• WisPolitics


Saturday, June 07, 2014

 1:58 PM 

Straw poll: Conventioneers overwhelmingly favor Burke for guv, Clinton for president

WISCONSIN DELLS -- Democratic Party of Wisconsin conventioneers overwhelmingly backed Mary Burke for the party’s gubernatorial nomination this fall and favored Hillary Clinton for president in 2016, according to a WisPolitics.com straw poll.

Burke, the former Trek Bicycle executive who has been endorsed by the party’s administrative committee and addressed the convention Friday night, was supported by 317 party activists. Fourteen voted for state Rep. Brett Hulsey of Madison, who was not allowed to address the convention.

In the lieutenant governor’s race, 299 activists backed state Sen. John Lehman of Racine for the party’s nomination, while 27 supported Mary Jo Walters, a Milwaukee activist. Lehman has also been endorsed by the party’s administrative committee.

The results were much closer in the three-way race for attorney general. State Rep. Jon Richards of Milwaukee was backed by 167 delegates, while Jefferson County DA Susan Happ received 111 votes. Dane County DA Ismael Ozanne was a distant third with 54 votes.

In the presidential race, 185 delegates favored Clinton, while Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was next with 81 votes. Vice President Joe Biden was well back in third place with 18 votes.

State Dem officials said 1,012 delegates, alternates and registered guests attended the convention.

See more.

-- By Staff

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 1:30 PM 

George puts felony behind him, looks forward to Congressional race

Former State Sen. Gary George believes his record of accomplishments in the state Senate – and not his felony conviction in a kickback scheme – is what voters will consider in his run against Gwen Moore for Congress.

The former state senator was ousted from the Legislature in a recall in 2003 and pleaded guilty to a felony in federal court in 2004. He maintains that there were "factual errors and legal errors" in that case and that one of the allegations would not even be considered a crime, given a U.S. Supreme Court ruling since his conviction. However, he acknowledged the conviction and said he's looking forward from now on.

"I'm a lawyer, I'm the son of a lawyer," George said. "We believe in the law, whether you win or you lose. I paid the price. I continue to challenge what happened to me in the legal process as best as that I can continue to do, but this race is not about the past. It's not about my past, it's not about Gwen Moore's past."

George said that he’s running because Milwaukee is in a dire situation and the district needs someone with a record of getting things done while maintaining progressive policy stances. While he didn’t take any direct shots at Moore, he said it is not enough to simply discuss Milwaukee's problems "at a press conference talking about how this is terrible." 

"I think whatever happens in this campaign, Gwen is a historic figure, that's not going to change by this election. But it's a question of who can bring back resources to this community, who can make the changes necessary to make Milwaukee a better place," George said.

He said that he was partially inspired to run for the office after attending the funeral service for former Gov. Patrick Lucey. He said that even though Lucey was "Mr. Democrat," his third party vice presidential run proved he was willing to stand up with others across the aisle to do what was best for the country. George said Lucey and Dem U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan represent the mold of bipartisan progressives he hopes to fill in Congress.


George also highlighted school choice as a prime accomplishment, despite the prevalent opposition in the party to the program's expansion. He said his record as co-chair of Joint Finance Committee also included supporting more money for public schools and class size reduction initiatives hat he said "ushered in a golden age of education in Wisconsin." He chastises those who judge the concept of school choice, though he says there have been "changes" that he doesn't agree with to the choice law he helped write.

"Those that say supporting the choices of the parents whose kids go to charter schools or choice schools is somehow bending public education, that's the wrong way to look at this. We should support education, period," he said.

George said his campaign is just now getting underway, but feels he has "plenty of time" to get his message across and raise the resources to be a viable candidate. As for whether the Government Accountability Board will allow him ballot access given the felony conviction, he said: "That has nothing to do with it. The qualifications for Congress are clear and I meet those qualifications."

 -- By Jason Smathers

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 12:58 PM 

And with that, the convention is adjourned

The Dem State Convention has adjourned.

The convention will be in Milwaukee next year at the Potawatomi Bingo Casino in June, though a date has not been finalized, according to a party spokeswoman.

Chair Mike Tate has been bragging to reporters all weekend that this is the most message disciplined Dem convention in history. And that message boils down to this: Mary Burke is good, Scott Walker is bad, marriage equality is wonderful and the party is united heading into November. Almost every speaker touched on all of those themes in their speeches this weekend.

-- By JR Ross

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 12:53 PM 

Richards promises to be 'lawyer for the people'

State Rep. Jon Richards promised to be a “lawyer for the people” if elected attorney general, saying he
would aggressively fight sexual predators as well as those who prey on the middle class.

Richards said he would go after those who force families to lose their homes and seniors to lose their life savings. He warned the other side will raise the “same tired arguments” whenever he talks about these economic issues.

“But you know and I know we need an attorney general who will be a fighter who will lead us as a lawyer for the people,” Richards said.

