• WisPolitics

Saturday, June 08, 2013

 2:40 PM 

Tate re-elected chair, convention closes

Mike Tate was easily re-elected state chair over Joe Kallas.

Tate received 476 votes to 95 for Kallas.

For 2nd vice chair, the only other contested office, Jeff Christensen beat Jamie Shiner 421-144

Tate closed the convention until Dems meet next year June 6-7 in Wisconsin Dells.

-- By JR Ross


 2:34 PM 

'Rising stars' talk party, future

Dane County Supv. Shelia Stubbs isn’t exactly sure why the Dem Party tabbed her a “rising star.”

“I really didn’t get nosey, but I want to rise somewhere,” she said.

Stubbs was one of four local elected officials the party invited to speak to the convention this morning. One of the frequent complaints about the party in recent years has been a lack of an experienced bench ready to run for higher office, in some ways embodied by the lack of an heir apparent ready to take on Gov. Scott Walker next year.

But Chair Mike Tate dismissed that suggestion this morning in introducing the four officials, while promising delegates the four would likely be addressing the party again as they continue the trajectory of their careers.

Stubbs said she was likely picked because of the obstacles she’s overcome to become the only African-American woman elected to the Dane County Board.

She acknowledged the difficulty the party has had in finding someone to run against Walker next year and the tough time Dems have had getting over the recall election. Still, she said the party cannot forget the successes of candidates like U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan.

“Any time there is a loss, you feel it. But we have to pick yourself back up and move forward together,” she said.

Stubbs was joined in addressing the crowd by Racine Mayor John Dickert, Manitowoc Mayor Justin Nickels and Ashland Ald. Kelly Westlund.

Some have talked up Dickert as a potential guv candidate next year, but he said he’s not interested. He said he and Nickels are representative of the Dem mayors who are getting things done at the local level.

“It’s very humbling to have people saying that,” Dickert said of the guv speculation. “But I have a goal as mayor. If they bless me with 10 years as mayor, I’m going to turn the city around, and we’re doing it.”

Likewise, Nickels said he doesn’t have any designs on state office right now. But it’s not because the last round of redistricting left him in an area of largely GOP legislative seats.

Nickels, who said he’s not running for state office next year, said he has shown that Dems can win in GOP areas by reaching across the aisle. He also said the state is in an era where it’s all about lowering taxes and reducing services. Nickels said Dems have to do better at speaking to their constituents about the value of their tax dollars and the services they receive.

“We need something the voters can understand,” he said.

Westlund acknowledged she’d like to run for state office some day, but she’s not going to challenge Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, or Rep. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, both of whom she praised.

She appealed to delegates in her speech to reach out to rural voters and to get involved with local offices, arguing they are the training ground for those looking to move up.

Westlund said the Dem Party does a good job of reaching voters in Milwaukee and Madison, but needs to do a better job of reaching those in areas like hers. She said farmers, for example, are open to many of the messages that Dems have. But because they don’t hear them forcefully enough, they end up voting on other values that lead them to the GOP.

Westlund pointed to the mining bill that passed the Legislature earlier this year as a good example of where the party could do a better job of appealing to the farmers in her area who are now fearful of how the project will impact them.

“I get on my soap box and don’t shut my mouth,” Westlund said, adding the party would be well served by doing the same.

-- By JR Ross


 2:15 PM 

Barca: People hungry for someone to rally behind as guv candidate

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca understands why so many people are asking him whether he'll run for guv next year.

They can't stand what's going on in Madison under Gov. Scott Walker.

"People are hungry for someone who can step forward to rally behind," Barca said.

Barca said that sentiment has only intensified after a week in which the Joint Finance Committee approved a budget that included a motion unveiled in the middle of the night that would bring back bail bonds and seek to undercut the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. He said even Republicans have come up to him worried that GOP lawmakers in Madison are drunk with power and going to the extreme.

Barca, D-Kenosha, said some continue to approach him about running for guv next year because he's been in the "eye of the storm" for the past 2.5 years with the fight over collective bargaining. But he said he will focus on getting through the budget over the next couple of weeks. He suspected someone may step forward by summer's end to run and said the party may end up with more than one quality candidate.

Barca said he feels obligated to be part of the discussion of who would be the best candidate for the party.

"Our goal is not to have a good run. It is to take back the governorship," Barca said.

-- By JR Ross


 2:13 PM 

Delegates offer a variety of choices for '14 guv candidates

Reflecting the early stage of choosing a candidate, a handful of delegates WisPolitics.com talked to offered a variety of responses when asked who they'd like to see run for governor in 2014.

Terrell Martin from the 4th CD said he had no particular candidate in mind, but would like to see someone youthful -- in their 40s or 50s -- and who would be best to beat Gov. Scott Walker.

Maddie Williams of the 1st CD was uncertain who the best candidate would be, but would like to see Rep. Peter Barca run because he has experience and is honest and ethical. 

