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Weak, ineffective & stupid are not exactly the qualities that Republicans, or the CITIZENS of our Country, were looking for. Right now our spirit is at an all time high, far better than the Radical Left Dems. You’ll see next year!
– President Trump continuing his barrage on Paul Ryan last weekend via Twitter, accusing the Janesville Republican of having “almost killed the Republican Party.”

I would prefer that we all understand that the opponent in this political struggle are Democrats and what they would turn American into.
– U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson when asked about the president’s criticism for Ryan. Johnson said his preference would be for Republicans to get along and band together against Dems “to preserve this country.”

Instead of mean tweeting, let’s do our job and work to fix the looming budget crisis, a broken healthcare system, and a broken immigration system.
– U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher via Twitter in response to Trump’s “go back” tweets. The Green Bay Republican said we “can all agree (the tweets) were wrong.”

The racist tropes that he put out there have absolutely no reason to exist.
– U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Town of Vermont, on Trump’s “go back” tweets during a conference call with reporters. Pocan chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus to which all four women belong.

We have a racist in the White House and these vile comments go beyond dog-whistling.
– U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, on Trump’s “go back” tweets via Twitter. She also praised the four members targeted by the president, saying they “work hard to make our country better as lawmakers and it terrifies our President, who is fueled by white nationalism and racial division.”

His ongoing embrace of division is disrespectful to the office of the Presidency and fails to provide the leadership America needs.
– U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin joined her Dem House colleagues in criticizing the president, tweeting that Trump “fails to see his racist and xenophobic attacks for what they are.”

To come to this floor and chastise the president for a couple of tweets when that’s the language you use against him, that is rich.
– U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy in a floor speech arguing against a Dem resolution to condemn Trump over the tweets and chastising the quartet for the language they had previously used when referring to the president, specifically highlighting U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s previous call to “impeach this motherf*****.”

I truly feel that no one likes to hear that word ‘corruption’ in Madison, but I know that Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce is the largest donor, and they seem to be controlling the whole situation down there.
– Grand Chute Town Chairman Dave Schowalte to GOP Rep. Mike Rohrkaste during a meeting that touched on the so-called “dark store loophole.” According to a local media report, the town paid $678,458 in tax refunds between 2013 and 2017 to three big-box stores with property tax lawsuits pending from Walmart and Sam’s Club.

I resent your term of ‘corruption.’ I find it appalling, childish, and not factual.
– Rohrkaste responding to Schowalter. The GOP lawmaker from Neenah added he found the remark “out of line” and that Schowalter was attacking his personal integrity. WMC also has sent Schowalter a letter demanding an apology.
See video of the exchange:

Read the WMC letter:

It’s past time for both sides to come together, do the right thing, pass a nonpartisan redistricting law that will give the people of this state the type of elections they deserve: fair, transparent, and as importantly, competitive.
– Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, touting a bill aimed at creating a nonpartisan redistricting process.

Democrats blame their minority status on gerrymandering but the reality is they were beaten fair and square.
– Assembly Speaker Robin Vos in response to Dems calls for nonpartisan redistricting. He highlighted the fact that Dem U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin won 30 percent of the seats held by Assembly Republicans.

–A collection of insider opinion–
(Jul. 13-19, 2019)


