SAMPLE: WisPolitics MON AM Update -- 14 April 2014

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-- U.S. Rep. Tom Petri will formally announce his retirement today at a town hall meeting in Neenah as a potentially crowded field positions for an August primary in the 6th CD.

Sens. Glenn Grothman and Rep. Duey Stroebel are declared candidates, but others are mulling a bid, including Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Joe Leibham, former U.S. Senate candidate Tim Michels, and Scott Walker ally John Hiller.

Had Petri run, he could have used a warchest of almost $1 million.

His latest fundraising report shows him raising $68,941 in the first quarter of 2014.

Petri spent $33,321 in the three-month period and finished March with $992,596 in the bank.

-- Stroebel announced his bid over the weekend.

Stroebel's Saturday announcement came one day after Petri's office said the 35-year incumbent wouldn't seek re-election this fall.

Stroebel, who announced last month he was considering a bid, said he's "committed to running a strong, well-financed campaign based on conservative principles that put power back into the hands of the people."

Longtime GOP operative Darrin Schmitz is working with Stroebel's campaign.

Grothman, R-West Bend, was the first to announce a bid, while Hiller, a former campaign treasurer for Gov. Scott Walker, said late Friday he has formed an exploratory committee to look at a bid.

See the Election Blog for more:

-- The GOP also is searching for a candidate to replace state Sen. Mike Ellis, who's giving up on a re-election bid after decades in the Legislature.

Former GOP state Rep. Michelle Litjens appears to have taken her name out of the mix for the 19th SD, while former state Treasurer Jack Voight says he'll consider it.

Litjens, who represented an Assembly seat in the Fox Valley district for one term, tweeted late Friday, "Thanks friends for encouraging me (& haters for inspiring me) to run but I have a few years till my youngest graduates. Then I'll be back."

Voight, a Republican who lost his re-election bid in 2006 and has flirted with several runs since then, said he's received encouragement to look at the Senate race since Ellis, R-Neenah, announced Friday he won't seek re-election.

"I'm piqued at the idea of being a candidate," Voight said.

Other potential candidates include former Reps. Roger Roth and Steve Wieckert as well as current state Rep. Dave Murphy.

State Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber, D-Appleton, is the declared Dem in this fall's race.

See more on Ellis in the "UpFront from Mike Gousha" summary below.

See Litjens' tweet:

-- Former Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan has withdrawn his lobbying license as he considers a bid for the 15th Senate District., being vacated by Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville.

Sheridan, who has been lobbying for the state AFL-CIO, would become part of a three-way primary in August.

-- Austin Scieszinski, a project manager at his family's real estate investment company, announced he'll run for the open 15th SD as a Dem.

Scieszinski previously served as an aide to Cullen and was his campaign manager in 2010.

He joins state Rep. Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville, in the race for the district, which includes Janesville and the area to the north and west of the city.

"Our state's Capitol has become a dysfunctional and fiercely partisan place," Scieszinski said. "We must work to change the way the Capitol operates, but to do so, we cannot keep sending the same folks back to Madison. It is time to send a fresh face, a new generation of leader to the Legislature."

See the release:

-- Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley touted Mary Burke's candidacy for Wisconsin's chief executive, calling Gov. Scott Walker "a devoted follower of trickle-down economics if ever there was one."

O'Malley, who spoke in Milwaukee at the Democratic Party of Wisconsin's 2014 Founder's Day Gala, said, "Prosperity doesn't trickle down from the top, and it never has."

Like Walker, O'Malley's name has been mentioned as a possible 2016 presidential candidate.

Burke, meanwhile, declared she's not afraid to take on Walker.

"Walker's game plan is to raise tens of millions of dollars from out-of-state millionaires and billionaires and to buy our governorship," said Burke. "They will throw at me every lie and dirty trick in the book. This is a tough fight -- the lies, the attack ads, the millions of dollars from super PACs. But I can tell you, not only am I not intimidated, I'm having fun. So, my message to Scott Walker: 'Game on.'"

See more:

-- Walker will sign AB 768 today, creating a Marquette University Police Department.