He promised to use the power of the office to fight Republicans who try to clamp down on the right to vote, saying he would use every tool in his arsenal if necessary, including taking it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Richards also said he would go after those who “sell our resources to the highest bidder,” fight efforts to make Wisconsin a right-to-work state, and target employers who deny workers wages and pensions they have earned.

He also said he has the longest and strongest record of denying easy access to guns for criminals.

“I have a message for the NRA: I am not afraid of you, and we won’t back down,” Richards said.

-- By JR Ross

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 12:30 PM 

Ozanne: 'Leadership and experience matter'

Dane County DA Ismael Ozanne told Dem delegates that "leadership and experience matter" -- particularly with what's ahead in the general election.

Ozanne did not mention Waukesha County DA Brad Schimel by name in his speech, but he said the presumptive GOP candidate is "beating the drum" of putting more people in jail -- a model he said "has beaten us in the last two election cycles."

"I am the best check to put balance back in this state," Ozanne said, saying he believes the AG race is the most important on the ballot this fall.

"We cannot afford to have somebody learning on the job from Day One."

Ozanne touted his work heading the Department of Corrections and said he's already working on behalf of constituents in Dane County -- mentioning his lawsuit over open records issues during the passage of Act 10.

He also defended a program in Dane County he says aims to rehabilitate some minority parents using corporal punishment, saying headline writers and political opponents were taking "cheap political shots at programs that work."

"The headline should have said, 'Ozanne defends all children,'" he said.

"We need to be proactive," Ozanne added. "We need to do a better job protecting our communities, and that's what I am doing in Dane County."

Ozanne also called for a return of the public intervenor in the state, but said even if that position is not restored, he'll us the power of the AG's office to ensure the Public Trust Doctrine is defended and Wisconsin's stewardship of the environment -- particularly the Great Lakes -- is protected.

"That is more valuable than gold," Ozanne said of the state's water resources.

-- By Andy Szal

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 12:11 PM 

Happ says she's no stranger to a fight

Jefferson County DA Susan Happ, the first of the three AG candidates to address the convention, said she’s no stranger to a tough fight.

She told the convention she was barely 3 pounds when she was born prematurely. After she was taken away, the nurse gave her mother a shot and said “you’ll do better next time.”

But Happ said she fought hard and her father taught her from an early age to be a scrapper. He took her snowmobiling and hunting while signing her up for wrestling tournaments.

“He said, 'Don’t ever let someone tell you you can’t do something because you’re a girl,'” she said.

Thus, even though there were already two established male Dem candidates in the race for AG, “I wasn’t afraid to throw my purse in the ring.”

She played up her win in Jefferson County, which typically votes for Republicans. She said she won 56 percent of the vote in 2008 as she beat an incumbent GOP DA and performed 6 percentage points better than Barack Obama in the county.

Happ also joked with the crowd that coming from Jefferson County, she’s not used to being around so many Dems.

She also knocked a GOP agenda that she said includes dismantling numerous priorities Dems hold dear by approving voter ID, wiping out collective bargaining, repealing an equal pay law and requiring ultrasounds.

“When will the attacks stop? I’m here to tell you as your next attorney general, they stop with me,” she said.

-- By JR Ross

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 11:53 AM 

Republicans knock Dem convo message

The state GOP is taking its shots at the Dem message this weekend.

That includes a dig at the Dem Party platform, saying it “directly conflicts with Millionaire Mary Burke's record of outsourcing jobs overseas and avoiding corporate taxes.”

The Walker campaign also took a shot at Burke’s speech last night, saying she “represents the past and all the failed policies of days gone by. We’ve come too far to let Burke take us backward.”

UPDATE - 1:43 p.m.: The state GOP has issued its post-convention statement, saying the party and Burke "wasted their convention on stale rhetoric and desperate and divisive attack lines."

-- By JR Ross

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 11:53 AM 

Sartori seeks to restore EdVest, unclaimed property programs to treasurer's office

State treasurer candidate Dave Sartori said he hopes to restore that office's authority over the EdVest college savings program and the state's unclaimed property program.

Sartori, a 30-year Department of Corrections employee, said those programs made millions for the Common School Fund, but said those proceeds are now going to "political appointees and the power-grabbers."

Sartori also said he's the only combat veteran running for statewide office this election cycle and said he's "a living example" of Wisconsin's shared values -- saying he'll do "everything" in his power to perpetuate them.

-- By Andy Szal

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 11:51 AM 

Leeper calls for state-run bank

State treasurer candidate Dave Leeper called for a state-run bank that he said could finance sustainable farming, local businesses, alternative energy resources and student loans.

He noted the Bank of North Dakota, the only state-owned bank in the country, makes student loans to state residents at 1.75 percent, compared to the 6.8 percent his three children are paying for their loans.

He also said the bank makes money and has sent $300 million in surpluses to the state over the past decade.

“Banking is the engine of credit that drives our economy, and the owner of the bank controls the engine,” he said.

