When Martha Laning ran for chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin back in 2015 she touted as one of her greatest strengths her ability to raise money. In fact, it was really the only strength she brought to the table. In January of 2014, when Laning was approached by party operatives to run for state senate, she didn’t even know that the party had members that paid dues, so experience and knowledge weren’t her long suit.

A political party needs money, to be sure, but the leader of any political party must possess the qualities of character that define true leadership, like integrity, courage and honesty. Those are the qualities that inspire people, and ones that Laning is, apparently, lacking.

The single most striking example was Laning’s full flip flop on how she would cast her superdelegate vote at the DNC convention last July. In November of 2015, Laning told the Associated Press that she’d be casting her superdelegate vote for whichever candidate won the Wisconsin primary. By mid-March of 2016, when it likely started to dawn on Laning that Wisconsin’s Democratic Party primary voters were going to hand the state resoundingly to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, she changed her tune. Any reasonable person might well conclude she did so in order to be able to cast her vote instead for Hillary Clinton, which would suggest that she was quietly supporting Clinton all along.

Laning should have either stated right upfront who she was likely supporting, Hillary Clinton, or she should have stuck to her word and cast her vote for Bernie Sanders at the convention. Flip flopping on major issues, via the use of dubious explanations, is not a quality people care for in elected officials.

And now Laning has presided over an election worse than anything Mike Tate was ever involved in: Wisconsin turning red in a presidential election year.

Time for Martha Laning to do the right thing and step down.

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31 Responses to Why Martha Laning should resign as DPW Chair

  1. Joanne Brown says:

    The election losses cannot be laid solely at Martha Laning’s feet. As it turns out, she had very little room to manoeuvre, even as the state chair.

    Those in the know will tell you that the elected Dems and donors put a lot of roadblocks in Laning’s way. The Coordinated Campaign of the Democratic National Committee also laid played a far too large role in this election, as a condition of providing funding. Many decisions that should have been made at the state level were made in Brooklyn, NY, in Clinton headquarters.

    I am very disappointed that Peter Barca is running again for Assembly Minority Leader. He more than most has been responsible for the appeasement policies of DPW toward Republicans, in no small way contributing to losses statewide. He didn’t deliver Kenosha County, fer gosh sakes, and he used to be their U.S. Congressman.

    New leadership among our elected reps will go be more helpful to the DPW, I believe. The young Milwaukee Dems, among others, are not being given the roles their intelligence and energy deserve.

    • Steve Carlson says:

      Joanne Brown,

      I think you’re missing a central point of my post, about integrity and courage. Laning had the opportunity to demonstrate both by sticking to her original superdelegate vote declaration, and then maybe rally Bernie people across the state to GOTV in November as a result. People are drawn to courage and integrity. Instead, like most politicians, she threw her lot in with who she thought was going to be the eventual general election winner.That’s a lack of character that isn’t going to change between now and 2018. I’m well aware of the challenges she’s faced with the inner circle, all the more reason to have kept intact the coalition that put her in office to begin with, which she hasn’t done, and which she started to fracture almost as soon as taking office.

      I voted for Laning at the convention in 2015, facing a choice between her and Jason Rae as the eventual winner. I did it largely at the behest of Kathleen Vinehout’s followers from the Chippewa Valley, and it was a mighty difficult decision. I had originally backed Jeff Smith for chair, and I was one of a lot of people who encouraged him to drop out and endorse Laning, again, at the behest of Vinehout backers. I wish now I hadn’t done that.

    • Jake formerly of the LP says:

      Good insight JoAnne. I’m not sure a lot of this is Martha’s fault, although losing even more seats in the Legislature is not an acceptable outcome. It does seem like Team DNC/Hillary was running the show for everything, including Russ’s neutered campaign, and you saw how badly that failed. By the way, did the Hillary Victory Fund do ANYTHING for the state party, or was it the scam many of us suspected?

