Kevin Nicholson Enters Wisconsin Governor’s Race, With Touch Of Bi-Partisanship

Last week this liberal blogger who lives on the Madison isthmus urged very conservative Kevin Nicholson to splash into the Republican race for governor. I did so after a top state Republican told the business owner to ‘stay in his lane’ and forgo entering the campaign.

The words made publically by Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos were not the most well-crafted by one who aims to show his skills in the political arena.

“If Kevin Nicholson is listening — you need to not run for governor,” Vos said during an interview at a Wednesday event hosted by Wispolitics.com in downtown Madison. 

I found those words so demeaning towards Nicholson that I had actual empathy for a politician that I could never vote for or support in any meaningful way other than urging him to run.

I suspect everyone clearly understands how it would feel to be told by another person within your profession or industry to just stay low and do not get any big ideas. Stay at the kid’s table and just be content with where you are now.

Regardless of which political party one calls home, there was a degree of understanding across Wisconsin about how Nicholson felt being instructed by the Speaker to stem any notion of seeking the Republican nomination for governor this August.

Nicholson has created a conservative set of beliefs for his political appeal and proved in his bid for the Senate nomination not to shy away from being an aggressive contender. Though he did not prevail there was no doubt he knows how to force issues and swing political rhetoric. His punches over the years at political insiders and leaders have landed on receptive ears within the Republican Party. These days that accepting audience is larger than ever.

On Thursday, Nicholson threw his hat into the ring as a “conservative outsider,” and will use it as a line of attack on his opponents who wished to restrain his voice in the campaign and limit the choices on the ballot for voters come August. Without a doubt, this campaign will create not only an expensive contest worthy of headlines but also a real race for the heart and soul of Wisconsin Republicans.

There is no way to discern if Vos honestly believes that former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch is the best candidate for the November election or would prove to be an effective governor if elected. It seems more probable that conversations within the power circles over the recent months centered on how not to fracture the base and unwind the spool of thread they consider all that is required to defeat Tony Evers this fall.

But Nicholson felt that conversation about policy and the election ran far short of what is needed to win and govern. And he is rightly smarting over the words and tone from Vos.

While we all can differ about politics I suspect across the state today there is a ‘good for you’ feeling among residents about Nicholson entering the race.

Is this what bipartisanship feels like?

And so it goes.

Did Robin Vos Give Kevin Nicholson A Political Gift?

I suspect everyone clearly understands how it would feel to be told by another person within your profession or industry to just stay low and do not get any big ideas. Stay at the kid’s table and just be content with where you are now.

I bet that regardless of which political party one calls home there was a degree of understanding across Wisconsin about how Kevin Nicholson felt being instructed by the Assembly Speaker to stem any notion of seeking the Republican nomination for governor this August.

What has generated some drama within the GOP ranks is the comment made this week by Speaker Robin Vos.

“If Kevin Nicholson is listening — you need to not run for governor,” Vos said during an interview at a Wednesday event hosted by Wispolitics.com in downtown Madison. 

In other words, stay in your lane.

Mincing no words the would-be candidate offered a pithy reply.

“Thanks, @repvos, for the political advice,” Nicholson tweeted. “Our elections are a mess, law & order is eroding, schools are failing. How about you focus on doing your job?”

Nicholson has created a conservative set of beliefs for his political appeal and proved in his bid for the Senate nomination not to shy away from being an aggressive contender. His rhetorical punches over the years at political insiders and leaders have landed on receptive ears within the Republican Party. These days that accepting audience is larger than ever.

So one has to ask, then, did the Speaker give Waukesha County business owner and Marine veteran a leg up for entering the race for governor? Does Nicholson now have a line of attack handed to him about how Madison political powerhouses wish to restrain the voice and power of the Republican primary voter by limiting their choices on the ballot?

There is no way to discern if Vos honestly believes that former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch is the best candidate for the November election or would prove to be an effective governor if elected. It seems more probable that conversations within the power circles are how not to fracture the base and unwind the spool of thread they consider all that is required to defeat Tony Evers this fall.

But Nicholson surely feels that the current conversation about policy and the election runs short of what is needed to win and govern. And he is rightly simmering about being instructed in public about what he should do regarding his political ambitions.

As a liberal Democrat, I differ from most positions taken by Nicholson. But to be most candid I would relish his standing up and stating he makes his own decisions and as such throws his hat into the race for governor.

