Turn Out the Vote For Tom Barrett in Wisconsin on June 5

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

(Update – 5/25/12 – Polls released since this post was initially written show that the Tom Barrett’s campaign for Governor is now a dead heat and Barrett made a compelling case in support of his campaign and against Scott Walker in the first debate on Friday evening.  At the same time, the “John Doe” probe of whether people in Scott Walker’s office when he was Milwaukee County Executive used taxpayer money to do political work appears to be getting closer to Walker himself.  All of this makes even clearer that turning out the progressive vote is the key to electing Barrett and recalling Walker on June 5).

On Tuesday, June 5, voters in Wisconsin will have the opportunity to elect as Governor Tom Barrett, the pro-jobs, pro-worker, pro-women’s rights, pro-public education, and pro-environment  Mayor of Milwaukee who fits in Wisconsin’s proud  tradition of honest, progressive government.  This opportunity comes after approximately 1 million Wisconsin voters signed a petition to recall the current GOP Governor, Scott Walker, whose divisive attacks on public employees, attempt to restrict voting rights, and cronyism triggered a groundswell of protest and opposition throughout the state.  The resulting recall efforts have already achieved a lot, including ending the conservative majority in the State Senate, but now is the time to restore Wisconsin’s progressive tradition by electing Barrett for Governor, Mahlon Mitchell for Lieutenant Governor, and the Democratic State Senate recall candidates.

Recent polls have suggested that Walker has a small, 50-45%, lead over Barrett.  But there are two important points that show that such small lead can be overcome by Barrett.  First, the polls have barely budged since March, despite Walker having a 25 to 1 funding advantage.  This suggests that the flood of mainly out-of-state money trying to prop up Walker can be defeated. Second is that Walker’s narrow lead results from not from higher overall support, but from a higher level of enthusiasm among Republicans than Democrats.  As explained recently in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

There are signs Walker is benefiting from an enthusiasm gap. In a new Marquette poll, 91% of Republicans said they were absolutely certain to vote in the June recall election, compared to 83% of Democrats. In Marquette’s last three polls, Republicans have expressed more certainty about voting in June than Democrats

Another clue about intensity can be found in the partisan makeup of voters in recent surveys. In a typical Wisconsin poll, Democrats slightly outnumber Republicans. But in a poll released Tuesday by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic survey firm, Republicans out-numbered Democrats 35% to 28% (with independents at 37%).

This helps explain Walker’s 50% to 45% lead over Barrett in the PPP poll taken May 11-13. Walker actually trailed Barrett slightly among independents in the poll (42% to 49%), but with Republicans outnumbering Democrats — and 90% of voters in both parties voting along party lines — Walker led overall.

What these numbers suggests is that the Barrett can win the recall election so long as our voters get as enthusiastic as the Republicans are.  In other words, now is the time to get fired up about sending a message that Walker’s divisive, Koch Brothers’ agenda is not going to prevail in Wisconsin.  Here are three reasons to get enthusiastic about voting for Tom Barrett to recall Scott Walker on June 5:

1. Barrett Would Restore Wisconsin’s Progressive Tradition – As John Nichols has explained at The Capitol Times:

Barrett’s congressional record was that of a progressive who voted against George Bush’s war with Iraq; who broke with his party leadership to oppose the Patriot Act; and who was a champion of public education and a defender of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. His record closely paralleled that of former Sen. Russ Feingold on those issues and on economic matters — especially free-trade votes, where he joined the Wisconsin Democrat in opposing wrongheaded agreements that were proposed by both Republican and Democratic presidents.

As the mayor of Milwaukee since 2004, he has built a record as a pragmatic urban leader. Some of his particular positions — with regard to control of the Milwaukee schools and union contract negotiations — have disappointed progressives. But his record is generally that of a humane and effective big-city executive. His recent battles with the Walker administration over the governor’s diversion of federal mortgage relief money away from hard-pressed neighborhoods showed Barrett at his best. In fact, it reminded a lot of Wisconsinites of why they wanted this guy to be their governor.


2. Scott Walker Has Promoted a Reactionary “Divide and Conquer” Agenda – Coming into office with the promise to create 250,000 new jobs, Wisconsin under Walker was instead the only state to have a statistically significant job loss with 23,900 jobs disappearing between March 2011 and March 2012. That poor performance is likely because Walker was too busy pushing an ideological agenda that is straight out of the right-wing playbook.  Walker’s tenure to date, in conjunction with a GOP-controlled General Assembly until recently, has led to, among other things, a voter ID law designed to suppress voting among students, the elderly, the poor, and others; repealed the Equal Pay Enforcement Act, which helped prevent gender wage discrimination; promoted and signed a budget cutting education funding by $1.85 billion while giving corporations another $137 million in tax cuts; and eliminated the right of public employees to collectively bargain over their wages, benefits, and working conditions.