Leeper, whose mother was state Rep. Midge Miller and whose brother is state Sen. Mark Miller, said few people know about the state treasurer’s office and that’s the way the Koch brothers want it. He said they want an office without the power to guard or manage state funds or the elimination of the office altogether.

“If we want to stop billionaires from buying our elections and writing our laws, we have to take control of our money,” he said.

-- By JR Ross

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 11:34 AM 

Gruett says he seeks voters 'Republicans don't want' in 8th CD

Ron Gruett, the Dems' candidate in the 8th CD, conceded he isn't well-known as he heads into a campaign against U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble in northeastern Wisconsin.

So in order to compete, the Marian College chemistry professor said he plans "on forming a coalition of voters that the Republicans don't want" -- listing the middle class, women, union members, seniors, the LGBT community and students.

Gruett said Republicans have shown they don't want those voters through their attacks on the Affordable Care Act, education, social programs, abortion access and collective bargaining.

He also said he would like to see more people invested in campaigns through small-dollar contributions -- though he joked, "If anyone wants to donate thousands of dollars, I'll take those too."

-- By Andy Szal

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 11:25 AM 

Westlund gives Dems tough love


7th CD candidate Kelly Westlund gave fellow Dems some tough love this morning.

She urged delegates to be honest with themselves, saying they come to conventions to lie to each other, pat themselves on the back and “blame the other side for all our troubles.” But she said the reality is Dems are in the position they now face because they were apathetic in the 2010 election, giving the far right the opening to take control.

The result was gerrymandering, voter suppression, a government shutdown at the federal level and Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin.

“We cannot make that mistake again,” she said.

Westlund bemoaned an economy tilted to the economic elite and knocked people like the Koch brothers as “hoarders of wealth” rather than job creators. She said they should at least pay the same tax rate as the rest of us, and that revenue should be used to invest in public education, health care for all, Social Security and things that level the playing field.

“Yes, we ought to raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires,” she said.

Westlund faces Mike Krsiean of Houlton for the Dem nomination in the 7th CD. A party spokeswoman said Krsiean was not invited to speak at the convention and did not ask for a slot.

-- By JR Ross

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 11:11 AM 

Harris: 6th CD should export 'reasonableness' to Washington

Winnebago Co. Exec. Mark Harris told state convention delegates he presents a stark contrast with the four Republicans seeking to succeed the retiring Tom Petri in the 6th CD.

"We have the best chance we've had in decades to win the 6th Congressional District, and that's what I intend to do," Harris said.

He said his opponents include lawmakers who have introduced the state's voter ID law and a tax credit that would largely eliminate income taxes on manufacturers.

He added that none of his prospective opponents support increasing the minimum wage, and called for Dems to ensure that public education remains strong for all Americans.

"We don't want to export radical conservatism to Washington," Harris said. "We want to export Wisconsin values and reasonableness."

-- By Andy Szal

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 11:07 AM 

Rockwood says achieving the American Dream tougher now

5th CD candidate Chris Rockwood bemoaned a system that has gradually moved toward benefiting the top 1 percent while making it harder to achieve the American Dream.

He recalled the struggles of his father and grandfather, but noted they were able to overcome their early financial difficulties to achieve economic success.

But he said that path has become more difficult over the years.

“Working-class Americans are worse off than they were when I was growing up,” he said. “We cannot stand for this. Haven’t we had enough time to learn that trickle down theories don’t work?”

Rockwood ticked off a list of priorities, from healthcare to ending deportations. He also called for reforms to student loans.

“If we can find a way to bail out the banks, we can certainly find way to bail out our college graduates,” he said.

-- By JR Ross

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 10:47 AM 

Zerban calls for 'getting money out of politics'

First CD candidate Rob Zerban said his top priority in his "platform for progress" is a constitutional amendment to get "money out of politics."

Zerban said he considers his 2012 bid against U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan a "huge success" -- losing by the smallest margin in Ryan's tenure and raising the most money ever by a Dem congressional candidate. But the race was also the sixth most expensive congressional race in the nation in 2012.
"While I'm proud of what we accomplished ... too many elections have become nothing more than a race to see who can raise the most money," Zerban told delegates.

He said the amendment should implement public financing of campaigns and eliminate all outside spending on elections.

Zerban also called for higher education and tax reform, as well as and expanding Medicare to all Americans. And he said bolstering the nation's economy should include fixing infrastructure, renegotiating trade deals and raising the minimum wage.

"Paul Ryan is wrong on all these issues ... his solution, he believes, is traditional marriage and friendship," Zerban said.

-- By Andy Szal

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 10:31 AM 

1st CD candidate Kaleka says campaign began after Republicans asked him to run for Assembly

Amar Kaleka said his campaign for the 1st CD started in an odd way: Republicans asked him to run for the state Assembly.

“After I stopped laughing, I realized they were serious. So I politely told them, sirs, the values of the Republican Party do not speak to me,” he said.

