For those of you who haven’t seen the news lately…or haven’t visited news sites that carry such news…the French government is tearing down a refugee camp in Calais and moving its residents to other facilities in France. Many of the residents are upset because they would like to reach Great Britain and feel that being moved from Calais will make that move more difficult. This despite the fact that the camp is described as a squalid jungle. So there has been some rioting and violence.
I don’t know what we can do about it directly but there is something about they way it is being reported in much of the America press the really bothers me. As we’ve seen in this campaign, words matter. And NPR and other outlets have repeatedly called the residents of these camps: migrants.
They aren’t migrants. Migrants follow the crops and harvest them. Migrants move from their home to a new home to find work. Migrants came to America to find a better life. Migrants settled the west and the plains by moving from the east. Migrants moved from the rural south to the north and Midwest to find factory jobs. Migrants abandoned the dust bowl and moved to California in the depression. Those are migrants.
The people in France are refugees. They have been violently driven from their homes by war. I think it is important that we don’t lose sight of that. They have left behind everything they knew for the unknown to literally keep from being killed.
I won’t go on with other examples…but it is really important that we use refugees…it denotes their existence and their presence resulting from violence, an involuntary movement from their former homes. The label migrant makes it sound voluntary and implies less urgency for their situation.
I am sorry for your loss…your gasoline station at Sherman Blvd and Burleigh in Milwaukee is apparently a total loss.
But here’s what you should do next:
I don’t know if the station operator was a lessee or franchisee…but whoever gets the insurance money…take it and throw down a few BP dollars and find them a new station…somewhere else.
Begin immediate plans to raze the rubble and build a bright new state of the art gasoline station. Sherman Park deserves it.
Perform a search for a new operator from the immediate neighborhood. And then provide him/her with an apprenticeship or internship or whatever you want to call it…at one of your most successful stations…and pay them.
When the new station is ready for occupancy put them in place. Provide them with management assistance for however long both of you deem appropriate.
Sell it to them on a land contract at under market rates.
Invest in this neighborhood. You can afford it. You can earn respect. You can earn a reputation as an investor in the economy and neighborhoods.
You can earn your investment back.
You can help return stability and normalcy to a shattered neighborhood.
You can help at least one minority owner begin to build some personal wealth.
You can help that owner provide neighborhood jobs…I don’t know how many that would be in a modern gas station…but it would be solid, visible, worthwhile jobs.
Actually Governor Scott Walker was in Glendale (a Milwaukee suburb just north of the city) on Sunday attending a Support The Blue Day rally. I don’t have an issue with that.
But considering the events in Milwaukee Saturday night and his proximity to Sherman Park what he didn’t do is an issue.
He didn’t meet with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett…although according to the media he did talk to him about activating the National Guard per Sheriff David Clarke’s request…but I have found nothing about an actual meeting.
Likewise the media suggests he talked with the sheriff about the National Guard as well…no meeting.
Nor a meeting with the Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn nor Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton nor any other elected officials or community leaders.
He didn’t visit the Sherman Park neighborhood and observe the devastation nor the people from the neighborhood, city, county and neighboring areas that were cleaning up after the riots and holding person to person dialogues in the streets and parks.
As a man of faith he didn’t stop to join a variety of prayer circles organized by both city and suburban churches.
And he didn’t hear what the people most affected were saying about the events or their hopes or their needs.
He didn’t promise to bring some of his 250,000 jobs to Milwaukee’s northside. He didn’t promise state financial help to a beleaguered city of Milwaukee. He didn’t promise additional state aid for education in Milwaukee. He did not offer to find federal grants or aid to help rebuild Milwaukee’s crumbling inner city.
He didn’t for a single moment display any sense of leadership…
Yesterday Randy Bryce of the excellent Iron Stache blog posted a piece questioning why Julie Meyer decided to challenge incumbent Democratic State Rep. Christine Sinicki in the 20th Assembly district. In his piece Bryce pointed out the many positive things Rep. Sinicki has done during her time in office, but he also noted the recent behavior of Julie Meyer’s husband Michael Meyer, who showed up at a campaign event for Rep. Sinicki and then seemed to challenge one of Rep. Sinicki’s sons to a physical altercation following the event as seen in the video below.
