. Executive Mark Harris. I have a very strong inclination that Exec. Harris will throw his hat into the ring, and that he will make an announcement sooner rather than later. The Democrats are going to have a hard, hard time picking up this seat, but a good candidate can turn out bluer parts of the district and run-up the totals for Governor. (Hey Mary Burke! Let's turn Winnebago County BLUE!)

Exec. Harris is a great choice for Democrats. He's shown a desire to possibly move beyond just the County Executive's office as was evident last summer when he flirted with the idea of running for Governor. I detailed an interview he did with WisEye's Steve Walters HERE at last year's DPW Convention and he talked about his background. I summarized it this way: 
It's a good listen, especially for Democrats outside of the Fox Valley who aren't familiar with the Executive. (Heck, even those of us who are familiar with the Valley don't know that much about the soft spoken Executive.) His background includes that with lots of part-time Government experience as a County Supervisor, Mayor, and City Councilman, but also in the private sector as a Trust Officer at Associated Bank, practicing attorney, CPA, among other things. While not a firebrand who can fire up crowds, he is a wonk, and someone who can calmly explain situations that arise in governing, which does help Democrats.
Exec. Harris isn't a firebrand, and he won't get crowds juiced up for his candidacy. What he can do however, is break down numbers, talk about his fiscal ways of balancing the Winnebago Co. budget, and bring a common sense approach to the campaign trail that doesn't exclude massive subsets of society. Plus, he can really help Democrats turn out the Fox Valley vote while raising campaign cash, and that is something that I'll happily accept from any candidate.

Either way, brace yourself. This is a bell-weather election, as are most in the Fox Valley. Democrats have a good chance of picking up moderate Republicans seats that are not in-line with the radically conservative ways the party has now fully embraced. Get on your walking boots, we've got doors to hit this summer!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Mellencamp Friday

Gov. Walker's use of John Mellencamp's music is again at the forefront of the division between artists political beliefs and those of the politicians using that music.

Early Mellencamp, during his "Johnny Cougar" days, features some awesome writing that doesn't get the airplay his mid-80's hits do. I wish they would, because it shows a nice bridge of how country and rock are still intertwined in history and that the current "pop-country" that seems to dominate the airwaves has roots in something deeper.

But why I'm really featuring "Dream Killing Town" off Mellencamp's first album. It's a somewhat Springsteen-esque song that features disjointed lyrics but shows a lot of potential and future growth. That's what I think we have right now in Wisconsin, we have a lot of potential and future growth ahead of us. What we need now is to let that come together and grow, but it will take time. Mellencamp only broke through in 1979 with "I Need a Lover" but really didn't hit it big until 1982's American Fool album.

It will take time, but we can make it happen. Right now, we need to work for Mary Burke to start down that path.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sen. Ellis Swan-Song Interview With Wisconsin Eye

Sen. Ellis had his post-mortem with Wisconsin Eye a few days ago, but I've only been able to get around to covering it today.

Luckily, the entire interview is visible on YouTube:

However, not being someone to completely trust YouTube, it's on WisEye's website HERE. 

It's a good watch.

Sen. Ellis is one Republican I would love to sit down and have a conversation with. He's a seasoned hand who I'm sure I could find lots, and lot, and lots of Wisconsin government topics to talk about. His divisiveness on certain issues really does bug me, but there are still a lot of places that, I know, he helped stay off drastically bad legislation this term.

If you watch, you'll get his opinions on all of the governors of the last 40 years, his thoughts on who set him up with the video, Act 10, his relationship with the TEA party, among other topics. I also love what he says about MPS's teacher, and it shows why I'm scared that the Republicans are losing someone who at least somewhat understands our plight in MPS:
"It's certainly not the fault of those warriors called teachers in that community. It is not the teacher's fault that half of them don't graduate."  
It's a good closing to a long political career that sadly came to an end in the way it did. What scares me though is that as a teacher, I'm losing a voice that often times backed me up on the side of the isle that all too often in the last four years has been out to get me. What now?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Some Days, Others Say it Better - Scott Dreher's Letter to the Appleton Post-Crescent

As a history teacher, it makes me sad when I can make comparisons between things in history and the modern day. It makes me feel like I haven't done my job, or my fellow history educators haven't conveyed the message well on why those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Sadly though, modern state history isn't exactly something we cover in school. I was an elementary and middle school student when Tommy Thompson was Governor and my memories of his policies are fleeting at best. I remember hearing about things he did, but sadly time has ravaged my mind from remembering exactly what those policies were. I guess most 7th graders aren't even able to name their Governor, so I had a leg-up in some small way.