Scott Walker: The former guv is passing up another run at elected office for a new platform. And in making the announcement now, all GOP eyes are now turning to U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson to see what he plans to do in three years. Walker, who was already musing late last year about his possible political comeback, instead takes a job that will start in 2021 as president of the conservative Young America’s Foundation. In doing so, Walker says the four-year commitment will preclude him from running in 2022 or 2024, which takes him off the list of potential challengers to U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, if she seeks a third term. Dems, though, are quick to point out Walker’s record of pursuing another office suggests nothing can be ruled out. The YAF promotes conservative principles to young people and has a deep connection to former President Reagan, Walker’s political hero. In assessing the move, some look at the compensation of the outgoing president — $695,000 in salary in 2017 and more than $300,000 in other compensation — and assume it’s an opportunity to cash in. After all, Walker has spent almost his entire adult life in elected office, and his financial disclosure statements from his time in public life suggested he hadn’t really socked anything away, even if he’s in line for a healthy pension after more than 25 years of service. Others, though, note Walker has already hit the speaking circuit and found other gigs since leaving office. They add he has both a deep connection to Reagan and a real concern for young conservatives. Some question whether the job could be a launching pad for a future political bid, while others say it will give him a connection to young people active in the conservative movement and a way to be on the leading edge of top conservative battles such as free speech on campus. Either way, decisions about Walker’s political future can wait a few years. For his fellow Republicans still in Wisconsin, the race to 2022 just stepped up a notch. The next shoe to drop will be Johnson, R-Oshkosh, and his decision on whether to break his pledge to serve just two terms in the Senate and run for re-election in three years, make a play for the guv’s office, or go back home to Oshkosh and retire from public office. If Johnson passes on a guv’ bid, look for former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch to jump in the race. She’d be tough to beat in a primary, Republicans say. And Kleefisch backers are quick to note Walker gave her a shout out as a possible candidate in his interviews about his new job. Meanwhile, Waukesha County Exec Paul Farrow is another possible candidate, and insiders will watch to see if someone of wealth from the private sector emerges — just like Johnson did in 2010. Then there are three obvious possible candidates for U.S. Senate if Johnson opts against seeking re-election — U.S. Reps. Sean Duffy, of Weston, and Mike Gallagher, of Green Bay, along with 2018 Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson. None could be ruled out as a possible guv candidate, either. And insiders note what happens in 2020 likely will have a bearing on how the field shapes up in 2022. If President Trump wins re-election, history suggests Republicans would struggle in the midterm elections. But if he loses and it looks like a difficult environment for Dems, Republicans could come out of the woodwork to make a bid.

Bryan Steil: They say the first re-elect is the hardest. And the freshman GOP congressman is gearing up nicely for that first defense of his southeastern Wisconsin seat. Steil, R-Janesville, topped the state’s House delegation for fundraising in the second quarter, pulling in $529,640. That’s a decent bump from the $364,928 in receipts he reported in the first quarter of the year, and it leaves him with $706,349 in the bank. He’s still got a ways to go to catch U.S. Reps. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, or Sean Duffy, R-Weston, for cash on hand. Kind continues to have the biggest warchest in the delegation at $2.6 million in the bank; he may need it if he ends up being the most targeted member of the delegation in 2020. Still, while President Trump won his western Wisconsin district in 2016, Kind cruised to re-election last year with 59.7 percent of the vote and still doesn’t have an opponent for next year. Duffy, meanwhile, is in a safe GOP district and much of the talk about his future centers around whether he’d consider a statewide bid in 2022 if the opportunity presents itself. Like Duffy, Steil’s 1st CD is a fairly safe GOP seat, and he won the district long held by Paul Ryan with 54.6 percent of the vote last year against the well-funded, but flawed Randy Bryce. So while Steil is fundraising like he’s preparing for a stiff challenge, his race isn’t expected to be a top-tier target in 2020.