To add context to the video, the person taking the video is Jim Sinicki, one of Rep. Sinicki’s sons. The person yelling from his vehicle at Jim Sinicki is Michael Meyer, husband to Julie Meyer, Rep. Sinicki’s challenger in the Democratic primary. At one point in the exchange, Meyer yells, “If you’re feeling froggy sir jump” at Jim Sinicki. I was present during the exchange between Michael Meyer and Jim Sinicki, and Meyer’s statement seemed to me to be an attempt to provoke a physical altercation with Jim Sinicki.
In addition to his behavior after Rep. Sinicki’s event, Michael Meyer got into a confrontation with Sinicki’s supporters during her event, as you can see in the video below.
Court finds that there has been a pattern of conduct that respondent has engaged in and finds that the petitioner has established grounds of harrassment by the respondent. Court therefore affirms the decision entered on 9/25/12 by Comm. Honrath and that the injunction shall remain in full force and effect.
As I noted above the harassment restraining order against Michael Meyer is in effect until September 25, 2016.
Julie Meyer, the MPS schoolteacher challenging incumbent State Rep. Christine Sinicki in the Democratic primary in the 20th Assembly district, has tried really really hard to make Rep. Sinicki out to be some anti-public education bogeywoman, despite the fact that Rep. Sinicki has been endorsed by the largest teachers unions in Wisconsin including the MTEA, the very same union to which Julie Meyer is a dues-paying member. Earlier today, Meyer took to her Facebook page (which I’m still banned from) to attack Rep. Sinicki for having received campaign contributions in the past from Howard Fuller and George Mitchell, both of whom have been advocates for education privatization.
However, what Julie Meyer hasn’t told anyone yet is that her single largest campaign donor is Scott Mayer, the Chairman & CEO of the QPS Employment Group. According to campaign finance documents (see below) Mayer contributed $1,000 to Julie Meyer’s campaign, making him the single largest contributor by far, and it’s worth noting that Mayer’s contributions comprise roughly two thirds of all the money raised by Julie Meyer’s campaign.
According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign’s Campaign Finance Database, Scott Mayer has contributed over $30,000 to Republicans like Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, State Senator Scott Fitzgerald, and the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee going back more than 15 years.
So apparently in Julie Meyer’s world Rep. Sinicki having taken campaign contributions in the past from Howard Fuller and George Mitchell is bad, terrible, awful, and a whole lot of other things, but her taking her largest campaign contributions from a die-hard supporter of Republicans in Wisconsin is no big deal.
For those of you who may not know, Khary Penebaker, a successful local businessman, father, husband, and activist is challenging Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner this year in Wisconsin’s 5thth Congressional district, which covers all of Washington and Jefferson counties, some of Waukesha and Dodge counties, and portions of Milwaukee and Walworth counties, has been a reliably red district, with Sensenbrenner winning reelection with at least 62% of the vote.
Shortly before Hillary Clinton became the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, I had a chance to speak with Khary Penebaker to get his thoughts on why he was running against Rep. Sensenbrenner, how he hoped to win, and what were the issues he wanted to focus on during the campaign.
Asked why he chose to run against an entrenched and presumably safe incumbent like Republican Jim Sensenbrenner, Penebaker noted he has been an advocate for gun violence prevention for years adding that in his role as an advocate he’d have to ask politicians to do the right thing, and that too often those politicians would say one thing in private they’d say one thing and in public do another. Penebaker added he reached a point where he wanted to be part of the solution, and he asked himself how much more he was willing to do to solve the problem. Penebaker told me he knew he could run for Congress to deal with the issues of gun control and gun violence, adding he felt Rep. Sensenbrenner wasn’t representing the district and had zero interest in doing anything on the issue of gun violence. Penebaker told me he wanted to either change the law or change Congress, and that he realized the only way to change the law given the relative inaction of Congress on gun issues was to change Congress itself.
