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I do believe President Trump is known for being a negotiator, and what we have seen so far, and what he is doing, it’s making a difference.
– Sen. Leah Vukmir in a televised GOP primary debate in Milwaukee defending President Trump’s tariffs. Neither Vukmir, nor primary rival Kevin Nicholson, criticized Trump’s approach to trade.

What we need are senators that further understand you can’t be doing this for show, you’ve got to do it for real.
– Nicholson criticizing Dem U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin during the debate for authoring “Buy American” legislation while at the same time opposing the GOP tax overhaul and regulatory reform efforts he said will help grow the economy.

*See WisPolitics.com coverage and watch a replay of the debate, which also included candidates Charles Barman, Griffin Jones and George Lucia: https://www.wispolitics.com/2018-u-s-senate-race/#1516939215557-e12c5290-1b8a

*Visit the 2018 U.S. Senate Race Guide for the latest news, commentary and ads in the race: https://www.wispolitics.com/2018-u-s-senate-race/

If I’m not the nominee, the only path would be to try to launch a write-in campaign, and I’m not going to do that. I’ve said all along that’s not going to happen.
– Dem guv candidate Mike McCabe at a WisPolitics.com luncheon in Madison.

*See more in an item below.

The lawyers were not involved. Looking back, I would frankly have to admit that we were all extremely naïve. We did not understand the power of recidivism in such cases.
– Former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland in a letter released by Dem guv primary candidate Matt Flynn, who has been facing calls to drop out of the race due to his legal work for the Milwaukee Archdiocese. Flynn has denied he was involved in the transfer of pedophile priests.

Weakland continues to minimize, excuse, and falsify what over 10,000 pages of court records clearly show: he allowed priest offenders to remain in parishes where they abused other children, moving them into new assignments and concealing them from the public. He is now defending the man who was absolutely instrumental in helping him do it.
– Milwaukee priest Domenic Roscioli.

I call on all other candidates to join me in stating that Flynn’s actions disqualify him from serving and that he should drop out.
– Gov. Scott Walker in a tweet calling on Flynn to drop his bid. Josh Pade is the only Dem guv candidate so far who’s called on Flynn to quit.

It’s just proved positive that Flynn isn’t the person [Walker] wants to run against.
– Flynn’s campaign manager Bryan Kennedy.

From my perspective, we need to come back in as soon as possible. If we don’t act, jobs will be lost. … We’ll need some Democrats to come to the table.
– Sen. Roger Roth, R-Appleton, pushing for a quick Senate vote on a Foxconn-style tax incentive package for Kimberly-Clark after the company indicated it was open to accepting state help to keep open a Fox Valley factory.

The potential job losses are a result of United Steelworkers union bureaucrats failing to come to a better agreement with Kimberly Clark. It is not the role of government to put taxpayer dollars at risk in the middle of disputes between businesses and unions.
– Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, announcing he’s opposed to providing incentives to Kimberly-Clark.

*See Kapenga this weekend on “UpFront with Mike Gousha.” See more on the show Monday morning in the WisPolitics.com AM Update.

Sen. Roth and Sen. Fitzgerald already killed this bill once, and it doesn’t look like their Republican majority is any closer to getting a deal done this time around.
– Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse. The Assembly approved the package in February, but the Senate did not bring it to the floor before the session ended. She expressed a preference for Dem legislation to pump state money into programs that would help papermakers retrofit mills to make more desirable paper grades and complete energy efficiency projects.

This is becoming more and more like a Soviet-type of economy here. Commissars deciding who’s going to be granted waivers, commissars in the administration figuring out how they’re going to sprinkle around benefits.
– U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, as quoted in a Politico article on President Trump’s proposed $12 billion aid package to farmers hurt by his tariffs.

Our farmers aren’t looking for government handouts. They just want market access and the opportunity to compete.
– U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse.

No student, no parent, no teacher should ever have to worry about their safety at school. But distressingly, too many do.
– U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos during a visit to Adams Friendship Middle School discussing President Trump’s Federal Commission on School Safety.

It’s unbelievable that Betsy DeVos, who has dedicated her life to dismantling public schools, would show up in Wisconsin for a photo op.
– WEAC President Ron Martin.

I will continue to stress to campuses that we have to continue to work harder and find ways to do more with less.
– Board of Regents President John Behling supporting Walker’s call for a continued UW tuition freeze.

Adding state resources is necessary to ensure that our universities remain strong to meet the needs of our students and continue to drive the state’s economy.
– UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt.

Just think about what you’re doing to kind of poison the well of society, think about what you’re doing to try and just degrade the tone of our debate.
– House Speaker Paul Ryan, in his final address to congressional interns ahead of his retirement, advising them to be civil and substantive in political discourse and to not “be snarky” or attack people on social media.