Trisha Kraus, also from the 1st CD, said her choices would be Sens. Tim Cullen and Kathleen Vinehout. She said Cullen is very knowledgeable about frac sand mining -- a key issue for her -- but was concerned his age could be an issue. She also said she hopes people encourage Vinehout, who she described as youthful and a “firecracker” and “go-getter” who is also knowledgeable about the mining issue.

Adam Grabski, a guest from the 2nd CD who is co-chair of the Wisconsin Grassroots Network, said he would support Vinehout if she ran, but would like to see someone from outside of politics, perhaps from the business or philanthropic community, join the race.

“Hopefully someone like that steps up,” Grabski said.

Jonah Hermann of the 4th CD, a member of the College Dems Executive Board, said he was confident the party and Chair Mike Tate would choose a candidate that would win and that he would support that choice. A group of delegates accompanying him agreed with that sentiment.

A contingent from the 6th CD listed a variety of candidates they would like to see run.

Jeff Reese said he'd like to see Sen. Chris Larson throw his hat in, saying he is young, full of ideas and knowledgeable. Important issues for Reese included mass transit, the environment and student loan debt, which he said is threatening the economy.

Jeff Schultz said Barca would be a good candidate, saying he has courage and brains. He said Barca would appeal to voters all around the state and would be able to win votes not only from Democrats, but from independents and Republicans who are not happy with Walker and the GOP “blowing the budget.”

Steven Reid and Stuart Bellant both said Russ Feingold would be a good choice.

Bellant noted how Feingold has been committed to the Democratic Party for decades, while Reid said Feingold has a strong tradition as a progressive and thinks for himself.

“He exemplifies what 'forward' means in Wisconsin,” Reid said.

 -- By David Wise


 12:50 PM 

Tate, Kallas offer visions for party

In a speech before delegates, party chair candidate Joe Kallas contrasted his planned approach with current Chair Mike Tate's, while Tate focused on successes and pledged to work hard to build on them.

Kallas said the Democratic Party of Wisconsin cannot afford to wait any longer to see if Tate can do better, given the electoral losses the party has suffered.

“We cannot wait another two years to see if Mike can do better,” Kallas said. “We don't have that luxury anymore. We are in bad shape.”

He said that while Tate has been good at raising money, the party has lost a lot under him and questioned whether the outcome would have been any different if the money were not spent.

“The buck stops at the top,” Kallas said. “If Mike doesn't want to take responsibility for the losses he can't take credit for the victories.”

Kallas said that as chair he would not support fundraising limits for party support, not charge for voter lists, include all candidates in lit drops, recruit a gubernatorial candidate now and put a strategy in motion to win 12 more Assembly seats.

Tate told delegates he was running for re-election because he knows the party is moving forward.

He noted that under him, there are now party offices open year round, membership has doubled and the party has raised $35 million that was invested not only in Milwaukee and Madison, but all over the state.

He said as chair he also held 76 listening sessions and expanded the party's social media presence.

“Never before has the party been so solvent,” Tate said.

Tate pledged to never settle and to “fight like hell” to continue to grow the party and ensure Democratic victory in 2014.

-- By David Wise


 12:06 PM 

Moving on to party elections

The speaking program is over and party office elections are to begin.

Voting is scheduled to last until 2 p.m. with an announcement of the results once the votes are tallied.

Attorney Mike Maistelman, chair of the party's election commission, laid out how the process will go and then gave delegates a reminder before heading to the polls.

"Now I want to make it clear to everybody you don’t need a photo ID," Maistelman said, getting a laugh from the crowd. 


 12:05 PM 

Dickert: Dems focused on the future

Racine Mayor John Dickert said Democrats are focused on the future and need to be ready to make tough decisions that reflect their values.

Republicans, he said, are more concerned with the next election.

Dickert said Racine faced high unemployment and crime when he ran for mayor. He said he and his wife decided that they wanted to make the city a place where their then-8-year-old son would want to return to when he left for college in ten years.

Within a few years as mayor, he said, he worked to help 11 businesses expand, crime dropped to a 40-year low and with the help of stimulus money, the city began rebuilding its infrastructure.

Dickert said the process of rebuilding involves three principles: investing in education, investing in infrastructure and building on assets.

But rebuilding, he said, requires commitment and tough budgeting decisions.

“Budgets made in difficult times not only reflect our values, but our moral compass,” he said. And while Democrats are not perfect, “our compass is pointed to true north.”

He asked delegates if they were ready to fight for their children and the future, to which they replied, “yes!”

“So am I,” Dickert said. “Lets get to work!”

 -- By David Wise


 12:00 PM 

Stubbs implores Dems to value every vote

Dane County Supv. Shelia Stubbs told Dems they can no longer accept "no" when it comes to getting people to the polls and need to ensure that every vote counts as they seek to take back Wisconsin.

Stubbs recounted how she won a seat on the board after being unhappy with the supervisor who represented her neighborhood. She said she did everything from helping register 17-year-olds getting ready to turn 18 to hiring people in her neighborhood to drive those voters to the polls. She even hired people to stand on the corner with campaign signs as she engaged the community.