It has recently been revealed that Walker’s initial attacks on public employee unions are just the first stage in his effort to turn Wisconsin into a right-to-work for less state through a “divide and conquer” strategy.  In a video of Walker speaking with billionaire Diana Hendricks (who later donated more than $500,000 to Walker), Walker made clear that this strategy was designed to both undermine unions and to turn Wisconsin into a red state.  It is also clear that Republicans in the state legislature want to go further and pass a right-to-work for less law.  If you think Walker has been bad his first two years in office, he would almost certainly be worse were he to win the recall election.


3. Scott Walker is Doing the Bidding of Out-of-State Billionaires and Millionaires – the agenda being pursued by Walker is similar to the reactionary agenda being pursued by GOP Governors in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and other states. And the reason for that is that these Governors are all being funded by folks like the Koch Brothers, and assisted by corporate right-wing groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (“ALEC”).  With regards to Walker, he has received 74% of his funding from out-of-state, including $1.3 million from attendees of a Koch Brother-organized summit of right-wing fundraisers, $250,000 from Sheldon Adelson, who was previously the primary financier of Newt Gingrich’s Presidential run, and $104,600 from Foster Friess, who became infamous when he explained that birth control should involved women holding aspirin between their knees.  In addition, the Koch-brother funded Americans for Prosperity has already spent $1.5 million on behalf of Walker, while the Republican Governor’s Association has spent $3 million trying to support Walker after receiving a $1 million check form David Koch. It is clear that Walker has and would continue to answer to out-of-state billionaires and millionaires, not Wisconsinites, if he were to win the recall.


The good news is that despite the meddling of out-of-state billionaires and millionaires, this election is winnable for Barrett. It is up to us progressives to put him over the top by getting involved.  If you live in Wisconsin, you can help out by signing up to volunteer, sending in a contribution, and writing a letter to your local newspaper editor.  And even if you don’t live in Wisconsin, you can help out by contributing to Barrett’s campaign, making sure that any friends or family you have in Wisconsin vote for Barrett on June 5, and by sharing this post with your social networks.

If you have NO VOTE, you have NO CIVIL RIGHTS

Friday, April 6th, 2012

(Editor’s Note – Winning Progressive is pleased to welcome back Fay Paxton as a contributor to this blog.  Fay contributed some posts to Winning Progressive in April and May, 2011, including our single most viewed post, Confessions of a Welfare Recipient.  Fay now has her own blog, The Pragmatic Pundit, from which she will be occasionally sharing posts.   Please welcome Fay and check out her blog.)


 (By Fay Paxton)

The ability to vote is one of the most cherished of our Constitutional Rights. It is the right to vote that people have fought for, marched for, and even died for.  It is the right to vote that allows citizens to determine, to some degree, their own future by electing officials who reflect their views and will speak for them in government.

After the 2000 Florida election debacle, Congress established a body called the Election Assistance Commission to improve voting and democracy in this country.  The bi-partisan committee spent a year doing research to produce a draft report, but after submitting the draft in July 2006, committee members were barred from further participation.

The research found widespread agreement that allegations of fraud through voter impersonation at polling places were greatly exaggerated. But the commission did find reasons to be concerned about voter intimidation.  Under pressure from Congress, the report was finally released, but only after the Republican general counsel assumed primary control over rewriting the report.

The report garnered very little attention because during the time of the commission, claims about voter fraud and efforts to advance the cause of strict voter identification laws were at a fever pitch in Congress and the states.  Perhaps you recall that some U.S. attorneys were fired because they failed to pursue poorly supported voter fraud cases.

State Requirements for Specific Voter Identification

Since the 2010 elections, many states have passed laws that will require voters to show a state-issued ID at the polls this November. That number could rise.  Personally, I do not take issue with individuals being required to identify themselves, but there should be more ways for one to identify than those specified.

Get the voting facts in your state:

American citizens Denied the Right to Vote

Judge Flanagan recently issued an injunction against Wisconsin’s photo ID law, stating that “he found that there was “no evidence of voter fraud that would have been prevented by” the photo ID law….The AG produced extremely little evidence of fraud and that which has been uncovered; improper use of absentee ballots and unqualified voters, would not have been prevented by the photo ID requirement.”