Kaleka, whose father was killed along with six others in a shooting at a Sikh temple almost two years ago, told delegates the true cause of crime is “we are in a rigged game.” The nation has become more polarized, frustrated and “armed to the teeth.”

He described the man who gunned down his father as a neglected Army vet, saying he never would have turned his back on veterans and would have done everything in his power if in office to stabilize the economy. He called all of them factors that contributed to his father’s death.

“When the Republican Party asked me to run on their behalf, it dawned on me they don’t know me or my culture,” he said. “And they definitely don’t even know their own platform.”

-- By JR Ross

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 10:17 AM 

La Follette, 'lonely' as elected statewide Dem, predicts victory in November

Secretary of State Doug La Follette thanked delegates for supporting him during his tenure in office, but said it's been "lonely" as the lone Dem to hold statewide office.

"I know you're all going to fix that for me in November," La Follette said.

La Follette said strong candidates are running for the open AG and state treasurer positions, and that, "of course, the grand prize is ridding our proud state of Mr. Walker" -- and joking that re-electing the secretary of state should be on delegates' minds as well.

The secretary of state also urged delegates to thank President Jimmy Carter for his appointment of Judge Barbara Crabb to the federal bench, stressing that presidential elections matter when it comes to deciding issues -- such as same-sex marriage rights -- in the courts.

-- By Andy Szal

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 10:12 AM 

Platform, resolution debate wraps up

The delegates have signed off on the resolutions and platform.

They made one tweak to a resolution calling for granting undocumented immigrants noncitizen temporary licenses.

The original resolution called for supporting legislation "that would grant undocumented immigrants the opportunity to obtain a noncitizen temporary license and obtain automobile insurance after completing a safe-driving course."

The delegates dropped the language referencing a safe-driving course. Some raised concerns it was a hurdle for those seeking a license, while others pointed out those who obtain a driver's license have to prove their proficiency as a driver as part of the process so the language was redundant.

We also have an update on attendance for the convention. As of 9:45 a.m., there are 1,012 registered attendees.

-- By JR Ross

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 9:02 AM 

GOP flyers slamming Burke slipped under doors at convention

Some Dem delegates woke up to find a small flyer from the state GOP calling Mary Burke a "tax dodging millionaire."

 There is a small disclaimer on the side noting it was paid for by the Republican Party. These flyers were apparently slipped under the doors of delegates sometime last night or this morning.


 -- By Jason Smathers

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 8:58 AM 

Delegates dive into platform and resolutions

The state convention has reconvened with a discussion of the party platform and resolutions up first.

Most of the delegates must have had a good time last night. The ballroom is sparsely populated right now.

Speakers are scheduled to begin a little after 10 a.m.

-- By JR Ross

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 10:10 PM 

Burke promises new direction for state, accuses Walker of putting special interests ahead of families

Mary Burke promised Dem activists she would take the state in a new direction as guv, pledging to tell the truth, put common sense solutions ahead of politics and bring the state together.

In contrast, she derided Gov. Scott Walker for putting special interests ahead of working families and said he is “not working for us.”

“I will be a governor who works for you, but I can’t do it without you,” Burke said. “You know that we need a new direction. You know that our economy isn’t better until it’s better for everyone.”

Burke also assured delegates she is in the fight to win, warning it will be “an epic fight.” She said the other side will “throw at me every lie and dirty trick in the book." She said they already have with $2 million in TV ads that “haven’t even landed a punch.”

“And there will be more to come but they should know this,” Burke said. “The tougher they get, the tougher I get.”

Burke, the Madison School Board member and former Trek Bicycle executive, has been criticized by Republicans for refusing to take stands in the campaign. The GOP has also sought to portray Burke as a divisive figure among the party base.

But the convention hall was at its fullest for Burke’s speech, and speaker after speaker ahead of her sought to drive home a message that the party is united in her quest for the guv’s office.

Burke thanked the supporters she has met along the way -- putting 33,000 miles on her Ford Escape -- and gave a small nod to her bid to become the first woman to serve as Wisconsin guv. She noted she is someone who “doesn’t quite fit the mold and someone who certainly doesn’t look like any governor we’ve had before.” 

She knocked Walker’s promise to create 250,000 new jobs, saying you don’t make “a political promise to win an election without any plan to meet that promise.” At one point in the speech, she asked the crowd what the state has received in return for Walker’s jobs pledge.

“Nothing!” a woman yelled from the back of the room to applause and cheers.

Burke, whose father founded Trek, told delegates of the work ethic her parents instilled in her. She recalled the summer project when she was 10 her mother had for the Burke children build a stone walkway to their home in Hartland. She said they piled into the family Buick each day to gather stones at a quarry in Sussex and recalled how her arms ached from carrying the stone. She said the Burke children joke with their mother about the work, but she had a comeback that it built character.

Burke told the delegates her father liked to joke he hired his children at Trek because he could pay them half as much to work twice as long. 