–A collection of insider opinion–
(Jul. 21-27, 2018)


Ron Johnson: When you have no race on the horizon, insiders say, it’s a whole lot easier to say whatever you want. And for the Oshkosh Republican, they add, that means a high-profile role as a critic of the Trump administration’s tariff policies. Johnson has consistently spoken out against President Trump’s tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum, which have since sparked retaliatory tariffs from a series of U.S. allies. That includes a well-covered Milwaukee hearing earlier this month with state manufacturing and agriculture business leaders over the trade war between the U.S. and Canada, China, the European Union and others. After that he sent a letter to Trump asking him to “return certainty and stability to global markets.” That continued, following news of the administration’s $12 billion emergency relief package for farmers to stave off the impact of the retaliatory tariffs against the U.S. Johnson ripped the plan, according to a Politico report, likening it to a Soviet-style economy. In a follow-up statement, he called for “trade, not aid” to farmers and ceasing “self-inflicting permanent damage to America’s economy through tariffs and a trade war.” But for those seeking a U.S. Senate seat this year, criticizing the administration’s policies is a different ball game. That’s why, observers say, Republicans Leah Vukmir and Kevin Nicholson refrained from doing so in a televised debate Thursday night, despite being prompted multiple times by moderators. Asked if the two agree with Johnson that the trade war will cause “permanent damage” to Wisconsin business owners and families, both say no, while praising Trump’s skills as a negotiator. While Vukmir later in the evening did lament the controversial border policy, saying the nation “shouldn’t be separating children from their parents,” the two declined to criticize Trump or the administration’s policies outright.

Tammy Baldwin: The Madison Dem continues to be a fundraising machine. U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin raised more in the 25-day pre-primary period than either of her leading GOP opponents have in a full three-month quarter so far. Baldwin pulled in nearly $1.2 million from July 1-25, outpacing the just more than $1 million former Marine Kevin Nicholson raised over the second quarter of the year. The figure also eclipses fellow Republican candidate state Sen. Leah Vukmir’s $668,788 raised from April to June. While Baldwin’s campaign isn’t saying how much she spent or has in cash on hand, the total is yet another point backers can rally around. Baldwin also has a double-digit lead over both Nicholson and Vukmir in a new poll from NBC News and Marist College. In separate head-to-head matchups, Baldwin tops Nicholson 54-39 and Vukmir 55-38. While even Dems are admitting the sample was too Democratic leaning, they say the poll still shows Baldwin’s strong advantage in the race. Meanwhile, the survey also has President Trump underwater in Wisconsin, with 36 percent of respondents saying they approve of the job he’s doing as president and 53 percent saying they disapprove. Though Baldwin’s re-election bid has largely taken a back seat to other big Senate races, the results have also thrown the guv race into the broader public eye. The results show Gov. Scott Walker behind Dem state schools Superintendent Tony Evers by 13 percentage points in a head-to-head matchup. Evers leads Walker 54 percent to 41 percent among Wisconsin respondents, with 5 percent undecided. No other Dem guv candidates had a matchup against Walker in the survey. Asked if respondents think Walker “deserves to be re-elected governor of Wisconsin, or do you think that it is time to give a new person a chance,” 34 percent said he should be re-elected while 61 percent said someone new should have the opportunity. While the sample’s Dem skew remains an issue, calling into question the head-to-head matchup figures, Dem insiders say the results show the guv is vulnerable despite pounding the air waves for months. Back in the U.S. Senate race, insiders say both Baldwin’s fundraising advantage and poll standings are likely helped along by the fighting on the Republican side. With the primary fewer than three weeks away, observers note the more Vukmir and Nicholson go at it, the more they’ll boost Baldwin. Still, public polls show it’s a toss-up at this point. The groups backing Nicholson likely have more money, and if he’s tied or close to Vukmir, that’ll give him an edge, they say. But Vukmir has the infrastructure lined up following the state Republican Party’s endorsement at the convention in May, though insiders note she’ll need to run up the score in the Milwaukee suburbs to ensure a win. In the meantime, ads continue hitting the airwaves, though there’s an open question as to when people start paying attention to the race, observers say. The super PAC backing Vukmir, the Wisconsin Next PAC, is spending $500,000 on a new TV ad tying Nicholson to former Dem presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, while highlighting his past as the former president of the College Democrats of America. The ad comes after a super PAC backing Nicholson, Restoration PAC, put $750,000 into its own TV spot calling Nicholson a combat veteran, an outsider businessman, a family man and a conservative. The group’s also out with mailers touting Nicholson as a candidate who “will help Trump drain the swamp.”