After explaining why he chose to run for Congress, I asked Penebaker to explain how he felt he could win against Rep. Sensenbrenner when other Democrats have have tried and failed to prevail for decades. Penebaker told me he sees 2016 as being a unique year in which both Republicans and Democrats are united in their anger towards the national Republican Party, and he noted Republican primary voters in Wisconsin voted overwhelmingly against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, especially in the 5th Congressional district. “People are sick and tired of the way things are going,” Penebaker told me, adding he believes there hasn’t been a better time than now to run against an establishment incumbent Republican like Jim Sensenbrenner. “Many Republicans are just as fed up as Democrats are, and so 2016 is a unique time to run,” Penebaker added.
To bolster his case about dissatisfaction among Republicans and Democrats towards the current group of elected officials, Penebaker cited college affordability as an issue voters from both parties care about and have seen little action from current elected officials to address. Penebaker noted many Republicans and Democrats are united in their desire to make sure their children can not only go to college but also can afford to pay off their student loan debt at the end of their time in college. Penebaker stated he believed Rep. Sensenbrenner is not acting in the best interest of the voters of the 5th Congressional district – whether Democratic or Republican – when it comes to addressing the issue of college affordability and so he believes it’s time for Sensenbrenner to be voted out of office.
Asked to describe the main issues his campaign will be focusing on, Penebaker noted the three main planks in his campaign’s platform are public safety, education, and jobs & the economy. In regards to public safety, Penebaker noted that given his background in advocacy for sensible gun control legislation, if elected he would work to see universal background checks become a reality for anyone seeking to purchase a firearm. Penebaker noted universal background checks are supported by ninety percent of the American people, including more than 80 percent of Republicans and more than 70 percent of gun owners. Along with universal background checks, Penebaker added he would work to ensure individuals on the federal no-fly list would be prevented from being able to purchase firearms as a common-sense way to reduce the likelihood of terrorist attacks/mass shootings.
As the discussion turned towards education, Penebaker again reiterated his strong belief that a college education should be affordable for anyone who wants to attend college. “As the parent of a child looking at attending college, I’m not okay with the possibility of my child having to deal with the burden of hundreds of thousands in student loan debt,” Penebaker told me, adding that without the ability to see into the future to know who will win the presidential election his plan would start by attacking interest rates that student loan borrowers are paying. Penebaker’s plan would allow current student loan borrowers to refinance to lower rates, and he noted student loan borrowers pay higher interest rates than banks and they should be able to pay lower rates to make loans more affordable.
Penebaker added that his plan would also allow new students to borrow at reduced interest rates, but he was quick to note that different presidential candidates have different plans on college affordability, so it’s kind of hard to get more specific than that without knowing which Democrat will win the presidency.
Our discussion next turned to job opportunity, and Penebaker expressed his opinion that too many politicians, including Republicans, pay lip service to the issue of job opportunity but don’t really do anything about it. Penebaker told me his plan for job creation starts with a small business tax incentive that would allow convicted felons the opportunity to rebuild their lives by starting small businesses and investing back into their communities. He added that too many released convicts revert back to old behaviors in order to survive. “There needs to be more job opportunities in order to break the cycle of recidivism,” Penebaker said, adding, “We need to take steps to break that cycle and allow them to reintegrate as positive members of society.” Noting that job training programs aren’t enough without job opportunities, Penebaker asked, “Once they get out, now what?” Penebaker noted his company hires individuals with records because they believe in second chances, and he expressed his opinion there should be a mechanism in place to encourage for-profit companies to want to hire individuals with convictions. Penebaker said that providing for-profit companies with an incentive to hire individuals with criminal records could serve as a means of making money while also helping reduce recidivism, which would in turn start the process of rebuilding communities torn apart by family members in prison.
