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Those veterans that are out there in the Democrat Party, I question their, their cognitive thought process. Because the bottom line is, they’re signing up to defend the Constitution that their party is continually dragging through the mud.
– GOP U.S. Senate primary candidate Kevin Nicholson, arguing in a radio interview that serving in the military is a conservative act, regardless of how servicemembers identify politically. His comments came days after a debate in which Nicholson pointed to his military service in response to state Sen. Leah Vukmir questioning his conservative credentials.

It’s simply un-American to suggest that patriotism is partisan. For almost every member of the Armed Forces, for veterans, for military families, country comes before party, but apparently not for Kevin Nicholson. He should be ashamed.
– Tom Palzewicz, a Navy veteran and Dem challenger to GOP U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner. Following pushback, Nicholson said he would “never apologize” for not understanding how veterans can vote for Democrats.

It is beneath you to claim that legitimate comments about your statements in the public record are inadmissible because of your service. It flies in the face of decades of established political discourse.
– A letter from nine veterans supporting Vukmir, including Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and GOP state Rep. Ken Skowronski. The authors accused Nicholson, who served as president of the College Democrats of America in 2000, of trying to use his military service to shield himself from criticism about his Dem past.

Whom do you support in the GOP U.S. Senate Primary? Let us know in a new WisOpinion.com poll: https://www.wispolitics.com/2018/u-s-senate-republican-primary/

I tried to explain kind of the realities that are out there. It’s difficult to put a campaign together in three and a half months before a primary.
– U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Town of Vernon, describing his efforts to nudge Dem Rep. Peter Barca, a friend and former colleague in the state Legislature, against joining the Dem primary for the 1st CD. Pocan is backing ironworker Randy Bryce in the primary, which also includes teacher Cathy Myers.

I’ve been a member of Congress before so it’s not like I don’t understand what it takes to run a congressional race.
– Barca, who was the last Dem to hold the seat after winning it in a 1993 special election and then losing in the 1994 GOP wave. Barca said his conversation with Pocan was not contentious and he didn’t believe he was necessarily trying to dissuade him from running.

What good does it do if everyone just keeps their little secrets? How are we going to really understand that this affects all of us? I’ve seen it over and over again, the power of telling your story.
– U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, sharing for the first time publicly her mother’s struggles with mental illness and prescription drug addiction. Her mother died in August at age 75.

There are 300 million guns in America today — 300 million. They’re not going away. We have all kinds of gun control on the books and it hasn’t prevented these tragedies.
– U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, to a group of high schoolers in Kiel. He said the best way to combat threats to schools was more security and safety training.

If we do lose control of either of the two bodies, then you’ll have absolute gridlock. You’ll have gridlock, you’ll have subpoenas, you’ll have just the system shutting down.
– House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, on the prospect of Dems taking control of the Senate or House after the midterms. Ryan added, though, he doesn’t think the GOP will lose control.

–A collection of insider opinion–
(Apr. 28-May. 4, 2018)


Walker TV ads: Republicans have been hemorrhaging support nationally from suburban, educated women. So to the shock of almost no one, the guv’s first two TV ads of his re-election bid seem tailor made for that demographic. Big-picture, Walker backers say, the ads are the first examples of how the guv will lay out his successes in his paid media campaign to remind voters of what he’s accomplished. It’s been a common talking point for Walker that the media aren’t paying enough attention to the things that are going well in Wisconsin, so some see these ads as an attempt to do that. The first features a female EMT and firefighter who says the guv is “helping people like me get the training we need.” The second focuses on efforts to reduce opioid abuse and increase drug treatment. It’s a clear play for female voters in places such as Wauwatosa who have voted for him in the past, but aren’t thrilled with what’s going on in Washington, D.C., with President Trump in office, analysts say. The guv’s wins in 2010, 2012 and 2014 haven’t been overwhelming — 52.3 percent to 53.1 percent, insiders note. Thus, he can’t afford to lose many voters who have backed him in the past, particularly with Dem enthusiasm up. To Dems, the ads are a sign Walker is seeing the same polling as everyone else and knows he’s vulnerable. They want to know where Walker’s ad buys goes from here — the liberal One Wisconsin Now pegs it at about $1.5 million through early July; one question among insiders is: will Walker stay up on the air through the summer? If he doesn’t — and no outside groups are providing air cover for him — some will question if it’s a reflection of his fundraising. There are also those who believe even if Walker has the money, staying up through the summer months may not be the best use of resources considering voters often tune out. Meanwhile, the Tom Barrett watch continues. Since the Milwaukee mayor’s musing about a run for guv broke more than two weeks ago, it’s largely gone quiet. Dems say Barrett is still making calls, but insiders see no overt signs that a campaign operation is being built to prepare for a late entry. The rest of the Dem field, meanwhile, waits impatiently for a formal announcement, seeing the talk as an unneeded distraction unless Barrett actually pulls the trigger. Everybody will know by June 1, the filing deadline and the start of the state Dem convention.

Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty: Over the past four years, lawmakers are 0-for-3 in lawsuits filed seeking records from their offices, the latest loss resulting in a tab of $1,800 for taxpayers after Rep. Jonathan Brostoff, D-Milwaukee, reaches a settlement with the conservative group. WILL originally sued Brostoff because he declined to provide emails to a WILL researcher in electronic form, instead printing off thousands of pages and charging $3,240. That prompted the February lawsuit that led to the settlement covering WILL’s court costs and attorney fees. Brostoff said he was acting on the advice of the Assembly chief clerk, adding he and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos should review the policy. The lawmaker also hits WILL as a right-wing group going after a “strong, progressive Democrat.” WILL fires back that Brostoff played fast and loose with the rules and got caught. He’s not the only one. A Dane County judge in January ruled GOP state Rep. Scott Krug, of Nekoosa, should have given a journalist electronic copies of records, but instead wanted to provide 1,500 pages on a per-page fee. Though the state decided to settle the Brostoff case, DOJ in March appealed the ruling against Krug. A DOJ spokesman said both lawsuits sought to challenge the Assembly policy and the agency did not want to waste taxpayer resources fighting a second case on the same issue.


Wisconsin judicial nominees: Mike Brennan’s nomination to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals appears on track for a vote in the U.S. Senate. Fellow Milwaukee attorney Gordon Giampietro’s nomination for the federal bench, however, continues to face a roadblock with U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who is pushing the White House to rescind the nod. Brennan’s confirmation vote has seemed like a good bet ever since Judiciary Chair Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, made clear he would no longer always respect the Senate’s “blue slip” tradition on appeals court nominees. That power has allowed home-state senators of judicial nominees to block them from getting to a hearing. But with that out of the way and a mere majority needed to confirm Brennan, it appears he has a path to the appeals court in Chicago unless some GOP senators break ranks. First up will be a cloture vote sometime next week. The Senate’s schedule includes coming in Monday to resume consideration on a cloture motion for the nomination of Kurt Engelhardt to the 5th Circuit. The Senate then plans to take up cloture motions on five other judicial nominations, one at a time. First up on that list appears to be Brennan. Still, Grassley has indicated plans to typically stick to the blue slip tradition when it came to district court nominees. That means while Baldwin’s objections to Brennan weren’t enough to stop the process, they could for Giampietro. In making her request to the White House to withdraw the nomination, Baldwin said she opposes giving him a lifetime appointment to the federal bench following several reports she argues undermine his credibility as a judge. That includes failing to disclose past statements to the state’s nominating commission that considered his application and recommended him as a candidate. One of those statements included Giampietro saying “it’s not really legal reasoning” in referring to Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion on same-sex marriage. He added the justice had “gone off the rails” years earlier. In her letter, Baldwin asked Trump to consider three other candidates advanced by Wisconsin’s six-member nominating commission: Waukesha County Circuit Judge Michael Aprahamian and Milwaukee County Circuit Judges Kevin Martens and Richard Sankovitz. Conservatives, however, have taken up Giampietro’s cause, accusing Baldwin of religious bias and charging he only faces opposition because he holds orthodox Catholic views. Still, insiders see much of that as a message aimed at the base, much like how liberals have rallied against Brennan’s nomination. It’s unlikely any of that will seep through to average voters, they add.

Doug La Follette: The longtime secretary of state faced a Dem primary 12 years ago as a blue wave was building and some in the party base argued it was time for a change. He ended up taking 71.2 percent of the vote anyway. So with Madison Ald. Arvina Martin announcing plans to challenge La Follette in the August primary, some question whether the result will be any different this time. La Follette, 77, says in one interview the primary challenge amounts to a nuisance and he wishes Dems would focus on helping Tammy Baldwin’s re-election to the Senate rather than an intra-party feud. Still, Martin, 38, says it’s time for a new point of view. La Follette first won the office in 1974 and left after one term for an unsuccessful shot at lt. guv. He ran again for the seat in the 1982 Dem primary, beating incumbent Vel Phillips, the first African-American to win a statewide office in Wisconsin. Ever since then, the office has been his. He won 51.6 percent of the vote in 2010, a historic GOP wave year, and 50 percent in 2014, another great year for Republicans. In that election, he still bested his GOP opponent by 3.8 points with an independent and a Constitution Party candidate in the race. Considering the office receives almost no attention, many have long assumed he’s ridden the power of incumbency and his famous last name — shared with progressive hero “Fighting” Bob La Follette. Already, there’s a crowded field for guv, a primary for the No. 2 slot on the ticket and Baldwin as a top target for Republicans in November. That all leads some to question how a primary for secretary of state against a longtime incumbent will find any oxygen. Martin’s backers, though, see an environment ready for change and will be banking on that in their primary strategy.

