MON AM Update: Wikler elected Dem Party chair at state convention; Baldwin on ‘UpFront’

Exclusively for WisPolitics Subscribers

WHCA / WiCAL and LeadingAge Wisconsin Ad
WHCA / WiCAL and LeadingAge Wisconsin

From …

— New Dem Party Chair Ben Wikler says his first order of business will be getting the state party more involved in the fight to expand Medicaid in Wisconsin.

Gov. Tony Evers had proposed in his budget accepting federal money under the Affordable Care Act to expand the program. Republicans have pulled that provision from the budget, but Evers has continued to press for expansion in public appearances.

“We have a party that is hungry to stand up for Wisconsin families on an issue where Republicans are on the wrong side of history,” Wikler said.

Wikler bested Rep. David Bowen, who had served as first vice chair for the past four years, 1,006 votes to 233, a more than 4-to-1 margin in yesterday’s election at the state convo in Milwaukee. Wikler said he personally called every delegate as he campaigned for the office.

“Our entire slate ran on the premise that organizing is the heart of winning elections for Democrats,” Wikler said.

Wikler, who resigned as a senior adviser to to campaign, said he will serve as a full-time chair and take a salary. Outgoing Chair Martha Laning will stay on through a transition period, but Wikler will now be the lead in making party decisions.

He said one of his top priorities will be continuing to build the party’s infrastructure going into the 2020 presidential election.

“We’re going to build a powerhouse operation like no one in Wisconsin has ever seen to make sure Wisconsin is a blue brick wall for the presidential election,” Wikler said.

— Bowen told it’s important to stay focused on beating Donald Trump in 2020 and working toward retaking majorities in both houses of the Legislature in 2022 after new maps are in place.

“I think Ben will do an amazing job for the party,” Bowen said. “I hope that everyone supports him.”

Heading into the election, Bowen had advocated for the party to make more significant investments in various communities, including those of color, rather than parachuting in each election. He said he’ll continue to push that view.

“I think it’s important that everything we fought for in our platform, that we continue to make sure that the new leadership continues down that same path with those ideas because we know it’s what’s best for the future of the party,” Bowen said.

— Wikler’s ticket swept the elections with Milwaukee County Board Supv. Felesia Martin winning first vice chair and former state Senate candidate Lee Snodgrass of Appleton second vice chair.

Martin beat Sauk County Democratic Party Chair Tammy Wood 991-239, while Snodgrass defeated UW-Madison student Alicia Lorta 871-361.

— During the weekend convention, Gov. Tony Evers shrugged off his reputation as “boring” and threw some shade at Republicans in their ongoing budget standoff

He reminded activists he stands before them with one of the most powerful veto pens in the country before laying down a challenge to GOP lawmakers as they rework his budget.

“To them I say, ‘Who is boring now?'” Evers said.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, continued to push for the impeachment of President Trump but said she understood House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s hesitancy to move forward with impeachment proceedings.

“We do need (GOP U.S. Rep.) Justin Amash’s of the world,” she said, referring to the Republican congressman from Michigan who has also called for Trump’s impeachment.

In addition, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin challenged activists to take up a fight that will be remembered years from now. And Supreme Court candidates Ed Fallone and Jill Karofsky addressed the convention.

Also, the party stopped from conducting a straw poll at the convention, citing national party rules.

— Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes called for an end to mass incarceration and the prohibition on marijuana while slamming Assembly Speaker Robin Vos for calling the Evers’ budget provision on pot a poison pill.

The real poison pill, Barnes said, was the opioids that had flooded the state. He said there was no chance families would be torn apart by marijuana.

“You’d see them being brought closer together,” he said. “Imagine how much better Thanksgiving dinner could be.”

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, called on Barnes to apologize for his pot comment, writing on Twitter it was “ridiculous for anyone to say, let alone an elected official.”

Steineke added, “Pathetic that anyone wld push drug use as a way to spend time together as a family. Doesn’t comprehend how drug use in general has ripped families apart? I’m at a loss.”

See full coverage of the weekend in the Dem Convention Blog:

— Baldwin said Congress should exert its oversight role over the executive branch and continue to investigate President Trump.