But most importantly, she said, she worked to make people understand why they need to vote and she gave them a reason to vote for her.

"What I did is I spoke truthness to the people," she said. "I said I'm a voice for you. I said I’m listening to you and I’m going to fight for you. You want someone who's going to listen to you. You want someone who's going to fight for you and most importantly, you want someone at the table who's going to voice your opinion. Is that important? Because if you're not at the table, you're not being heard."

-- By JR Ross


 11:48 AM 

Nickels: Democratic Party the party of compassion

Manitowoc Mayor Justin Nickels said the Democratic party is the party of compassion, which presents challenges when running against Republicans who he said have an easy time appealing to those concerned about the price of government rather than its value.

Republicans and the Tea Party, he said, are “putting a price tag on everything and a value on nothing.”

He said that in a society where people increasingly care about themselves more than others, “Republicans can shout at the wind and tell us that overpaid public employees and high taxes are the problem” and that they can cut taxes and grow the economy.

But Democrats, he said, are forced to explain the value of supporting things like education and public transportation that may provide opportunities for others, rather than just themselves, to succeed in society.

He said radical groups tell Democrats they need to read the Constitution.

“While they are living in a world focused on "me," Democrats are focused on "we"--“we the people,” he said to applause.

But Nickels said compassion must extend also to political rivals, and they must find common ground to help their communities succeed.

He said Democrats can be successful if they commit to being pragmatic idealists.

 “The days ahead of us are bright because we re going to work harder we are going to work stronger and together we can make sure our tomorrow is better than our yesterday,” he said.

-- By David Wise


 11:15 AM 

Ashland alder: Pay attention to local government, get involved

Ashland Ald. Kelly Westlund challenged Dem activists to get involved in local government and even run for those offices.

Westlund, who kicked off a segment of speakers the party has dubbed "rising stars," told delegates to look at who represents them in office, from the local level on up. She said they should then ask themselves a simple question: Can you do a better job of making better decisions?

"If that's the case, why aren't you running?" she said.

Westlund, who moved to Wisconsin from South Carolina in the middle of January a decade ago, encouraged women to run, noting studies show they often have to be asked to seek office multiple times before they run. She told young people to quit saying they'll run once they get a little older. And she told them to never forget local offices matter.

"We’ve ignored local offices for far too long, especially in rural Wisconsin, and chances are petty good you're represented by someone who doesn't represent you very well," she said.

-- By JR Ross


 10:57 AM 

La Follette running for re-election

Secretary of State Doug La Follette announced this morning he will seek re-election next year.

La Follette, the only Dem to currently hold one of Wisconsin's five partisan constitutional offices, has held the post since 1975 except for one four-year term he missed after unsuccessfully running for lt. guv in 1978.

La Follette closed his speech by making the announcement. But he hinted at his plans in opening his speech, saying he thought he had set some kind of record with the duration of his time in office.

"If not, I have some plans for the future to make sure about that," La Follette said.

La Follette recounted how past guvs have pulled responsibilities from his office, saying those outside Wisconsin are confused about why they have to go to a Department of Financial Institutions for information when other states house those responsibilities in the secretary of state's office.

“We need to return those important business functions back to the secretary of state’s office. It’s not about Doug La Follette. It's not about me. It's about what’s best for Wisconsin’s future."

-- By JR Ross


 10:36 AM 

We're back

The convention has reconvened.

The agenda this morning includes Secretary of State Doug La Follette, several local officials the party has dubbed rising stars, a video message from 1st CD candidate Rob Zerban and then a break to vote for state chair.

With an hour to go before registration closes, the party has 1,009 registered delegates, alternates and guests. That includes 806 delegates.

-- By JR Ross


 10:12 AM 

Vinehout debating running for re-election to Senate seat or guv's office

State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout says she learned a valuable lesson in her unsuccessful run for guv in last year's Dem recall primary.

If you're going to run as the "no money candidate," you have to have enough resources to get that message out.

Vinehout said she is considering whether to take another shot at guv in next year's race after finishing third in the five-way primary last May for the opportunity to run against Walker.

She said it will be a difficult decision because it would mean giving up her western Wisconsin Senate seat. Still, she said she's never been somewhere that so many people randomly stopped her to ask if she's going to run for guv. One delegate interrupted her interview with WisPolitics.com to ask just that.

Vinehout said the decision on a gubernatorial campaign will come down to whether she can raise enough money to effectively challenge Walker. She said his fundraising capabilities and his polling numbers are possible deterrents.

"If you're going to take out the king, you've got to make sure you have enough money to take him out," she said.

-- By JR Ross


Friday, June 07, 2013

 10:47 PM 

Time for the hospitality suites

Now it's on to the hospitality suites for delegates.

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind had his usual opening reception for the convention. Former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold is offering his sloppy joes at a hospitality suite sponsored by his Progressives United organization.

Former state Sen. Jessica King is hosting one to honor the women of the Senate recalls, and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin has one as well.

The other suites are sponsored by the SSDC and ADCC, while the Young Professionals are having a networking event.

