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Kestell Announces He Won’t Seek Re-Election

Well, heads up to Wisconsin Election Watch, they had this rumor over a month ago. (Disclaimer: I occasionally write for them, but did nothing on this subject)

This now makes the third Republican retirement from the Assembly for Sheboygan Co.  The 27th (where my parents live) includes the lower third of Manitowoc Co. and the northern part of Sheboygan Co.  It should be a Republican hold, but I’m unsure who the bench is at the moment.

The last one who considered challenging Kestell in a primary was Sheboygan Falls Mayor Randy Meyer, and he’s facing re-election today.

Just over a month ago, Rep. Steve Kestell said he hadn’t yet decided whether to seek re-election to his 27th Assembly District seat.

Kestell, R-Elkhart Lake, has now decided, and the answer is no.

In a release sent to media Tuesday afternoon, Kestell, 58, said his decision has the blessing of his family.

“During my years in the state Legislature, I’ve worked every day to uphold the belief that elected officials should strive to do the right thing, for the right reason, and in the right way,” he said. “I am proud of what we’ve accomplished together, and I look forward to new challenges as the future unfolds.”

Kestell, who serves as chairman of the Assembly Education Committee, was on the forefront of the push this winter against a Republican bill that would have created sanctions for poorly performing public schools and private schools that accept taxpayer-subsidized students.

Republicans ultimately dropped the plan and instead adopted a bill that would require all schools that accept public dollars to include performance data on report cards the public can view.

Kestell was first elected to his seat in 1998.

That being said, if Jack Lechler is the best RACC can come up with on short notice, I’m going to bang my head against the wall.

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Bies Announces Retirement from Legislature

Sturgeon Bay will need a new state rep. soon.  Gary Bies is hanging it up.

Though there has been some change in voting trends in Door County in recent years, I really don’t see Republicans losing this seat.

Madison… “Tomorrow I will file my Notice of Non-Candidacy to seek an eighth term in the state Assembly.

“I am very grateful to the citizens of the First Assembly District who’ve supported me with their vote to be their Representative for the past 7 terms.

“With your encouragement and prayers we have accomplished many things both large and small to make our state and district a better place to live, work and enjoy. I thank you for the opportunity to have served you for the past 14 years.

“God Bless you, the State of Wisconsin and the United States of America.”

Bies joins Cascade’s Dan LeMahieu as another recent retirement announcement.  That seat too, the 58th, will likely stay in Republican hands.

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30 Pieces of Silver Paid in Full, Wirch Gets Spot on JFC

The biggest shock here isn’t that Wirch is on Joint Finance.

It’s that incoming minority leader Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) bounced off Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) to put Wirch on and decided to keep La Crosse’s Jen Shilling — who was a mainstay during her Assembly days — on instead.

A Democratic senator said to have changed his vote for his party’s leader snagged a coveted appointment Wednesday on the Legislature’s powerful budget committee.

Sen. Bob Wirch (D-Somers) and Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) were chosen to serve on the Joint Finance Committee by incoming Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee). Earlier this month, Larson beat his Democratic colleague Jon Erpenbach of Middleton in a race for minority leader.

After the vote, Erpenbach’s backers concluded Sen. Bob Wirch (D-Pleasant Prairie) had voted for Larson after saying he would vote for Erpenbach. One of them had noticed Wirch had folded his ballot multiple times and was able to tell which ballot was cast by Wirch after the fact.

Justin Sargent, Larson’s chief of staff, said that the Milwaukee Democrat hadn’t considered the recent leadership vote in deciding on the committee appointments. Shilling, who had run for assistant minority leader and lost to Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay), was seen as being aligned with Erpenbach.

Under the soon-to-be replaced legislature, Taylor is the current co-chair of Joint Finance with soon-to-be Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington).  What exactly did she do to Larson to not only lose her seniority from the committee, but to be bounced completely.

There’s got to be a story behind that right there.  Is it because the two don’t get along — a theory I don’t buy — or because the two faced off against each other in the primaries of Milwaukee Assembly Districts where Larson (and WEAC) was seeking to replace many African American incumbents who Taylor was close with?

It’s probably the latter, but the truth is, we’ll never know.  He’s only has two spots to fill, and probably has a litany of reasons not to give each and every member of his caucus a spot on Joint Finance.

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Taxes are for Saps, Not Democratic Assembly Candidates

Never paid taxes except for once…around 25…

No wonder this is Chris Larson’s candidate of choice. (Via Dan Bice)

Mandela Barnes, a Democrat running for the state Assembly, wants to change the state’s tax policies.

“We have to implement a progressive tax rate that ensures that everyone pays their fair share,” Barnes told the Shepherd Express recently.