While evidence of fraud is virtually non-existent, a number of voters have already been denied their voting rights by new voter ID laws.  For example:

For 63 years, 84-year-old Wisconsin native Ruthelle Frank went to the polls to vote. But because of the state’s new voter ID law, 2012 will be the first year Frank can’t vote. Born at her home in 1927, Frank never received an official birth certificate. Her mother recorded it in her family Bible and Frank has a certification of baptism from a few months later, along with a Social Security card, a Medicare statement, and a checkbook.  But state officials informed Frank that, because the state Register of Deeds does have a record of her birth, the state Register of Deeds in Madison  can generate a birth certificate — for a fee. And because of a spelling error, that fee may be as high as $200.  “I look at that like paying a fee to vote,” Frank said.

Dorothy Cooper, 96 was born before women had the right to vote.  Cooper took a rent receipt, a copy of her lease, her voter registration card and her birth certificate to the Driver Service Center to get her free ID. Typewritten on the birth certificate was her maiden name, Dorothy Alexander.  She was denied a voters I.D. because she didn’t have her marriage license.

Lincoln Davis, a former U.S. Congressman who served two terms for Tennessee,  “they told me I was not a registered voter. I had been taken off the list … They didn’t offer me a provisional ballot, or anything, just told me I wasn’t registered.”

Finally,  The Brad Blog recently had an inspiring post about a former marine, Tim Thompson, who refused to show his photo I.D.  in protest of the new law.  Thompson said he feels that the Voter ID law prohibits the poor, many minorities and the elderly from the right to vote, a right that many have fought and died for.

“I’ve used this for 37 years,” he said showing his voter registration card, “This was good enough for my father, it was good enough for my grandfather and I refuse to show you a picture ID….When I took my oath, it was for all people, all Americans — Republican, Democrat, black, white. It didn’t matter what color you were or what religion you believed in. It didn’t matter. It was for all Americans. That’s what Marines fight for.”  Below is footage of Mr. Thompson testifying to the Tennessee state legislature against efforts to establish a voter ID requirement in that state.  In his testimony, Mr. Thompson said, “I want people to get off their asses and fight this law.”  When it comes to conservative voter suppression proposals, I couldn’t agree more.


They’re Back: Those Wonderful People In Wisconsin Who Will Not Give Up

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

(By Joanne Boyer, cross-posted at Wisdom Voices)

So, did you think they had forgotten? Did you think those incredible Wisconsin citizens had disappeared once they delivered their more than one million signatures to recall Governor Scott Walker in January? Were you a tad fearful that maybe the enthusiasm had waned?

The rallies and vigils held in Madison held two weeks ago should help alleviate some of that for you.  There they were again, in the tens of thousands to rally on the anniversary of the day Scott Walker obliterated Wisconsin tradition and struck down collective bargaining for public employees. One who attended the Friday night vigil and the Saturday rally in glorious spring-like weather described the weekend activities as “hopeful, uplifting and concentrated on looking forward.”

The “forward” is June 5, the date selected for the recall election with primary elections scheduled for May 8.  Obstacles remain because of the voter suppression law passed in Wisconsin – while the voter ID portion of that law has been enjoined at least for now, other provisions of that law remain in effect. There is more out-of-state money flowing in to support Scott Walker than many can imagine. And yet, the people of Wisconsin will not be deterred.  They remain, as they were a year ago, an inspiration for all of us.

John Nichols has done his usual outstanding job of reporting on the weekend activities and Pat Nash writes a great piece in the Baraboo (Wisconsin) News Republic refuting any argument for those who still support Walker.  She concludes by saying:

… the governor continues to claim his policies are working. Anyone who does the research knows this isn’t true. Yet some still cling to the myths and distortions that Walker and his media advisors publish as facts.

There are millions of out-of-state dollars supporting Walker. Those dollars pay for, among other things, advertising that perpetuates these myths — myths that many people continue to believe.

What can we do? For a start, we can take responsibility and educate ourselves so we’re able to determine the difference between facts and press releases that are meant to deceive us. That’s not easy. But unless we make an effort, we’re destined to be governed by those who work for interests other than our own.

Forward: Wisconsin’s state motto. It’s the only way we can go. We, as a country, will remain forever indebted to those in Wisconsin for lighting the spark and starting our way out of the darkness that has prevailed for so long in this country.