The hospitality suites are closed press.

-- By JR Ross


 10:42 PM 

Zielinski working on Walker book

Former Dem Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski said he's working on a book about Gov. Scott Walker.

The book, "Rotten: The Scott Walker Story," will be a takedown of the guv, focusing on his "lack of principles," Zielinski said. He declined to go into more detail on the project.

-- By JR Ross


 10:40 PM 

Mitchell not ruling out 2014 run yet

Mahlon Mitchell, the head of the state firefighters union who ran for lt. guv in last year's recalls, said he has not ruled out a run next year.

But he said he's not sure whether the timing will be right next year for a run and declined to say what office he would seek if he got in.

"I will one day," he said of another run. "It's all about timing. Politics is all about timing. I just don't like what's happening in our state."

Mitchell said he's now focused on the members of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin and said his family is still not ready for another run after the recall election last year.

Mitchell was scheduled to give just a five-minute speech, but went well beyond that, and some in the crowd took it as a sign he has plans to run again.

"Tom Barrett once told me if they give you a microphone, speak as long as you want," Mitchell said.

-- By JR Ross


 10:22 PM 

Castro says Dems positioned to lead in time of change

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro told delegates that the Democratic Party is positioned to lead and win in a time of rapid change and crumbling barriers.

Castro said barriers such as race, ethnicity and sexual orientation that have kept people apart are crumbling, presenting an opportunity for a nation and a party ready for change.

“I’m here to tell you that the Democratic Party is ready to lead and the Republican Party is not ready for it,” he said to applause.

He said he is convinced that the coming years will be Democratic years in the United States and Wisconsin because the Democratic Party is the party of inclusion, opportunity and reason.

At the same time, he said Republicans have been divisive, turned their backs on investing in opportunity and have been “going out of their way to see who can be the most crazy” on issues such as climate change, gun control and women’s health.

He said that the Democratic Party is the party of “evidence, science and reason,” but that Democrats are also people of faith.

He said the party is open to dialog, which is needed to be successful in a changing world.

Castro said that America has “an unprecedented opportunity to lead in the 21st century” and noted that other nations are trying to copy its “secret sauce” of freedom and opportunity.

He pointed out that the middle class is growing in China, yet “you come to the United States and have a Republican Party trying to diminish the middle class and a Democratic Party that is continuing to try to build it up so we can be competitive in the 21st century global economy,” Castro said.

Castro thanked delegates for their hard work and pointed out challenges in Wisconsin.

He said that due to “gerrymandering,” Democratic legislators got 200,000 more votes than Republicans in Wisconsin but are in the legislative minority and that Walker has divided the people and taken away the right to collectively bargain.

“It must be distressing, but y’all are a resilient bunch,” he said.

He encouraged delegates to contact voters and “do every single thing that you can to ensure Democratic victory.”

For Wisconsin Democrats who might feel embattled, he reminded them that in the 29 state offices elected in Texas, all have gone to Republicans for the last 106 elections and both houses of the Legislature are near having a supermajority.

“So Wisconsin is a goldmine for me,” he quipped.

Listen to the speech.

 -- By David Wise


 9:59 PM 

Baldwin: 'We won,' get to work with us

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin has done her own postmortem on the 2012 elections.

"We won, get over it and get to work," she said. "And get to work with us to help strengthen and grow the middle class."

Baldwin said last fall's election was supposed to settle issues like tax fairness, Social Security and deficit reduction. Yet for all the GOP talk of the election being a definitive answer on those issues, the country instead is stuck with Washington Republicans intent on continuing to cling to their past stances.

She mocked national GOP efforts to re-brand the party like re-packaging a soft drink. She said Gov. Scott Walker cares more about "embracing the Tea Party caucusgoers in Iowa than he does moving our economy forward and the hardworking people of our state."

"Maybe if they spent more time learning the history of our state instead of spending their time tearing down the teachers who teach that history, they would understand what all of us know," Baldwin said.

She said that includes the belief that if the country is going to prosper, it must do it together, that everyone does their fair share, and everyone deserves a level playing field.

"Those are the values that I learned growing up here in Wisconsin, and I'm pretty darn sure they're the values you learned growing up here, too," she said.

She said it is now time for Dems to decide if the next generation will grow up in Wisconsin with the same progressive values they did, if the state's motto of Forward will continue, and whether 2014 will look like 2010, when Dems didn't show up at the polls.

"You get to decide whether Paul Ryan and the Washington Republicans will be rewarded for their obstructions and their extremism," she said.

Listen to the speech.

-- By JR Ross


 9:37 PM 

Feingold tells delegates he won't be a candidate in 2013, 2014, 2015

Former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, often mentioned as a possible candidate for his old job in 2016, teased Dem delegates tonight about his future.

He told the convention he is not addressing them as an office holder.

"I don't come to you tonight as a candidate," Feingold said as some booed lightheartedly, before adding "At least in 2013, 2014 or 2015."

Feingold encouraged delegates to to remember "who we are" when they support candidates.