Not that Barnes knows much about paying Wisconsin taxes.

Records show that the Barnes, 25, has paid state income taxes only once. He forked over $534 to the state Department of Revenue in 2009, the same year he worked as a staff assistant/intern for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Barnes, who worked previously as lead organizer for the nonprofit Milwaukee Inner-City Congregations Allied for Hope, is challenging Rep. Jason Fields (D-Milwaukee) in a heated contest for the 11th Assembly District.

John Jacobson, a spokesman for Barnes’ campaign, said the Milwaukee Democrat didn’t pay taxes in most years because he was unemployed or working outside Wisconsin. He was claimed as a dependent, Jacobson said, on his parents’ income taxes for every year except 2009.

Note to self…if this jackass wins on Tuesday bring him up every single time the @$$-clowns at One Wisconsin Now get all high and mighty about any Republican office seeker and their taxes.

It’s the hypocrisy of it all mostly.

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Dominoes Begin to Topple in Madison Politics

Expected news.  Hell, I’ve written columns on this topic time and time again.

Democratic dominoes are expected to start falling soon after Labor Day with a series of campaign announcements from national and local candidates.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Madison is expected to officially enter the race for retiring U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl’s seat as early as next week. As soon as she does, state Reps. Mark Pocan and Kelda Helen Roys, both of Madison, are expected to announce their runs for Baldwin’s House seat.

Officials with all three camps are playing coy with the timing of the announcements, but their intentions are some of the worst-kept secrets in Wisconsin politics these days.

“Let’s just say, next week could be a very busy week for Democrats,” Pocan said.

Roys made similar comments to the State Journal this week.

“I’m very encouraged by all of the support I’ve received,” she said. “I plan to announce my plans next week.”

State Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, also is mulling a run.

“It’s not every day that a congressional seat comes up in Dane County,” he said.

But Erpenbach said there is nothing “magical” about next week and didn’t offer specifics about when he may make an announcement.

Pocan and Roys would be following the lead of Baldwin, 49, who served in the state Assembly before becoming a member of Congress. Baldwin was in the Assembly from 1992 until 1999, when she became a U.S. representative.

Pocan, 47, is a sign company owner first elected to the Assembly in 1998 and is widely considered to be one of the Democrats’ top strategists at the state Capitol.

Roys, 32, was first elected to the Assembly in 2008 and previously served as the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin.

Erpenbach, who was first elected to the state Senate in 1998, is one of the 14 Democratic senators who left the state in February to slow the progress of Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining bill. The group became frequent guests on national news talk shows. Erpenbach appeared on several shows, including memorable pieces on the Comedy Central shows “The Colbert Report” and “The Daily Show.”

Erpenbach’s running mostly because he’s got the free ride to do so this cycle.  Unlike Pocan and Roys who have to resign from the Assembly no matter what, “Erp” can still keep his day job if he loses.

Other names to be on the lookout for: former State Rep. Spencer Black (He retired in 2010), former Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, and probably a few others I haven’t thought of at this moment.

These decisions are going to cause immense turmoil in the strategy rooms of Madison — where all real power sits in Wisconsin Democratic circles (sorry Milwaukee) — as the AssDems deal with a cycle without Pocan in the driver’s seat, the Madison delegation is pulled apart with in-fighting for endorsements in the Congressional primary, and then folks on the city council, advocacy group ranks, or Dane County Board scrambling themselves to run for the suddenly open Assembly seats of Pocan and Roys.

No wonder there’s talk of Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca thinking of jumping into either the U.S. Senate race or placing himself as “the savior” in a possible Walker recall; it’s probably not worth leading a caucus on the verge of a decade in the minority.

(Insert your own line about rats and sinking ships here.)

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So after weeks and months of wondering when the Republican-led state legislature was going to unveil new district maps on Friday.  Some thoughts:

1) – Of course it’s a gerrymander…and I don’t care.

As someone who’s heard of the rumored “Chvala Map” and it being in the hands of either former State Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker (Chuck Chvala’s wife was on his state Senate staff) or Madison’s Jon Erpenbach, you know these ideas have been kicked around for years, by both sides.

You’re a naive, bumbling fool to think it’s only one side with “Evil, diabolical plans for total state political control” when it comes to redistricting.

2) – The Harping over the 7th is Hilarious.

I’ve said it before, but to watch the wailing and moaning from the likes of Dave Obey about his ex-district is funny.

For starter’s, it’s his ex-district!  If Dave is so worried about it, why did he retire from Congress boys and girls?!?  (Sorry, still too soon?)