Mental health money: A day after state schools superintendent and Dem guv candidate Tony Evers prods DOJ to use the remaining school safety funding to address K-12 mental health issues, AG Brad Schimel announces he’s doing just that. Under the second round of grant funding to use up the nearly $44 million in remaining funding, schools and districts can vie for funding to shore up mental health initiatives in schools, upgrade physical security and create School Safety Intervention Teams to “assess threats and identify students in need of support,” per DOJ. In order to receive the second round of funding, schools have to send 10 percent of their full-time counselors and teachers to a 12-hour teen mental health training by the end of August 2020, as well as set up a School Safety Intervention Team. Under the framework, interested schools have to submit an “intent to apply” to the Office of School Safety by Aug. 13, with grants being announced in October. That timeline, observers note, ensures Schimel will get a series of positive media mentions in the immediate run-up to the general election. That’s in addition to the positive stories he’s been getting since the first grant period closed in June and his agency continues awarding grant funding this month. Meanwhile, Evers looks like he’ll be grabbing a steady stream of positive headlines of his own as DPI head. This week, Evers announces his budget request for a tenfold increase in mental health funding — and hints that he’ll be releasing further budget recommendations over the coming weeks. In addition to hyping his ask for: $5 million in specialized support for school mental health training; an additional $44 million in mental health categorical aid to match district funding when hiring for pupil services staff; and $14 million for expanding collaborative grants, Evers calls on Schimel and DOJ to spend the remaining grant money on those priorities. But the comments are nothing new — he’s been calling on pumping more money into bolstering schools’ mental health resources since Gov. Scott Walker unveiled the school safety proposal in March. Evers also announces 64 schools are splitting $3.25 million in state funding for mental health services. The funding over the 2018-19 school year ranges from $11,000 to $75,000. Schools requested the funding to up staff training, develop student support groups, develop processes to refer students to qualified providers and more.


Kimberly-Clark: The paper maker says it’s now in position to use an incentive package from the state — coupled with a new union deal — to possibly keep a Fox Valley plant open. A deal could potentially save 450 jobs that had been slated for elimination. But it may take a little work to get the Senate onboard. Not long after Kimberly-Clark announced plans to close two Wisconsin plants, the Assembly approved a package with Foxconn-like incentives to keep the plant open. To some, it was a combination of an iconic Wisconsin manufacturer — in the same league as a Harley-Davidson or an Oshkosh Truck — looking at jobs cuts, and an election year with some lawmakers nervous over how voters view delivering so much to Foxconn and southeastern Wisconsin. The bill the Assembly approved in February would increase tax credits for job retention to 17 percent for the paper manufacturer’s payroll, up from the current 7 percent. Under the bill, Kimberly-Clark would also get refundable tax credits for 15 percent of capital expenditures — up from the standard 10 percent — over a five-year period, as well as a five-year sales tax exemption on those capital expenditures. But the GOP-run Senate didn’t bother taking up the bill before adjourning, in part, because it wasn’t clear it would even be necessary. But now that the company has a new union deal and is open to an incentive package, the pressure is on. Already, GOP Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, says he won’t vote for the package, saying it would set a bad precedent for the state, and stressing the Foxconn deal was a one-time opportunity the state could not pass up. If Kapenga sticks to his guns, that means Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, has little margin for error with a smaller majority. So far, new Sen. Caleb Frostman, D-Sturgeon Bay, is the only Dem who’s saying publicly he’s open to possibly backing the deal. And insiders don’t see Kapenga as the only Senate GOP caucus member who has concerns about the bill. Typically, Kapenga is seen as part of a conservative wing in the caucus that also includes Sens. Dave Craig, of Big Bend; Steve Nass, of Whitewater; and Duey Stroebel, of Saukville. Fitzgerald appointed Stroebel to the Finance Committee late last year, a move many saw as an effort to give that conservative wing a voice on fiscal issues — and a tryout to see if Stroebel could be a team player when Fitzgerald needed him. Some, therefore, see more pressure on Stroebel to back the bill than others who may have issues, in part, because keeping the plant open could be significant for the re-election hopes of Sen. Roger Roth, R-Appleton. Beyond those four, GOP Sen. Leah Vukmir, who’s running for the U.S. Senate, isn’t saying whether she’d support the bill, and some believe she’d like very much to have nothing come to the Senate floor until after her Aug. 14 primary. As some see potential problems in the Senate, others wonder if critics will keep up their resolve once the reality of the vote hits. When the bill cleared the Assembly in February with some GOP opposition, legislation backers say, the vote was theoretical. Now, they add, it would be a choice between supporting the incentives or seeing those jobs leave Wisconsin. That, they add, could make it a much tougher “no” vote for both sides of the aisle. For now, though, insiders are watching to see if Kimberly-Clark requests any changes to what the Assembly approved in February and how the Senate votes line up.


