• WisPolitics

Saturday, June 08, 2013

 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


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