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.

Wisconsinites Defining Themselves

Over the past two years, I have become better acquainted with segments of Wisconsin. Having lived here since my birth in Wild Rose, I have watched and read over the decades the comings and goings of those who lived near me and ones in the farther reaches of the state.

At times, I have been moved by the emotional resolve of a community pulling together, such as after the horrific Barneveld tornado. Recently we saw the better angels of our state move into action to help families impacted by the horror that ripped Waukesha after a man drove into a Christmas parade.

Since early 2020 we have watched as nurses and doctors have spent every day confronting not only a virus that has filled hospitals to capacity but also stressed medical professionals to a point they have never reached before in their careers. We have learned of teachers who crossed technical hurdles so to ensure students could continue their education, even if not sitting in the school classroom.

That is the part of Wisconsin that makes me proud to live here, knowing our lives are enriched with caring and thoughtful people doing tough work under the most trying of circumstances. The best of Midwestern values shines with these people.

But there is another segment of the state who also defined themselves over the past two years.

Perhaps I deluded myself for many years about the true character of some of my fellow citizens in the state. After all, I worked in local politics in Door County and then for a decade with a state legislator and appreciated the wide array of ideas and opinions. I fully grasped policy differences were as natural as the sun rising and setting. Partisan differences were not, for me, the mark of character.

But in 2006, as I drove through my hometown area and saw the number of yard signs in favor of an anti-gay marriage amendment slated for a statewide ballot, I was forced to realize a divide that I had not seen, or perhaps not wished to see all those previous years. This issue was not about increased taxes, or how to pay for road maintenance, or any such sundry list of concerns. This was not the typical issue of the day, but a blunt tool designed to foment bigotry and hate. It pained me to see signs on the lawns of people I personally knew promoting its passage.

This year as our state, like the nation and the world, fought back on a virus that has killed too many and undermined economies I have watched as some rebel against logical ways of living and acting so as to stem COVID’s spread. The utter rejection of wearing a mask so to protect their own families and the communities in which they live, or taking a vaccine that has proven efficacy so to allow for herd immunity, is more than shocking.

For so long I had a real faith in the rest of my fellow citizens, and that makes this year utterly dismaying to watch play out in relation to our basic human interactions with one another. My mom used to say that you never know how ugly families can be until there is a will to probate. She would be aghast to have watched how selfish and outrageous people turned out to be in a pandemic.

People refuse to be vaccinated and in so doing have split families apart. After all, those who follow science and reasoning do not wish to put their lives in peril by being in close proximity to those who reject common sense. Some fight against mandates, even for health workers or emergency workers who arrive at homes in trucks with flashing lights.

I have watched a segment of this state, a segment that is larger than what I would have ever imagined, lean into their tribalism, and in so doing, forsake the greater good. To me, that has been harder to accept than any presidential election night loss. That is because I know in four years there is a good chance at righting the ship of state.

What we have lost as Wisconsinites, as demonstrated by a segment of our populace with the rejection of science, facts, data, and following the advice of medical professionals is not something we can just glue back together again. The loss of our commitment to being good to each other, in the most trying of times, has defined who we are.

It is truly sad.

And so it goes.

Sadness Mars Holiday Tradition, Waukesha Children Deprived Of Magical Feeling At Parade

It was a jarring end to a very nice day in Wisconsin.

Sunshine had allowed for people to get outdoors in the afternoon and feel the brisk winds while some people took the warm weather as a sign to–at last–put up outdoor decorations. I noticed others raking lawns and terraces in the afternoon and kids out biking again before winter snows finally arrive. Everyone seemed to be outside and smiling.

And it was, without doubt, that same sense of uplift from such weather that people were feeling as they gathered in Waukesha for the best type of parade there can be—especially if you are a kid. The Christmas parade!

As we sat down for dinner on the isthmus we heard the devastating news.

We turned on the television and saw terrified people, with debris left all about after an SUV drove through the ones participating in the parade, or watching from the sidewalks. As I write some details are emerging with reports of more than 20 people injured, and some killed. The vehicle was located and photos show the horror that played out with the damage to the front end. The driver is in custody.

Of all the images that have poured out on Twitter, there was one, above all, that punches the hardest.

The news of who died has not been released as of this posting. But I can not help but consider that a child–not necessarily the one in the above stroller–left for that Christmas parade with pure excitement on the face, but will never go home again.

The speeding vehicle was simply appalling, and whoever was driving, utterly reprehensible. There have been enough raw nerves, pain, suffering, and stresses for our society in this state over the past weeks. No one should now need to endure this horrific crime ramping up to the holiday season.

I feel for all of the victims, but especially the children. How can that not be the case?

I know the following will sound hokey, but it is how I feel.