Matt Flynn: It’s never a good idea, insiders say, to initiate a conversation three weeks out from the primary on the major flaw in your candidacy. So some are baffled when the Milwaukee attorney initiates a conversation with journalists about his work representing the Milwaukee Archdiocese during the priest abuse scandal. That’s particularly true after he ends up delivering zingers such as “Most people didn’t work as hard as I did” when asked why he was railing against party “elites” even though he had put more than $140,000 of his own money into his campaign. Many insiders have seen Flynn’s work on behalf of the archdiocese as a huge problem for the former state party chair in his bid for the guv’s office. But since his Dem rivals haven’t been flush with cash, the issue hasn’t ended up on the airwaves in paid media. If it had, some argue, it may have already sunk Flynn’s candidacy. That’s what makes his repeated defense of his work for the church all that more perplexing, some argue, because it is only bringing more attention to the issue. Still, sensing an opening, Gov. Scott Walker jumps into the fray, calling on Flynn to drop out of the guv’s race because of the issue. Some liberal groups and several Dem lawmakers have already called on Flynn to get out of the race, prompting him to defiantly rebuff their demands. Some are curious at Walker’s decision to get involved now, especially since Flynn isn’t the party’s nominee. But others see the guv taking advantage of an opportunity to put his potential Dem rivals in a difficult spot and beat up on Dems in general for Flynn still being in the mix. It’s unlikely he’ll be the Dem nominee, some argue, so Republicans are going to hammer any nails they see sticking up in the primary, and they might as well get in their shots now on Flynn to put the whole field on the defensive, some argue. As the Aug. 14 primary rapidly approaches, some still see state schools Superintendent Tony Evers as the candidate to beat for the Dem nomination. He’s steadily led the field in the Marquette University Law School polls. And a new NBC News/Marist survey again has him leading the field with 25 percent of the vote and everyone else in single digits. Still, 41 percent said they were undecided, again driving the perception that there is an opening to overtake Evers for the Dem nomination. But minus a massive TV buy from one of his rivals or an independent group, insiders see a closing window to change the dynamic of the race. State fire fighters union chief Mahlon Mitchell and former state Rep. Kelda Roys are largely seen as the two candidates with the best chance to overtake Evers. Still, some believe they would need a significant paid media buy from their backers to make that happen. Others, however, argue each only has to put a positive message on the airwaves to introduce themselves to Dem primary voters to create an opening to pull primary voters away from Evers. But it’s getting harder for some to see a big change in the race dynamic barring a big last-minute buy. Meanwhile, Evers backers are quick to tout the NBC/Marist results, because they have him up on Gov. Scott Walker 54-41. Republicans howl about the methodology in the poll, saying the sample is way too Dem. Still, with President Trump’s approval rating in the tank in Wisconsin and the possibility of a Dem wave coming to Wisconsin, some see Walker fighting a serious headwind this fall. The question is whether the eventual Dem nominee will be financially and structurally in shape to take advantage if the blue wave comes ashore in Wisconsin.

Tom Weatherston: The retiring GOP rep is left apologizing and blaming a staffer for a post from the Caledonia Republican’s own Twitter account. Weatherston has since denounced it as “racist.” To some insiders, it underscores the dangers for elected officials for giving aides access to their social media accounts. The tweet, which Weatherston says was written by staffer Keith Best, came in response to an article about individuals being removed from voter rolls. That article was shared by African-American Sen. Lena Taylor. Taylor, D-Milwaukee, who wrote in her tweet: “Voter suppression is one of the most overlooked issues in America. Let’s get this straight, it wasn’t a disconnect with the middle class that led to 2016’s outcome. It was a disconnect with a core value that this country was built on, the right to vote.” Weatherston’s account tweeted in response: “Those claiming that minorities are not smart enough to follow voting rules with a Photo ID are the true racists.” The tweet was later deleted, but not before Taylor’s office captured screenshots of it and released a statement knocking Weatherston. The state rep says he discussed the issue and potential disciplinary action with human resource officials and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, and he notes in a tweet of his own he’s changed his Twitter password. Some insiders say Weatherston handled the situation about as best as he could — he wasted no time, they say, in calling out the tweet and working to correct the incident as soon as he heard about it. Meanwhile, HR and Vos, R-Rochester, aren’t commenting on potential disciplinary actions against Best.

Trempealeau County DA: Taavi McMahon could face a recall in a matter of weeks, after opponents gathered nearly 3,400 signatures to spur an election for his seat. While the state Elections Commission still has to verify the signatures — and McMahon has vowed to “look closely” at the ones filed, according to a La Crosse Tribune report — organizers of the Recall Taavi McMahon Committee turned in about 700 more signatures than they needed — a number that could signify an uphill battle for the DA’s backers. Once the petitions are verified, the commission would order a special election for six weeks in the future, and McMahon’s name would automatically be on the ballot. More than two candidates would mean the election becomes a primary, with the general being held four weeks after that. The recall effort comes after months of tension between McMahon and various county officials, as well as his former office manager. That includes a Trempealeau County committee’s October letter to Gov. Scott Walker flagging concerns over McMahon’s job performance; a county board request in December that Walker suspend McMahon; a series of calls to resign; and Osseo Police Chief Bill Prudlick organizing the recall committee, citing his unpreparedness for court and practice of reducing charges in cases. Then in May, McMahon’s former office manager filed a federal suit against him and the county over disciplining her for objecting to a decision to close the DA’s office so staffers could attend a funeral. She was suspended, placed on leave and later fired, after turning down a severance package from the county, media reports show. McMahon, meanwhile, has been on a leave of absence over the past two months. He previously knocked the efforts of his opponents in a La Crosse Tribune interview, saying he aims to reduce recidivism and address issues like addiction. “I am not interested in continuing to be part of a failed system, and that’s why we should say no to the recall effort,” the report quoted him as saying.