A Comment From Winning Progressive:

John Nichols did a great job recently explaining what the organizing and recall elections have already achieved in helping to stop GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s reactionary agenda by ending the GOP’s control of the Wisconsin State Senate.  As Nichols summarizes:

What has happened is remarkable. What could happen is historic. And the people, using the recall power afforded them by progressive reformers of a century ago, are making it happen.


A Letter to Scott Walker from a Wisconsin Teacher: The Sequel

Monday, February 20th, 2012

By Eric Brehm (cross-posted at Bang the Buckets)

Author’s Note:  One year ago today, I sent a letter to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker that entered cyberspace and was circulated in ways I had not imagined possible.  My own personal blog, Bang the Buckets, will fold at the end of the month, for reasons which will shortly be explained there.  It’s been a heckuva ride, and I appreciate those who have come with me on it. Before I go, I had a few last questions for Wisconsin’s Governor, and will be sending the following on Tuesday the 21st.

To the duly-elected Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker:

It’s been a full calendar year since I wrote a letter to you describing how tired I was of your “Budget Repair Bill” and the discord that it had introduced into the state where I have lived for most of my life.  That letter moved through the blogosphere in ways that I did not know existed at the time.  I posted the words that I sent to you on my Facebook page, because I thought maybe other people were feeling the same way that I did.  I still don’t exactly know how it started, but it seems that one of my students or former students re-posted it somewhere, and it took off from there.  Before it was done, tens of thousands of people ending up reading words that I wrote, and that inspired me enough to start my own personal blog.

You were the inspiration for that blog, sir, and I would like to say thank you.  I have always fancied myself a bit of a writer, but thanks to you I actually became one, and that has been good for me on a variety of levels.  Writing posts for this blog helped me (I hope) sharpen my craft, and the writing here proved therapeutic as I contemplated just how much your politics were going to harm me personally, as well as potentially prove dangerous to the state of Wisconsin.

I don’t write those words in an effort to lament the take-home pay I lost as a result of your policies:  In my first letter, I told you quite plainly that you could have that money.  Pretty much every public sector employee agreed to the pay concessions long before your Budget Repair Bill ever became law, and I was no different in that.  In the end, Governor, the letter I write today–like the one I wrote a year ago–is not really addressed for a mass audience.  The first one ended up that way, and I will post these words on my own blog to provide a degree of symmetry, but I don’t expect to reach the masses.  Rather, now as well as then, I had hoped for some answers to what I felt were honest questions.  I did not get them then, and I don’t expect them now.  But I hope you’ll understand that I have to ask.  And so, without further ado, here are my points and/or questions, in no particular order:

* Do you have any comment, sir, to the notion that after all your politicking and your “Budget Repair,” the projected shortfall of your budget is actually $6 million larger than the shortfall you inherited?  I say this only because the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, a non-partisan body in Wisconsin, projects that you currently have a deficit of $143 million, when you inherited a deficit of $137 million.  I welcome your response.

* Related to the above point, could you please express why the current ads that you run in Wisconsin explicitly state that you have “balanced the budget,” when the budget currently has a projected deficit of $143 million, as stated above?  I don’t feel as though you have been as clear about that as you might be; I’m curious why you continued to run ads—or allow ads to be run on your behalf—that would seem at best to be misinformed, and at worst to be just plain dishonest.

* The goal of your Budget Repair Bill, in addition to balancing the state budget, was to create jobs in the state of Wisconsin.  Can you or will you provide any explanation as to why private-sector jobs actually decreased for the first several months after the bill became law?  Was the failure to create jobs due to a failure in the bill itself, or to other factors?

* While I recognize that you are the Executive and not the Legislative branch, can you offer insight as to why Republican legislators were sworn to secrecy about redistricting in our state, and were told to ignore the public when making their decision?

* There is a John Doe investigation being conducted in Wisconsin that would seem to implicate a number of your former employees and/or associates.  Would you please explain, clearly and succinctly, your own involvement or lack of involvement in any wrongdoing?  I agree that you are innocent until proven guilty, but could you clear the air, once and for all?

* Could you explain the hiring practices that are used in Wisconsin?  A number of your financial supporters or their relatives/spouses/girlfriends seem to end up with high-paying jobs in your administration.  Are they really that uniquely qualified, or is there something more at work there?