When I worked at WDOR our station annually broadcast over the radio a Christmas parade. Ed Allen, Sr. would create the theater of the mind as the sights and sounds were placed into words for the listeners throughout the Door County peninsula. And of course, he would chat with all sorts of people who attended. The best conversations were with kids who might otherwise have been taken aback by a news camera, but there was nothing to be afraid of from a microphone!

So Ed would engage them in banter and it was always the highlight to hear the expressions of delight coming from youngsters who were at that age when Christmas was magical.

It should have been the same for the boys and girls tonight in Waukesha, too.

It was not.

What a dreadful way to start the holiday season.

And so it goes.

Fallout From Kyle Rittenhouse Verdict, Kenosha Has Race And Vilgante Problems

It was a stunning verdict, at least for the ones still grounded in logic, common sense, and legal reasoning.

A jury acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse on all counts after deliberating for nearly three and a half days. Jurors in the horrific case found that the then 17-year-old was not guilty of homicide, attempted homicide, or any other charges related to the August 2020 bloodshed and violence in Kenosha.

Much has been written about the foundations Rittenhouse started from that allowed for the teenager to drop out of school, have access to deadly weapons, and clearly not have the reasoning capabilities that many teenage males have at that age. After all, what must have been playing out in Rittenhouse’s thinking process to consider it was a good idea to carry an AR-15 into a city where massive protests were ongoing? Even a weeks-long trial with high-priced defense lawyers could not make that action seem sane to the viewers tuning in around the nation.

Much will be said about the outcome of the trial, the actions of the judge, and yes, the often poorly played hand of the prosecution team. But as civilized citizens, we must accept the verdict, even if we vehemently disagree with it.

As this chapter of Rittenhouse’s life turns a page (pun intended) it seems appropriate to consider another part of this larger story. A part that will find it much harder to pretend everything is back to normal.

I refer to the City of Kenosha.

What started this protracted and bloody story was the afternoon Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times in Kenosha by a police officer. From that event, we have followed the sadness, anger, simmering resentments, misunderstandings, along with an overall sense of utter frustration that is understandable from within the Black community.   

At the time of the multiple shots fired at Blake, Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said the police shooting “wasn’t an accident”.

“This wasn’t bad police work. This felt like some sort of vendetta taken out on a member of our community.”

Barnes was correct, as what happened looked like something a rigged police system in some third-rate country would use on some political dissidents.  At the time I stated that It was a ghastly crime that these officers will need to be charged with and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

We know that did not happen as Kenosha officials announced that the officers involved in the shooting would not be charged.

Now, this morning vigilantism was given an absolute pass by a Kenosha jury in the Rittenhouse killings.

The racial split in Kenosha has not mended, and it will be asked in the days to come as a result of today’s verdict, how it is a community can not render appropriate justice for the violent crimes that have consumed it. They seem not to even try.

Meanwhile, the nation is watching Kenosha and asking lots of appropriate questions.

I wonder what the verdict would be in the #RittenhouseTrial if the defendant were a Black seventeen-year-old from another state who killed two people with an illegal assault weapon?” legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin tweeted.

That question just got more biting in light of the verdict.

Meanwhile, at city hall, the question to ponder in light of the events since August 2020 is what new business would wish to locate to a place that defines itself with such low standards?

And so it goes.

Marquette Law School Poll Finds Strong Support For Roe v. Wade, Reasons For Concern About Chipping Away At Women’s Choice

We can be pleased when a well-respected polling operation in Wisconsin makes national headlines. When its director sits for interviews it is clear why credibility is attached to the poll findings.

Many headlines and news articles are being written today concerning the new poll from Marquette Law School which finds that abortion rights have strong public support. That is not surprising if one has discussions with neighbors and friends or listens to a cross-section of the national dialogue.

To put numbers to that foundation of feeling the poll finds American adults opposed by a more than 2-to-1 margin striking down the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

Charles Franklin, a face that everyone knows by sight when he appears on news programs, will be asked to weigh the results of the polling which showed, in addition, to support for the 1973 court ruling, also some drift towards limiting abortion after a certain time period. That last matter is concerning as the encroachment on the health decisions a woman makes must not be furthered.

The poll found that “more respondents oppose overturning Roe than would like to see the ruling struck down. But, at the same time, more are in favor of a ban on abortions after 15 weeks of a pregnancy than are opposed.”

The Marquette Poll was not the only one this week showing the direction of support for Roe v. Wade. The Washington Post-ABC News poll found much the same.

The polling data is most worthy of our consideration as states continually try to find extra-constitutional avenues to limit the rights of women with this health care decision. We know that states have forced counseling and waiting periods before the procedure. We are aware that health insurance coverage is too often denied for abortion, and we know who that impacts the most. Women of lower economic standing.

While we must be diligent about making sure the soft erosion of abortion rights is limited, we can at the same time be most heartened that these polls find the extreme positions of some conservatives are not shared by a majority of Americans. 

And so it goes.