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Just two major-party guv campaigns — those of Gov. Scott Walker and Dem Tony Evers — directly provide health insurance for their staffers, according to a WisPolitics.com check of their campaign finance reports.

Two others provide it indirectly: Kelda Roys obtained coverage through the state party and Mahlon Mitchell reimburses his staffers who purchase coverage through the Affordable Care Act exchange.

The other campaigns told WisPolitics.com they are: staffed by consultants, who are covered through their own health plans; don’t provide any coverage; or have staffers covered through family members’ health plans.

Those who don’t provide coverage include several who have advocated for universal health care, including activist Mike McCabe.

McCabe supports a single-payer health care option for Wisconsinites. But spokeswoman Christine Welcher believes the campaign’s lack of insurance reflects the difficulties small organizations across the country face when trying to add more staff.

“I had a small business in the early 2000s. It was almost impossible for me to bring on any people, because I couldn’t pay benefits or any insurance,” Welcher said.

Welcher pays about $260 per month for insurance on the exchange. She said she never asked McCabe for a reimbursement, although she believes McCabe would provide one if asked. Remaining staffers are covered by family members’ insurance.

“We took personal sacrifices as a way to cut costs, because we feel so strongly about the campaign. We didn’t view this as a job. We saw it as way to way to push the movement that we want to see in the state,” Welcher added.

She noted the campaign’s pledge to accept a maximum of $1,000 in individual donations as evidence the campaign has less to work with than others. In the first half of 2018, for instance, the campaign raised $155,842 and spent $109,228 to end the reporting period with $67,773, trailing most other gubernatorial candidates.

Meanwhile, Walker campaign spokesman Austin Altenburg said the campaign provides health care for all employees, including dental and a discount for vision.

Altenburg underscored the guv’s $200 million plan that passed earlier this year that aims to hold down ACA premiums.

“We want to ensure peace of mind for our seniors, families, and those living with pre-existing conditions. The governor’s plan works to achieve these goals, and he will continue fighting for these priorities going forward,” Altenburg said in an email.

Finance reports covering the first half of the year also show the Walker campaign made $6,622 in payments to Dean Health Plan from January through June and $872 in payments during the same time period to Delta Dental.

Evers spokeswoman Maggie Gau said the campaign has offered employees’ health care from the beginning of the campaign, although some staffers are on family insurance. Finance reports filed earlier this month show the Evers campaign made monthly payments from January through June totalling $8,103.

Gau said Evers believes every Wisconsinite should have affordable access to health care.

“That’s not just a vision we share for the state; that’s something we need to lead by example and offer for employees. It wasn’t a question for us,” she said.

Roys’ campaign offers health insurance through the Democratic Party of Wisconsin for staffers who aren’t enrolled in family plans.

“[Kelda Roys is] running for governor to ensure that every Wisconsinite has access to quality, affordable health insurance. Her campaign for governor offers every staffer access to quality, affordable health insurance,” said Roys spokesman Brian Evans in an email.

Still, while the campaign refered WisPolitics.com to DPW for information about the coverage it offers, party spokeswoman Courtney Beyer declined to disclose details.

Roys supports a single-payer health care system, but calls for taking federal health care dollars and making BadgerCare a public option in the meantime.

Staffers on Mitchell’s campaign purchase health care on the public exchanges and are reimbursed monthly, spokeswoman Kirsten Allen said. She’s reimbursed around $250 each month for health care costs.

Mitchell supports taking federal dollars to expand Medicaid, a move Walker rejected, and making BadgerCare a public option.

Besides McCabe, the following are campaigns that do not provide health care to their staffers. Their decisions on providing coverage come in the context of the ongoing debate over what role the government has in providing affordable health care coverage.

*Madison Mayor Paul Soglin: Soglin, who also supports a single-payer health care system, does not offer insurance to its one consultant, Melissa Mulliken. That’s because Mulliken is an independent contractor who has health insurance on her own as part of her business.

“Yes, I have health care,” Mulliken said. “But none of my clients have the responsibility to provide me with health care. No campaign has responsibility to provide benefits to consultants.”

Soglin also endorses the ACA, expanding Medicaid and ensuring access to health care statewide.

*Matt Flynn: The Flynn campaign doesn’t provide health insurance to its employees, because they’re covered through family plans, spokesman Bryan Kennedy said.

“It was discussed that nobody has needed it. Everybody that we have is covered under a health insurance plan,” Kennedy said.

But if a need for health care arose, Kennedy said the campaign would find a way of providing it, either through the Democratic Party of Wisconsin or reimbursement coverage from the public exchange.

Flynn champions BadgerCare as a public option and accepting federal funding for Medicaid expansion.

*State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout: Her staffers are covered by family insurance policies. Vinehout supports offering BadgerCare as a public option.