* Finally, though it seems small by comparison, would you be willing to tell me your reasoning for restricting access to the State Capitol, even though the Wisconsin State Constitution forbids restriction to the State Capitol?  As someone who swore an oath of office to uphold that State Constitution in order to be sworn in as Governor, can you offer the reasoning why you seem to have so callously disregarded your oath?

I could go on, but I would be satisfied if you would choose to answer the points listed above.  Again, I have no real expectation that you will reply—my last two missives resulted in form letters, and I have no great hopes for this letter—but I hope you can understand why I have to ask.

I was tired of your politics when I first wrote you a year ago.  You can imagine how tired I am now.  I used to teach Political Science for my school, sir, and I must admit I am grateful that I haven’t in the past few years.  Back when I did, I tried to tell my students that government was and could be a good, and that the people that served in it—despite their many differences—were doing what they believed best for the common good.  I know, that’s horribly naïve and idealistic.  But it was for the students, who might still grow up with a desire to serve their country or state; while I was smart enough to realize that my words were not always true, I was hopeful enough that they were true more often than not.  However, in light of the events in Wisconsin in the last year, it would now be very difficult for me to choke out those words with any degree of sincerity.

What I most find objectionable about your administration, sir, is that it has caused me to lose respect for the office.  Not for you—I don’t know you personally, and as such have no reason to dislike you—but for the office of Governor of the State of Wisconsin.  You’ve heard “Shame” chanted at you so many times that I’m sure it has lost its meaning.  And yet, I’m going to imagine that you must feel some degree of shame; after all, only sociopaths don’t, and unlike several others, I am not willing to lump you into that category.

But really, sir:  You’re the Governor of Wisconsin.  Doesn’t it bother you, at least a little, that much of the public (including some Republicans) feel that you’re not even allowed to come up with your own legislation, but rather have to have it spoon-fed to you by ALEC?  As someone who has spoken so often about how you have provided “tools” to school districts, do you not sometimes wonder if you are not a tool yourself—something used by those outside of you in order to foster an agenda that isn’t your own?  I’m fairly certain that you’re pleased to be Governor, but don’t you wonder sometimes how history will look at you?  Ronald Reagan had confidence, and he is still largely revered.  But so did Joe McCarthy, and he is still largely reviled.  Have you given thought to your own legacy, as you allowed the events of the past year to unfold?

As I close this letter, Governor, I find that I am still willing to close it as I did with my letter of a year ago; that is, with a note of thanks.  I lament sometimes that our state, like our nation, has become so divided between those on the left and those on the right and those who are so disgusted by both that they choose not to vote.  But for a year now, your actions have had young people paying attention.  As it was a year ago, a number of them agree with you, and a number of them don’t.  I worry that more of them seem to fall in the disgusted camp, but you and I can both work to rectify that.

I can still recall a conversation I had with my wife about a year or so ago.  We were sitting on the sofa, talking about affairs in the state, and I said something to the effect that as time passed, it would be possible that the Budget Repair Bill might be the best thing that ever happened to us.  She of course dismissed it out of hand and has no recollection of it, but when a girlfriend of hers told her that the Budget Repair Bill might be the best thing that ever happened to us, she accepted it as gospel.  We’ll see, Governor.  Unlike many, I don’t think you’re evil, and if I have given that impression over the last year, I apologize.  I do think you’re occasionally misguided by those who seem do your thinking for you . . . Without going too religious on you, I know that you are the son of a minister, and I would welcome the compassion I would expect from a preacher’s son.  That choice, of course, is ultimately up to you.  But I would be remiss if I did not at least attempt to remind you that Jesus loved the poor, and did not seek to end their tax credits, so far as we know.

Either way, Governor, for a year or so you have given me many things to write about, and I’ve had a worthy experience and a fair amount of fun while doing so.  It seems as though there might be a recall election coming up, and good luck with that.  It seems as though a John Doe investigation is trying to get closer to activities you may have been a part of in Milwaukee County, and good luck with that, too.  I can’t say I’m on your side, Governor, but I can say that you keep things interesting.

As always, Governor:  Thank you for your time.

The Fraud of “Voter Fraud”

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

(By Joanne Boyer, cross-posted at Wisdom Voices)

I didn’t think there could be a political issue that could rile me as much as the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, but I think I may just have found it.

I’ve watched with horror as the American Legislative Exchange Council (“ALEC”) has pushed voter photo ID laws nationwide in mainly Republican-controlled state legislatures. How can we as a country watch as this wholly manufactured crisis is used to erect barriers to voting among Democratic-leaning demographic groups state-by-state?