Following the signing ceremony on campus, Walker will speak at the Door County Economic Development Conference in Sturgeon Bay before heading to Oshkosh for a jobs announcement at DealerFire.

-- Conservative radio host Jerry Bader says there's "no want for suspects" behind the release of a video that prompted the retirement of state Sen. Mike Ellis late last week.

"Mike has ruffled a lot of feathers over the years," Bader, of WTAQ in Green Bay, told "UpFront with Mike Gousha."

There has been "rampant speculation" the video, which shows Ellis discussing a potentially illegal campaign scheme, came from fellow conservatives, Bader said on the program, produced in partnership with

"It's conjecture whether this really did come from the right," Bader said. "If it was (a conservative) and they didn't think to that next step, 'Gee, who are we going to run,' that was a pretty stupid move."

Ellis's quick exit was unsurprising, according to Bader, who said it would have been "virtually impossible" for the longtime Republican lawmaker from Neenah to win this fall after the video's release. Bader also gave Dem state Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber, D-Appleton, the edge for the 19th Senate District this fall.

"This particular seat, I think, is now in play," Bader said. "You have to call it left leaning, as of today, because you don't have a Republican candidate."

According to Bader, despite Ellis's differences with fellow conservatives, his retirement is a loss for the party.

"Even if the Republican, whoever that turns out to be, does defeat Penny Bernard Schaber, you don't have that longtime, powerful senator there," Bader said.

-- Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb said the future could be bumpy for Wisconsin drivers.

"If we don't find some sort of adequate and sustainable system for financing transportation, I think people are going to see continuing degradation of our pavements," Gottlieb said. "They're not going to see as much relief from congestion as we'd like to deliver either."

Although highways benefitted from a 4 percent increase in this state budget, Gottlieb said infrastructure funding fails to adequately cover the costs of maintenance. In response, his office is conducting a series of town hall meetings to discuss options.

Gottlieb said the DOT is also looking at tactics used by other states, including reducing dependence on user fees, like the diminishing fuel sales tax, and drawing more from the general fund.

"Good investments in transportation bring economic growth, they bring jobs, and they bring economic prosperity," Gottlieb said. "Fixing the transportation problem could become part of a much larger tax reform package."

According to Gottlieb, Gov. Scott Walker supports the idea of investing in infrastructure. Pointing to the new Amazon distribution center in Kenosha, Gottlieb said the retail giant selected the location because of its proximity to a good transportation system.

He said he the DOT will undergo upgrades as well.

"Obviously no one wants to pay more," Gottlieb said. "Before we can ask people for new money, we want to make sure that we're functioning as a transparent and accountable agency."

-- Dem challenger Kelly Westlund expressed confidence at her chances of beating two-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy in the 7th CD.

Although the seat was long held by Dem David Obey, the district's boundaries have since changed. Duffy succeeded Obey in 2011.

"Even though the lines have been redrawn, it only changed the district by about 1.8 percent," Westlund said. "The seventh has a long history of being a progressive and populist-focused area, so I'm feeling pretty good about it."

Westlund cited polls conducted last fall, which projected a Democratic challenger besting Duffy by 4 percentage points. She credited the results to voters upset over the government shutdown, and Duffy's role in that.

A self-described proponent of raising the minimum wage, Westlund also supports an extension to unemployment insurance.

"There are three people out of work for every job that's available in this country," Westlund said. "By cutting off those long-term benefits, that's literally taking the spending power away from a significant number of people in this country."

The Ashland City Council member also expressed support for the Affordable Care Act and predicted the conversation about Obamacare will change following the last-minute rise in enrollment. She said the law leaves room for improvement, adding she'd like to see Medicare changes that would allow negotiation for drug prices.

"Walmart can, the VA can, why not Medicare?" questioned Westlund. "It's something that could save American taxpayers $160 billion over the next 10 years."

Westlund slammed Duffy for voting with the Tea Party, saying he "talks like a moderate" when in his home district.

"Too often we see that Congressman Duffy says one thing to his constituents here, but then he votes with his campaign funders when he gets back to Washington," Westlund said. "I'm more interested in talking about the influence of money in our political process."