Pat Testin: The freshman GOP senator from Stevens Point is raising money at a clip that suggests he is well aware he’ll be a top target next fall. The same can’t be said of some of his Dem counterparts expected to face tough challenges in 2020. Testin, who pulled off an upset victory over then-Dem Sen. Julie Lassa for the Stevens Point-area seat three years ago, turned in the best fundraising haul among senators at $93,019 over the period. That helped push his cash on hand to $200,005 at the end of June, second in the chamber to only Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who had $458,325 stashed away. Three years ago, Testin benefited from the Trump wave that swept across northern and western Wisconsin, and insiders generally expect the president to be a help once again in 2020. The area has been trending away from Dems in recent years, and then-Gov. Scott Walker won 52.2 percent of the vote there last year even as he narrowly lost statewide. Still, Dems can point to U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s performance there as a sign of hope as the Madison Dem won Testin’s district with 52.3 percent of the vote against GOP challenger Leah Vukmir. Meanwhile, even with a significant resource disadvantage and in a bad year for Republicans, Vukmir won Dem Sen. Patty Schachtner’s district with 51.3 percent, while Walker took 53.8 percent in the western Wisconsin seat. So as insiders look at the $30,474 that the Somerset Dem raised over the first six months of the year, it doesn’t exactly instill confidence about her prospects of holding onto a seat that she won in a special election shocker last January. Overall, insiders say the biggest question for both houses of the Legislature is whether Republicans can get to veto-proof majorities rather than if Dems can pick up a significant number of seats. Either side would have to have a series of things fall their way in either scenario. In the Senate, Republicans would have to win Schachtner’s seat and find two more to get to 22. Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, has been a perpetual GOP target and is in a seat that Trump won with 52 percent of the vote three years ago. He also hasn’t been very active on the fundraising front, prompting questions over whether he plans to run again. But if he does, some say, it’s likely he’ll once again be a tough beat with his brand of populism that appears to work in his district. Republicans came within 61 votes of beating Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling in 2016, and the La Crosse Dem would be a logical target once again in 2020. But U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, didn’t have an opponent in 2016, and Dems were caught napping by the Trump wave. Neither is likely to happen this time around, and the Senate district looked much more like its historical performance last year as Tony Evers took it with 53.8 percent. As for other possible Dem targets, freshman Sen. Dan Feyen, R-Fond du Lac, will likely be on the list. But even with her superior resources, Baldwin eked out less than a 1-percentage point win here in 2018. Over in the Assembly, Republicans would need to pick up three seats to get to the magic number of 66. Tops on their list is freshman Rep. Robyn Vining, who won a Wauwatosa- area seat in 2018. Insiders say she benefited from running against former GOP state Treasurer Matt Adamczyk, viewed by some as a poor fit for the suburban district. Still, it’s also precisely the kind of district where Trump has struggled. Meanwhile, Rep. Steve Doyle, D-Onalaska, is the only Dem member of the Assembly to occupy a GOP-leaning seat. But his name ID and work ethic seem to have put him in a solid spot with voters back home. Even if Republicans did knock him off and beat Vining, they’d have to find a third target, and that’s not exactly easy. Still, if Trump’s numbers pick up in Wisconsin and Dems nominate someone who doesn’t resonate with state voters, some strategists see paths to get there. For Dems, the seats they targeted in western Wisconsin in 2018 didn’t pan out, with some of the races in the Milwaukee suburbs ending up a lot closer than those outstate contests. Still, there were only four races in 2018 with a spread of less than 4 percentage points, and it looks like Republicans will head into the elections with superior finance resources, making it difficult to close those gaps.

Supreme Court spending: Lisa Neubauer became the first candidate for the state’s highest court to spend more than $2 million, and that wasn’t the only mark to fall in this spring’s race. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign tallies more than $8.2 million in spending as conservative Brian Hagedorn beat his fellow appeals court judge to become the state’s next justice. That tops the previous record for overall spending of just less than $6 million in 2008, as conservative challenger Michael Gableman beat Justice Louis Butler. This spring, the two candidates alone combined to spend a record $3.7 million, according to new campaign finance reports. Neubauer led spending at just over $2 million, while Hagedorn, who won the April 2 contest for a 10-year seat on the high court, spent nearly $1.7 million – the second-largest amount spent by a candidate in a state Supreme Court race. WDC found independent groups spent more than $4.5 million with $2.9 million of that supporting Neubauer. Meanwhile, a WisPolitics.com check of the candidates’ filings shows while Neubauer outspent Hagedorn overall, the former Scott Walker aide outraised her down the final stretch. The reports show Hagedorn pulled in $427,142 from March 19 through the end of the race. That includes $135,254 from committees with the bulk of that — $130, 479 — from various Republican parties around the state. Neubauer, meanwhile, raised $289,248 from March 19 through the end of her campaign, and she reported $31,086 in in-kind donations from the state Dem Party.