      But no one challenging Barca is a bad sign. Both in Peter not knowing to step aside and in no one stepping up to challenge. Too much dead weight and bad habits of the pre-2010 era still hanging around.

  2. Duane12 says:

    I am not an avid fan of Laning, but I respect her effort and thank her. .

    Walker’s lying and conniving governance combined with external factors inclluding the most unorthodox presidential election in our history was too much to overcome not only for Wisconsin but also for other “iron belt” states

    Perhaps even St. Steve could not have pulled this one out nor could St. Duane have done better.. But what if the election had been decided by a popular vote majority?


  3. Lisa Herrmann says:

    After having Mike Tate for 6 years and watching DPW slide into dysfunction to put it mildly, a woman stepped up and offered to lead. What happened next? Every liberal misogynist crawled out of the closet to attack. (yes, we have them in this party, too) As a woman, I’m not shocked. We’ve watched this same sad commentary play out since before the primaries in April. DPW finally got a leader that could raise money without taking from every dirty hand that came along. A leader that understood an organization needs to be, well, organized. But, here we are after 18 months and you’re suggesting she should quit because she couldn’t fix the mess, that took far longer than 6 years to pile up, fast enough? There was a total turnover in staff at DPW and where did the folks who previously ran DPW go? They went to the Hillary campaign. Yup, that’s right, they ran the campaign for Hillary here in Wisconsin. Think about that. The dysfunction simply moved on to a higher level with tragic results. Oh, and let’s add SSDC and ADCC in there. Impotent, cookie-cutter leadership that can’t get out of DPW’s way so the party can make real progress. How about you ask the people who can speak to the things DPW does control? Like the tier 2 candidates that DPW has historically ignored. Or, the tier 3 candidates the Red to Blue program covers. Ask them if DPW served them well. Ask ADCC and SSDC if they like the funding help they got from DPW and why they couldn’t make more of that with their top tier candidates. Ask the grassroots and progressive folks who are poised to move into greater roles in the party. Then, ask if DPW has done well with the things they have control over. But, until you ask the right questions, about the right things, of the right people it’s purely mysoginistic, self-serving BS to suggest that Martha step down.

    • Jeff Simpson says:

      With this massive and almost historic loss, someone needs to be held responsible, I think she and Kory should both step down. I also am beyond words for the fact that Barca ran again unopposed. He has lost seats every single election.

      I do agree that there are many factors that went into the loss, Jake Hadju has now supplanted Mike Tate for biggest incompetent politico this state has ever seen,

      The only thing I would ask the ADCC is why in the world would anyone hire you to work in politics ever again? They were also a complete trainwreck.


    • Steve Carlson says:

      You misspelled misogynist Lisa.

    • Steve Carlson says:

      What’s troubling, Lisa, is that Jeff Christensen used the same smear tactic against me here two years ago when I wrote a satirical piece lampooning Mike Tate, in which I indirectly referred to Mary Burke as an heiress. On All In with Chris Hayes Monday night former Clinton campaign director of communications outreach, Jess McIntosh, said that women who voted for Trump did so because of ” internalized misogyny “. I sense a pattern developing. When Dem officials don’t like an outcome or what’s said, resort to smears and condescension. No doubt a winning strategy.

      • Lisa Herrmann says:

        Women had to march, protest, be beaten and starved in order to be able to vote hundreds of years after men. And, you are just now sensing a pattern of pointing out misogyny? Even though you’re late to the ball, I’m glad you’re starting to recognize your predilection. Women have been seeing it for eternity. You still have along way to go though, if you think it’s a smear tactic.

    • Dan says:

      Misogyny exists, and that is very sad. Incompetence also exists, which is why a guy who got a few hundred more votes than Romney (who lost Wisconsin by over 200,000 votes) won a state that has gone blue in every election since 1984, which was a nationwide Republican landslide.