But in a weekend interview, she did not join dozens of other Democrats who are calling for Congress to begin an impeachment inquiry.

“Congress has an oversight role. Congress has a constitutional obligation to investigate,” Baldwin told “UpFront,” produced in partnership with

Baldwin said the report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller laid out more than a dozen instances in which she said Trump either lied or obstructed investigations.

“We have to get to the bottom of that,” Baldwin said.

“When you say ‘Get to the bottom of it,'” are you ready to start impeachment proceedings?” host Adrienne Pedersen asked.

“I think that we need all the facts,” Baldwin said. “And we need to do our constitutional duty, investigate and deliver the truth to the American people.

“Nobody in America is above the law. That includes the president. The president is not above the law,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin also endorsed Gov. Tony Evers’ plan to take the federal Medicaid expansion.

The Legislature’s Republican leadership opposes the Medicaid expansion and removed it from the budget.

Baldwin said voters in 2018 were motivated by health care as an issue and they were “fearful that health care would go away.”

“People should be writing their elected representatives and say ‘Expand Medicaid,'” she said.

— In another segment, Greg Marcus, the president and CEO of the Milwaukee-based Marcus Corporation, said there is increased national interest in Milwaukee since the Democratic National Committee announced the city as the site of its 2020 national nominating convention.

“We’re seeing increased traffic from other conventions that are interested in coming here and saying ‘What’s going on in Milwaukee?'” Marcus said.

He said the DNC, the Bucks’ recent playoff run, and the Ryder Cup coming to Wisconsin in 2020 are all chances to “expose Milwaukee to the world.”

“It gives people a new perspective on Milwaukee,” he said.

See more from the show:

— Lawmakers last week circulated 13 bills for co-sponsorship, including one creating a new money laundering statute in Wisconsin and legislation to allow 17-year-olds to vote in a primary if they’ll be 18 by the general election.

See the Association of Wisconsin Lobbyist’s summary of last week’s bills circulated, including links to the co-sponsorship memos:


FRIDAY: and discussion: Closing the urban-rural health care gap

The recent 2019 County Health Rankings report showed gaps in health care between suburban-urban areas and rural counties in Wisconsin. In southwestern Wisconsin, La Crosse County was ranked 6th among the state’s 72 counties in terms of health factors that drive healthy lifestyles such as lower tobacco and alcohol use; access to quality care, education, employment and social support; plus housing and water-air quality. But surrounding counties ranked between 19th and 59th.

Join us for a discussion on coping with these gaps in rural-urban health care. The cost to attend is free, thanks to the support of Health Tradition.

But you must register in advance.

WHAT: Closing the rural-urban health care gap

WHEN: Friday June 7, 11:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. with the program going from noon to 1:15 p.m.

WHERE: The Waterfront Restaurant & Tavern l 328 Front Street South Ste. 100, La Crosse WI 54601

FORMAT: Dr. Tim Bartholow, Chief Medical Officer of Health Tradition, will provide opening remarks, and then a panel of four experts will add commentary. The panelists include Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse, Wally Orzechowski of the Southwest Community Action Program, Dr. Paul S. Mueller, chair of Mayo Clinic’s general internal medicine, and Dr. Erik Gundersen, medical director of Kwik Trip Center for Health and incoming president of the Wisconsin Medical Society.

The event is organized by and, non-partisan news organizations that regularly convene discussions of important public issues. Sponsored by Health Tradition.

To register, visit:


University of Wisconsin-Madison Ad
University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Madison Club Ad
The Madison Club


[1,006 – 233] WI Dems elect Wikler as new state party chair
… recently returned to Wisconsin, having spent several years in Washington, D.C., as a director for … complimented state Democrats for their own efforts calling their Congressional representatives and protesting. “And that became the rocket fuel for the 2018 campaigns. Tammy Baldwin’s landslide, Tony Evers and Mandela Barnes ending the Scott Walker dark ages, because you fought,” Wikler said. … Bowen called on the party to change up its grassroots advocacy … end a practice of “parachuting” organizers into unfamiliar communities, rather than deploying trained activists in their own communities. Wikler and VC Martin will also serve as DNC superdelegates.