Tony Evers: The guv is an educator and a good guy, insiders say, not a true political animal. Some insiders suggest his success could depend on whether he can fashion himself into one. The guv’s OK — but not great — fundraising numbers and the sharp criticisms from former Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala, D-Madison, remind insiders of the challenges Evers has faced making the transition from the state’s top education official to its CEO. Evers reports raising $656,763 over the first six months of the year — $161,000 more than the guv raised over the first half of 2018 as he sought the Dem guv nomination. But it’s also well short of the $2.5 million that then-Gov. Scott Walker raised during the first six months of his time in the East Wing. Comparisons of any candidate for state office to Walker are almost unfair, some say, considering he is the most prolific fundraiser in Wisconsin history. During his first six months in office, Walker was already a national figure due to the fight over his proposal to strip most public employees of collective bargaining powers, giving him a fundraising network that has been unparalleled among state candidates. Going back to Walker’s predecessor, former Gov. Jim Doyle raised $527,684 over the first six months of 2007 as he began his second term. While Evers’ numbers compare favorably to that haul, the cost of campaigns has increased dramatically over the past dozen years. Strategists say Evers needs to significantly pick up the pace if he wants to be prepared for what could be a difficult re-elect in 2022. Evers raised $10.9 million from mid-2017 through the end of last year, while Walker raised and spent more than $35 million over his final four-year term. It’s not unrealistic to expect Evers would need to raise $20 million for his re-election bid with about half of that coming in the final year or so. Still, that means he’d still need to average more than $3 million in fundraising in each of his first three years in office to keep pace. So far, he’s not close to that, though some note the move of aide Cassi Fenili to the state party could end up being a boost for his political operation as she helps Dems prepare for the national convention. Some insiders chalk up Evers’ early fundraising numbers to an operation that’s still getting its sea legs. It also could have been hurt by demands to help line up donors for the national convention coming to Milwaukee next summer or assist the Democratic Governors Association after the work it did on his behalf last year. There was also a state budget to knock out. But at some point, the guv needs to grow an operation that can multitask, insiders argue. And that includes having a political operation that is unabashedly political in chasing dollars. While Dems may have seen Walker’s constant fundraising unseemly, some also acknowledge it is necessary with the way campaigns are run these days. Republicans haven’t disarmed simply because Dems swept statewide races last fall, and critics say Evers needs to understand the GOP is gearing up for another war. And the guv learns that sometimes the fights he’ll encounter include enemies that come from within. Chvala lays into Evers on WisOpinion.com’s “The Insiders,” saying the guv and his team’s handling of the budget was a “disaster” and Evers should’ve vetoed the state budget to force Republican lawmakers to put forward something more to his liking. Chvala also insists Evers would’ve won a long, drawn-out budget fight because the public was on his side when it came to the issues. Chvala’s comments raise eyebrows, particularly because his wife, Barbara Worcester, is one of Evers’ deputy chiefs of staff. That connection prompts a series of questions about what Chvala’s motivation was. It also prompts a number of insiders to slam the former majority leader for what they say is his naivete about the political reality of the current dynamic in the state Capitol. Maybe there was a path to fight like hell on the budget 20 years ago and make GOP lawmakers uncomfortable. But the swing-seat lawmakers Chvala served with before leaving office after he was charged with felonies in the so-called “caucus scandal” don’t exist anymore. Evers had much more to lose politically in a budget impasse than Republicans, many of whom would’ve relished the fight after more spending. Still, even some who think Chvala’s remarks are off base believe Evers could’ve put up more of a fight for his priorities before he was faced with the choice of vetoing the entire budget or only accepting a piece of what Republicans were willing to give him. That would’ve meant going GOP district to GOP district rallying the public and engaging Republican lawmakers more heavily than he and his staff did, some argue. If he’d prepared for war from the get-go, some say, it may have put Republicans in a more uncomfortable position. Instead, Republicans proclaim the document Evers signed is essentially their budget and jump on Chvala’s comments to declare victory in the budget battle. Some Evers fans say the Dem was elected last fall, in part, because he was the anti-Walker, calling him a breath of fresh air because he doesn’t view everything through a political lens and doesn’t have one eye constantly on his next step up the political ladder. Still, they add there’s something to be said for having an unabashedly political streak to take on the challenges ahead.