Do parties do all they can to shore up incumbents and first term legislators?  Of course they do.

Heck, I remember once on a comment board at either the Appleton Post-Crescent or Green Bay Press-Gazette where some Democrats openly discussed how they needed to ensure after 2010 — if he was still in Congress, and he’s not — and they had control of redistricting, to make sure Democratically-packed Oshkosh was included in any new boundaries of the 8th District to make sure Steve Kagen was secure.

Anything less they said, would make Kagen a perpetual target of the GOP.

(Never did ask Jef Hall, failed 6th Congressional Candidate, Winnebago Co. Democratic Party Chair, 2nd Vice Chair of DPW, and an older brother’s ex-rommie about his take on those plans…)

3) – Action now sought by Democrats makes them look “A Day Late, and a Dollar Short.”

Wisconsin Democrats controlled the State Senate after the 2006 elections, they controlled the State Assembly after the 2008.  So any calls for any sort of “Redistricting Commission” right now are hollow.  Democrats had their chance to enact one when they ran Wisconsin government and they didn’t do it.

Perhaps some inquisitive reporter-types should ask this session’s commission pusher, Brett Hulsey (D-Madis0n), [Not to mention Mike McCabe or Jay Heck] why no one accomplished this when his party had total control of the legislature and the governor’s office?

Or do we already know the answer to that one?

4) – Movers and Realtors to Benefit.

Yeah, this happens often.  The question is now, do you want to fight it out in a primary or is moving just smarter to do.  I think Wigderson has a solid list of those who will be putting “Two Men and a Truck” on speed-dial.

That being said, the fact they redistricted Nusbaum out of the 2nd State Senate District by mere blocks is pretty damn funny.

5) – The Local Redistricting Argument is a Red Herring.

I think UW law professor Ann Althouse puts it best.  While allowing locals to redistrict first has been what’s worked in the past, we’ve also never seen local officials more than willing to play political games at the rate they are.  What’s to stop Democratic strongholds like Shorewood, Milwaukee, or Madison to intentionally slow down their own redistricting until after the recalls.

Two can always play any political game.

6) – Amazing How Easily DPW Forgets Illinois.

You want to see a gerrymander, look to the Land of Lincoln.

This is how the law works in a number of states.  Screaming, holding ones breath, and jumping up and down won’t change it.  Win elections, then you get to draw the lines!

 7) – The Kos Kids Continue to Amuse.

Was reading over at Gruber’s blog how someone at DailyKos was putting the new districts and comparing them to the 2008 election. For the life of me, I do not understand why anyone would want to use 2008 election data (or 2010 data either) to determine who will win a given district in Wisconsin.

The 2006 through 2010 elections were waves — we seem to be having a lot of those lately — and waves give horrible “normal data” when it comes to voting patterns.  My personal take would be to use either the 2004 Presidential or 2011 State Supreme Court elections as better markers since those were base vs. base elections and results in essentially ties in the state.

Maybe the state GOP should thank the Democrats for making the Prosser race close after all.

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Newcomer to Leave Assembly

This is expected news, with some expecting it would happen during this past weekend’s state GOP convention.  According to many posts by my friend James Wigderson, Newcomer’s personal life has become a mess (divorce, business struggles, etc.) and would have become a distraction to his service in the Assembly.

The seat is considered a safe hold for the GOP.

Another state lawmaker has decided to quit.

Rep. Scott Newcomer, a Hartland Republican, says in a statement he won’t seek re-election in November. He didn’t offer any reasons in the statement. A message left at his Capitol office wasn’t immediately returned.

Newcomer has served in the Assembly since 2006. He did a stint as chairman of the Assembly Financial Institutions Committee.

He becomes the 22nd legislator to bow out of the November elections, leaving 19 open seats in the Assembly and three open seats in the Senate. Democrats hold a 52-46 majority in the Assembly and an 18-15 edge in the Senate.

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Black Retiring from Assembly

With Black’s announcement, along with the announcement on Friday of Green Bay Republican Phil “Monty” Montgomery of his retirement, that now makes 20 Assembly seats which are now open by either retirement or the current officeholder seeking another office.

Democratic Rep. Spencer Black, who was first elected in 1984, told the Wisconsin State Journal on Sunday he will not seek re-election.

Black was recently a lead sponsor of a controversial clean energy bill calling for Wisconsin to get 25 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2025, which died without getting a vote in either house. On Sunday night, Black, 59, said the bill’s death was a disappointment, but it “really didn’t play a role” in his decision, which he said was a personal one. And he said he believes he could win re-election, yet thinks “it’s a good time to pass the torch.” He also spoke of accomplishments in the area of environmental protection, such as the statewide recycling law and a preservation effort known as the Stewardship Fund.