“The closer we come to universal coverage the fewer the problems for individuals, small organizations and businesses to obtain affordable insurance,” said Vinehout spokesman Greg Leaf in an email.

Kenosha attorney Josh Pade did not return multiple requests for comment, and his campaign finance report not explicitly denote any expenses for health care.


Dem guv candidate Mike McCabe says his seven competitors have been playing catch-up on key issues by throwing their support behind his ideas.

“The thing is, when I take a step out, they chase me,” the activist said yesterday at a WisPolitics.com luncheon in Madison.

Back in fall of 2017, McCabe says he and the other candidates were asked at a forum in Milwaukee if they would take the federal Medicaid expansion money. They all said yes, but McCabe took it a step further.

“I was the first candidate to come out for BadgerCare for all, for making BadgerCare a public option that anybody could enroll in regardless of income,” he said. “And now I think the whole field has climbed on board that train.”

He says he was also the first candidate in the field to come out for full legalization of marijuana, emphasizing the role its illegal status has played in landing many nonviolent offenders behind bars.

“We gotta stop locking up nonviolent offenders in this state, or we’re going to continue to be doomed with a state budget that spends more on prisons than the whole university system,” he said.

Though other candidates have been following his lead on some of these issues, they haven’t been as keen on pushing for what he says is “what this campaign is really about — challenging and seeking to overcome money power with people power.”

McCabe, the former head of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, isn’t accepting a single donation over $200. Although supporters can donate more than once, each is limited to $1,000 in total. State law caps that number at $20,000. He says he made that commitment, because “I thought it was important for me to practice what I’ve preached all these years.”

During the first half of the year, McCabe’s fundraising lagged behind most of the other candidates, only surpassing Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout and Kenosha Attorney Josh Pade.

Meanwhile, the most recent Marquette University Law School poll had state schools Superintendent Tony Evers at the head of the Dem guv pack with 31 percent. None of the other candidates had above 6 percent support; McCabe got 3 percent.

Despite weak fundraising numbers and poor polling performance, McCabe says, “I like my chances.”

“I don’t have the big money on my side, but when it comes to people power, when it comes to grassroots organization, ours is the richest campaign in this race by a long shot,” he said. “I hear some of the other candidates in the race … They say they’ve got dozens of volunteers working in the state. We’ve now got more than 2,800 volunteers.”

McCabe touched on many issues at the luncheon: boosting wages for low-wage workers, securing debt-free college for Wisconsin students, changing the corrections system and more. His plan to fund these changes boils down to: “If a program works, you keep it and fund it. And if a program doesn’t work, you get rid of it.”

He says the state could save nearly $900 million over a two-year budget cycle by cutting the voucher program for taxpayer-subsidized private schooling, and the entire Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation — both of which he argues don’t accomplish what they were meant to.

“Don’t throw good money after bad; don’t flush more money down the toilet,” he said. “Use that money for a more constructive purpose.”

On top of that $900 million, he says the state could bring in several hundred million more dollars on an annual basis by having the highest earners pay “a comparable percentage” to what the rest of the population pays in taxes.

And if the state legalizes marijuana, he says Wisconsin could tax the legal sales at licensed dispensaries and bring in about $200 million annually.

And McCabe says he’s comfortable with re-establishing inflationary adjustments to the gas tax, and is open to “a modest fee” on heavy trucks, since he says they do the most damage to roads.

“I think we’ve gotta re-prioritize spending to emphasize maintenance and upkeep,” he said. “These are important investments. We have to pay for them, and we have to be up front about how we do it.”

Listen to audio from the luncheon here: http://soundcloud.com/wispolitics/mike-mccabe-luncheon

See more on the race, including luncheon interviews with other Dem guv candidates:


Bill Nauta, a 65-year-old retired army officer, doesn’t think Andre Jacque’s eight years as a representative are excessive compared to the lengthy tenure of some other members.

But it’s long enough to make him think he’d be a better fit for the 1st Senate District than the De Pere Assemblyman.

“How about a fresh face?” Nauta told WisPolitics.com from his Washington Island residence when asked why he’s running. Nauta faces Jacque in his district’s Republican primary Aug. 14.

“Too many people are full-time legislators. One hundred years ago, everybody came from different walks of life. They served in the Legislature, came back home and had a private life,” he said.

Nauta, whose career includes a five-year stint at the Pentagon, is living life a bit slower these days, with a summer job working for the Washington Island ferry as the only thing keeping him from his retirement.

But he says his mind and body are sound and that he’s ready to serve his community after serving his country. For Nauta, part of that service means highlighting an issue not many members of the modern Republican Party have embraced: the environment.

“I’m very big on environmental issues,” he said. “I truly believe we have a global warming issue.”

Addressing the environment at the state level means ensuring good water quality — especially for what he calls “vulnerable” residents of Kewaunee County and other areas of northeastern Wisconsin — through embracing new technologies, such as anaerobic digesters.

He thinks measures to improve Wisconsin’s environment will likely mean both business interests and hardline environmentalists might have to “bite the bullet” on some of their demands.