      • Lisa Herrmann says:

        Back to my original point, until you ask the right questions, about the right things, of the right people you can’t simply claim incompetence. For example: Just because the guy who changed my oil at a car repair shop left the oil plug out doesn’t mean the guy who mounts the tires is incompetent. Unless you can prove they are the same guy. So, go back and ask the people who can attest to those things DPW did control if they did a good job. If the answer is no, then you’ll be able to make that case.

        • Dan says:

          “until you ask the right questions, about the right things, of the right people you can’t simply claim incompetence”

          But apparently you can claim misogyny.

          “Just because the guy who changed my oil at a car repair shop left the oil plug out doesn’t mean the guy who mounts the tires is incompetent.”

          Right, but both the tire change guy and the oil change guy are under the supervision of a manager, who is ultimately responsible for hiring competent employees and removing those who prove otherwise. A good leader would recognize the problem and deal with it. The only “right questions” to ask are Who is a good leader? & How quickly are they available to replace the current leader?

        • Steve Carlson says:

          It’s worth noting that Lisa Hermann is the 3rd CD chair of the DPW, and is the individual who, very likely, misappropriated the party infrastructure to help Martha Laning launch her chair race bid in 2015. So it’s entirely understandable that she would resort to cheap smears and garbled analogies to defend her chosen one.


          • Lisa Herrmann says:

            Hmmm… I expected better from you, Steve. Not sure why, but I did.

            • Steve Carlson says:

              It’s true, Lisa! That’s what you did! And it’s equally true that Martha almost certainly changed her tune about how she’d cast her superdelegate vote in order to cozy up with the Clinton campaign because she thought Clinton would be the next president of the United States. And that demonstrates a distinct lack of both courage and integrity, and which is something Martha surely had control over. So I guess I’m not sure what it is from me that you thought would, or should, be better? I, on the other hand, didn’t expect anything other than what I got from you.

  4. GuyFromWI says:

    Tate and Co. left the DPW in a horrific state. It was going to take more than a year and a half to repair all that damage. And of course, the national party was no help whatsoever. I do agree she badly miscalculated with the super-delegate debacle.

    I am as upset as anyone about the results of this election, but I really don’t see what she could have done differently (other than not switching her vote to Hillary). That said, I feel the state chair’s term should really be four years.

  5. Cat Kin says:

    y, Martha, but that’s right. Very poor showing and proof you’re not up to the job of shoring up the Democratic Party in Wisconsin. Please help find someone who is and step down.

  6. Matthew LaRonge says:

    Tate presided over the largest failure of the DPW. Handing control of legislative districts to the republicans for 10 years!

  7. Duane12 says:

    What about the words of wisdom that “We learn from our mistakes”?

    I believe Martha is multi-talented and I am confident she is a wiser leader now. Why not build upon that? And let’s put behind us our Hillary/Bernie differences!

  8. AJ says:

    I would have preferred Joe Wineke, but what is done is done and I wouldn’t blame everything that went down on Martha Laning. Some of what goes on at the state level is at the hands for the ADCC and SSDC. Democrats did not expand the playing field in Wisconsin but democrats have been not expanding the playing field all over the country in state legislative races for some time. By not trying to run competitive in every district the republicans can turn all their focus on the few seats that democrats do have rather than the other way around.

  9. J Eric Allen says:

    Laning has aways presented herself as supportive of the progressive movement here in Wisconsin. Her successful campaign for the WDP chair was largely based on the large number of movement enthusiasts that were at the convention that day. Since then my dealings with her and her staff has shown that they are just as stand offish with true progressives as any of her predecessors. There is a reason that the Democratic Party put the word Progressive in front of their candidates names. Both of the two parties saw the dramatic upward trends regarding the Progressive Movement in these United States. They wished to co-opt our growing clout and impressive demographics, especially among the disaffected Includes small family farms, all over these United Sates. Hell, the trend is actually world wide. I will be doing all I can to bring the Progressive Movement full throttle to the next convention.