But, in a letter to the editor that appeared today in the Appleton Post-Crescent, a writer reminds us just how important history is in analyzing the current context of today:
A quick lesson in Wisconsin history: Does anyone remember Scott McCallum? He was Tommy Thompson’s lieutenant governor and, when Tommy went off to be the federal secretary of health and human services, he became Wisconsin’s 43rd governor. 
McCallum was a good soldier for the Republican Party, but good soldiers sometimes get stuck holding the bag. McCallum’s tenure was plagued with terrible budgetary shortfalls. His bid for re-election was doomed to fail and he was easily defeated by Jim Doyle. 
It wasn’t really McCallum’s fault. Thompson cut a billion dollars in property taxes in 1995. Then he cut close to another billion in 1999. Naturally, as he did this, Thompson was only too happy to parade around the state, proclaiming Wisconsin’s robust budgetary health and riding the low-tax platform to re-election. And people bought it.
Two years later, Thompson was skipping around Washington and good soldier McCallum was getting skewered over the woeful state of Wisconsin’s economy and budget.
It’s been 15 years and what have we learned? Well, Gov. Scott Walker has learned that Wisconsinites have short memories and a poor sense of history. Walker is pulling the same cheap election-year stunt that Thompson did not long ago. And some people are falling for it all over again. 
Lower taxes are great, but let’s wait until our budget is truly under control. We face a projected structural deficit and our state is still borrowing money at near-record rates while our infrastructure and education budgets have been gutted. Our budget situation is not nearly as rosy as Walker would have you believe. 
But people are gullible and Walker doesn’t plan on being in Wisconsin when the bill comes due. 
Scott Dreher,

From the Inbox - Institute for Wisconsin's Future on Privatizing Schools Not Paying Off

From the inbox:

IWF logo

Study: Privatizing struggling schools doesn’t pay off;
Come to release of this report, April 24, in Milwaukee
A new report reveals that legislative moves to convert struggling public schools in Milwaukee into private charters─whether for-profit or non-profit─may actually damage the academic futures of far too many of the city’s children.Gordon Lafer
The report, "School Privatization and Online Learning: Assessing Proposals for Improving Education in Milwaukee," was written by
 Professor Gordon Lafer in conjunction with the national think tank Economic Policy Institute. 

A special briefing on this provocative study will be held at 11 a.m. on Thursday, April 24, in the ground floor rotunda of Milwaukee City Hall, 200 East Wells Street
. We hope you will join Dr. Lafer and public school supporters from the area to hear about the growing private charter industry and its impact on Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) and students. 

There was a strong push by Wisconsin legislators in the last session to enact bills aimed at closing low-performing public schools and replacing them with less accountable, privately-run enterprises. Considering many of the unanswered questions, EPI commissioned Prof. Lafer to actually look at the results of these privatization efforts would have on MPS.

The report is an eye-opening investigation into the rapidly growing private charter industry, its impact nationally, and the effects profit motivated schools can have on the depth and quality of education children receive in Milwaukee and elsewhere.

We hope you will join us on April 24 at 11 a.m. for the release of this important study. The event will be held in the Milwaukee City Hall ground floor rotunda

Prof. Lafer, a political economist at the
 University of Oregon's Labor Education and Research Center, will talk about his findings followed by a response from education expert Dr. Alex Molnar and fourth ward Milwaukee Alderman Robert BaumanA question and answer segment will follow.

 Institute for Wisconsin’s Future (IWF) is coordinating the Milwaukee release of the report. For more information, contact Gina Palazzari, IWF executive director, at 262-391-1449 or

For more information, check out the IWF webpage and, if you plan to attend, please visit the event Facebook page.
Tom Beebe, project director
Institute for Wisconsin's Future