As a veteran, Nauta said he would also focus on related issues if elected. On the top of his list: combatting the high rates of veteran suicide and safeguarding quality care at VA hospitals such as the one in Tomah. As a statement of his commitment to veterans issues, Nauta told WisPolitics.com he plans to donate half of his $52,999 annual salary to the roughly 30 veterans organizations in the 1st SD for the duration of his tenure.

*Listen to the interview:

*Read more from the interview

*See a previous WisPolitics.com interview with Jacque regarding his candidacy:


Dean Raasch in 1987 was 19-years-old and faced a rare and vicious form of leukemia that meant he had a nine-out-of-10 chance he wouldn’t live past five years.

The state of medical research in the late ’80s offered Raasch one hope to prolong his life — a bone marrow transplant. Raasch received a transplant in Minnesota after his freshman year of college.

Even with a transplant, the survival rate for his age group was just 25 percent over two years.

But 31 years since his diagnosis, Raasch has beat his leukemia and is running to represent the 2nd Assembly District in northeastern Wisconsin with a focus on making health care more accessible and affordable.

“It’s changing at the federal level, and when that change happens at the federal level, we have to be ready at the state level to implement new strategies and new ideas to help really strengthen the health insurance programs that we have,” Raasch said in an interview with WisPolitics.com this week about his candidacy.

The 50-year-old De Pere Republican is currently a food and beverage director for a senior center and a member of the De Pere City Council. He faces self-described “Rand Paul Republican” Shae Sortwell in the Aug. 14 primary.

On health care, Raasch said he opposes a single-payer system as well as making BadgerCare a public option.

But what he does support is a return to a high-risk insurance pools that Wisconsin and more than 30 other states offered before the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. He argues bringing back those pools would allow people with pre-existing conditions to be adequately covered, and would likely reduce premiums for other health insurance consumers.

Raasch also said he supports the law Gov. Scott Walker championed earlier this year that provides $200 million to stabilize the state’s ACA market and hold down insurance premiums. He also wants the state to consider looking at Obamacare’s 1332 waiver that would allow the state to set up additional risk polls.

Raasch believes his experience as a licensed insurance agent and cancer survivor allows him to see the benefits and drawbacks of changes to health care at the federal and state levels.

Raasch’s opponent, 32-year-old Sortwell, works at a chemical company in Two Rivers and is running on a platform of limited government and preserving liberty. Sortwell is also an Army veteran who spent nine years in the Army Reserve chemical corps and currently serves as a member of the Gibson Town Board.

He says his conservative ideas have led to him receiving an endorsement from Young Americans for Liberty, which he says has been canvassing before the primary.

“Too often legislators want to look for that sexy bill … rather than looking and finding out what isn’t working right now, even if it’s something smaller that not everybody cares about,” Sortwell said.

His staunch opposition to government overreach has led him to call out easing levy limits for local schools without taxpayer approval.

It’s also led him to draw attention to the effects of what he considers unnecessary government overreach in his region, such as a state law he says requires local harbors to treat what they dredge from Lake MIchigan as hazardous waste.

*Read more from the interview:

*Listen to the interview with Sortwell:

*Listen to the interview with Raasch:


Monday: Wisconsin Ethics Commission meeting.
– 4 p.m.: 212 E. Washington Ave., Floor 3, Madison.

(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 U.S. Sen. RON JOHNSON on President Trump’s proposed $12 billion aid package to farmers hurt by his tariffs; state Sen. CHRIS KAPENGA on the state’s plan to offer Kimberly-Clark an incentive package; and Racine Journal Times political reporter RICARDO TORRES on how the 1st CD race is shaping up.
*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, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s PATRICK MARLEY, who’s filling in for WisPolitics.com’s JR ROSS, and WisconsinEye’s STEVE WALTERS discuss where the Senate stands on the Kimberly-Clark incentive package; last night’s U.S. Senate Republican primary debate; and Dem guv candidate MATT FLYNN’s pushback on calls to end his campaign due to his defense of the Milwaukee Archdiocese during the priest abuse scandal.
*Watch the show: http://www.wiseye.org/Video-Archive/Event-Detail/evhdid/12585

Wisconsin Public TV’s “Here and Now” airs at 7:30 p.m. Fridays. On this week’s program, anchor FREDERICA FREYBERG talks with Dem JOSH PADE on his run for guv; Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation President JIM HOLTE on the impact of the Trump administration’s tariffs on state farmers; and Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism reporter GRIGOR ATANESIAN on his reporting covering the security of Wisconsin’s elections systems.

“For the Record” airs at 10:30 a.m. Sunday on WISC-TV in Madison. Host NEIL HEINEN talks with Madison 365 Publisher and CEO HENRY SANDERS about the Wisconsin Leadership Summit.

“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. Host EMILEE FANNON talks with state Sen. KATHLEEN VINEHOUT on her Dem guv bid and Sen. JON ERPENBACH.