Asked how his campaign is progressing, Penebaker said the campaign is “going good,” noting his campaign out-raised Rep.Sensenbrenner during the last quarter. However, Penebaker was quick to admit Rep. Sensenbrenner’s campaign can turn on the spigot from big money donors at any time, so he still has work to do to counter the likely influx of money into Rep. Sensenbrenner’s campaign. Penebaker did note he has really only contacted his inner circle yet, adding his campaign has been tapping into connections made through his advocacy work and that he hasn’t really even widened out his fundraising efforts outside of the district. Penebaker noted the last Democratic challenger to Rep. Sensenbrenner raised fourteen or fifteen thousand dollars in campaign contributions in the entire election cycle, while Penebaker’s campaign raised almost double that amount in a few months. Penebaker added a lot of work has been done to build his campaign’s infrastructure, with his campaign having an all-professional paid staff as opposed to the all-volunteer staff of the 2014 Democratic candidate. Penebaker told me that as he has engaged voters about his campaign, they are resonating with the fact that he’s someone who’s passionate about the issues and isn’t afraid to take on a Republican heavyweight like Jim Sensenbrenner.
“He’s had plenty of time to change but he’s done nothing, and that’s simply unacceptable,” Penebaker said of Sensenbrenner, adding that he believes voters are sick of government being stuck in the mud and not moving in the right direction. Penebaker told me, “I don’t want to turn this into a career; I want to fix some things and pass it off to the next person who wants to affect some change and do good things for the issue they care about,” adding, “This shouldn’t be a government run by the same people trying to do the same things year after year.”
As our conversation drew to a close Penebaker said he believes the 5the Congressional district – and the nation as a whole – needs candidates who are willing to stand up for what they believe in and stand strong against the kind of negativity that has become so prevalent with the rise of Donald Trump as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
Over the past ten days or so I received a number of unusual campaign style literature pieces. They prominently feature Milwaukee 14th District Alderman Tony Zielinski although they aren’t actually election related pieces. I live in the 14th so it makes sense that I received them. But they obviously were sent to discredit the alderman ahead of the local elections on April 5th. And they were paid for by Milwaukee Works, Inc. We’ll get to that in a bit.
Both pieces bring up Ald. Zielinski’s involvement with the Milwaukee County pension scandal during County Executive Ament’s administration. Ald. Zielinski was a county supervisor at the time and voted in favor of the pension changes. So far they are still in factual territory. Well sort of…they keep calling it the Milwaukee Pension Scandal despite this affected only Milwaukee County elected officials and employees. But they need to do that so they can make the leap across the chasm to demand the end to defined benefit pensions for City of Milwaukee Alderman. But in the lit they don’t call them defined benefit pensions…but fat tax-payer funded golden parachute pensions. Well here’s the lit…take a look…and then I will continue the discussion:
This past week:
Both pieces have same address side:
Although this doesn’t oppose Ald. Zielinski in the election the timing just two weeks and one week prior to the election of course makes it suspect. And of course if you look at the addressee tag it is addressed to me “or resident voter”…so it is aimed at the election…if I were doing this as an ‘informational’ or a ‘policy’ piece I would have addressed it to “or current resident”. But that’s just me…shrug.
So these pieces piqued my curiosity. Who is Milwaukee Works, Inc and why do they hate pensions and why are they targeting Ald. Zielinski? Well I visited their website (http://mkework.com/) and I still don’t know. But first, lets see who they are. From their Who We Are page:
Milwaukee Works, Inc. is committed to educating citizens about the value of good government, risk-taking enterprise, and inclusive communities. These are values inherent to thriving metropolitan cities around the world.
Milwaukee’s commercial and cultural communities are vibrant – but are held back by political dysfunction that rewards cronyism, incumbency, and stakeholders in the status quo (the “political class”). This dysfunction does not value cooperation and accountability.
We’re fed up with politicians captured by special interests who sacrifice the common good to hold their positions of power. Unfortunately, the political class thrives on “asymmetric information,” insider knowledge that allows self-dealing at our expense.
A well-informed citizenry will force elected officials to do the right thing – not the politically convenient thing. Without well-informed constituents, too many elected officials will continue to default to benefiting their political class, not the common good.
Partisan labels aren’t interesting to us – we’re focused on educating on issues to improve Milwaukee as a place to live in real, not political, terms.