CWD response: The guv takes steps to combat the spread of chronic wasting disease. But deer farm reps worry about the impact on their operations, as Dems and enviros say the new emergency rules are a long time coming and may not be enough. Walker proposed the three-part plan to combat the fatal wildlife disease that’s affected 53 of the state’s 72 counties. Under the rules, deer farms would have to adhere to additional fencing requirements; live deer from those farms would be prohibited from being moved outside a CWD-affected county; and hunters would be barred from removing deer carcasses from those counties. Dems, who’ve been critical of Walker’s approach to addressing CWD, come out swinging, with guv candidate and state Rep. Dana Wachs charging that Walker has been negligent on the issue for eight years. The Eau Claire Dem last year partnered with Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range, to propose similar fencing requirements. That effort stalled and died in the Assembly, without it getting a public hearing in committee. Walker, though, defends his record, saying the state put together a comprehensive plan “years ago” that included new voluntary testing procedures. Enviros — including former DNR secretary and current Wisconsin Wildlife Federation Executive Director George Meyer — applaud the new effort, but agree the measures should’ve been in place a decade ago. Meyer said while the changes would mark the “biggest impact” in curbing CWD, he also attributed the disease’s fast spread across the state over the last eight years to the absence of those steps. But Natural Resources Board Chair Terry Hilgenberg notes Walker needs both the backing of hunters and the general population in moving forward on the issue. With the guv’s approach, Hilgenberg said, Walker will have their support “and will have it strongly.” Meanwhile, Wisconsin Commercial Deer and Elk Farmer’s Association President Rick Ewert commends Walker for seeking to limit the transport of deer carcasses, saying it’s likely the biggest contributor to the spreading of CWD. Still, he balked at the two additional regulations on deer farms. Both, he said, could lead to farms across the state shutting down, as owners — who are already required to have an eight-foot fence around their perimeters — are forced to install costly secondary fences, electric fences or another “impermeable physical barrier,” according to the emergency rule. Ewert largely summed up the announcement as a “shock,” saying he and others in the industry are scrambling to get more details on the potential requirements and ramifications. Others, though, downplay his concerns. Meyer, of WWF, noted the disease is jeopardizing the state’s billion-dollar hunting industry. “The economic impact of having a deer herd that seriously impacted by CWD overwhelms the cost that there is for additional fencing,” he said. Despite the criticism, many seem grateful for more action on the topic that has plagued the state for the last 16 years, when Wisconsin’s first positive tests of white-tailed deer for CWD were found.

EPA ozone regulations: Business interests are likely cheering this week as the EPA sided with the state in significantly limiting the areas not in line with the agency’s stricter ozone regulations. High on the list of the decision’s beneficiaries is Foxconn, whose location in Racine county puts the company in the clear of any additional regulations that would have likely accompanied an air-quality “nonattainment” rating. A win for Foxconn could mean a win for the Walker administration. But it goes without saying Dems could potentially latch onto the EPA designation as a win for business interests at the expense of the environment and environmental regulation. Despite any gains for business, some Republicans are still questioning the decision. GOP U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman is arguing the EPA’s scaled-back nonattainment areas are still too strict. Grothman points to strips of land along Lake Michigan in nonattainment that he argues should be exempted due to much of the pollution there drifting in from urban centers to the south, like Chicago and Gary, Indiana. Grothman earlier this week argued the state should simply rely on different air quality monitors located out of the way of the worst pollution. Scientists say there is merit to the out-of-state origins of some ozone, but warn against ignoring data as a strategy to deal with the problem. Air quality monitors were intentionally placed to measure pollution near population centers where air quality can be the worst. Instead, they say states and the federal government should better coordinate to address ozone regulations.


Kevin Nicholson: Backers of the business consultant and ex-Marine think he has a compelling story to tell. How’s he trying to tell it, however, leaves something to be desired with Wisconsin insiders. Nicholson has made no bones about running as an outsider, proclaiming it is the only approach that will work this fall in trying to defeat U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison. But along with knocking the “swamp” in Washington, D.C., Nicholson turns his attention to Madison, too. During his first debate with state Sen. Leah Vukmir, Nicholson knocks a Madison-based consultant who said Baldwin was “responsive to the voters,” asking if those in the crowd believed that. He calls it the “bubble” and “the establishment,” saying that’s why conservatives lost this spring’s Supreme Court race. It’s not lost on insiders that the unnamed consultant is Keith Gilkes, longtime adviser to Scott Walker, something that isn’t likely to win Nicholson any fans in the guv’s circles — even if many of those folks are already on Team Leah. But such slights are lost on the average voter, insiders add. It’s when Nicholson starts questioning the “cognitive thought process” of veterans who vote Democratic that gets the first-time candidate in trouble. Nicholson’s comments came in a radio interview as he discussed a debate exchange with Vukmir, who called herself a proven conservative and questioned his credentials. He, meanwhile, touted his military service, saying serving is a fundamentally conservative thing to do. In the radio interview, he goes on to accuse the Dem Party of rejecting the Constitution. He then questions vets in the Dem Party, which he says muddies the Constitution they signed up to defend. Nicholson’s campaign doesn’t back down from the comments, and some of his backers insist Vukmir made it personal first by questioning his record. If Nicholson ruffles some feathers, so what? Conservatives aren’t interested in what the establishment is selling these days and want someone who will shake things up in D.C. Some also see Nicholson trying to send a message to conservative voters about his conversion to the cause after his time in the Dem Party. There are also those who note his go-to response is his military service whenever his record is questioned, wondering how that will play with voters. Others see Nicholson’s approach as shortsighted. After all, Republicans typically need moderate and even some Dem voters to win statewide. But if he wins the primary, this isn’t the kind of thing that would help him win crossover voters. The rhetoric also comes amid the expectation that Vukmir will snag the party’s endorsement at next weekend’s GOP state convention. Not only does Vukmir have long ties to the people who will show up in Milwaukee, but Nicholson’s camp has tried to raise the bar for what should be considered success in the delegate vote. That’s not a sign to many that he expects to prevent her from hitting the 60 percent needed to secure the party’s backing. Even Vukmir’s supporters see a lot riding on that vote for her campaign. Falling short of the endorsement could be crippling considering how she’s trailed Nicholson in fundraising and national attention. He’s also had a significant edge in outside support, though that can be a double-edged sword when the candidate doesn’t control the message. Case in point is a spot from Americas PAC that was pulled after it compared Nicholson to other Republicans who used to be Dems — including Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who now faces the prospect of impeachment amid a sex scandal. The group, which has spent $3.3 million backing Nicholson and attacking Baldwin, says that version was made months ago and shouldn’t have been sent to stations. Instead, there was a replacement it wanted on the air that stripped out references to Greitens and replaced them with former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, of Texas.