He said they should vote for people who vote against trade agreements that ship jobs overseas, who "opposed the Iraq War in the first place," those who voted against the Patriot Act, and those who will stand up for Social Security and Medicare.

At the state level, Feingold said they need to pick candidates who will "choose the cause of restoring our collective bargaining rights."

"Not as an item on a checklist, not as something to be mentioned in the middle of a speech, but at the top and the center of every single speech and appearance until we bring back the right of collective bargaining for public employees in the state of Wisconsin," Feingold said.

Feingold also dismissed the talk of Dems needing a farm team or a bench, saying Dems elected a new generation of legislators last fall that he predicted will be "one of the greatest generations in the history of Wisconsin politics."

Feingold offered his usual critique of Citizen United and took some digs at Republicans in the state Legislature.

He even raised the question why Dems stand for allowing the governor's office to be on the ballot in mid-term elections rather than with the president, when more people turn out to vote. He said guvs used to be elected every two years and suggested it may be time to consider going back to that model.

"Why let the Republicans have a stranglehold on the state Capitol, relying on the fact that less people vote?" Feingold said.

"The Republicans think the Capitol is their property, but it is all of our property."

Listen to the speech.

-- By JR Ross


 9:32 PM 

Kind focuses on health care in convo speech

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind called on delegates to talk to their friends and neighbors about the benefits of federal health care reform and urge them to sign up with the exchanges in order to counter a lopsided “misinformation” campaign by the law’s opponents.

He said the opposition to the Affordable Care Act is about ideology and not substance. He recounted a conversation in which he talked to a voter about the benefits of the health care bill. He said the person agreed with each point, but that he just did not like the “Obama” in Obamacare.

He noted that for every $1 spent to explain the benefits of the bill, $5 has been spent on messages opposing it.

“The message of deceit lies and misinformation is having an impact,” he said, urging delegates to spread the message among friends and neighbors .

He said he is setting up a website, “Just the Facts,” to explain the law.

He criticized Walker for refusing federal money to expand BadgerCare and for declining to set up a state health care exchange.

He said Walker’s decision on BadgerCare would leave 85,000 without insurance who otherwise would be able to have it and result in increased taxes for individuals and business, calling it “fiscal malpractice driven by ideology.”

He criticized the GOP in Washington for not voting to support background checks for firearms.

As a former special prosecutor, he said he “felt very uneasy that a violent convicted rapist can go on the Internet and purchase a gun.”

He praised Wisconsin voters for making history by re-electing the first African-American president and electing Tammy Baldwin, which he said nobody thought could be done.

Kind also warned democracy is at risk due to redistricting, noting that Democrats won the majority of votes in the state and in the country, yet have a minority in the House.

Democracy is also at risk in the state, he said, through both redistricting and voter ID.

“It’s an attempt to thwart majority rule,” Kind said.

Kind urged delegates to get out the vote.

“We’ve got to take back this state; we have to right this country,” Kind said.“The big decisions are made on Election Day and they are made by those who show up.”

Listen to the speech.

 -- By David Wise


 8:57 PM 

Moore calls Dem Party diverse, daring

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore proclaimed the Democratic Party diverse and daring while promising it will stand up for citizens rather than walking on by as she said Republicans are apt to do.

Moore, with a sequined U.S. flag top under her blazer, used the lyrics of the old Dionne Warwick song "Walk on  By" to describe the philosophy of Republicans.

She said when they see the hungry, the LGBT community seeking marriage or a woman victimized by domestic violence, they just "walk on by."

“As Democrats, we will walk with you and we will not walk on by," Moore said.

Moore then told the crowd the story of a relay race, holding a baton in one hand. She said Republicans are trying to pass on their regressive agenda with the baton passing from RNC Chair Reince Priebus through the likes of U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rand Paul, R-Ky., before going to U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh.

She said Johnson dropped the baton so U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann could pick it up -- though she thought it was a twirling baton -- and turn it over to Gov. Scott Walker -- "who gets distracted and heads off to Iowa" -- before the baton is miraculously found and passed on to Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald while Assembly Speaker Robin Vos tries to wrestle it away before it ends up with conservative pundits.

In contrast, the Dem baton race starts with President Obama before going to U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and then U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, to Moore - "with her new titanium knee" -- and to U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan.

It then goes to Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson and Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca.

“He then gives the baton to the rightful owners, the thousands upon thousands of Wisconsinites who have been patiently waiting at the finish line," she said.

Listen to the speech.

-- By JR Ross


 8:47 PM 

Pocan says GOP dysfunction in Washington 'almost impossible to believe'

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan ripped Republicans in Washington over their priorities, saying they have chosen to focus on attacking Democrats rather than offering a substantive agenda.

Pocan said that in his time in Washington, Republicans voted the 37th time to repeal Obama Care, voted to restrict voting rights and to ban Homeland Security spending on abortion, but not once to create jobs, prevent student loan interest rates from doubling or to protect LGBT rights.

“The level of dysfunction and futility of Republicans in Congress is almost impossible to believe,” Pocan said.