Wisconsinites of all political stripes could respect that action.

And so it goes.

Staff Member For Wisconsin Republican Representative Timothy Ramthun Should Have Acted Honestly

My eye always hits the upper fold of any newspaper to see what lands in the best location for the edition. Friday my scan of the Wisconsin State Journal met with concern about a staffer at the state assembly who appears to be in the middle of a political fight.

Even lost the job over the matter.

And yet the staffer is part of the reason for the mess.

So should we feel any sense of concern about the staffer losing a job when discipline was handed down to the lawmaker?

The episode has at its genesis yet another conservative Republican who has ginned up lies and conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos on Thursday disciplined a lawmaker who falsely claimed that former President Donald Trump won the battleground state and that he wanted to award the state’s electoral votes to him, even though that is not possible.

Vos, R-Rochester, removed the lone staff member assigned to Rep. Timothy Ramthun, R-Campbellsport, but it appears the reason was not his comments about who won the election. The move was first reported by WisPolitics.com and confirmed Thursday by Vos’ office.

The move to discipline Ramthun, who has vocally advocated election conspiracy theories, came after he falsely accused Vos of signing a deal with attorneys for former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to authorize absentee ballot drop boxes, Vos’ office said.

The reason I weigh into this issue is that when I was an Administrative Assistant to Representative Lary Swoboda the exact opposite happened in our office. I know that political turf wars between a speaker and a legislator can be spirited and if both want to play tough it can have rugged outcomes as Ramthun and this staffer now fully grasp.

Swoboda, however, was having a problem with an issue that then-Speaker Tom Loftus wanted to be resolved. So Loftus asked the Luxemburg Democrat what he wanted and it was then our office staff expanded from two employees to three. And we still had a floater secretary who often was found in our offices, too.

The power of the Speaker can be immense. But the spiny nature of a legislator can also be persuasive.

But with the desk and phone within the confines of a legislator’s office, a staffer also must carry the responsibilities of acting in concert with the standards the citizenry expects. Having worked for a decade in the statehouse I fully know the obligations that come with the paycheck.

The news story, therefore, is troubling as it relates to how Ramthun’s staffer misused the position to lie and fabricate and spin and twist and undermine the election results from 20220.

The entire Republican Assembly leadership team issued a statement backing the decision to discipline Ramthun, saying he and his staffer were spreading lies. Their statement said Ramthun falsely alleged that Vos was working with Clinton’s attorney and that Republicans could award the state’s electoral college votes to Trump.

No matter how much Rep. Ramthun and his staffer believe what they are saying is true, it does not make it so,” the GOP leaders said. “Sending out communications full of lies is doing disservice to all voters.”

Let me conclude this post by demonstrating how sincerely held an upright stance is needed when being a legislative staffer.

After work one evening my car was struck in the front end by another driver. Regaling the story the next day in the office Swoboda pulled me aside and wanted to know if I had been drinking before the accident. While I had been out with friends shooting darts and enjoying snacks at a bar I had not consumed alcohol.

But Lary pressed the point, and rightly so, that any such actions even when outside the office, do impact the image of the office. I absolutely agreed. Then and now. It does matter ‘back home’ where constituents desire certain standards of behavior from the ones they elect to serve in office.

That would have been true with drunk driving and is also certainly true when attempting to spin lies about stolen elections.

That all applies equally to a legislator, too.

Right, Timothy?

And so it goes.

Michael Gableman On Expensive Woozle Hunt, Taxpayers Pay For Conspiracy Trek

It did not make for national headlines but at the end of last year, another needless review of the November 2020 election results proved there was no nefarious activity taking place and no upset winner to be announced.

The Texas secretary of state’s office on December 31st released a batch of results from its review of the last presidential balloting finding no election chicanery to report. That in spite of repeated, unsubstantiated claims by GOP leaders casting doubts on the integrity of the electoral system. Under a time-wasting and costly review, the bottom line was only a few discrepancies were found between electronic and hand counts of ballots in a sample of voting precincts.

This same scenario has been playing out in states across the nation with the same results. Republicans bloviate about a ‘stolen election’ but the facts remain the same. There were no election hijinks, no invasion of immigrants voting, no grand strategy to toss votes or manipulate machines.