*See an interview with state GOP Chair Brad Courtney below and view the WisPolitics.com Convention Blog next week for coverage.

School lunches: A new memo gives state Dems fodder to bash House Republicans over the current version of the farm bill. The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau report, requested by Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, shows an estimated 75,720 Wisconsinites, or about 11.1 percent of food stamp recipients, would lose eligibility for the program under the bill. Of those, 23,369 are children — about 8 percent of all children currently eligible. The memo also shows the bill could reduce eligibility for free and reduced lunches in schools, because children in families eligible for food stamps are automatically eligible for free and reduced lunches. Dems in a Capitol news conference link the findings to the federal GOP tax overhaul bill that President Trump signed into law late last year. “I think it’s bad enough that Republicans have fought to give millionaires yet another tax break this season, but then to turn around and deny low-income children access to food, it’s unthinkable,” Shilling, D-La Crosse, says at the presser. The reductions in eligibility stem from a provision in the current draft of the bill that would limit broad-based categorical aid, which allows people to qualify automatically for SNAP benefits if they also receive benefits from other public assistance programs. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, previously lauded the bill when it cleared the House Agriculture Committee in mid-April, saying it contains “much-needed reforms” to bolster the nation’s workforce.

Department of Corrections: The hits keep coming for the DOC, which continues to be haunted by new revelations surrounding the Lincoln Hills youth prison plus other negative reports. After an $18.9 million settlement with the family of former inmate Sydni Briggs, who was left permanently brain damaged after a suicide attempt at the youth prison, new media reports show DOC not only failed to terminate some prison leadership involved in the incident, but actually promoted some. The report says the prison psychologist who neglected to develop a treatment plan for Briggs still has her job. So does the deputy superintendent who was promoted to her job seven months after the Briggs incident. Insiders credit the agency for getting rid of three guards last month, but the move came two and a half years after the incident occurred. Meanwhile, a second media report shows the wife of DOC’s security director was charged with felony sexual assault of an inmate at Oakhill Correctional Institute, where she had worked. The case is the second sexual assault of an inmate at Oakhill in the past year. Then a third new report shows DOC failed to investigate after an agency employee reported her co-worker had sexually assaulted her at a work outing. The department told her to instead file the report with police, which the employee did not do. Instead, she filed an additional complaint with the state arguing she was being harassed because of the incident. The employee later resigned. DOC, though, says other factors played in its decision not to investigate the incident: it took place off of state property, for one, and the former employee never did file a complaint with the police.


May 10: WisPolitics Luncheon with Kelda Roys

Join WisPolitics.com for lunch at the Madison Club, 5 East Wilson St., Madison, on Thursday May 10 with former state Rep. Kelda Roys to discuss her bid for the Democratic nomination to run against GOP Gov. Scott Walker.

See Roys’ bio: https://keldaforgovernor.com/meet-kelda/

Check-in and lunch begins at 11:30 a.m., with the program going from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.

Madison Club members and their guests receive discounted pricing for WisPolitics luncheons, $19 per person. Price for general public is $25 per person.

This luncheon is sponsored by: Husch Blackwell, American Family Insurance, Xcel Energy, Walmart, AARP Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Hospital Association.

For registration: https://eventbrite.com/e/wispolitics-luncheon-with-kelda-roys-tickets-45290902308



A newly released police report says Sen. Lena Taylor called a Wells Fargo bank teller a “house (n-word)” during an incident in Milwaukee last month.

The new Milwaukee Police Department records, released to WisPolitics.com today, reveal more details about the April 6 incident that resulted in Taylor, D-Milwaukee, receiving a disorderly conduct citation.

The incident came about after Taylor headed into the Wisconsin Avenue bank on April 6 to cash an $825 check, according to a report from police officer Kevin Friedel, who was at the bank investigating an unrelated call.

Friedel reports he heard “a female voice yelling something” when he first entered the bank, before seeing Taylor “waving her arms and pointing toward the tellers at the front desk.”

Taylor, who owns rental properties in Milwaukee, told police later in the afternoon that she was looking to cash a check from a tenant who was three months behind on rent, but wanted to first verify the account had funds. The teller, according to the report, refused, citing bank policy.

The report also details accounts from multiple witnesses who heard Taylor call the teller a “house (n-word).”

An additional report from Captain Paul Formolo, who got to the bank after an officer had already issued Taylor a citation, outlines a conversation he had with the state senator following his arrival.

“Senator Taylor explained to me that she felt she was not receiving appropriate customer service from the teller and branch manager,” his report said, later noting that Taylor disputed the characterization she was “waving her arms in an aggressive manner” and believed the police weren’t conducting a fair investigation into the incident.

Taylor, who is African American, also told Formolo she had called the teller a “House Negro,” per his report.

In two follow-up phone calls about the incident between Taylor and Formolo April 9, Taylor again expressed “how dissatisfied she was with the investigation and she felt that the investigation was not handled properly,” his report said. Taylor also said she was “very upset an officer leaked information” about the incident to the media, telling Formolo she had received media requests over the weekend about it.