My native state of Wisconsin, which had one of the richest histories of same-day voting registration, fell prey to this legislation and now it’s being introduced by the Republican controlled state legislature in Minnesota, where I currently reside.  This time, they are pushing a constitutional amendment because Republican legislators know Democratic Governor Mark Dayton would veto any such legislation.  Tell me again, when did we vote in legislators to amend a state constitution on a regular basis?  I thought they were elected to legislate.

A Bit of Background

How and why has this legislative push happened?  Consider this: The 2008 electorate that put President Barack Obama in the White House was more than just the highest turnout in more than 60 years. It represented the emergence of a new Democratic coalition, one comprised primarily of racial and ethnic minorities, low-income Americans, liberals, young voters and women. At the time, forecasts of demographic change and shifting views on social issues led to speculation that Republicans were on the verge of becoming a permanent minority party.

Shortly after President Obama’s election, ALEC began to prioritize efforts to chip away at the influence of that coalition. It’s not a big leap to say that these Republican-controlled legislative initiatives are motivated not to protect electoral integrity, but rather to limit the voting power of populations that tend to vote Democratic.  Studies show that approximately 11 percent of Americans – about 21 million people – lack a current government photo ID, disproportionately racial minorities, senior citizens, young voters, the working poor and people with disabilities.

As we head into another historic election cycle, at least 33 states as of November 2011 have introduced legislation to require voter IDs and 14 states have photo ID requirements in place.  This doesn’t even account for the voter suppression laws that were introduced to restrict hours of early voting and voting registration.

The evidence to support the rhetoric of “voter fraud” is scant – and has been for years. You remember the firings of U.S. attorneys during George Bush’s administration?  The ones who refused to prosecute the cases of voter fraud because of weak evidence?  A comprehensive five-year investigation by the Bush Justice Department announced in 2007 found just 86 instances of improper voting.  Simply put:  Those who seek voter photo ID laws buy into the myth of “voter fraud.”

The Advancement Project, a policy, communications and legal action group committed to racial justice, has sounded the alarm on this recent forceful momentum of voter suppression bills.  This group and its recent report provide some of the best analysis of the current situation and present some of the most logical and reason-based arguments against voter ID legislation.  They point to it as the largest legislative effort to scale back ballot access since the post-Reconstruction era, reversing a century-long trend of opening the ballot to everyone.

In the conclusion of The Advancement Project’s report:  What’s Wrong With This Picture:  New Photo ID Proposals Part of a National Push to Turn Back the Clock on Voting Rights they state:

Elections cannot be free and fair unless they are open to every eligible voter. Photo ID requirements erode the integrity of elections by systematically excluding large groups of eligible voters and place them in second-class status. This is part of a larger movement to erect significant barriers for voters of color, reversing a century-long trend. If states are truly concerned about protecting the integrity of the elections process, they should start by ensuring that all eligible voters have access to the vote, not just those with a state-issued photo ID.

Another excellent source of information is the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law, which also issued a report on the voting rights changes for 2012 and states:

These new restrictions fall most heavily on young, minority, and low-income voters, as well as on voters with disabilities. This wave of changes may sharply tilt the political terrain for the 2012 election. Already 19 new laws and two new executive actions are in place. At least 42 bills are still pending, and at least 69 more were introduced but failed. Already, it is clear that:

  • These new laws could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.
  • The states that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 185 electoral votes in 2012 – more than two thirds of the 270 needed to win the presidency.
  • Of the 12 likely battleground states, as assessed by an August  Los Angeles Times analysis of Gallup polling, six have either cut back on voting rights already or are currently considering new restrictions.

I urge everyone to read these reports and to stay informed and up-to-date about what your state is doing on this issue, especially if you have a Republican controlled legislature.

Winning Progressive adds – if you are as upset as we are about the GOP’s attack on voting rights, click here for some ways to get involved in fighting back.


If I Had to Pick a Democratic Candidate for Wisconsin Governor

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

by Eric Brehm

Just over two weeks ago, it was announced that organizers in the state of Wisconsin had collected over 1 million signatures to force a recall election against incumbent Republican Governor Scott Walker.  While those signatures are still being verified for authenticity, it seems quite likely that enough of them will be upheld to trigger that election.  For those of us on the left who have collected signatures and blogged and rallied and done what could be done to force a recall, you can imagine that this news was most welcome to our ears.