WI Dems do 2018 victory lap at annual state party convention
… at the Potawatomi Hotel and Casino … “Holy mackerel — well, I guess it’s about time we had a keynote speaker at convention who’s a Democratic governor from Wisconsin,” Evers said. … used much of his speech to reflect on his win over … Walker … “We decided we weren’t going to get down into the mud with Republicans — we weren’t going to spend our time attacking personal beliefs or character. We made a decision not to be consumed by the things we were fighting against or distracted by the things that divide us.” … did not directly address continued conflict at the state Capitol over the state budget … However, Democratic legislative leaders [threw] support behind a number of Evers’ initiatives … “There’s no policy reason to reject the Medicaid expansion,” said Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz … “It’s such a no-brainer from a moral and fiscal perspective.” Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling [said GOP] “still haven’t learned that they don’t control everything anymore. They’re struggling to work through the five stages of grief.” … Baldwin spoke at length about … health care. … said some health care plans in America “aren’t worth the paper they’re written on,” and called on GOP leadership in Congress to “stop sabotaging our health care.” … called for legislation to lower [Rx] cost … Moore took much of her time on the stage … “to do some anti-Trump dumping” … said Trump needs to “learn the principles of 4- and 5-year-old kindergarten kids,” including “share everything” and “play fair.” … in favor of impeaching the president. “We’re going to continue to investigate — that’s our duty.” … “We have a lot more work to do,” [outgoing DPW chair] Laning told convention attendees Saturday afternoon. “It is imperative the future leaders we select tomorrow help us do that.” Activist Wikler facing Rep. Bowen to replace Laning. Wikler: “I’ve spent my whole life in this work,” touted campaign slogan of “FIRE: Fight, include, respect, empower.” Bowen: “We lose when we don’t work to expand the electorate,” touted Evers win, “When we do the work, that’s when we win.” Supreme candidates Karofsky and Fallone spoke to conventioneers, touched on issues of criminal justice and the environment. Karofsky: “Our judiciary, our legal system, are being increasingly politicized. We need fair, honest and independent judges. … We must uphold laws that protect our beautiful environment.” Fallone called Kelly’s appointment “a reward for political loyalty. I’ll be a voice for working families on the Supreme Court of Wisconsin. … We’re locking up too many people of color –this is a failure of our justice system.”

‘2020 is important’: Prez campaigns seek support from WI Dems in Milwaukee
… “It’s wonderful to have a wide-open primary. As we saw last year in the gubernatorial race, it really helped to get our message out and make our nominee stronger and helped us beat a Republican, and we need to do that nationally,” said Kelda Roys, a former state representative from Madison who was part of that crowd of candidates. … just five of the Democratic presidential candidate campaigns had a presence at the Milwaukee convention [Sanders, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Gillibrand, Warren] … Volunteers across the board stressed the importance of outreach efforts in a state that many see as one that will play a pivotal role in next year’s race. …, which traditionally operates straw polls at both state party gatherings, was barred from conducting its survey due to DNC rules, which prohibit the polls in the presidential race. … [reporter’s private poll] yielded 16 votes for Warren, eight for Sanders, three for Biden, two for Buttigieg and one each for [Gabbard and Harris] before a party spokeswoman shut down the effort. … Convention goers interviewed this weekend didn’t universally rally around one candidate and many mentioned a handful … Democrats interviewed, as well as speakers at the convention, said the eventual nominee would gain strength from the process. Evers told conventioneers to focus on issue, party unity, “I don’t care which office they’re running for, we’re going to send them packing.”