“The problem was it wasn’t just a joke for him,” she said. “It’s what he did."

Burke also promised to changed the tone in Madison, putting an end to "the politics first approach."

"Finding common ground, negotiating in good faith, and putting the people of this state first; when I’m governor we will," she said.

-- By JR Ross

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 9:49 PM 

Baldwin: "In 2014, we get to decide"

Tammy Baldwin got Dems jazzed up over Mary Burke's candidacy, arguing the party can win the "uphill battle" against Gov. Scott Walker and special interest allies if Dems are ready to "fight hard."

Baldwin praised the role of women in government, saying that "most of the time" when Congress gets something done, it's because a woman is at the helm. She acknowledged the naysayers and referenced her first runs for public office, saying she was told by observers that she couldn't win because of her gender or sexual orientation. 

"But the last time I checked, voters make that decision," Baldwin said. "So let the pundits pundit, let the spinners spin. It's the people who get to decide elections."

She touted her agenda in the U.S. Senate as representing how Democrats are truly attuned to the needs of the middle class -- raising the minimum wage, investing in workforce development and making college more affordable. The alternative, she argued, was the "insane" policies of Walker and his allies in Wisconsin that she said voters should reject in this election season.

"We know what happens when we let the Koch brothers decide," Baldwin said. "And we're not going to let it happen again."


Baldwin also praised a judge’s ruling overturning Wisconsin’s ban on gay marriage, saying she is proud to now say the prohibition “doesn’t just violate our values, it violates our constitution.”


Baldwin, who is openly gay, said it has always been just a matter of time for equality to be the law of the land in Wisconsin. She said the state’s history only moves in one direction -- forward, a nod to Wisconsin’s motto.


She also praised U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb’s decision and pointed out the judge wrote in her decision that even those defending the ban believed the writing was on the wall that it would be overturned.

“I just hope it’s written clearly enough that even Scott Walker is able to read it,” she said.


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 9:20 PM 

White House adviser says Wisconsin deserves better

White House Deputy Senior Adviser David Simas said President Obama inherited the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, pulled the country out of recession, stabilized the economy and put it back on the path to recovery.

In contrast, he said Wisconsin took a different path and now lags behind other states in the economic recovery. He said that is a direct result of a failed, partisan and ideoglogical lack of leadership Gov. Scott Walker has brought to Wisconsin.

“Wisconsin deserves better,” he said.

Simas also praised Mary Burke, saying she would be focused on long-term solutions rather than political gimmicks and short-term division. He said she helped build a company in Trek Bicycle that employs nearly 1,000 people in the state and sells a Wisconsin-made product all over the world.

He also singled out her work for the Boys and Girls Club, saying it has not been done for political gain or as a stepping stone, but because she has a core belief that children need a community to help lift them up.

“That tells you as much as you need to know about the governor Mary Burke will be for the state of Wisconsin,” he said.

-- By JR Ross

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 8:50 PM 

Kind focuses on vet issues, student loans, voting rights

After thanking Judge Barbara Crabb for striking down the state's gay marriage ban, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind asked delegates to thank veterans for their service.

Kind asked those in attendance to take a moment to thank vets on the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy.

He then told the delegates that from what he's seen, the VA medical centers in Wisconsin are not experiencing the long delays that other centers have across the country. However, he also said delays should have been expected given the veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Our contract with our vets is a solemn oath and it's time for this nation to rise up and address that need," Kind said.

Kind also highlighted the efforts of Scot Ross and One Wisconsin Now in trying to address rising student loan debt. He argued that Republicans have chipped away at student financial aid when loan debt has raised to $1.2 trillion.

He also slammed Gov. Scott Walker and legislative Republicans who pushed voter ID and limitations on absentee voting hours.

"This is Wisconsin 2014, this is not the US of the 1950s," Kind said. "We've won those battles and I refuse to go back in time."

Kind got lots of applause when he dared GOP trackers to film him making the statement that he would "never apologize" for supporting the Affordable Care Act. He argued that the law was necessary to stop the rise of health care costs and ensure coverage for the nation's uninsured.


 -- By Jason Smathers

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 8:35 PM 

Moore derides Walker's belief in limited government considering his policies

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore of Milwaukee chided Gov. Scott Walker for his claims to believe in limited government and freedom.

She said Walker has waged a war against women, school-aged children, seniors, the working poor, the environment and public transportation “all in the name of freedom and limited government.”

Moore slammed his “abusive, malicious and radical right-wing” agenda that includes legislation requiring an ultrasound before a woman can obtain an abortion and for those doctors who perform that procedure to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

“You know what I say to my buddy Scott? I say, Scott, if you believe so strongly in limited government, please get out of our uteruses,” she said.

Moore also got in a dig at Walker over his lack of a college degree. The congresswoman said she would have told Walker “if he had been better educated” that he can’t add jobs to Wisconsin’s economy by taking away opportunities.

That includes his position against accepting federal money to build a high-speed rail line between Madison and Milwaukee and to expand the Medicaid program.