He said instead of focusing on a substantive agenda, Republicans are attacking Democrats, trying to drum up scandal.

Pocan said Washington needs to focus on making sure the middle class thrives and grows, addressing student loan debt, raising the minimum wage, providing incentives for companies to create jobs in America, and guaranteeing voting rights for all citizens.

“This is what a real substantive agenda looks like,” Pocan said.

He criticized Walker’s policies, blaming them for placing Wisconsin near the bottom in jobs and economic outlook. He said Walker is running for re-election on broken promises and a failed jobs record.

Pocan said that while he ran for Congress to bring “Wisconsin common sense to Washington,” Walker ran for governor to “bring Washington dysfunction to this state.”

Pocan said the state and nation needs more Democrats in office, and vowed that Democrats would compete in all of the state’s 72 counties.

“We will be there and we are going to fight for our values and the middle class,” Pocan said.

Listen to the speech.

 -- By David Wise


 8:23 PM 

Tate pledges to turn organizing on its head, fight for votes in all corners of Wisconsin

Chair Mike Tate pledge to turn the political organizing model on its head by recruiting promising legislative candidates in all corners of the state and investing in their campaigns if they show a willingness to put in the work and raise the needed money to run a credible race.

Tate, delivering the chair's report, went over his 72-county strategy to put operatives in various corners of Wisconsin and to be organized and engaged year-round rather than just in election years. He said holding the state convention in Waukesha County, known as GOP territory, is symbolic of that approach and the commitment to turning out Dem voters no matter where they live. Waukesha County produces the third most Dem votes in statewide races behind Milwaukee and Dane counties.

"We have to start being organized now," Tate said. "We must prepare and ensure that as a party we are knocking on doors, whether there is an election next week or next year, and I am committed to doing that."

Tate also asked activists for patience in finding a candidate to run against Gov. Scott Walker next year.

He said several "very talented and qualified people" are considering running,saying they may be a current elected leader or possibly someone from the private sector with a great Wisconsin story to tell.

The party chair said Walker has won past elections not because of his ideas, which he said are not popular, but by tearing down his opponent. Tate said it does Dems no good to give him "a target to shoot at one day sooner than we have to."

"We are not going to give him that opportunity this time around," Tate said.

Tate received one of his biggest reactions from the crowd when he proclaimed the party believes in the right to bargain collectively for a safe work environment, fair and livable wages, access to health care, and the "guarantee of a retirement with dignity."

"We will never, ever stop fighting for our brothers and sisters in organized labor, and we will not rest as a party until collective bargaining is restored to every worker in the state of Wisconsin," Tate said.

Listen to the speech.

-- By JR Ross


 7:52 PM 

Barca calls on delegates to fight GOP agenda

Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca called on delegates to stand united and fight the GOP agenda, which he said was moving Wisconsin backward.

Barca mocked Republicans’ celebration of the recall victory anniversary, saying Walker’s mantra of “it’s working” reveals a Republican problem with science and math.

He pointed to several recent rankings showing Wisconsin near the bottom in job growth, wage growth and economic outlook.

“That’s the problem Republicans have -- science and math keep catching up with them,” Barca said.

Barca knocked Walker’s and the JFC’s budget and the GOP agenda, saying it harms the people’s health, jobs and prosperity.

“This budget is absolutely horrifying,” Barca said. “This governor says one thing and does another.”

He bashed the GOP for concentrating tax cuts on the wealthiest in the state, for turning down the BadgerCare expansion, which he said would have created 10,000 jobs, and for approving the voucher expansion while public schools struggled.

He also went after last-minute budget moves, such as approving bail bondsmen and removing the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism from the UW-Madison campus.

“They don’t want this covered anymore,” he quipped.

He called on delegates to stand up to the agenda.

“We’ve got to fight this agenda,” Barca said. “We’ve got to be more united than we’ve ever been before.”

He noted that the state was home to the progressive tradition of Doug LaFollette and home to Gaylord Nelson, the father of Earth Day and the modern environmental movement.

He said that the state is at a tipping point.

“This disrespect of our heritage and disregarding of what made this state great cannot go forward and will not go forward in this state,” Barca said.

Listen to the speech.

-- By David Wise


 7:51 PM 

Larson says Walker and 'cronies' trying to keep ladder of economic success to themselves

Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson accused Gov. Scott Walker and his Republican “cronies” of trying to kick out the rungs to the ladder of success so others don't crowd them at the top.

Larson said Walker and GOP lawmakers have pursued a regressive agenda rather than a progressive one. He said that includes giving tax breaks without asking for jobs to be created and delivering the largest cut to education in state history to give tax breaks to the wealthy.

Being progressive, Larson said, means providing opportunities to climb the economic ladder of success. He urged activists to return Wisconsin to a state where having success in business and valuing families went hand in hand.

“It’s tough to get up that ladder in this state when Republicans and their wealthy friends who have been successful are trying to pull up that ladder after them,” Larson said.