Milwaukee Works, Inc. is a 501(c)(4) non-profit, non-partisan issue advocacy organization. We are a completely volunteer organization with no paid staff. Directors are not compensated. We aim to use all raised funds for research and education.
Not quite what I was looking for. But now we know they are a non-profit with a volunteer staff…but no mention of where their funds come from (I know – I know – they don’t have to disclose that) nor a mention of the civic minded directors who are directing the place.
And so far they have weighed in on four local issues. Prior to the Milwaukee Pension Scandal…they are against Chris Larson’s campaign to unseat incumbent County Executive Chris Abele because it might reverse the county board reforms, the are aghast that the Estabrook Dam hasn’t been removed yet, and they don’t like County Board Chair Theo Lipscomb Jr. much. I am starting to sense a theme here. And it seems to lean against the county board past and present.
So I asked around to three local people who might be in the know on who is behind Milwaukee Works, Inc and the unanimous reply was: Dan Adams. Well in case you don’t recognize Dan Adams…and I’ll admit I only remembered him vaguely until I googled him…Dan Adams was backed by Exec. Abele in the 19th State Assembly district back in 2014. (A seat eventually won by Jonathan Brostoff who had worked in the office of Senator Chris Larson.) And he’s garnered quite an odd reputation in local politics since then. Our own editor Zach Wisniewski has posted quite a number of items in the past year or so. But now you can start to understand the positions being taken by Milwaukee Works, Inc…they are the same positions held by the county executive. I wonder how they overlooked the Domes Scandal?!? A faux Democrat, Mr. Adams has taken any number of right turns on his own as Zach’s blogs will attest.
But I still couldn’t actually link Mr. Adams to the site or the organization…after all they weren’t naming names. But something interesting turned up in my Google search. A job listing for Milwaukee Works, Inc: Investigative Reporter. And unlike the website that has a generic gmail account for contact information, the job listing suggests that you apply to email@example.com. So that case is solved and yes, Dan Adams apparently is behind MKEWorks!
So I get their stands on county issues if they are stand ins for Exec. Abele…but what’s with their animosity against Alderman Zielinski? That I haven’t figured out yet…if one of our dear readers knows…I’d appreciate the insight. Even on their site’s position against pensions for Milwaukee alderman, Ald. Zielinski is the only one called out. The only reasons I can surmise on that is they are lazy and UrbanMilwaukee had already done the groundwork. Shrug…
Now to be fair I emailed them this afternoon about the lit pieces and did they only mail to the 14th District…and yes that really isn’t fair because it’s Sunday and yes I should have done it earlier. When they respond I will update this piece accordingly.
Off track a bit but some additional commentary on their attack on pensions. They correctly say that defined pensions fell out of favor because of their cost. That’s correct but that doesn’t mean they should have gone away.
A defined benefit pension plan is one that promises a specific monthly payment to a former employee based on their past earnings, length of employment, and age. The financial health of the employer has no bearing on the its obligation to pay. These plans were in vogue during the middle of the 20th Century, but due to their cost, fell heavily out of favor in the 1980s and 1990s
Pensions have fallen out of favor almost everywhere, except with local governments, including the City of Milwaukee and State of Wisconsin.
But this position is just another lean to the right and into the pockets of big business in opposition to labor. And it’s a typical ploy…let’s take it away from someone who has it instead of making it standard for all!
We can take all of the guessing out of it…courtesy of the internet (I received this two hours after the rest of the post was written – just leaving the rest as is):
P.S. I tried to Join them…but the boxes to enter email and name are white on white when you click on them to do the entry. So be a good typist if you try!
UPDATE APRIL 4th: From a comment on my Facebook posting of this article: Jan Pierce works with this group…which makes it clear why this lit piece attacks Ald. Zielinski. Mr. Pierce lost to Ald. Zielinski in 2012.
I understand that the print media is a dead issue if they can’t make a successful transition to the web and monetize their offering. And I have been putting up with ad crammed pages for what already feels like forever and pages that take minutes to load before you can read an article and search engines that don’t find what you are looking for even when you know the author or a direct quote…sheesh.