See more from the show:



U.S. Rep. Tom Petri won't seek re-election
U.S. Rep. Tom Petri said Friday he will not run for re-election, giving the tea party an eye-popping victory in forcing out two Republicans decried as moderates on a single day. Petri, 73, has been a congressman since 1979 representing east-central Wisconsin but was facing a strong GOP primary challenger. He announced the move only hours after state Senate President Mike Ellis (R-Neenah) -- another GOP official who spent a generation in office -- made a similar announcement. Petri will hold a formal event Monday in Neenah to mark his decision, which comes a week after state Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) said he was taking on the congressman. Grothman, who learned of Petri's move from a reporter, said he was committed to staying in the race but that Petri's decision made it "harder."

State Rep. Duey Stroebel to make run for Tom Petri's seat in Congress
The line of candidates seeking to replace retiring Republican congressman Tom Petri is getting a little longer. State Rep. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, announced Saturday that he's running for the seat because he wants to bring strong conservative principles to Washington. He joins another outspoken conservative, state Sen. Glenn Grothman, who had previously said he was going to challenge Petri in a Republican primary. Petri, 73, a relative moderate in an increasingly conservative GOP, said Friday that he would not seek re-election for the 6th District seat he has held for 35 years. Two other Republicans considering a run are state Sen. Joe Leibham, R-Sheboygan, and John Hiller, a confidant of Gov. Scott Walker.

State Sen. Mike Ellis will not run for re-election
State Sen. Mike Ellis told Post-Crescent Media today that he will not run for re-election in November, saying it's time to yield his seat to someone who's better prepared to deal with "new-era politics and the culture of gotcha." Earlier this week, a secretly recorded videotape was released showing Ellis talking about illegal fundraising and attack ads. Ellis said the videotape was the last straw in his growing frustration with the current political climate. "The videotape definitely said, 'Hey, get out of here. You don't fit anymore,'" Ellis said. Ellis, 73, will finish out his current term, which runs through the end of the year. He has served in the Senate since 1982 and served in the Assembly from 1970 to 1982. Ellis, R-Neenah, would have faced state Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber, D-Appleton, in the Senate election.

As campaign season kicks off, Republicans in firm control of Legislature
As the fall campaign season kicks off Tuesday, Democrats face a monumental challenge in trying to wrest control of the Legislature from Republicans. The GOP is a lock to retain a majority in the Assembly, while Democrats see their best chances to make inroads in a handful of Senate races -- a prospect that became more realistic when the state's political landscape shifted Friday with the announcement that Republican Senate President Mike Ellis and U.S. Rep. Tom Petri are retiring. If Democrats win the Senate, they could stymie a Republican agenda that has included broad tax cuts, private school voucher expansion, abortion regulations, new voting rules and limits on public sector collective bargaining.

Paul Ryan tells Iowa GOP: Give up infighting for Lent
Republican budget wizard Paul Ryan called on Iowa conservatives to "unify, unify" after the primary votes in two months, regardless of who the GOP federal candidates end up being. "This is the Lenten season -- I'm also a Catholic -- so you have to give up something during Lent," the potential 2016 presidential candidate told a long-fractured Iowa GOP during a party fundraiser in Cedar Rapids on Friday night. "Here's what I suggest we give up: Let's try to give up the infighting. Let's give up the tunnel vision. Let's give up the acrimony." Ryan alternated between making the audience laugh and gently scolding them. "Iowans, you have a unique and disproportionate influence," he said at the close of a 20-minute speech. "Thank you for the unification that's going to be coming after these primaries."

Rep. Bill Kramer due in court on sexual assault charges
Former state Assembly Majority Leader Bill Kramer is due in court on allegations that he groped a woman following a GOP fundraiser three years ago. The Republican Assemblyman is scheduled to make an initial appearance Monday morning. He's charged with two felony counts of second-degree sexual assault. A woman told investigators he shoved her against her car after a Republican event in 2011. She says he tried to kiss her, groped her breasts and told her he wanted to have sex with her. Kramer acknowledged to investigators that he kissed her good night but denies groping her. Republicans stripped Kramer of his leadership position last month. They've asked him to resign but won't push to expel him from office. Defense attorney James Gatzke says there's no need to rush judgment while the case is ongoing.