Amanda Stuck: The three-term member of the Assembly is taking a shot at Congress. But insiders see it as very much an uphill proposition for the Dem lawmaker. In looking to take on U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay, she would face a well-funded incumbent in a district where he won re-election with 63.7 percent of the vote in 2018 and Donald Trump remains popular after winning it handedly in 2016. So as insiders wonder why Stuck would take a shot at running for the 8th CD, they suggest several possible motivations. One, some say life in the Assembly minority can be a drag, and running for the House is one way out. Two, there will be new district lines after the 2020 census, and a bid next year could help build name ID for 2022. And she could possibly catch lightning and knock off Gallagher if a whole lot of things fell her way. In launching her bid, Stuck slams Gallagher for voting to “gut protections for people with pre-existing conditions” while doing nothing to lower the cost of prescription drugs. At the same time, he’s taken “tens of thousands of dollars” from pharmaceutical and insurance companies, she added. All of that cues up a campaign focused on health care — something that worked for Dems in 2018 races. Add in the uncertainty of a court challenge to the Affordable Care Act and the possible impact on the political environment if a federal appeals court overturns the law ahead of the 2020 elections, and it could be a potent mix. Still, Trump won the district with 55.7 percent of the vote in 2016, and his April visit to Green Bay is a sign he intends to pump up his numbers in the area to bolster his chances of repeating in Wisconsin. Gallagher broke with Trump on the president’s declaration of a national emergency along the southern border, something that didn’t sit well with some Republicans. And he spoke out on Trump’s tweets against “the squad” — though he voted with Republicans when the issue came to the floor. But these signs of independence likely aren’t enough to cause Gallagher any real trouble with the GOP base. So long as Trump’s numbers stay strong in the 8th CD, it would make it that much more difficult for Stuck to pull off the upset. Then there’s Gallagher’s fundraising with his latest report showing he raised $510,808 to push his cash on hand to $1.4 million more than 16 months out from his re-election bid. Dems contend Stuck’s gamble could have a benefit later on. Beyond a possibly more Dem friendly 8th CD in 2022 after new lines are drawn, there’s also a chance it could be an open seat. Now that Scott Walker has said he won’t seek office in three years, insiders are watching U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson to see if the Oshkosh Republican will seek re-election, run for guv or leave public office. That decision could mean an open U.S. Senate seat, which could prove tempting to Gallagher and others. And if Gallagher jumped in, that would mean an open 8th CD, which would draw a lot of attention — and resources.


Dem fundraising: The dynamic of raising money in Wisconsin has shifted dramatically over the past eight years. But the Dem legislative caucuses have yet to find a way to even the playing field with their GOP counterparts. The latest campaign finance reports show the GOP legislative campaign committees have a combined 5-to-1 advantage over their Dem counterparts for cash on hand. And the $1.3 million Assembly and Senate Republicans had in the bank at the end of June makes it all that much more difficult for Dems to compete in 2020. A number of reasons play into the financial disparity, insiders say. That includes the simple fact that money flows to power, and Republicans have enjoyed control of both houses of the Legislature for eight years other than a brief period when Dems re-took the Senate following the 2012 recall elections — and then promptly lost it that fall. The maps also give Republicans much more favorable terrain to fight over — and fewer incentives for donors to open their wallets to Dem candidates. In addition, insiders note the Act 10 changes that Gov. Scott Walker and Republicans pushed through didn’t just eliminate collective bargaining powers for most public employees, it helped cut off a money spigot for Dems through union dues. Republicans have long balked at the idea of collecting money from public employees that they knew would go toward trying to defeat them at the ballot box, and the law cut off that option. Since then, it’s been a struggle for Dems to make up the lost cash. Then came the GOP rewrite of campaign finance laws that opened the door to corporate donations and raised contribution limits. There also are simply more high-dollar donors willing to give to Republicans. A WisPolitics.com check of campaign finance reports found individuals making donations of $50,000 or more gave nearly $10.4 million to campaigns, political parties and independent groups last year, not counting contributions from candidates to their own cause. Of that, just under $3 million went to Dems, and $1.4 million of that was from Milwaukee County Exec Chris Abele giving to the Leadership MKE group he created to help candidates he personally supports. Republicans have few sympathies for their Dem counterparts, arguing much of their success is due to better candidates, a better message and a better operation. Dems acknowledge they need to adjust to the new world order. And a “cheddar bomb” from the state party might illustrate one path. The state Dem Party began a social media push for donations during President Trump’s visit to Milwaukee for a fundraiser and a tour of a Milwaukee company. With an original goal of 1,000 donors, the party raised $75,000 in five days from 2,000 donors. The effort got the attention of celebrities Debra Messing, Alyssa Milano, Andy Richter and Don Cheadle, among others, who tweeted about the push. Candidates can’t simply tweet an appeal for money and expect the cash to start rolling in, some say. But it does illustrate the power of small-dollar donors and social media.