But the newer trend of having TV type ads pop up in the middle of the actual articles has got to stop. They resize the page causing the text I am reading to scroll up and out of sight or down and out of sight while I am trying to read it…and then when they close the reverse happens…it makes your site unreadable! That’s not what you want…trust me!
IF you feel the need to run those ads…put them at the top…I’ll notice them…I can ignore them if I choose…and then don’t close them when they complete so the page stays the same size while I am reading. Annoying people isn’t going to improve your revenues…even you have to know that.
Shortly after Buchholz announced his candidacy, I had an opportunity to chat with him about his decision to challenge Rep. Kind. As the obvious first question, I asked Buchholz why he decided to challenge Rep. Kind. Buchholz was quick to note the number one reason he decided to challenge Ron Kind was Kind’s support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), with Buchholz noting how curious Kind’s support for the TPP is given that it follows NAFTA, which has been incredibly destructive to the job market in Wisconsin.
Adding to his point, Buchholz cited the rise in poverty across Wisconsin. Buchholz noted his campaign website has maps from the state Department of Public Instruction showing the population of free and reduced school lunches from 2003 to present, and Buchholz cited the increase in the percentage of children receiving free and reduced school lunches as proof of the rise in poverty in Wisconsin. ‘Close to fifty percent of our state’s school population receives free and reduced lunches,” Buchholz noted, adding that that percentages speaks volumes about wages across the state being too low for many families.
Buchholz added he was also troubled by Ron Kind’s recent criticism of former Senator Russ Feingold’s stance in opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, noting that Kind criticized Feingold for opposing the TPP before Feingold had actually read it. Buchholz noted Feingold has said he has read the TPP and is still opposed to it, and Buchholz noted Rep. Kind voted to fast track the TPP even before the entire 6,000 page agreement was released to public. “He couldn’t have read it,” Buchholz asserted.
As his second reason for deciding to challenge Rep. Kind, Buchholz said he has had an issue with Rep. Kind for a long time based on Rep. Kind’s 2002 vote in favor of Iraq War. Buchholz noted that unlike Democratic presidential candidate and then-Senator Hillary Clinton, Rep. Kind has never renounced that vote. “I never understood that vote,” Buchholz said, adding that while report have referred to him as a “peace activist” – which could have a negative connotation – he wears that title proudly. Buchholz noted his daughter served in the military in Bagdhad for 27 months and so he’s familiar with the toll war takes on families.
As a final reason for his decision to challenge Rep. Kind Buchholz cited Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders, noting that when he weighed the positives and negatives to getting into the race, the “Sanders phenomenon” made it appealing to him to get into the race as an outsider. Buchholz noted Sen. Sanders doesn’t have a SuperPAC and is running grassroots campaign, and that’s the kind of campaign Buchholz said he wants to run – the kind that won’t have a lot of money but will engage the grassroots with a populist message. Buchholz said he feels a kinship with Sen. Sanders on domestic issues, especially an increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Buchholz noted the $15 per hour minimum wage is on area he and Rep. Kind seem to disagree, as the New Democrat Coalition Rep. Kind is a member of referred to the $15 per hour minimum wage as a “niche issue.”
“If the minimum wage in 1968 was indexed for inflation, it would be $15 per hour today,” Buchholz told me, adding that he does not believe an increase in the minimum wage to be a “niche issue.” Buchholz told me he currently serves on the steering committee for 15 Now Northwestern Wisconsin, an organization advocating for living wages.
Asked about the issues he will be focusing on in addition to an increased minimum wage, Buccholz began with healthcare reform. He noted he is a huge proponent of single payer healthcare ala “Medicare for all” like Bernie Sanders is proposing, and he cited the fact that healthcare costs are the number one reason for bankruptcy in US while no other western country has that problem as proof that our nation’s healthcare system needs to change. “I’m tired of walking into stores and seeing handmade posters for fundraisers for families raising money for cancer care,” Buchholz told me.