Instead, she said Walker believes in a trickle-down approach. But she said Wisconsinites have been standing in a drought under Walker’s policies.

“Our economy grows from the middle out, not from the top down,” Moore said.

-- By JR Ross

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 8:16 PM 

Pocan hits at "do-nothing" congressional GOP, Walker

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan did start his speech by praising the ruling that struck down the gay marriage ban in Wisconsin, but he spent far more time targeting Rep. Paul Ryan and Gov. Scott Walker.

Pocan said Republicans in the House have spent more time trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act than passing actual legislation, citing the 54 votes in the House to repeal the health law and the 88 bills passed in Congress during the this session.

He also dismissed the notion that Ryan, who crafted a good deal of GOP budget proposals, is a respected and well-rounded policy wonk. He pointed to attempts to gut the ACA while retaining much of the tax revenue it produced, which he called a "two-trillion dollar 'uh-oh.'"

"You can't be a budget wonk if... your math is so fuzzy, that if it was fruit in your refrigerators, you would throw it out," Pocan joked.

Pocan then hammered Walker for his numerous out-of-state trips, arguing that he has spent too much time running for president in 2016 and not enough working for the state of Wisconsin. He asked the crowd if Walker flew more miles than the number of jobs he's created. He also announced a contest to guess the number of miles he's flown across the country.

He said Walker's term has hurt the state's place on the national stage.

"We're not a purple state because of our politics...If we look purple, it's because Scott Walker has damaged and bruised our reputation on a quest to get himself elected as president.:


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 7:54 PM 

Tate calls on Walker, Van Hollen to stand down on gay marriage ruling

State Dem Chair Mike Tate called on Gov. Scott Walker and AG J.B. Van Hollen to “stand down” and allow a federal judge’s decision overturning Wisconsin’s gay marriage ban to move forward.

Tate, who led the effort to fight the gay marriage amendment in 2006, called on Republicans to “stop trampling on the rights” of gay couples. He noted Pope Francis said, “Who am I to judge?” when asked about gay priests.

“Scott Walker, J.B. Van Hollen, who are you to judge?” Tate asked. “Stand down, let the inevitable march of progress continue, and let it continue on our soil.”

Tate spent much of his speech knocking the direction Wisconsin has taken under Walker, saying his time in statewide office has been marked by criminal investigations. He said Walker has tried his best to tell voters that “everything is great.”

“Scott Walker, we invite you to keep talking the talk because you have no idea what is going to hit you when Wisconsin learns that Mary Burke actually walks the walk,” he said.

-- By JR Ross

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 7:38 PM 

Barrett: 'I'm here for you'

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he wasn't here to make a speech, but rather, an extended thank you.

The former failed gubernatorial candidate said that while several other speakers spend time promoting themselves, he joked that he had tried that before. Instead, he said he was there to thank the activists of the state who make the party work.

"We're never going to match the GOP in money," Barrett said. "The only way were going to beat them is because we have more heart and soul than they do."

Barrett then took time to criticize the GOP convention last month, making light of platform debates on issues like secession.

"I swear to God, on a daily basis, people come up to me and ask, "When is Wisconsin going to secede from the United States,'" Barrett said sarcastically.

Barrett also urged delegates to vote for Mary Burke, but refused to name her opponent, Gov. Scott Walker by name. Instead, he likened Walker to the coach of a 9th place Wisconsin Badgers team who is trying to get a job coaching the Packers, referencing Walker's potential candidacy as President in 2016.

"We need a new coach," Barrett said.

--Jason Smathers

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 7:36 PM 

Lehman says he, Burke would spend next four years committed to Wisconsin

Lt. guv hopeful John Lehman told delegates he and Mary Burke would make a commitment to Wisconsin voters that they would spend the next four years focused on Wisconsin if elected, a promise that he says Gov. Scott Walker refuses to embrace.

“We believe that when you ask voters for their commitment that they deserve a commitment in return,” Lehman said, a reference to Walker's refusal to commit to serving a full term with speculation about his presidential ambitions swirling.

The Dem state senator knocked a promise Walker made to voters to create 250,000 new jobs during his first term, saying he wanted to be held to the promise when he made it and called it a minimum, not a limit. He said Walker has since changed his tune and now says voters will not hold him to that promise and will overlook his failure.

“Mary Burke and I have a stronger opinion of the people of Wisconsin,” he said.

Lehman, of Racine, noted Wisconsin is 35th in the nation on job creation, ninth in the Midwest. And he said Wisconsin has trailed Minnesota for job growth 12 straight quarters.

“If the Badgers lost to the Gophers three years in a row, we’d be looking for a new coach,” Lehman said. “Scott Walker and assistant coach Rebecca Kleefisch have to go.”

Lehman said Walker “dropped a bomb” on Dems, who got off their backs, dusted themselves off, and found “the answer to divide and conquer is unite and fight.”