    • Steve Carlson says:


      Bryan Kennedy has called on Wisconsin Dem electeds to champion single payer health insurance and cited the DPW platform when he did it. that’s what progressive leadership looks like. I appreciate your comment very much.

  10. Tom Chojnacki says:

    Steve, I can understand your frustration with the results of the election, however, I shouldn’t need to remind you that even the Republicans were surprised by the results.

    As far as blaming Martha Laning for the results of a campaign that was run from Brooklyn, those are dots that can’t be connected, especially in light of the fact the campaign told Hillary not to follow Bill Clinton’s advice to visit Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

    Regarding the DPW, anyone who has experience managing a sizable organization knows that it takes more than 1-1/2 years (Martha’s tenure as DPW Chair) to right a ship. Without accounting for the headwinds Martha faced and continues to face from some quarters, this is particularly true when it comes to an organization that relies mainly on volunteers.

    We need to get up, dust ourselves off and turn our attention toward the 2018 elections. Already, Martha Laning has begun hiring people to work on the 2018 election, and we need to join her and other Wisconsin Democrats in the fight to right this ship, for ourselves, and for the future of our state.

    This is no time to quit. As Winston Churchill said, “When you’re going through hell, keep going!”

    Finally, in the spirit of full disclosure, Steve can you tell your readers how many hundreds, and I do mean hundreds of hours you put in making phone calls, and again how many hundreds of doors you knocked during the campaign?

    • Steve Carlson says:


      I put in roughly 400 hours of door knocking throughout the Chippewa Valley in 2016 for Clinton and Feingold. Thanks for asking.

  11. As the chair of Grassroots NorthShore, I have spent the last year and a half working with Martha. After the election, she conducted listening sessions around the state. Based on what she heard, she made plans. To execute that plan she first had to raise a whole lot of money, enough for eight full-time, year-round positions. She did that and now we have seven organizers in various parts of the state. They are out there now, meeting with grassroots groups. Martha realizes that we can’t wait until three months before an election to start work.

    I hate to scream misogyny, but Tate had ten years of failures and left the party in a chaos. Martha should get another term to see if what she has put in motion will indeed lead to better election outcomes. Going back to the old boys’ network will change nothing for the better.

    • Duane12 says:

      Yes, Eileen!

      And I repeat my words of November 16.

    • Steve Carlson says:


      Tate was in office six years, not ten. The Baldwin campaign and the DCCC put up most of the money for the coordinated campaign staff that’s currently in the field, though Laning supporters don’t seem to mention that fact much. And thanks for not calling me a misogynist. That’s very big of you.

      • Curious. Do you have proof that the Baldwin Campaign the DCCC put up the money? I would honestly appreciate seeing that. I actually do not like being played — by either candidate.

        • Steve Carlson says:


          This text is from an email Staci O’Brien sent out on May 3rd. O’Brien is the organizing director hired just a couple of months ago.

          ” Many have asked us who we work for; the short answer is we work for you–and all Wisconsin Democrats. We are the Organizing Team of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, and we are in the field at a historically early date because the DPW is collaborating with campaigns for Senator Tammy Baldwin, our Congressional Representatives, and all our state legislators. Our goal is to energize and support Wisconsin’s grassroots infrastructure in 2017, then move seamlessly into all Democratic elections for 2018.”

          • Steve Carlson says:

            This issue highlights one of Laning’s serious flaws. Shortly after being elected in the summer of 2015 she interjected herself into the the Feingold/Johnson race by commenting publicly on Feingold’s campaign strategy at the Door County Dem party meeting, which was a colossal rookie mistake. Two years later and she’s dragging a collaborative coordinated campaign operation, (which may be crucial to keeping Tammy Baldwin in the Senate), into the middle of the DPW chair’s race because she’s desperate to tout and accomplishment. She hasn’t got the judgement or political acumen necessary for the job.

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