Another issue Buchholz is focusing on is student loan debt. “We have to do something about the debt people come out of college with,” Buchholz said, adding that the idea of a young person coming out of college with what amounts to a mortgage but no house is ridiculous. He noted college was affordable when he went – and he believes it it should be every bit as affordable for students now as well. Buchholz told me, “It’s mind boggling and we have to do something about it.”
The final issue Buchholz told me he wants to focus on is clean energy. Buchholz told me he is proposing
a clean green energy building program (smart grid, solar panels on buildings) that would create a cheap, sustainable energy system. Buchholz noted the availability of cheap energy post-World War 2 was one reason for economic boom of that time, and he told me he believes we need an “across the board” federal clean energy policy, noting that right-wing energy interests and the Koch brothers have worked in states throughout the country to limit the availability of clean energy alternative power sources. Buchholz added that he has solar panels on his house, adding that he believes the real benefit is the cost savings – not just for his family but for those who come after. “It’s something for the future we can do to reduce costs and dependence on non-sustainable energy,” Buchholz told me.
Asked how he thinks he can beat a deeply entrenched incumbent, given the strong advantages of incumbency, Buchholz said he plans on running a strong grassroots campaign in order to beat the obvious financial advantages Rep. Kind will enjoy. Buchholz said he is going to “go old school” and win through hard work, because he knows he can’t compete with Rep. Kind’s money for ads, mailers, and other campaign essentials. “I understand the power of incumbency, but as a retired teacher I have the time to really put in the hours to make phone calls, go door to door, and work hard to beat Ron Kind,” Buchholz said, adding that he has already been to six counties in the district. Buchholz added he has a great website and had a great response at his first event raising funds, and he said he is hoping to tap into the Bernie Sanders supporters in the district as well.
Buchholz did note his campaign has already faced a challenge from the Democratic establishment in Wisconsin, as the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) has denied his campaign access to the party’s Voter Activation Network (VAN) because Ron Kind is a Democrat in good standing and their policy is not to give the VAN to anyone challenging incumbent democrats. “The fact that people like Ron Kind are willing to spend millions for a job that pays $174,000 per year is ridiculous and it shows how screwed up our system is,” Buchholz told me, adding that he believes the real test for election to Congress should be who can run the cheapest, most effective campaign, instead of who can spend the most time raising the most money for reelection.
Despite the obvious obstacles his campaign faces in attempting to defeat a strongly entrenched incumbent, Buchholz told me he is really enjoying the campaign experience, telling me he feels like he has a strong platform that resonates with voters.
That was my question to Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg, who’s vying to unseat Justice Rebecca Bradley, who was appointed to her seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court by Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Judge Kloppenburg said she’s running for the Supreme Court this year for the same reasons she ran in 2011, but that the stakes were much higher this year. “People across the state are concerned about the injection of partisan politics and unregulated special interests influencing the Supreme Court,” she told me, adding that she’s visited each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties and that she’s heard those same concerns everywhere she’s been. Judge Kloppenburg also noted partisan politics brings partisan agendas, and she believes those partisan agendas shouldn’t bleed over into the courts. “There’s a perception that justice is for sale, and that’s not something people want – they want an independent check and balance against the other branches.” Judge Kloppenburg shared her belief that it’s important judges approach each case with an open mind and without preconceived ideas about cases, something she learned as a litigator for 23 years and as an appeals judge for the past three and a half years.
Asked to share what she learned from last Supreme Court campaign and what’s different for her in this campaign, Judge Kloppenburg started by noting that she learned how to run an effective statewide campaign. She noted 750,000 people voted for her last time in 2011, which in her words is an incredible base to be fortunate enough to build off of. Judge Kloppenburg did note she sees differences now from the 2011 campaign, noting that in 2011 Gov. Scott Walker was newly elected and people were willing to give him a chance, while his present-day approval ratings are worse as citizens have begun to experience the impact of his agenda on the state. She also added that during a recent visit to Phillips, Wisconsin she talked to people who told her they believe government isn’t working for them, which she didn’t experience during her last campaign. Kloppenburg added that people also understand now in a more visceral and personal way that the Wisconsin Supreme Court makes a big difference in their lives, citing the Act 10 case and Milwaukee County “John Doe” cases as examples.