“We are Badgers, we’re Democrats and now we are united behind Mary Burke, and we will fight with all our energy for the state we love,” he said.

-- By JR Ross

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 7:26 PM 

Larson touts Senate minority fight in Legislature, ballot box

Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson noted that Democrats are only two votes away from swinging momentum toward progressive policies and asked delegates to help oust "extreme" Republicans.

Larson began discussing the contrast between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate by referencing the infamous incident where Senate President Mike Ellis broke his gavel during a controversial vote on legislation requiring an ultrasound before an abortion.

"You all remember that last June when Sen. Mike Ellis broke his gavel trying to silence us and silence you from being heard on a bill that would force medically unnecessary ultrasounds on the women of our state," Larson said.

"But did you sit down?" he asked, as the audience responded with a solid "No."

He also highlighted the slow job growth under Gov. Scott Walker and the new law that will limit absentee voting hours and eliminate Saturday absentee voting. He contrasted those policies with Dems' attempts to restore funding for public schools and to establish accountability standards for publicly funded schools, including voucher schools.

"Democrats in the Senate are fighting for everyone's freedom to achieve the American Dream, not just the richest," Larson said.

Larson then moved on to talk about their top races across the state, saying Penny Bernard Schaber's momentum in the 19th SD led to the GOP pushing Ellis out of the race. Ellis decided not to run after he appeared on a hidden video discussing a possibly illegal campaign finance scheme.

He also cited the need to oust "the divisive" Sen. Frank Lasee. He also joked about the allegation Dems have made that he lives in Racine and not in his district, saying that Lasee is someone residents "have been sick and tired of not seeing in their neighborhoods."

"Remember, we're only two votes down," Larson ended. "They wouldn't hear you at the Capitol, but they'll hear you in their districts."

-- By Jason Smathers

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 7:06 PM 

Barca proclaims 'winds of change' blowing

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca proclaimed the “winds of change” are blowing in Dems’ favor as he addressed the state convention.

Barca noted two positive developments for Dems, one today’s federal court ruling overturning the state ban on gay marriage. The other is a recent Marquette University Law School poll that found Dem guv hopeful Mary Burke tied with Gov. Scott Walker among registered voters.

“The winds of change are blowing, and I like the way they’re blowing,” Barca said.

The Kenosha Dem described the Dem winds as “warm and positive and blowing in the right direction.” He then pointed to the GOP convention last month, where he said the “cold, bitter winds of extremism” dominated.

He said Walker has been in a fight with the Wall Street Journal, which has been critical of the guv over reports his attorney negotiated with prosecutors in an attempt to settle a John Doe probe.

Barca also noted GOP convention delegates floated no-confidence votes for Republican state lawmakers and pointed out Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, faces a primary challenge.

“You’ve got to watch this extremism. It goes in wild directions,” Barca said.

He also attributed the decisions of 15 GOP lawmakers -- one fourth of the Assembly Republican caucus -- to retire rather than seek re-election this fall to the party’s extremism. 

“It’s like rats leaving the ship just before it sinks,” Barca said, adding it “gives us great opportunities this fall.” Seven of the 39 Dem members are not seeking re-election with five running for another office.

-- By JR Ross

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 6:30 PM 

WisPolitics.com straw poll to gauge delegates' preferences for guv, lt. guv, AG and president

Voting is now open in the WisPolitics.com straw poll at this year's Democratic State Convention. This year's straw poll measures support for several statewide offices on the ballot this fall, plus possible presidential contenders in 2016.

Delegates, alternates and registered guests are eligible to vote in the poll. See the categories and candidates below:

GOVERNOR - 2014
* Mary Burke
* Brett Hulsey

LT. GOVERNOR - 2014
* John Lehman
* Mary Jo Walters

ATTORNEY GENERAL - 2014
* Susan Happ
* Ismael Ozanne
* Jon Richards

PRESIDENT - 2016
* Joe Biden
* Hillary Clinton
* Andrew Cuomo
* Kirsten Gillibrand
* Amy Klobuchar
* Martin O'Malley
* Deval Patrick
* Brian Schweitzer
* Mark Warner
* Elizabeth Warren


 6:09 PM 

Tate gavels in the Dem convention

The convention is underway, but it's a bit hard to take a picture in this dark room. So, in lieu of a blurry photo of the room, here's a blurry photo of a man dressed as a donkey.


As of 5:30 p.m., there are 654 delegates and guests present, though they say they intend to have around 1,000 people here tomorrow morning.

-- By Jason Smathers

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 6:00 PM 

Hulsey still campaigning at Dem convo, with checks and special hat

While Rep. Brett Hulsey doesn't have a speaking slot, he is meandering around the convention hall this afternoon, handing out fake checks criticizing Gov. Scott Walker's fiscal practices and saying hi to delegates.

"They let me into the hotel this time, so that's progress," Hulsey said.

While he's not dressed in any historically themed costume this time, he did come with an "Undemocratic Party" hat for Dem guv candidate Mary Burke.