Taylor criticized the way police and media have characterized the incident.

“The police report and subsequent coverage, in certain media outlets, continues a consistent pattern of unfair treatment and misrepresentation of the facts when dealing with African-Americans, especially those who vigorously advocate for themselves and their community,” Taylor said.

Vincent Bobot, Taylor’s attorney, said he filed a not-guilty plea on Taylor’s behalf over the $195 civil citation. He declined to comment further.

WisPolitics.com has also requested surveillance and body camera footage from the Milwaukee Police Department. That has not yet been released.

The report comes after Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling’s office this week told WisPolitics.com the La Crosse Dem isn’t planning to take any action to discipline Taylor because of the incident.

See the report:

Note: This item has been update with comment from Taylor. 


State GOP Chair Brad Courtney counts Gov. Scott Walker among his closest friends.

So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that they sound a lot alike when talking about the task ahead for Republicans in 2018:

*the GOP needs to remind voters of how well things are going now compared to eight years ago when Dem Jim Doyle was still in charge;

*Republicans will carry a message of optimism to voters;

*and Walker’s record will be on the ballot in Wisconsin come November, not President Trump.

In previewing next weekend’s GOP state convention in Milwaukee, Courtney laid out an overview of his speech to delegates that hits on many of Walker’s favorite talking points: a record-low unemployment rate compared to 9.4 percent in March 2009; a drop in property tax bills after a string of increases under Doyle; and a tuition freeze at the UW System after rates climbed under the Dem’s watch.

“We just have to remind people how far we’ve come, and I’ll just bring it up how things were pretty bad,” Courtney told WisPolitics.com in a new interview.

Dems have regularly knocked Walker for focusing on Doyle, who left office more than seven years ago. But Courtney said the comparison remains valid, because voters have grown used to Wisconsin’s successes and complacent with how well things are going compared to before Republicans took over the Capitol in 2011.

Dems also see the Trump’s poll numbers as one reason to believe a blue wave is headed to Wisconsin this fall.

Courtney, though, argued Walker’s record, not Trump’s, will be on the ballot in November for Republicans to run on.

Still, he said the president needs to do a better job of selling the benefits of the GOP tax overhaul. Courtney, the president of Courtney Industrial Battery, said he signs 31 individual paychecks and with the overtime many hourly employees make, they aren’t necessarily noticing the impact of the tax cut.

“There is obviously frustration in Washington,” Courtney said. “But we’ve done a lot of good things in Wisconsin over the last eight years, and we’ve delivered on really everything that Gov. Walker has ran on.”

Beyond defending the offices they already hold, Republicans’ top priorities for November include beating U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, of Madison, one of only two Dems to hold statewide office in Wisconsin.

The primary between business consultant and former Marine Kevin Nicholson and state Sen. Leah Vukmir has turned increasingly heated despite the two signing a unity pledge. The pledge requires the loser of the primary to back the winner, conduct themselves in a way that’s respectful of fellow Republicans and respect the endorsement process.

Asked if the two were still adhering to the pledge, Courtney said he appreciated how hard they’ve been working and said both provide a clear contrast to Baldwin.

“They’re both quite vocal in saying that either one of them are better than Tammy Baldwin. I feel there will be no problem with that,” he said.

Courtney said by the end of November he will become the longest serving chair in party history when adding his two stints together. He filled out the remainder of Rick Graber’s term as chair in 2006 after the incumbent became the ambassador to the Czech Republic. He then was elected chair in 2011 after Reince Priebus took over the national party.

Courtney said he hasn’t thought of whether he would seek another two-year term after the fall elections. The chair is selected by the party’s executive committee, and the guv often has significant influence over the pick if the GOP controls the office.

Regardless of whether he seeks another term, Courtney said he hopes his legacy will be his emphasis on the importance of the grassroots to the party’s success.

“It’s not about raising a ton of money and spending it all on TV ads,” he said. “It’s putting together a program where we can identify our voters and then motivate them ultimately to get to the polls and educate our base, educate swing voters about what our candidates are all about. I’d guess I’d like to think I’ve been a grassroots guy, always cared about that.”

Listen to the full interview:


State GOP Chair Brad Courtney believes the party’s endorsement would be helpful in the GOP U.S. Senate race if either Kevin Nicholson or Leah Vukmir snags it at next week’s convention.

To get it, one of them would have to win the support of 60 percent of delegate votes cast May 12 during the state convention in Milwaukee.

Here is an overview of how the endorsement process works:

*the party will go through the endorsement process for all incumbents to formally back Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and AG Brad Schimel. Otherwise, a party viability committee meets to determine whether candidates have met the threshold to be considered for the endorsement. That includes factors such as registering to run, showing some demonstrable fundraising and having a campaign plan to win. No candidates filed with the party for secretary of state or treasurer, and the party will not have an endorsement vote for those offices. Only Nicholson and Vukmir completed the viability process for the U.S. Senate.

*The state GOP allots more than 5,000 delegates to the counties based on their performance in the last election at the top of the ticket. That means the more GOP votes cast in the November 2016 election for Donald Trump, the more delegates a county is allotted for next weekend. Trump’s highest vote totals in 2016 were in Waukesha, Milwaukee, Dane, Brown and Washington counties.

If a county has fewer delegates show up at convention than it’s allotted, those delegates are assigned a proportion of the allotment. For example, if a county has 100 delegates allotted, but 10 show up, each delegate casts 10 votes.