When prompted to discuss what differentiates her from the other candidates in the race, Kloppeburg started by noting the breadth and depth of her legal experience. Kloppenburg pointed out she is the only candidate in the race to have been elected a Court of Appeals judge, which has given her the opportunity to hear cases similar to those heard by the Supreme Court, in addition to having issued hundreds of opinions in all areas of the law since joining the court. She added that she is also the only candidate to have litigated for the State of Wisconsin for the Department of Justice at State Supreme court, Federal court, and Circuit Court levels, giving her more experience as a litigator than her two opponents and leaving her more qualified in terms of legal experience.
Kloppenburg continued to differentiate herself from her opponents by stating that she has never “sat on the sidelines” and has always stood up for what she believed in. Kloppenburg cited her experience as a volunteer for three years in the Peace Corps in Botswana, her advocacy on behalf of women and children by establishing a nutrition program for women and children in upstate New York, and her decision to attend law school as three examples of her standing up for what she believes in. In describing her decision to attend law school, Kloppenburg said she went to law school because she valued the power of the law and its potential to be a force for positive change. Kloppenburg’s connection to the UW Law School has continued after her graduation, as she teaches as a volunteer at the law school, having been named 2011 adjunct instructor of the year.
As she continued to talk about standing up for what she believes in, Kloppenburg noted that after law school she chose to work at the Wisconsin Department of Justice because she wanted the opportunity to work on cases that would have a positive impact on Wisconsinites. During her time at the Department of Justice, Kloppenburg served as an Assistant Attorney General for the environmental protection unit in Department of Justice, leading cases to protect Wisconsin’s environment.
Kloppenburg also talked about her experience as an active volunteer in her community and her profession, noting that she currently serves as a mentor for the Dane County Bar Association and UW Law School, in addition to having served as both a volunteer and board member for her Neighborhood Association, in addition to having served as a board member of Legal Action of Wisconsin.
While continuing to discuss the differences between herself and her opponents, Kloppenburg noted a stark philosophical difference between the three candidates. She pointed out that after each of the candidates first announced they were running, WisPolitics interviewed each the candidates, and among the questions they were asked was a question about which Supreme Court Justice they are more philosophically aligned to. Not surprisingly, Walker appointee Rebecca Bradly said she was most philosophically aligned to conservative Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Anthony Scalia, while Judge Joe Donald didn’t provide an answer. Kloppenburg was unapologetic in pointing out that the Justices she was most philosophically aligned to are Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, who are not only prominent women and judges and trailblazers, but because they share her view of the United States Constitution as protecting rights and promoting a more equal society.
As her final point of differentiation from her opponents, Kloppenburg pointed out she is the only candidate in this race to have run a statewide campaign. “I’ve shown I has what it takes to put together a strong, statewide grassroots effort to win,” she said, adding that she is only candidate in the race to have visited to all 72 counties Wisconsin. Kloppenburg also noted she has received public endorsements from all 72 counties, and her nomination papers contained the signatures of citizens of 52 counties.
Asked what she would bring to the Supreme Court if elected, Kloppenburg said she would bring several things to the court, the first being the discipline she has learned as Court of Appeals judge. Kloppenburg said he has learned that as a judge she needs to be much more focused and disciplined in analysis and thinking regarding cases, and that language has to be used very carefully when writing decisions, given the tremendous impact those decisions can have. She added she would also bring a sense of what matters to the people of Wisconsin, along with independence/impartiality. “People want a justice they can count on to approach every case with an open mind,” she added, pointing out that having never been appointed to any position, she is not beholden to any political party or special interests.
Kloppenburg added she believes the Wisconsin Supreme Court badly needs a justice who has shown she has the background and the backbone to stand up to the state’s political parties and special interest groups to be the kind of independent justice Wisconsinites want and to make sure the Supreme Court works for all the people of Wisconsin.
“It’s a great, glorious state,” Kloppenburg said as our interview drew to a close, adding how wonderful it has been to have connected with voters all across the state.
Wisconsin’s spring primary election day is February 16.