“As I did when I first ran for office, I continue to believe that nothing is more important to the long range future of our state and nation than protecting the air we breathe, the water we drink and the land we love,” he said in an e-mail.

Calling his ability to represent his neighbors “the greatest honor” of his life, Black spoke of his work on a mining moratorium law aimed at protecting the Wolf River, the state trails system, grants to protect endangered species, and a new ban on phosphorus in lawn fertilizer and detergents.

Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, called Black an irreplaceable environmental advocate who’s been at the forefront of countless conservation bills. “Outside of Gaylord Nelson, I can’t think of anyone who’s had a bigger influence on the environment in Wisconsin,” Pocan said.

No one is currently registered to run for Black’s seat representing the 77th Assembly District in the fall election, according to the Government Accountability Board website.

“Rep. Black has to know Assembly Democrats’ days in charge are numbered and there’s no doubt he doesn’t want to go back to the days where his far-left agenda gets neglected by more reasonable leadership,” said Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin.

There’s a lot of truth to what Chairman Priebus is saying about Black’s retirement.  It’s starting to look more and more, with the number of retirements, and the placement within leadership going after different offices (i.e. Nelson for Lt. Governor), that many of the AssDems are seeing the writing on the wall: They might not be running the place next year.

That being said, I believe that both parties should be able to easily hold the Montgomery and Black seats easily.

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Hilgenberg Not Seeking Re-Election

Had heard there was talk he wasn’t going to seek re-election, guess it was true.

Democratic state Rep. Steve Hilgenberg of Dodgeville is not seeking re-election.

The 65-year-old Hilgenberg announced Friday that he is not running due to health concerns.

Hilgenberg served two terms after being first elected in 2006.

Hilgenberg is the fourth Democrat and 11th Assembly member overall to announce they will not be seeking another term. Two Republicans and one Democrat in the state Senate are also not running for re-election.

Democrats hold a 52-46 majority in the Assembly and an 18-15 majority in the Senate.

What’s going to be interesting to watch this fall in the State Legislative races — beyond further retirements — is how the Democrats are going to be playing defense.  After winning both houses because of their back-to-back waves in 2006 and 2008, they now have the entire state legislature and governorship to defend (not to mention at least the Kagen seat).  Will it be an all-or-nothing approach where WEAC and the tribes to keep the Governor’s Mansion.

Or will they try to save at least one house of the legislature instead?

My guess, Democrats (and more than a few liberal bloggers) will take too much stock into the new Rasmussen poll and bet it all on Barrett.

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Wood Unable to Force Floor Vote on Own Expulsion

I’ve long thought that the move to expel Jeff Wood (I-Chippewa Falls) was useless, and that the guy should save us all from it by simply resigning.  Since Jeff Wood continues to prove he’s a amoral jackass by not resigning from the State Assembly, this little move doesn’t come off as a shock to me.

Rep. Jeff Wood early Friday morning failed in an effort to force a decision in his ethics case at a moment when the lawmaker leading it was preparing for his mother’s funeral.

The Assembly deadlocked 47-47 and did not take up the possible expulsion of the independent from Chippewa Falls, who racked up three intoxicated driving charges within a year. The vote required a two-thirds margin. If expelled, Wood would be the first lawmaker ousted from the Legislature by his colleagues in nearly a century.

Wood tried to compel a vote on his possible discipline at a moment when the lawmaker leading the effort against him, Rep. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater), was absent getting ready for his mother’s funeral to be held later Friday.

Democrats who voted to take up the matter said they wanted to vote for a lesser discipline than expulsion such as censure. Republicans said they would take the matter up on Tuesday when Nass returns.

Nass aide Mike Mikalsen denounced the move as “despicable,” saying Democrats and Wood put Republicans at a disadvantage because Nass knows more about the issue than other GOP colleagues.

“There was a decision to play politics while he was mourning the loss of his mother,” Mikalsen said.

Wood said on the floor he wasn’t trying to shut out Nass and instead wanted to resolve the matter ahead of a scheduled no-contest plea in one of his intoxicated driving cases Monday. He said it was a bad precedent for the Assembly to expel a member for conduct unrelated to his official duties.

“I’m not making excuses for what I did. I’ll face the consequences in the judiciary. But that’s the appropriate place for it,” said Wood, who declined to answer questions afterward.

What’s amazing in all this, is that in this entire time, neither Nass or Wood have squared off publicly about the expulsion measure.  You can see the 47-47 roll call here.

But to try to get to the floor on the eve of the night Nass is trying to bury his mother…classy move from an admitted drug addict.

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