Larson said the only good news in the budget the Joint Finance Committee approved this week is for those who are wealthy and have already found their way to the top. He asked activists for their help to stop Walker’s extreme, anti-middle class, anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-farmer, anti-environment and anti-Wisconsin politics by taking back the state Senate.

“This is our chance to make sure there is still a ladder to get to the middle class in the state of Wisconsin,” Larson said.

Listen to the speech.

-- By JR Ross


 7:31 PM 

Barrett says Republicans in Madison convinced they know best for rest of state

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett encouraged Dem activists to mount a counterattack to efforts by Republicans to curtail the right to vote, impose their will on the rest of Wisconsin and fight ideological wars rather than fix the state's economy.

Barrett, who lost races to Gov. Scott Walker in 2010 and 2012, said he loves being mayor of Milwaukee. But he said GOP lawmakers appear to want his job as well as those of the mayors in Green Bay, Wisconsin Dells, Brookfield and Oconomowoc because they have broken with decades of preaching local control and instead decided "all truth lies in Madison."

"I humbly disagree," Barrett said.

Barrett reminded Dem activists the state GOP had their state convention last month just days before a projection was released that ranked Wisconsin 49th in the country for job creation. Barrett said he takes no solace in that number, but Republicans have come up with a bumper sticker.

"The bumper sticker says, 'Take that, Wyoming!" Barrett said.

Barrett said Republicans have been focused on election bills designed to take away the right to vote. He pointed to one provision that would allow those without an ID to sign an affidavit explaining why they don't have one. He said in the real world, that person's vote would be put aside and they would lose the secret ballot. Barrett also pointed to a provision that would only allow electors to vote on the weekend leading up to an election if they made an appointment with the clerk. He said in the real world, that would allow someone who was a Republican clerk to decline to meet with a Dem voter.

“Not a process of laws, but a process of individuals who are there who are going to decide whether or not they should be able to vote," he said. "That is not America. That is not Wisconsin."

Barrett said it was that much more galling considering the mediocre job picture in the state.

“It is a serious problem when we have a state government that is far more interested in fighting ideological wars, turning away dollars and taking peoples' health care than trying to create jobs," Barrett said.

-- By JR Ross


 7:20 PM 

Mitchell calls austerity "epic failure"

Former lieutenant governor candidate Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, went after Gov. Scott Walker and Republicans in his speech before delegates, saying the austerity measures they advanced left the people in Wisconsin struggling.

Mitchell said Walker’s austerity measures have left the state 44th in job growth and 49th in economic outlook, calling them an “epic failure in Wisconsin.”

“Right now Wisconsin is struggling more than any other state,” Mitchell said.

But he said Democrats should not take joy in that.

“People are hurting,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell criticized Walker’s budget, saying the notion that the budget was moderate must be viewed in light of the past budget measures he has taken.

He said the budget puts $150 more per pupil into public schools, but that has to be considered in the context of taking $1.6 billion from education in Walker's first budget. He knocked Walker for refusing the Medicaid expansion, saying it is putting the health of women and children at risk.

He also criticized Walker and Republicans for the proposed tax cuts, saying he would rather see his share go to public education, shared revenue and reducing student debt.

Throughout his speech, which ran over time by about 15 minutes, he motivated delegates with refrains of “are you fired up?” to which they replied “ready to go!”

He also called on delegates to stand up and work to win in the state in 2014

“We cannot wait for the optimism to come to us, we have to provide the optimism,” Mitchell said.

-- By David Wise


 6:10 PM 

Let the blogging begin

We are here, and the convention was just called to order by Chair Mike Tate.

Tonight's speakers include former lt. guv candidate Mahlon Mitchell, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, U.S. Ron Kind, former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and San Atonio Mayor Juan Castro.

 -- By JR Ross

 3:31 PM 

Interview: Tate touts grassroots ties, party's future prospects as he makes re-election bid

Mike Tate only sees success in the future of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and says that his "passion and enthusiasm" for the job of Dem party chair is the prime reason why he should be re-elected to the post at the Dem convention this weekend.

"The last four years, we've had some great successes, we've had some tough challenges and we've drawn on the lessons from both make sure that we're in the best position possible to move forward and I'm excited to move forward on that vision," Tate said in an interview with WisPolitics.com ahead of this weekend's DPW convention.

Tate, who was first elected chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin in 2009, has hit electoral speed bumps during his two terms. Democrats lost control of the Legislature, the governor's office and Russ Feingold's U.S. Senate seat in 2010. While they succeeded in chipping away and eventually erasing the GOP majority in the Senate in the 2011 and 2012 recall elections, Dems spent millions on a failed recall of Gov. Scott Walker and eventually lost control of the Senate again in the 2012 general election.

Tate, however, says the general election proved Wisconsin leans toward Dems when Barack Obama carried the state and then-U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, beat former Gov. Tommy Thompson by five percentage points for an open U.S. Senate seat.