Delegates to the convention are approved at county caucuses and formalized at district caucuses. The state party has a credential committee that reviews those lists to make sure the delegates are in good standing.

*When the vote commences May 12, delegates in the Senate race will only have the option of backing Nicholson or Vukmir. The party constitution was changed seven years ago to remove the option to vote “no endorsement.”

A candidate that wins the party endorsement is given access to the state GOP’s permanent infrastructure, which could include things such as party staff, field offices and donor lists.


An administrative law judge today invalidated a Department of Natural Resources-issued permit for a frac sand project in western Wisconsin, ruling the agency improperly gave the company a green light for the plan.

DNR initially approved a permit for Georgia-based Meteor Timber’s $70 million project last year. But environmental groups sued, arguing the project would destroy 16.3 acres of wetland that includes rare white pine and red maple.

Administrative Law Judge Eric Defort ruled the DNR failed to gather the “necessary information” before issuing a permit to Meteor Timber, including information to assess the project’s environmental impact and an adequate mitigation plan from the company.

“Without an ‘adequate’ mitigation plan in combination with the permanent and irreversible destruction of the rare and exceptionally high-quality wetlands in this case, the proposed project will most certainly result in significant adverse impacts to wetland functional values, because it will not compensate for the loss,” he wrote.

Clean Wisconsin, Ho-Chunk Nation and Midwest Environmental Advocates in a joint statement this afternoon called the ruling a “significant victory for the people of Wisconsin, our pristine wetlands, and the integrity of our environmental laws.”

“The decision confirms that DNR did not follow the permitting process required by state law,” the statement said. “This decision reinforces DNR’s duty to protect our natural resources for the public.”

Spokesman Jim Dick said DNR is reviewing the decision to determine next steps.

Chris Mathis, of Meteor Timber, said in a statement that “the economic and environmental benefits of this project merit further discussion and thought,” while John Behling, an attorney for Meteor, said the company “is examining all of their options to keep the project moving forward.”

Assembly Republicans over the last few months of the legislative session made two attempts to insert language into bills that would exempt Meteor Timber from state environmental regulations — once in February and again in March, during the chamber’s extraordinary session. Both attempts failed to gain traction in the Senate.

See the ruling:


Each Republican candidate vying to represent the 42nd Assembly District prioritizes the state’s transportation needs, although some are entertaining stronger action than others.

The candidates’ ideas for funding Wisconsin’s roadways range from charging out-of-state residents to finding money within current budget constraints.

All four GOP candidates spoke to WisPolitics.com last week as part of a series of interviews with contenders in special election primaries for the 42nd AD northeast of Madison and the 1st Senate District in northeastern Wisconsin. The primaries are May 15 with a general election June 12.

The Dem candidate in the 42nd AD is Ann Groves Lloyd, a Lodi alderwoman and former UW-Madison academic adviser. Independent Gene Rubinstein is also vying for the seat, though his name won’t appear on this month’s partisan primary ballot.

Lloyd, Rubenstein and the four Republican candidates are campaigning to replace former Rep. Keith Ripp, R-Lodi, who announced his departure Dec. 29 to take a job in the Walker administration.

Jon Plumer, 63, the establishment favorite from Lodi, told WisPolitics.com he’d be open to considering temporary increases in the gas tax and vehicle registration fees to make necessary road repairs, although he’s opposed to any tolling.

“I would entertain an increase in the gas tax if it had a sunset clause,” he said. “We have a lot of construction to do at this point. There’s a big difference between construction and maintenance. Now we have to spend a lot more money to get caught up to where I think most people think we should be.”

Darren Schroeder, a 55-year-old farmer from the Town of Columbus, emphasizes local control over Wisconsin roads as part of his campaign, though he, too, agrees lawmakers must address the root of the transportation funding issue. He’s seen the effects of a squeezed transportation budget affect his district firsthand.

“We have nine bridges in our township, and they’re quite costly to replace, and they’re deteriorating. In the last two cycles the state has cancelled bridge aid,” he said.

Schroeder did not commit to a specific funding fix, but said he’d consider a 5-cent increase in the gas tax and raising registration fees. He also mentioned the possibility of tolling out-of-state drivers or drivers who haven’t paid in-state registration.

Colleen Locke-Murphy, a 50-year-old attorney from Poynette with a practice in Jefferson, emphasized road funding as a top issue she’d take on.

“The roads are terrible. And we need to work to fix them. You hear about all these building projects in Milwaukee and in and around Madison. Our rural roads need fixing just as badly,” she said.

She said she’d look at slashing other areas of the state budget to fund road projects, but declined to provide specific programs or services she would consider cutting. She opposes tolling, increases in the gas tax or registration fees.

“They’re already really high, in my opinion, so I’m reluctant to do that, either,” Locke-Murphy said.

Spencer Zimmerman of Janesville, who is 38, has run in past state races as a “Trump conservative.” He argued funding woes could be relieved by building a tollway along the Wisconsin-Illinois border to only charge out-of-state drivers.

“Wisconsin drivers have been paying millions in tolls to build up Illinois roads. I think it’s time to make Illinois start to pay,” Zimmerman said.

He opposes any increases to the gas tax or registration fees.

Beyond eyeing transportation funding as significant issue, the four GOP candidates’ backgrounds and policy stances diverge.