Still, there is more to be done.  The problem, of course, is that merely triggering a recall election for Scott Walker will not be enough – to truly put forth a Progressive voice in Wisconsin, another candidate has to beat Governor Walker in that election.  As you might imagine, a question on the minds of a variety of Progressives throughout Wisconsin is:  Who should that candidate be?

The truth is, the Wisconsin Progressive Legacy has been a bit tarnished of late.  Yes, we’re the state of Bob La Follette and William Proxmire, and of course we on the left have much of which we’re proud.  But lately,Wisconsin seems to be veering in a far more conservative direction – we’re now also the state of Scott Walker and Paul Ryan.  So is there a candidate out there who upholds that Progressive tradition?  And better still:  Can they win?

Four candidates are repeatedly mentioned as being potential opponents to Governor Walker, and the purpose of this post is to introduce you to those four.  As of this writing, not all of them have decided to run, and I’m quite certain that before all is said and done a few Democrats will decide to run that are not included on this list.  Still, we have to start somewhere, and so here they are.

It should be noted that for each of the four candidates listed here, a recent poll from Marquette University Law School suggests that Scott Walker has an advantage over every single one.  Personally, I am not always as enchanted by polls as some others seem to be, but in fairness I’ll report those poll findings so that the reader knows what they are.

I present them with what I view to be pros and cons, but I wish to stress that the pros and cons are often the byproduct of nothing more than my own opinions.  Based on the title of this post, you know that I have a favorite, but if you live in Wisconsin, please research any potential candidates for yourself, and make up your own minds.  Always remember:  There is nothing so dangerous to neo-conservatism as an educated voter.

Kathleen Falk, Former Dane County Executive                   

Pros:  As of this writing, Ms. Falk has the best chance of being the Democratic candidate for governor, simply because she is the only one who has declared her candidacy.  She is familiar with politics in Dane County (where Madison is located, for any readers that are out of state), having served as Dane County Executive from 1997 to 2010, when she resigned the position.  Prior to that, she worked in the Wisconsin Department of Justice, serving as Assistant Attorney General.  She was born in Milwaukee to a middle-class background and has worked successfully with unions in Dane County.  She also possesses one quality that I like in potential candidates, and that is she does not hold a current political position.  If she runs and wins, so be it; but if she runs and loses, she can fade quietly into the background without having that label hanging around her neck.

Cons:  While I give full credit to Ms. Falk in that she has often been elected to local Dane County positions, her record on winning state-wide elections is not the best.  In 2002, she became Wisconsin’s first female gubernatorial candidate from a major party, though she lost the primary to Jim Doyle.  In 2006 she defeated the incumbent Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager in the primary election, but ultimately lost the general election to current Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.  The Marquette University poll referenced above shows that Governor Walker currently leads Ms. Falk 49-42%, a spread of seven points, which is the second largest spread among the candidates (two others tied at six each).  However, the poll claims to have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8%, which means that Ms. Falk is within the margin of error (lower Governor Walker by 3.8 and raise Ms. Falk by 3.8, and she wins 45.8-45.2% — yes folks, it’s potentially going to be that close or closer).  My biggest con when it comes to Ms. Falk is that I just don’t think she can win.  The strike against her is that she is the stereotypical “Madison liberal” — that is, she is on the left in the left-most leaning part of Wisconsin.  She has done well in Dane County due to Madison’s liberalism, but my own personal opinion is that she will not be able to carry the whole state.  Sorry, Ms. Falk.

Tim Cullen, State Senator from Wisconsin’s 15th District

Pros:  Senator Cullen is a Democratic moderate who has now had two stints representing Wisconsin’s 15th District in the State Senate.  He has a record of bipartisanship, having been appointed to serve as Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health and Social Services by former Republican Governor Tommy Thompson.  He gained some degree of notoriety as one of the “Wisconsin 14” – the Democratic State Senators who fled Wisconsin in order to delay passage of Governor Walker’s Budget Repair Bill.  He has stated an interest in running for the nomination, but has not filed to do so as of this writing.