UW tuition funds: The leftover tuition money the university’s campuses have stashed away is down by more than half over the past six years. Outraged over the tuition fund balances — which they dubbed slush funds — Republicans imposed a tuition freeze in 2013 that will continue over the next two-year period for in-state undergrads. And that move has helped drive down the $551.5 million in tuition balances the 26 two- and four-year campuses collectively had on hand then to $257.7 million as of July 1, according to Wisconsin Public Radio. The university has defended the funds — what’s left over after expenses are paid in the prior budget year — as a safeguard against declines in tuition or state funding. But it also has contributed to a perception among GOP lawmakers that the university’s cries of poverty are overdone. Documents provided to the UW Board of Regents show the tuition balances range from nothing at the Stevens Point campus to $8.4 million at Parkside. For Stevens Point, the dip has meant the implementation of a financial recovery plan that will result in $8 million in cuts from its budget between fiscal years 2020-2022.

Frac sand industry: The boom in Wisconsin’s frac sand industry is feeling a little bust. The owner of eight frac sand mining operations in Wisconsin has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in federal court, though court records obtained by Wisconsin Public Radio show one mine and two processing facilities are still in operation. Wisconsin saw a boom in demand for its frac sand — known as northern white — and Emerge Energy saw rapid growth from 2011 to 2014. But demand for Wisconsin sand began to dip not long after, particularly as supply expanded dramatically with mines opening closer to oilfields in Texas and Oklahoma, making the Badger State’s product a more expensive option due to transportation costs. Wisconsin’s northern white sand is still considered to be higher quality due to its coarseness, shape and durability, according to experts, but producers have figured out how to meet their needs with lower quality product from elsewhere. Still, the state’s producers have opportunities to serve other markets, where there isn’t locally produced product.


JFC Co-chair Alberta Darling tells WisPolitics.com she is gearing up to seek re-election in 2020 with two significant fundraisers on tap this summer.

Darling raised $36,550 during the first six months of 2019, the fifth-best haul in the state Senate for the period. Still, that’s behind the pace she set for the same period in 2015, when she raised $64,220 ahead of winning re-election in 2016 without opposition.

Darling, 75, said she is running again to continue pushing the reforms that she said have helped spark Wisconsin’s economy.

This session was her sixth co-chairing the JFC, tying her with GOP Sen. Walter Hollander, who led the committees in the 1960s and 1970s, for most terms heading the committee.

“A lot of our reforms are working. I’d like to see that play out,” Darling, R-River Hills, said in an interview. “With the new Gov. Evers, I think it’s really important for those who were part of those reforms to stay connected, to make sure they keep going.”

A WisPolitics.com check of campaign finance reports shows freshman GOP Sen. Pat Testin, a likely target in 2020, turned in the best fundraising haul among senators. The Stevens Point Republican pulled in $93,019 over the period. He finished June with $200,005 in the bank.

Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, was next at $92,080 raised, while freshman GOP Sen. Dan Feyen of Fond du Lac, another possible 2020 target, pulled in $45,206.

Dem Sen. Patty Schachtner, who won a normally GOP western Wisconsin seat in a 2018 special election, was No. 8 in the chamber for fundraising with $30,474 over the six-month period. The Somerset Dem had $28,474 in the bank to end June.

The check also found several longtime state senators up in 2020 who reported little fundraising activity or were behind their pace from the same period four years ago.

Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon and a member of Finance, raised $12,223 over the first six months of 2019, compared to $43,992 during the same period four years earlier. Still, he told WisPolitics.com this week he intends to seek re-election in 2020. Olsen, 68, was first elected to the Senate in 2004 after eight years in the Assembly.

Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, says he also plans to seek re-election after reporting just $115 raised over the first six months of the year. Cowles, who turns 69 later this month, has served in the Senate since winning a 1987 special election. He raised $10,550 over the first half of 2015.

“I’m a retail politician,” Cowles said, adding he typically doesn’t feel a need to raise a lot of money for his campaigns.

On the Dem side, state Sen. Bob Wirch, who was elected to his Kenosha-area Senate seat in 1996, raised $96 over the first six months of the year. The Somers Dem also wasn’t very active over the first six months of 2015, pulling in $820. Still, the $50,059 he had in the bank at the end of June was in the same ballpark as the $49,588 he had stashed away in the middle of 2015.

Wirch, 75, said he has “every intention of running right now.”

Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, has been a regular GOP target but raised just $30 over the first half of 2019, compared to $10,315 for the same period four years earlier. Still, the $41,756 he had in the bank is similar to the $40,469 he had in mid-2015, and an aide told WisPolitics.com last week the longtime lawmaker planned to talk with his family before making a final decision on a run in 2020. He had looked at doing a fundraiser this spring, but decided against doing one with the state Supreme Court race and other campaigns.

Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, raised $60 in the first six months of the year and had $4,621 in the bank. That’s in line with four years ago, when he raised $62, though he had $17,990 in the bank then. Miller, 76, was unopposed in seeking re-election three years ago. He didn’t respond to calls this week.

And state Sen. Fred Risser, the longest serving state lawmaker in the nation’s history, reported raising zero dollars in the first half of 2019 with $3,161 in the bank. That’s not unusual for Risser, who reported $15 in donations over the first half of 2015 and was unopposed for re-election last time.

The Madison Dem, 92, said it was premature to make a decision so early in the session about next fall’s elections. Risser, who first won a seat in the Assembly in 1956, joined the Senate after winning a 1962 special election.

“I’m working hard on the current session,” he said, pointing out he wouldn’t have to notify the state until this spring if he decides against running.

Vos leads Assembly fundraising

Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, led fundraising in the state Assembly over the first six months of 2019, pulling in $29,280.

That helped push his cash on hand to $308,702, second in the Legislature only to Fitzgerald’s $458,325.

Freshman GOP Rep. Tony Kurtz, R-Wonewoc, was No. 2 in the Assembly for most raised at $27,954.

He only pulled in $600 of that from committees, though he benefited from $8,897 in conduit contributions.

JFC Co-chair John Nygren, R-Marinette, was next at $26,127 raised in the period, while Speaker Pro Tempore Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, followed at $23,285 and Rep. Rob Swearingen, R-Rhinelander, rounded out the top five at $11,815.

Freshman Dem Rep. Robyn Vining, of Wauwatosa, was the top Dem fundraiser at $8,892, coming in No. 12 overall in the chamber. Expected to be a top GOP target this fall, she had $15,908 in the bank to end June.

See the full list of Senate fundraising totals:

See the Assembly numbers:


Gov. Tony Evers declared a state of emergency and closed some state office buildings impacted by a power outage after fires broke out at two electric substations in downtown Madison.

The fires knocked out power to thousands in the downtown area on what was expected to be the hottest day so far this year.

The order directed state employees who work in buildings impacted by the power outage not to come in unless their jobs dealt with functions such as public health or safety. He also readied the Wisconsin National Guard to help local authorities.

“Keeping folks safe remains our top priority as we continue to manage and respond to this situation,” Evers said.

Those state offices impacted today included: the state Capitol, DOA headquarters, Risser Justice Center, the Tommy G. Thompson building, the Department of Health Services, all three GEF buildings, the State of Wisconsin Investment Board, State Historical Society, and State Veterans Museum.

DOA said some of them had backup generators running today.

The Wisconsin DMV also said via Twitter that its customer service centers temporarily were unable to issue driver licenses or ID cards, because a router managed by a telecommunications company was down. It was back online by this afternoon.

Madison Gas & Electric tweeted this afternoon that it was “on a path toward full restoration,” but had “encountered a few isolated mechanical issues.”

As of 2:50 p.m. today, the company’s website said just less than 1,700 customers were still impacted.