WI GOP isn’t considering gas tax increase but may boost fees, Senate leader says
… “The gas tax has lost a lot of steam and the speaker just drove a stake through it,” Fitzgerald said … [MacIver Institute reported Vos at a recent fundraiser said gas tax hike] was no longer under consideration. In a statement Friday, Vos said those comments “reflect my belief that a gas tax increase would be tough to get done in this budget. … We have to have new revenue for transportation. I’m glad to hear Sen. Fitzgerald and the Senate agree.” … “It’s encouraging we’re talking about how to raise the money rather than whether to raise the money,” [WisDOT Sec.] Thompson said. … [Fitzgerald rebuffed putting more sales, income taxes into roads] … It’s not clear how much money the ideas Republicans are considering would raise. … [Fitzgerald hoping for deals with Evers,] “I think what we can do is go back in there and say … ‘Let’s talk about you keeping your veto pen off of this’ and then avoid the whole idea of vetoing the entire budget, which I’ve told the governor now three times in his office I think it would be a big mistake and put all of us kind of in no man’s land.” … Baldauff [for] Evers [said] “it’s up to them to get on the same page with one another and bring some concrete plans to the table as a starting point for negotiations.” … [rehash GOP and gender, Evers’ female staff] Asked about his relationship with Gau, Fitzgerald said, “It’s just not — I don’t know why — it’s just not a comfortable kind of — you know, and everyone’s got their own way. We just can’t strike what that is right now. We can’t get that back and forth going that I think would be helpful.” Vos suggested 2-part budget to dodge line-item vetoes, but Fitzgerald said his caucus is “indifferent” so far, “I don’t know if it will make sense.”

19th Amendment anniversary: Today’s female lawmakers fight for women’s rights
… “In that civics class, finding out that Wisconsin had been so unique and had been first to ratify, it just kind of lit the light,” [ex-lt. guv] Farrow said. … able to succeed as a woman in politics largely because of the women who came before her. … We stand on the shoulders of our foremothers,” [US Sen.] Baldwin said. … “there are many areas … where full equality and full equity have yet to be achieved.” … state’s first Latina lawmaker, Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa … “very much in awe and grateful to the women who led this fight way before me. I just hope that I can make them proud.” … “I am really thankful for, and quite frankly I can’t even imagine, the mountains that those women had to climb in order to allow me to be here today,” [Rep.] Sargent said. … “Any area that you look, you’re going to see that we have a long, long way to go,” [UW prof.] Tripp said. … Women currently make up only 24% of the House of Representatives and 25% of the Senate … Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said women’s access to reproductive health care is a major problem she wants to see changed. … When Sargent proposed a bill to make tampons and menstrual products free in government and public restrooms, she said people called her “hysterical” for thinking such an issue was important. Others told her to focus instead on policies that “really matter.” … Toilet paper, paper towels and soap are provided in public restrooms, so tampons should be too, she said. … so much push-back for fighting for menstrual products is an indicator that society is still “off balance” when it comes to gender equality. … [GOP pollster] Soltis Anderson … said the concerns of young liberal women often overshadow those of young conservative women. … [ex-lt. guv] Kleefisch said conservative women wouldn’t want to participate in a women’s movement that champions abortion rights. … “I think a lot of women on the conservative side feel like they can’t be a part of that movement,” [Rep.] Rodriguez said. … women in office should share their experiences so that young women understand they are “just as capable as any man.” … Rep. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan, said she thinks policies to help families — such as suicide prevention, foster care support and mental health initiatives — are the “nexus” of women’s issues. … Baldwin said many men [husbands], like her, are passionate advocates for pay equity. … [women’s greater role in child-rearing] leaves them behind in terms of equal opportunities … [cited] shortage of child care, especially in the western part of Wisconsin … One thing all of the women agreed on was the need for more female representation in state and national legislatures.

Kind Denounces Russian Election Meddling, Not Calling For Impeachment Hearings
… Kind appeared at a health care town hall in Stevens Point on Friday with [Gov. Evers, Rep. Shankland … after the event, he said the Mueller report laid out “many clear instances of obstruction of justice” by the president and uncovered disturbing behavior within his campaign. … “Russia meddled in our election in 2016,” Kind said. “They’re doing it now. (And) we have a commander-in-chief today who is refusing to take action to protect our country from a foreign adversary who’s trying to attack our democracy. That should trouble every American. … Whether it elevates to the level where you have bipartisan support to pursue impeachment proceedings, that question really needs to be directed toward my Republican colleagues, who all seem to be circling the wagons and protecting this president from any type of oversight or any type of scrutiny,” Kind said. … wants to see Mueller testify … said concerns about foreign interference in the 2020 election should be an “all-hands-on-deck moment for country.” HFC-er Amash last week said Trump “has engaged in impeachable conduct,” but no other House GOP have followed suit.