Cons:  With all due respect to Senator Cullen, the question most often asked about him lately is:  ”Who?”  Mr. Cullen simply lacks statewide exposure – despite being one of the Wisconsin 14, he was certainly not the most vocal or outspoken member.  His district is in the extreme south, so much of the northern part of the state had never heard of him until this year.  To be fair, he has been asked about this, and he has responded that any candidate that opposes Governor Walker will very quickly gain exposure.  I believe that’s true, but I also believe that won’t be enough.  Others seem to agree with me — the Marquette poll shows Governor Walker beating Senator Cullen 50-40% in a head-to-head matchup, placing him outside of the margin of error.  That doesn’t mean he can’t win — if you looked at where Newt Gingrich polled a year ago, you would never believe he would be second in line for the GOP nomination.  But it does mean that he will have some significant ground to cover in a short amount of time, and I for one question whether he can do it.  Also, if he loses, he has to go back to the State Senate with that loss on his resume.  I for one hope that he decides not to file.

Tom Barrett, Mayor of Milwaukee

Pros:  Many consider Mayor Barrett to be the best candidate to oppose Governor Walker.  After all, Barrett squared off against Scott Walker in 2010, lost narrowly, and the idea is that a number of those who voted Scott Walker into office might like to have their vote over again.  A Public Policy Poll conducted January 17 showed that Barrett was the favorite among likely Democratic primary voters among the four potential candidates mentioned in this post.  Even other potential candidates have spoken highly of the Milwaukee mayor, and the truth is that in this writer’s opinion, he just seems like a nice guy.

Cons:  Despite the Public Policy Poll, Mayor Barrett already lost to Scott Walker once.  Yes, a few voters might like to change their votes, but I personally have to question if that’s enough to swing the election his way, especially when a lot more voters are going to be paying attention this time around.  The Marquette University poll has him losing to Governor Walker 50-44%, which is in within the margin of error, but doesn’t suggest a wave of remorse among the Wisconsin electorate.  As with the three other candidates listed so far, Mayor Barrett is also a candidate from the southern part of the state.  Thanks to his time in office, Governor Walker’s name recognition in the northern parts has skyrocketed, while Mayor Barrett’s most likely has not.  Also, if he loses, he becomes the guy with the record of losing to Scott Walker twice.

Dave Obey, Former U.S. Congressman

Before I get into the pros and cons of Dave Obey running, I have to reveal my own personal bias for him as a candidate.  The truth is, he’s my guy, and I will use this and other platforms to express my heartfelt wish that he would run.  I am partial to Dave Obey, and part of that is because he was my district’s representative in U.S. House of Representatives for many years.  At my own personal blog at Bang the Buckets, I wrote a piece extolling his virtues as a gubernatorial candidate way back on November 11 of last year, and I haven’t changed my mind much since then; indeed, much of the reasoning I shared there, I will share here.

Pros:  Dave Obey has a long-standing history of upholding Progressive values for Wisconsin.  He served in the U.S. House of Representatives for over 40 years, holding chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee on several occasions.  He retired from the House, and so doesn’t have the stigma that Mayor Barrett has when it comes to losing elections.  He’s a known name – he may not have the national recognition that Scott Walker has brought to himself, but he’s known in Wisconsin, most importantly because he is from the northern half of the state.  Mr. Obey’s former Congressional district stretched from Wausau to Superior, and that’s where the fight for the Governorship is going to be won.  We already know that whoever the Democrats nominate is going to do well in Madison and Milwaukee– we need a candidate that can reach people in other parts of the state.  They know Dave Obey up north.  They like him.  They voted for him to be their Congressman on 21 different occasions.  The upcoming election that I believe will be happening was triggered by recall efforts, and certain people will vote for anyone who isn’t Scott Walker.  But the election will hinge on moderates, and they won’t give a Democratic victory if it is merely a campaign against Scott Walker.  It also has to for someone, and in my humble opinion, Dave Obey should be that someone.  Like Ms. Falk, Congressman Obey is not a current officeholder — if it should come to pass that he loses, he can fade quietly back into retirement, knowing that he took one last stand for Progressive values.

Cons:  Yes, the cons exist, and the one that is mentioned most often is his age – Congressman Obey is currently in his early 70’s.  His critics say he retired knowing that he would be defeated due to his support for President Obama’s health care reforms.  And he also currently runs behind Governor Walker in the Marquette University poll, 49-43%, though like Mayor Barrett, that six percent gap is the closest of all candidates and within the margin of error.

Those cons notwithstanding, I still believe that Dave Obey is Wisconsin’s best chance to not only take back the Governorship, but also to reclaim its Progressive heritage.  If I had to pick a Democratic candidate for Governor of Wisconsin, I’d pick Dave Obey once each day and twice on Sunday.  And if any of this seems reasonable to you, I invite you to do the same.