That hasn't deterred Tate's critics. Aside from the electoral failures, Tate's challenger Joe Kallas has claimed the party was responsible for losing the recall election by discarding grassroots activists. (Read an earlier WisPolitics.com interview with Kallas) Tate fully defends his role in the recall, saying that nothing could have been done differently to change the outcome and that he's made every effort to listen to Dem activists.

"I have traveled over 10,000 miles this year alone, meeting with Democrats from every corner of the state," Tate said. "I have hardly ever seen my opponent at any of these meetings. I had 76 listening sessions all over this state last year, I am an incredibly available chair and I learn an awful lot by listening to members of this party, finding out what needs to happen in different parts of this state and taking action to get people the tools they need on the ground."

* Read more from the interview with Tate
* Listen to the interview


 3:30 PM 

Interview: Tate challenger says Dem grassroots yearning for attention

NOTE: This interview originally ran in the May 24, 2013 WisPolitics REPORT
Joe Kallas has heard the criticism before: how can a man who ran a losing congressional campaign on a $7,000 budget run the Democratic Party of Wisconsin?

His counter is simple: He still got 136,000 votes against an entrenched GOP incumbent with virtually no financial or institutional support.

“Now, I only got 20,000 less votes than other candidates like Jamie Wall in the 8th, (Pat) Kreitlow in the 7th, who had a million and a half dollars to spend,” said Kallas, a 63-year old retiree from Princeton who formerly worked as corrections employee. “So obviously, I did something right, and they’re ignoring me because, ‘Gee we spent all this money and our philosophy is the guy with the most money wins’ ... So they have to defend that.”

Kallas, who lost to U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, in the 2012 election by a wide margin, says that race and the gubernatorial recall are indicative of the way the Democratic Party of Wisconsin has failed the state’s grassroots movement. Kallas, who will challenge current chair Mike Tate at the state Democratic Convention next month, says Tate’s leadership has been a “top-down” model that is responsible for a series of electoral failures over his four-year tenure.

“I know people who have run for Congress, and the party gave them no support at all and in many cases they opposed them and these people don’t even belong to the party anymore,” said Kallas, who also challenged Petri in 2010 and ran for the Assembly in 1988. “That’s no way to build the party.”

Kallas also cites the failed recall of Gov. Scott Walker as one of Tate’s biggest failures as Dem chair, saying the party “should have never lost the recall” and that running Tom Barrett was a fatal mistake that “could have been prevented.” Kallas said Tate should have brought together all members from the party and made sure everyone had some “ownership” of the party and the recall effort.

With a 2014 race against Walker looming, Kallas said he feels the former county executive should be matched by another county executive. Kallas said he’d prefer either Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, a former top Assembly Democrat, or Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris. Nelson was first elected to his post in 2011, while Harris was recently elected to his third term in an unopposed election.

Read more and listen to the complete interview


 3:14 PM 

Kleefisch: Businesses happy with state's stable business climate

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch says she's excited about in-state tourism dollars heading into her hometown as the Democratic state convention gets underway.

But she said small businesses in Oconomowoc "are pretty excited about the stability" offered by the Walker administration, and that Dems would need to embrace that kind of jobs message to make inroads with the Wisconsin electorate -- particularly in deep-red Waukesha County.

Kleefisch, in a phone interview with WisPolitics.com ahead of the Dem convention, said business owners throughout the state know that the administration is "going to have the backs of job creators" -- lauding the budget passed by the Joint Finance Committee for providing "almost a billion dollars in tax relief."

She said business owners also need a predictable state business climate in the state in light of their concerns over uncertainty at the federal level.

Kleefisch also defended the expansion of voucher school programs in the JFC budget -- a primary target for Dems -- saying that while her kids love attending public schools in Oconomowoc, "not every mom and dad has that same opportunity."

She called the proposed statewide expansion an "expansion of opportunity for children and parents across the state."


 1:17 PM 

Dems, GOP run competing billboards

Milwaukee-area commuters will be met with competing political billboards as Dem delegates converge on Oconomowoc this weekend.

The Dem Party put up a billboard earlier this week near the intersection of I-94 and Highway 16 in Pewaukee. The sign, which shows a timeline of Wisconsin's job rankings, targeted attendees at a Wednesday rally marking the anniversary of the governor's win in the recall election.

"Since Scott Walker took office, Wisconsin has dropped from 11th in job creation to 44th," the Dem billboard reads.

Republicans, meanwhile, put up their own billboard on westbound I-94 in Waukesha County -- east of the convention site -- reading, "A simple message to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin: Wisconsin is moving forward."

The GOP billboard features a photo of Gov. Walker and touts a budget surplus, increased jobs and a reduced tax burden under his administration.

-- By Andy Szal


Thursday, June 06, 2013

 9:09 AM 

Party announces Saturday speakers

The Dem Party has announced four local officials will address the convention on Saturday.

The party dubbed Ashland Ald. Kelly Westlund, Dane County Supv. Sheila Stubbs, Manitowoc Mayor Justin Nickels and Racine Mayor John Dickert “rising stars” in the party.

-- By JR Ross



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Editor: JR Ross
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