This brings us to the waste of taxpayer money and statewide embarrassment concerning Michael Gableman striking out to find the nonexistent Woozle of election fraud in Wisconsin. Such treks by others in search of what does not exist should be reason enough not to further waste public funds in our state.

But no……

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos hired Gableman in 2021 to scrutinize our state balloting after the Republican Party’s hero-worship of Donald Trump got out of hand. After all, Trump openly stated the GOP in the Badger State was not doing enough to further his empty allegations that Joe Biden did not win the election. So Vos, not wanting to be on the wrong side of a conspiracy theory, threw at least $686,000 to Gableman to hunt for what has not been found since 1926.

A Woozle.

Facts are not important to Wisconsin Republicans when furthering a conspiracy.

An Associated Press review of presidential results in six key battleground states, including Wisconsin, found fewer than 475 cases of potential fraud, a number that would have made no difference in the election’s outcome.

Election officials have referred 31 cases of potential fraud to Wisconsin prosecutors in 12 of the state’s 72 counties, representing about 0.15% of Biden’s margin of victory in the state, the AP review found. State auditors also found no evidence of widespread fraud in the election.

When it comes to Gableman I wrote most pointedly what I thought of him in September 2011. Given his now proven disdain of the election process and his willingness to further a lie that then strikes at the heart of our democracy, which then erodes the faith the citizenry must have in our political institutions the following rings even more true today.

I have commented on CP that Justice Michael Gableman must surely write his opinions in crayon.  Gableman is by far the least intelligent and probing mind on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. 

Simply put, I find Micheal Gableman a dolt.

Gableman’s tactics were slimy while seeking election to the court, and his theatrics have not changed since serving.

Michael Gableman should just get back to his coloring book.

It also is telling that Gableman is not seeking any data or recounts regarding Wisconsin Republicans who have objected to President Biden winning the election or called into question their election victory though the same ballot and election systems were employed.

Hmmm…..

The state residents know Michael Gableman is on a full-out Woozle hunt. On their dime. If only a modern-day Christopher Robin could explain logic and reason to the one too willing to undermine democracy.

And so it goes.

Conservatives Wish To Politicize Mequon-Thiensville School District With Needless School Board Recall

If you have not been following the news from the Mequon-Thiensville School District you have missed one of the more troubling events facing those who are elected to serve on a school board. Four members of the board are facing recall elections in November. 

And all the for sake of undermining faith in our local institutions.

Wendy Francour, Erik Hollander, Akram Khan, and Chris Schultz are now facing an attempt to hijack a local school board by a group of people in the community who are just as willing to spread misinformation as they would cheese on a pizza. What has occurred over the recent weeks with this recall is another example of the lowest common denominator seeking to undermine facts and logic.

Why this matter finds concern on this Madison blog is that this recall effort epitomizes the larger threat to our democracy that has played out around the nation. Not only does the usual quackery emerge about mask mandates, vaccine shots, and a disdain for dealing with racism through the curriculum but more importantly the willful sowing of seeds to undermine our institutions. In this case, a duly elected school board is falsely branded, and the skills of the board members derided, so the faith in the electorate is undermined.

The post here is about the Mequon-Thiensville School District but the fact is this modus operandi is taking place around the nation. Hence, the larger threat to democracy.

Without actual problems so to reasonably force a recall the angry ones have stirred the larger community into believing that something untoward and outlandish has taken place by the board. It has not, of course.

But if enough false charges can be lodged from the continually resentment-filled (echoes of 2016 presidential election) then chaos can ensure, a recall can emerge, and who knows that can happen! That is the game plan of these conservatives.

So from that perspective, this recall is one that has eyes on it from all over. After all, a partisan-inspired hijacking of this type should never be allowed.

The attempt by those to take over the board by the use of politically based rhetoric runs counter to the data-driven requirements that board members need to operate under so to make sure a school is as effective in education as possible.

It should be noted that the Mequon-Thiensville School District now scores an 89.5% out of 100% rating. That is not some ranking that the board created for its own purposes, but rather the result of data collected and analyzed from the Wisconsin Department of Education.

The Mequon-Thiensville School District Significantly Exceeds Expectations on the 2018-19 School Report Cards issued in November 2019 by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

It might seem easy to think this school board matter is happening ‘over there’ and does not need to register across the state. But the fact is this tactic used by those who harbor resentments against different aspects of our larger pluralistic society are using every means they can to upend our working institutions.

All eyes need to be on this recall effort, and work to see that it fails.