Plumer, of Lodi, has some political experience, though not with state office. He has served for about two years on the town of Lodi Board of Supervisors and was recently elected to the Columbia County Board of Supervisors.

He and his wife own a karate school in Lodi, and place an emphasis on being involved in the community, founding an annual Thanksgiving dinner for the public as well as a downtown concert series. Plumer and his wife moved to Lodi in 2008. Before purchasing the karate studio, he worked for Kraft Foods as a route salesman for about about three decades.

Plumer describes himself as a fiscal conservative. Besides transportation funding, he’s emphasizing school safety and expanding the bike trail between Minneapolis and Chicago.


Schroeder, a dairy farmer turned cash crop farmer, is the current Town of Columbus chairman. He touts additional leadership experience, such as creating planning and zoning ordinances for Columbia County and logging membership on the Board for the Columbia County Economic Development Corporation.

Schroeder sees his experience in the agriculture industry as an asset in the race.

“Agriculture is the number one industry in our state. I don’t think there’s much representation at the state level,” he said.

Schroeder says he’d like to tackle the intersection of agricultural and environmental and sustainability issues in the state. Additionally, he said he’d work to keep local control of roads and zoning.


Locke-Murphy has logged one failed bid for Jefferson County district attorney.

Beyond pushing to fix Wisconsin’s roads, she’s also vowing to make sure proper funding goes to rural school districts and that access to clean water is assured.


Zimmerman is an Air Force veteran and currently works as a limousine driver. He doesn’t think being from outside the district is an issue, particularly because of his knowledge of the district from regularly driving a tanker truck there for an agriculture cooperative.

He has a history of running for political office. He has ran failed bids in the 46th, 58th and 99th Assembly districts; for city council in Janesville and Stoughton; and for Dane County Board.

“I’ve always wanted to serve, and felt I could contribute to the issues,” he said.

A top priority for Zimmerman, besides addressing transportation funding, is to impose term limits for state politicians.

He supports an eight-year term limit for state representatives and a 12-year limit for state Senate and all statewide offices.

On other issues:

*Continuing the UW System tuition freeze:

Schroeder said he supports the tuition freeze, and suggests universities should look to their foundations and other sources of support, as well as consider cuts. Locke-Murphy backs the freeze, noting tuition has skyrocketed in recent years, but she doesn’t think taxpayers should be on the line for additional university funding. Plumer was hesitant to take a firm position, but added he’d like to see more state residents attend cheaper trade schools instead of university. Zimmerman supports the freeze, and said the UW System should look to further cuts to address fundraising constraints.

*Allowing concealed weapons without a permit:

Schroeder opposes the idea. He underscored his opposition to gun bans, but said the state must have a sound certification system and background checks for gun owners. Plumer declined to offer a definitive response, but said there’s “no question” he wants people to be safe. Locke-Murphy, who has a concealed-carry permit, opposes the measure. She says she’s a firm supporter of the Second Amendment, but said it’s appropriate for those concealing a weapon to have proper training. Zimmerman said he’d support such a measure, adding he previously received an ‘A plus’ rating from the National Rifle Association, and that “criminals are going to get guns no matter what.”

Hear Plumer’s interview:





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Thursday: WisPolitics.com luncheon with Dem guv candidate Kelda Roys.
– 11:30 a.m.: The Madison Club, 5 E. Wilson St., Madison.

May 11-13: Republican Party of Wisconsin state convention.
– Wisconsin Center, 400 West Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee.

(Check local listings for times in your area)

“UpFront with Mike Gousha” is a statewide commercial TV news magazine show airing Sundays around the state. This week’s show features Republican 1st CD candidate BRYAN STEIL on his bid to replace Speaker PAUL RYAN; Dem Rep. LISA SUBECK on the potential impact of food stamp changes on Wisconsin children; and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist ALAN BORSUK on growing tension in Milwaukee Public Schools.
*See viewing times in state markets here: http://www.wisn.com/upfront/
*Also view the show online each Monday at WisPolitics.com

“Rewind,” a weekly show from WisconsinEye and WisPolitics.com, airs at 8 p.m. on Fridays and 10 a.m. on Sundays in addition to being available online. On this week’s episode, WisPolitics.com’s JR ROSS and WisconsinEye’s STEVE WALTERS discuss Gov. SCOTT WALKER’s first TV ads of his re-election campaign; the 1st CD Republican primary; and state Dems’ concerns over the impact of the federal farm bill.
*Watch the show: http://www.wiseye.org/Video-Archive/Event-Detail/evhdid/12359

Wisconsin Public TV’s “Here and Now” airs at 7:30 p.m. Fridays. On this week’s program, anchor FREDERICA FREYBERG discusses the recent death of West Milwaukee resident ADAM TRAMMELL with Milwaukee County DA JOHN CHISHOLM and Trammell family attorney ROBIN SHELLOW. Then, UW-Madison journalism professor LEW FRIEDLAND talks about how partisan politics permeate in radio and social media in Wisconsin; and UW Nursing School Dean LINDA SCOTT on what fatigue among nurses means for the profession.

“For the Record” airs at 10:30 a.m. Sunday on WISC-TV in Madison. Host NEIL HEINEN covers CultureConUSA, an event aiming to connect people to spread positive change around organized culture.

“Capitol City Sunday” airs at 9 a.m. Sunday on WKOW-TV in Madison, WAOW-TV in Wausau, WXOW-TV in La Crosse and WQOW-TV in Eau Claire.