“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 analyze the Dem guv and GOP Senate primaries.
*Watch the video or listen to the show: https://www.wispolitics.com/2018/wisopinion-com-the-insiders-analyze-the-dem-guv-and-gop-senate-primaries/

Send items to staff@wispolitics.com

Upcoming WisPolitics.com events in Madison and Milwaukee include:

*An Aug. 16 Madison Club luncheon with WisOpinion Insiders CHUCK CHVALA, former Democratic Senate majority leader, and SCOTT JENSEN, former Republican Assembly speaker. The two will analyze the results of the Aug. 14 primary. Register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wispolitics-luncheon-with-the-wisopinion-insiders-analyzing-the-primary-results-tickets-48070065861

*A Sept. 6 Madison Club luncheon with Dem AG candidate JOSH KAUL. See more and register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wispolitics-luncheon-with-josh-kaul-tickets-48070293542

*And a Sept. 19 luncheon in Milwaukee with Axios Editor-in-Chief NICHOLAS JOHNSTON. He’ll discuss the media’s relationship with President Trump and the fall elections in Wisconsin and around the country. Register: https://www.wispolitics.com/2018/sept-19-wispolitics-com-luncheon-with-axios-editor-in-chief-nicholas-johnston/

The Milwaukee Press Club has unveiled its 2018 Media Hall of Fame honorees. They are: ELIZABETH BRENNER, of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; JOHN FENNELL, of Milwaukee Magazine; MIKE JACOBS, of TMJ4-TV; MARILYN KRAUSE, of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; CAROLE MEEKINS, of TMJ4-TV; STUART WILK, of the Milwaukee Sentinel and Dallas Morning News; NATHAN CONYERS, of the Milwaukee Times; and RUSS HAASE, of the Wisconsin Election Service. They will be inducted into the Hall of Fame Oct. 26. See more: https://www.wispolitics.com/2018/milwaukee-press-club-announces-2018-media-hall-of-fame-honorees/

Rep. DALE KOOYENGA says he’ll be reimbursing the state $30,000 today, after a recent settlement with a Madison man whose sign the lawmaker removed from the Capitol rotunda. A spokeswoman for Kooyenga said he’ll make the reimbursement with a personal check that’ll be delivered by the end of business today. The payment comes after Kooyenga in May 2017 removed a sign from the Capitol. The sign’s owner, DONALD JOHNSON, later sued Kooyenga for denying his First Amendment rights, and the lawsuit was settled this spring for $30,000. Kooyenga in April pledged to reimburse the state, but a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report this morning found he had not yet done so.

AMANDA BRINK, former campaign manager for TONY EVERS’ state superintendent re-election bid and Supreme Court justice candidate TIM BURNS, has taken on a new role as spokeswoman for Madison mayoral candidate RAJ SHUKLA.

The Department of Safety and Professional Services’ Madison office has relocated to the new Hill Farms State Office Building at 4822 Madison Yards Way, the agency announced today. See more: https://www.wispolitics.com/2018/dept-of-safety-and-professional-services-announces-relocation-of-madison-office/

Longtime Dane County legislative lobbyist MICKEY BEIL is retiring from her post at the end of next month. Beil, who spent 17 years working for the county, will have her last day Aug. 31. See more: https://www.wispolitics.com/2018/dane-county-exec-parisi-announces-retirement-of-mickey-beil/

WILL MILLER, special assistant to House Speaker PAUL RYAN, is leaving the Janesville Republican’s office to attend business school, Ryan announced in his weekly news conference this week. Miller has been serving in the role since April 2016, according to his LinkedIn page.

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

— Governor:


MAHLON MITCHELL: State Sen. LENA TAYLOR, Milwaukee City Treasurer SPENCER COGGS, California U.S. Sen. KAMALA HARRIS.

— Attorney General:

BRAD SCHIMEL: 63 Republican and Dem sheriffs, including: Barron County Sheriff CHRIS FITZGERALD; Brown County Sheriff JOHN GOSSAGE; Washburn County Sheriff TERRY DRYDEN; and Waukesha County Sheriff ERIC SEVERSON. See the full list: https://www.wispolitics.com/2018/schimel-campaign-even-more-democrats-law-enforcement-leaders-endorse-brad-schimel/

— State Treasurer:

CYNTHIA KAUMP: Win Back Your State PAC.

— 5th CD:

TOM PALZEWICZ: Milwaukee County Exec. CHRIS ABELE, former Maryland guv and presidential candidate MARTIN O’MALLEY.

For more Names in the News, see subscriber products from earlier in the week plus the press release page at WisPolitics.com: https://www.wispolitics.com/

For upcoming events, see the “Week Ahead” in this product and in your e-mail Monday morning. Click here for the online calendar: https://www.wispolitics.com/category/events/

If you have a contribution, e-mail staff@wispolitics.com

(from the state Ethics Commission)

Thirty-four changes were made to the lobbying registry in the past 10 days.

Follow this link for the complete list:

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