Read the executive order:


Tuesday: Speaker’s Task Force on Water Quality public and informational hearings
– 12:30 p.m.: PCA Tomahawk Buedingen Training Center.

Wednesday: Badgers United panel discussion.
– 9 a.m.: Monona Terrace.

Thursday: Assembly Consumer Protection Committee Executive Session on AB 186, which would allow minors to operate temporary stands without a permit or license.
– 1:01 p.m.: North Hearing Room, state Capitol.

(Check local listings for times in your area)

(Check local listings for times in your area)

“UpFront” is a statewide commercial TV news magazine show airing Sundays around the state. This week’s show, hosted by ADRIENNE PEDERSEN, features DNR Secretary PRESTON COLE, MARGARET KROME of the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute on the farm crisis and MIKE NICHOLS of the Badger Institute on toll roads.

*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. Taping of this week’s episode has been delayed until Monday due to the power outage in downtown Madison.

Wisconsin Public TV’s “Here and Now” airs at 7:30 p.m. Fridays.

“Capital 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. This week’s guests include Gov. TONY EVERS, U.S. Rep. BRYAN STEIL, and DWD Secretary CALEB FROSTMAN and Corrections Secretary KEVIN CARR.

“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, Chvala and Jensen take long- and short-term views of Wisconsin’s transportation budget.

*Watch the video or listen to the show:

Send items to staff@wispolitics.com

Upcoming WisPolitics.com events in Madison and Washington, D.C., include:

*A Sept.12 luncheon at the Madison Club with the two new state party chairs to talk about the 2020 election cycle. Wisconsin will play a pivotal role in the presidential contest, through the spring primary, the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee and the general election. The two major state parties now have new leaders going into the cycle: ANDREW HITT at the Republican Party of Wisconsin and BEN WIKLER at the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. See details and register: https://wispolitics2020election.eventbrite.com/

*A Sept. 18 breakfast at the AT&T Forum in Washington, D.C., with Milwaukee Mayor TOM BARRETT on preparations for the Democratic National Convention in Wisconsin next year. Details to be announced soon.

RON BOEHMER will be leaving his role as communications director for U.S. Rep. MARK POCAN, D-Town of Vermont, at the end of next week to take a job with a public affairs firm in D.C. Press Secretary CONOR MCCABE will take over as the point of contact for Pocan.

NICK PROBST is leaving lobbying firm Capitol Consultants to become a government affairs attorney at von Briesen & Roper S.C. Probst previously served as director of state relations for the UW System and as legal counsel for Assembly Speaker ROBIN VOS.

JOHN SCHULZE, director of legal and government affairs for Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin, presented on best practices from Wisconsin at GROVER NORQUIST’s Wednesday Meeting — a weekly gathering of more than 150 elected officials, political activists and conservative leaders.

ALEC ZIMMERMAN, communications director for Senate Majority Leader SCOTT FITZGERALD, is set to tie the knot with fiance MELANIE BLASER. The couple, engaged since June 2018, will travel to Hawaii for their honeymoon.

AARON SELIGMAN has been appointed as the UW System’s new director of the Office of Educational Opportunity. Seligman most recently served as assistant director of Hillel Foundation at UW-Madison previously practiced commercial and political law at Godfrey & Kahn, S.C. He will succeed LATOYA HOLIDAY in the role starting Aug. 1.

Priorities Wisconsin has hired BRIDGET DRISCOLL, a former aide to Gov. TONY EVERS, to serve as a content producer. Driscoll oversaw social media, photo, video, and graphic design production for the guv and previously ran social media and video production for U.S. Sen. TAMMY BALDWIN’s campaign.

MARK GRAPENTINE will join the Wisconsin Hospitals Association as vice president of communications in September. Grapentine was most recently senior vice president for government relations at the Wisconsin Medical Society and has served as chief of staff to former State Sen. PEGGY ROSENZWEIG, as a policy adviser to Gov. TOMMY THOMPSON, and as a legislative assistant to then-State Rep. SCOTT WALKER. He is replacing STEPHANIE MARQUIS in the role.

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)

Nine changes were made to the lobbying registry in the past 10 days.

Follow this link for the complete list:

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