"It's a Chinese party hat," Hulsey said. "We know that Mary Burke outsourced, and the Burke family outsourced, most of the Trek manufacturing to China, but she's importing Chinese Communist-style party politics by trying to crush anyone who doesn't agree with her here today."

Hulsey said that he intends to stay only through tonight, as he wants to return to Madison tomorrow in time to attend the "Cars on State" classic car show (he uses that mention to note that his convertible is still running after he welded his muffler back on to the car). But, he notes, "plans can change."

-- By Jason Smathers

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 4:37 PM 

Dems praise ruling striking down gay marriage ban

Dem party members were still trickling into the convention hall as news spread of the ruling from Judge Barbara Crabb striking down the state's gay marriage ban.

Dem Party Chair Mike Tate said the ruling was especially important to him, given his work for Fair Wisconsin to try and defeat the ban when it was put on the ballot in 2006.

"I think that as we gather here today to talk about what we're going to be able to accomplish 151 days from now, giving Wisconsin a fresh start, this is really going to add fuel to the fire of why we need to keep working hard to make progressive change. Today's a historic ruling that we are going to treat our citizens the same as just about every other state in the Midwest does. That you love who you love and have that recognized by the government is huge."

Two of the AG candidates also praised the ruling, though both said they hadn't seen the specifics since the news had literally just broken.

One member of the LGBT caucus said its members were discussing strategy when someone burst into the room screaming "We won." The caucus subsequently called it a day on the meeting given the celebratory mood.

We'll add reaction from the two openly gay members of the congressional delegation -- Rep. Mark Pocan and Sen. Tammy Baldwin -- once we can grab them; they were heading off to other interviews when WisPolitics tried to get reaction to the ruling.

UPDATE: A quote from Pocan: "I was ecstatic to hear the news, we've been seeing this happen across the country, and when states like Utah are doing this, clearly, Wisconsin is a bit behind the curve and I'm glad that now we're brought into the states that are recognizing full marriage equality."

-- By Jason Smathers

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 2:36 PM 

Hulsey to hand out 'checks' at convention

Dem guv hopeful Brett Hulsey, denied a speaking spot at the convention and fighting an attempt to kick him off the ballot, said he will be in the Wisconsin Dells this afternoon to hand out $2.1 billion checks to party activists representing his "Get Wisconsin Working Again Plan."

Husley wrote in a text to WisPolitics.com that he would "show people what a real Democrat looks like."

He said in a follow-up phone call that he planned to attend one meeting this afternoon, do a radio show and then hand out checks to activists.

Earlier in the week, Hulsey said he planned to hand out "Undemocratic Party" hats that he said would resemble the Chinese Communist hats with a red star on the front. But he said today he didn't think he needed those to get his point across.

-- By JR Ross

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 2:31 PM 

GOP puts up billboard ahead of convention, DNC fires back

The state GOP put up a billboard on I-94 between Milwaukee and Madison greeting those on their way to the Dem State Convention with a knock on Mary Burke over jobs.

The billboard says there were 133,000 jobs lost under Gov. Jim Doyle and Burke while Wisconsin has created 100,000 jobs under Gov. Scott Walker. On the right side of the billboard the message reads, "Moving Forward with Scott Walker."

A GOP spokesman said the billboard is located on I-94 so those traveling from Milwaukee to Madison can see it. The party also hoped to have one up in the Dells at some point today or tomorrow.

The DNC quickly fired back that the billboard has two "swings and misses." The party noted Wisconsin PolitiFact rated the claim that Doyle's policies led to 133,000 jobs lost as "mostly false," while pointing out Walker promised to create 250,000 new jobs in his first term and that he is unlikely to meet his pledge.

"The kicker: In fact, under Walker’s leadership there are less Wisconsinites employed now than under Mary Burke’s leadership at Wisconsin Department of Commerce. Bravo WisGOP. Bravo," the party wrote in an email to reporters.

-- By JR Ross

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Tuesday, June 03, 2014

 12:32 PM 

Hulsey asks to speak at convention, party says spots reserved for 'serious' candidates

State Rep. Brett Hulsey today asked the Dem Party and guv rival Mark Burke to allow him to speak at this weekend’s state convention, citing his long record of service with the party.

In a release Hulsey sent the media along with the letter, he also called himself the “real” Dem in the race.

But party spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said speaking roles at convention are “reserved for serious candidates.”

The party’s administrative committee endorsed Burke for the party’s nomination. As part of that decision, Chair Mike Tate said last month Hulsey would not be allowed to address the convention, though he could attend like anyone else so long as he didn’t cause a disruption. 

Baldauff said today the party is united behind Burke, who will address the convention Friday night.

“[W]e won't compromise the convention experience for Democrats who wish to have a serious conversation about our state by shining a spotlight on a non-serious campaign full of press stunts,” Baldauff said.

Burke’s campaign declined comment.

-- By JR Ross

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