How Trump’s Mexico tariffs could scare Democrats away from his trade deal
… [USTR] Lighthizer is expected to be on Capitol Hill next week working with party leaders in both chambers to iron out any outstanding concerns on USMCA. But … It feels as if Lighthizer “is out of the loop and we’re wasting our breath when this president is going to do whatever he wants to do. … It’s incredibly foolish and poor timing,” [US Rep.] Kind said. “We just ended the trade war with Mexico and Canada only to have a new tariff threat. With tariffs in place, it’s hard to move forward on USMCA.” … So far, Pelosi and her deputies are not altering plans to move ahead with the caucus’ working groups to help “try to get to a yes,” according to one senior Democratic aide.

Sen. Johnson says he’ll support Mexico tariffs if used as leverage for border security
… During an interview Friday at the Milwaukee Press Club … Johnson said he met with the president last week … “The president knows my opinion on tariffs, which are taxes on American consumers,” Johnson said. “What President Trump has done with tariffs is use them as leverage either in trade negotiations or now this. I’m hoping that is what this is, is just leverage.” … pushing for the U.S. to enter into a “safe third country” agreement with Mexico … a similar agreement with Canada for almost 20 years. “Bottom line is, if you’re really fleeing danger, if you’re seeking asylum, you should seek it in the first country that is safe, which is Mexico,” he said. … but so far, the country hasn’t agreed to this … [said Mueller presser] “muddied the issue … Very good clarity on the no collusion. But unfortunately, it’s going to just continue. It’s just going to be investigations and talks of impeachment.” … being “highly encouraged” by his party to consider [Guv or Senate] in 2022. … [cited] “Looney Tune” policies and far-left Democrats … “The reality has changed,” Johnson said. “I thought the House was our firewall. Now, it’s looking like maybe the U.S. Senate is our firewall.” … [sees GOP opportunities during DNC Convention] … “A real key is a state party whose primary function is supporting the county parties … fielding a candidate for every line on the ballot. Thirty Democrats ran unopposed. This is about county boards, city councils, school boards and mayoral races. We need Republicans on every line of the ballot. Those are the ground troops.”

Did you install solar panels on your house? We Energies wants you to pay a surcharge
… argues that homeowners with solar panels don’t pay their full share of the fixed costs of its transmission and distribution system, thereby shifting costs to customers who don’t have solar panels. … proposed surcharge — $3.53 a month for each kilowatt of solar generating capacity — is part of We Energies’ rate case before the Public Service Commission. … would average $15.88 a month, or $190.56 a year, for the 434 residential and small business customers with solar power at the end of last year … proposing to increase [fixed monthly] charge to $17.65 a month, or $211.80 a year. … Supporters of solar power contend the proposed surcharge … penalize[es] customers who conserve energy. … utilities earn a profit … 10.2% for We Energies — when they add generating capacity. … “I’m a power plant,” said Robert Aring, who put 16 solar panels on his home in late 2017. “A very small one. But I am a power plant.” … “They can see a world where a lot more customers install solar and that presents a threat to the way they historically have done business,” said Huebner, of Renew Wisconsin. “But that doesn’t give them a right to penalize customers who have installed solar.” Some solar homeowners, CUB’s Content, Alliance for Solar Choice’s Heart comment.


Edge Messaging Ad
Edge Messaging


– 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.: Listening session with Rep. Subeck and Sen. Risser.

– 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.: Rep. Steffen fundraiser.

Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges & Universities Ad
Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges & Universities

All rights reserved. Reproduction or retransmission of this publication, in whole or in part, without the express permission of is prohibited. Unauthorized reproduction violates United States copyright law (17 USC 101 et seq.), as does retransmission by facsimile or any other electronic means, including electronic mail.