“The Insiders” is a weekly WisOpinion.com web show featuring former Democratic Senate Majority Leader CHUCK CHVALA and former Republican Assembly Speaker SCOTT JENSEN. This week, the two discuss the promise of federal infrastructure funding.
*Watch the video and listen to the show: https://www.wispolitics.com/2018/wisopinion-com-the-insiders-discuss-the-promise-of-federal-infrastructure-funding/

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Upcoming WisPolitics.com/WisBusiness.com events in Madison, Milwaukee, Sturtevant and Appleton include:

*A Thursday Madison Club luncheon with Dem guv candidate and former state Rep. KELDA ROYS. Check-in and lunch begins at 11:30 a.m., with the program going from noon to 1 p.m. This luncheon is sponsored by: Husch Blackwell, American Family Insurance, Xcel Energy, Walmart, AARP Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Hospital Association. Register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wispolitics-luncheon-with-kelda-roys-tickets-45290902308

*A May 22 Milwaukee luncheon with Dem guv candidate MATT FLYNN. The Milwaukee Press Club-WisPolitics.com luncheon begins at 11:30 a.m., with the program running from noon to 1 p.m. This luncheon is sponsored by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Wisconsin Academy for Global Education and Training, ELEVEN25 at Pabst, Milwaukee Police Association, The Firm Consulting, Medical College of Wisconsin and Spectrum. Enter “5/22 MKE” in the purpose of payment field when you register and pay here: http://payment.wispolitics.com

*A May 24 luncheon and panel event in Sturtevant, organized by Wisconsin Technology Council, WisPolitics.com and WisBusiness.com. The event, brought to you by UW-Milwaukee and called “Navigating the New Economy: What can Wisconsin learn from South Carolina’s experience with BMW?”, will compare the potential impact of Foxconn to a similar investment from BMW in South Carolina. It’ll feature JOEY VON NESSEN, a top economist at the University of South Carolina who has studied the BMW impact on manufacturing clusters, followed by a conversation with three Wisconsin experts: UW-Milwaukee Chancellor MARK MONE, ROXANNE BAUMANN, director of global engagement at Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership; and DAVID VASKO, Rockwell Automation’s director of advanced technology. See more and register: https://www.wispolitics.com/2018/wispolitics-com-wisbusiness-com-navigating-the-new-economy-what-can-wisconsin-learn-from-south-carolinas-experience-with-bmw-2/

*A May 29 WisPolitics.com and Millennial Action Project event in Appleton on “The Future of Work.” The event, which features Wisconsin Future Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Amanda Stuck, D-Appleton; and Congressional Future Caucus Vice-Chair U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay, is slotted for 4 p.m. at the Appleton Beer Factory. The discussion will be moderated by Millennial Action Project founder STEVEN OLIKARA. See more: https://www.wispolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/180504FutureofWork.pdf

The Department of Administration has a new deputy secretary following CATE ZEUSKE’s departure announcement this week. Taking over for Zeuske is Assistant Deputy Secretary JOHN HOGAN. Hogan has served as the agency’s assistant deputy secretary for the last three years. Previously, he worked as the chief operating officer of the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. Replacing Hogan is communications director STEVE MICHELS, who’s been the agency’s spokesman since 2016. He previously spent five years as an attorney and public affairs director at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. DOA has yet to announce who will take over as communications director. Zeuske, meanwhile, announced to agency staff earlier this week she’s leaving her post to spend time with her parents, who are both in their nineties. She has held the role of DOA deputy secretary since 2015.

Gov. SCOTT WALKER announced today the Department of Transportation has saved an additional $25 million and will speed up 12 highway projects across the state centering on pavement, bridge and safety repair and other safety needs. See the full list of projects: https://www.wispolitics.com/2018/gov-walker-announces-additional-25-million-in-savings-for-12-highway-projects/

The Wisconsin Institute of Law & Liberty has hired ERIC SEARING as its director of external relations. Searing previously served as the director of outreach and legislative affairs at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute and has held numerous positions in the Legislature, including in the offices of former state Rep. JEFF STONE; former Sen. PAM GALLOWAY; and Sen. TOM TIFFANY. See more: https://www.wispolitics.com/2018/wi-institute-for-law-and-liberty-hires-eric-searing-to-serve-as-director-of-external-relations/

The State Bar of Wisconsin has elected attorney JILL KASTNER as its new president-elect. Kastner, of Milwaukee, will serve a one-year president-elect term starting July 1. She’ll then take over for current State Bar President CHRISTOPHER ROGERS starting July 1, 2019. See the release: https://www.wispolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/180502StateBar.pdf

An upcoming Badger Institute lunch panel on investing in opportunity zones will feature :JIM LANG, of international law firm Greenberg Traurig; and JAY MILLER, tax attorney and adjunct professor at UW-Milwaukee’s Lubar School of Business. The discussion is slated for May 22 at the Wisconsin Club in Milwaukee. See more and RSVP: https://www.badgerinstitute.org/Contribute

STACY HARBAUGH, former spokeswoman with Midwest Environmental Advocates, has left her post to start a new role at designCraft Advertising in Madison as a social media and community specialist.

ENDORSEMENTS: The following is a list of recent endorsements made for statewide and congressional district elections, based on emails received by WisPolitics.com:

— 1st CD:

RANDY BRYCE: labor and civil rights activist DOLORES HUERTA.

— 5th CD:


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