And so it goes.

What If Ron Johnson Does Not Run For Senate?

If a politician were seeking another term in office would they say the types of things that Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson has over the past year? While national politics can be overly frothy does not Wisconsin values hope for a more credible foundation from our top elected officials?

During the past months, I have reached a conclusion, based on his behavior, that Johnson is not seeking another Senate term. Whether he is tired, bored, or seeking another path in life no one looking to garner support among the electorate talks so bizarrely.

Perhaps the most over-the-top moment occurred when Johnson voiced support for using hydroxychloroquine against the COVID-19 virus, which forced YouTube to suspend his account. We, of course, have been treated to a number of such truly befuddling statements.

“This didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me”

If you have a vaccine, quite honestly, what do you care if your neighbor has one or not?”

One could continue the listing of truly odd and troubling quotes from Johnson. My point is not to prove his lack of awareness about issues of the day but rather how adrift he is from acting as a serious contender for another 6-year term in office. Especially given that Johnson would be the only incumbent Republican running in a state won by President Joe Biden.

So what happens when Johnson makes an announcement about spending more time with his wife and taking long vacations rather than seeking re-election?

The Democratic Party will have no problem locating talent for the 2022 race. State Senators Chris Larson, and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes are but two names in the arena, and the base will be very energized to replace Johnson with one of their own.

Without an elder statesman of the Republican Party at this juncture, however, given Scott Walker was defeated and Paul Ryan retired, means Wisconsin’s GOP would be in a bind should Johnson see the election writing on the wall and depart, too. At that point, the Senate primary fight will be a very expensive venture.

Surely it will be mean-spirited, too.

Consider what will be required of a candidate to attract the Trump base in August, and still need the independent and middle-of-the-road voters in the general election. We have heard the type of remarks Johnson made to that base and one needs to ask how many other Republicans would be willing to act in like fashion? Is a Senate seat truly worth it if one has to sell out principles and common sense just to get the nomination?

The question will soon be–I strongly suspect–who among state Republicans wish to head in that direction and then think they can weave the stitch to capture the broader electorate in the fall race come 2022?

It will not be pretty, but it will be grand political theater.

And so it goes.

WI Supreme Court Rules On DNR Authority, From Hancock To Kewaunee County

I still recall the woman, in the 1990s, holding the jar of cloudy and unappealing looking water taken from her kitchen tap in Kewaunee County prior to driving to the Madison office of her state assemblyman. What she made clear in the office of Representative Lary Swoboda was the harmful impact the water might have on her children. Her desire for an answer to clean water came to mind, again, as the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled this past week about the power a state agency does have to impact state regulations.

In what can only be called a truly tremendous victory for science, the environment, and the authority of experts in state agencies to craft rules that work for all residents, the Court strongly affirmed the Department of Natural Resources has the authority to place permit restrictions on large livestock farms and high-capacity wells in order to protect the state’s water.

The plight of homeowners in Kewaunee County has long made for state headlines. Over the years county residents banded together and asked the DNR to review its approval of a large farming operation’s permit because it did not require groundwater monitoring or set limits on the number of animals. It was reported that about half the private wells in the town where the farm is located are contaminated.

The Court decision, written by Justice Jill Karofsky, for the majority found the DNR “had the explicit authority” to impose both permit conditions in order to “assure compliance” with limitations on discharged waste and groundwater protection standards.

Such concerns and complaints about groundwater were not new to me when working in Swoboda’s office. I was born in the Central Sands area of the state. The clean water of Waushara County was eyed by bottled water giant Perrier for a high-capacity pumping station on state land surrounding Mecan Springs. I add, to underscore the dread among locals about the proposal, that location was one of Wisconsin’s most renowned trout streams.

A decade ago there was much concern regarding manure runoff from a proposed nearly 5,000 cow farm that would have resided close to Coloma in the western part of the county. In addition to runoff issues, it was the estimate from the corporation that water usage at the facility was estimated to be about 52.5 million gallons per year that brought a united front of opposition.

The desire for stronger state regulations concerning Richfield Dairy brought many locals to meetings and in heated conversations with state lawmakers. It was, then, in that light a broader court contest emerged regarding the DNR’s approval of eight high-capacity well applications made by farmers in the Central Sands region between 2014 and 2015.