Gov. Scott Walker calls for additional 2-year UW tuition freeze
Gov. Scott Walker on Friday called for extending a tuition freeze at the University of Wisconsin System by two years, citing new figures that show the System should end this fiscal year with $1.1 billion left over. Republican legislative leaders promptly praised the move, while UW System President Ray Cross said he looked forward to discussing the issue with the governor and lawmakers. The current state budget already included a two-year tuition freeze for UW System, implemented last year after news of a large surplus drew sharp criticism from Republican leaders.

Wis. schools turn more often to voters for money
A growing number of Wisconsin school districts are asking to raise taxes to cover salaries, utilities and other basic costs, and voters are approving their requests at record rates. Some Republican lawmakers believe the referendums have given local residents greater control over spending, but education officials and many Democrats say the system has made schools less equitable at the expense of students in rural areas. They also say the need for repeated referendums has made it hard for schools and families to plan and created anxiety and instability in some communities. Voters approved 23 of the 35 referendums Wisconsin school districts placed on April 1 ballots to raise money for operating costs. They also approved 15 of 21 proposals to borrow money for construction, technology and other improvements. The approval rates were much higher than in previous elections, according to the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.

New, unused Talgo trains in Milwaukee could find a new home
Two brand new, high-speed passenger trains idling in a north side Milwaukee building that originally were manufactured for the state of Wisconsin by Spanish train-maker Talgo Inc. may soon be put to use. Michigan's Department of Transportation issued a request for proposals in March for ready-to-operate trains capable of 110 mph speeds for its Wolverine service between Chicago and Detroit for August delivery. While neither the agency nor Talgo would confirm the train-maker submitted a proposal, there aren't many companies with fully built trains sitting around. "The only modern trains available today within that short time frame are the Talgos," said Rick Harnish, executive director of the Chicago-based Midwest High Speed Rail Association.

Green Bay police union files suit in contract dispute
After more than two years of negotiation and arbitration, a contract battle between Green Bay and its union police officers has landed in court. The Green Bay Professional Police Association has filed suit accusing the city of violating state law in the way officials implemented a contract imposed by an arbitrator last fall. City attorneys are firing back that the union wants to undo the outcome of an arbitrated contract settlement on which police officers gambled and lost. The new court fight is the latest twist in a protracted tug-of-war that has pitted City Hall against the union representing 150 police employees, primarily over the issues of pay raises and retirement benefits.

Scott Walker given 180-day extension for Kenosha casino decision
Gov. Scott Walker can wait until after the November gubernatorial election to decide whether the Menominee tribe should be allowed to open a casino in Kenosha, as the federal government Friday gave him an additional six months to decide the controversial issue. Last August, the $800 million casino complex was approved by the U.S. Department of Interior. As a result, Walker -- who has unilateral authority to approve or kill the proposal -- was given until Aug. 23 of this year to make a decision. The governor, with the support of the tribe, this year asked Interior for additional time to study various claims about the impact the off-reservation casino would have on existing Indian casinos and the communities involved. The governor now has until Feb. 19, 2015, to decide the issue.



- 4:45 p.m.: Fundraising reception for Rep. John Nygren, Rock Garden Supper Club, 1951 Bond St., Green Bay

- 5 p.m.: Campaign kick-off fundraiser for Rep. Chris Sinicki, St. Francis Brewery, 3825 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., St. Francis

Business Events

- 11:30 a.m.: Snap-on Inc. hosts Lockheed Martin F-35 demonstration, 2801 80th St., Kenosha


- 4 p.m.: U.S. Rep. Petri town hall meeting, City Hall, 211 Walnut St., Neenah

- 5:30 p.m.: U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson town hall meeting, Waukesha County Technical College, 800 Main St., Pewaukee

- 7 p.m.: Edgewood College lecture: "The Racial and Class Politics of Mass Incarceration," Anderson Auditorium, 1000 Edgewood College Drive, Madison

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