This past week Justice Rebecca Dallet wrote in the court’s majority opinion that the state Legislature “has granted the DNR the broad but explicit authority to consider the environmental effects of a proposed high capacity well.”

Pine Lake in Hancock, in Waushara County, 2016. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel files.

I fondly recall biking to this lake as a teenager, and though not knowing how to swim, loving to wade about and cool off. As an adult, it became clear that the groundwater concerns from locals were not just irrational fears, as the picture demonstrates. Over the years I heard first-hand the accounts of new homeowners needing to go deeper when digging a well. My dad’s second well, located near our garden plot, went dry when I was a young adult.

While the past two years have allowed for Hancock lakes to be very full, that does not diminish the data about the groundwater and the impact of high capacity wells in the area. The need to better regulate the permits is a necessity, given that such wells can withdraw more than 100,000 gallons of water a day from the ground.

Dad and Lary have both passed away, but I just know how pleased they would be with the Court’s rulings. Dad served 40 years as a Hancock Town Supervisor, trying to press in his low-key style the need to be mindful of natural resources. Lary, who served for 24 years in the Assembly, had wished for a more forceful ability to constrain farm runoffs into local streams.

The Supreme Court has now made it clear that Wisconsin’s waterways belong to the state’s residents.  

And so it goes.

Governor Tony Evers Must Veto Republican State Budget For ‘Folks Back Home’

There are times when even the most genial of elected officials need to show that behind the smile is resolve, determination, and political spine. That moment is approaching for Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers as the Republican-controlled legislature inches its way to completing the biennial budget.

Once that document reaches the Governor’s desk, there is but one way to deal with it. No line-item veto’s this time, or pining about what was hoped for when it was first introduced earlier this year, what the citizenry needs, but what they now must accept. Given what has transpired this budget cycle such reactions are not acceptable. Given how the majority party in the statehouse handled the array of issues presented to them in the budget Evers has only one path to take.

He must veto the entire measure and send it back to the legislators with a stern note attached. Plan to spend the summer in Madison doing the people’s business.

The policy reasons for such a move by Evers have made headlines for weeks. When presented with the need for the expansion of Medicaid, and tapping into federal funds the Republicans rolled their eyes and tossed the matter away. The health care and long-term medical services for Wisconsinites, however, must not be treated in so cavalier a fashion. Let us not forget that state taxpayers absolutely deserve to have their fair share of federal tax dollars returned so as to use them in accordance with the services our citizens require. $1.6 billion in federal funding should not be discarded for partisan reasons.

When asked to ensure that federal dollars to the tune of $2.3 billion for public schools could be accessed the Republicans used a shell game to provide more state aid but in the form of lower tax levies without providing the additional spending for our cash-strapped schools. The Governor requested $1.6 billion for education funding, but the Republicans saw fit to provide roughly 1/10th of the package. As such, there are 421 reasons (school districts) with a massive statewide constituency, that underscores as to why the behavior of the budget-writers was so harmful with this one issue, thus necessitating a veto.  

The absolute requirement for broadband expansion, and the funding for it, has no middle squishy ground upon which to stand. Evers made it clear that the digital divide in this state must be closed. Thus, he requested $200 million for this project, but the GOP Joint Finance Committee was only able to find $125 million. Even what Evers proposed is but a small amount of what will be required to address full broadband connectivity, so to not have it accepted by the committee is too tough a pill to swallow. There are an estimated 400,000 residents who do not have broadband, and the majority reside in rural red counties. The Governor can demonstrate he works for all citizens by showcasing this issue as another reason to veto the budget.

The lack of any regard by Republicans for the needs of redistricting reform has created an electoral stranglehold in the legislative branch. But that does not preclude the needs of the citizenry. It is very important that the people be properly reflected in this budget. While Assembly Republicans elected Robin Vos to the chair of Speaker, that does not make him the governor or the final arbiter on policy.

Only Tony Evers was elected by a statewide vote, and now is the time to show his political mettle and steadfastness with the people of this state. He more than did his share of compromising in the 2019 budget process and was rewarded with even more partisan showmanship from Republicans in this years’ process. If anything over the past weeks the JFC has proven Will Rogers to be correct. “There are men running governments who shouldn’t be allowed to play with matches.”

Therefore, Governor Tony Evers must veto this budget and demand, on behalf of the people, that the summertime is spent by legislative Republicans meeting the needs of the ‘folks back home’.

And so it goes.