My take on the Tim Cullen developments

Earlier today news broke that State Sen. Tim Cullen has decided to leave the Democratic Caucus in the State Senate after Majority Leader Mark Miller offered him a “weak” committee chairmanship post. Sen. Cullen also indicated he is considering whether or not he’ll leave the Democratic Party completely and become an independent.

Lisa posted her take on the situation earlier this evening, but I wanted to add my own perspective, specifically regarding Sen. Cullen’s assertion he was offered a “weak” committee chairmanship. According to Senate Majority Leader Mark Miller, Sen. Cullen was offered the chairmanship of the Committee on Small Business Development and Tourism, and while Sen. Cullen may consider that a “weak” assignment, it’s important to note tourism is big business here in Wisconsin, with visitors spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 billion in Wisconsin in 2011.

That’s no small number, and given the failures of Gov. Scott Walker and Republicans in the legislature to follow through on their promises to create jobs here in Wisconsin, the chairmanship of a committee that deals with small businesses would seem to me to be in a good position to put forth some ideas on how to create jobs through small businesses. It’s no secret small businesses in large part drive the economy, so Sen. Cullen would have been in a good position to help create jobs where Republicans failed.

Even if Senate Majority Leader Miller did slight Sen. Cullen by not offering him a “stronger” committee chairmanship, it’s unfortunate that Sen. Cullen couldn’t put on his big-boy pants and put his ego aside to do the work he was elected to do.


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12 thoughts on “My take on the Tim Cullen developments

  1. I just came across this on FB and find it of interest:
    “Sen. Jon Erpenbach Says Everything Will Work Out Involving Sen. Tim Cullen and Democratic Senate Caucus” By Sara Johann

    “Wisconsin Democratic Senator Jon Erpenbach and I talked around 8:45 p.m. tonight about the situation involving the conflict between Democratic Senate Leader Mark Miller and Democratic Senator Tim Cullen. Senator Jon Erpenbach authorized me to assure the public to stop worrying about this matter. He said to tell everyone that “I expect everything to be worked out.”
    Sen. Cullen announced today that he, upset over not getting the sort of committee appointments he wanted from Sen. Miller, was leaving the Democratic Senate Caucus and considering becoming an Independent rather than a Democratic senator.
    I repeat: Senator Jon Erpenbach authorized me to assure the public to stop worrying about this matter. He said to tell everyone that “I expect everything to be worked out.”
    I take those words to mean that we can expect Senator Tim Cullen to remain a member of the Democratic caucus and to remain a Democratic senator in our state, rather than switching to be an independent.
    Please spread the word on Facebook about this!”

  2. Yep. But regardless of party affiliation, when a politician behaves like this, he/she should expect to be called out on it.

  3. The Wisconsin Democratic Party is quite literally divided against itself. I don’t know if there is anyone within the WDP that can unite everyone within the party. Don’t be surprised if this mess spills over into the WDP chairmanship election.

    I feel so sorry for Wisconsin Progressives that worked so hard to make Miller majority leader and elect King, Shilling, and Lehman to the Wisconsin State Senate. Tim Cullen’s actions were childish and inexcusable.

    1. Aaron, there’s already a great divide within the DPW, and the next DPW Chair election should (I hope) bear that out. Sometimes I feel like Democrats here in Wisconsin (elected officials and party muckety-mucks) are simply “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,” and maybe we need new leaders instead of the same people recycled in and out of leadership positions.

  4. As I explained on my own blog, everyone in the legislature knows that chairing small business sucks because everything that’s important to small business gets routed to a more prominent committee. And yes, tourism can be okay, but it’s only a worthwhile assignment to a legislator that represents an area where tourism is a major industry. Otherwise it’s a throwaway assignment. Why do you think Kaufert chairs Tourism in the Assembly? It’s not because he’s besties with leadership. How does chairing Tourism help Cullen with his district? On the list of boring districts I’d never want to set foot in, Cullen’s is right near the top.

    Plus, given how ostentatious and empty some of these committee names are, if Miller wanted to throw Cullen a bone, it would’ve been super easy to do. Instead, he gives education and corrections to John Lehman as a reward for putting in a two-year stint as a dead man walking in a district he can’t win in 2014.

    This is why Wisconsin can’t give you nice things. Because when it does, either Democrats can’t figure out what to do with it (your shamefully unproductive 2009-10 session when you had control of all the levers and spent the whole time bickering with each other and your Speaker literally could not keep from screwing the lobbyists) or you break it the second you get it.

    And you know darn well I’m not saying this because of my intense and abiding love for the Wisconsin GOP. 90 percent of what I write is devoted to crapping on my own party. I’m saying it because your team really does manage to screw up the easiest things. Just when I think your leaders can’t possibly stun me with a greater display of incompetence, I get this. Priceless.

  5. @RS: Amen!

    Apparently my comment above was too short for publication. So there you have it.


  6. We knew Tim was an iconoclast when we started filming with him for AS GOES JANESVILLE. The conflict with Mark Miller can be traced back to their difference in strategy over staying in Illinois, which comes out in a scene in our film. Remember, Tim is returning to the Senate after many years and ran without the concern of a long career in the Senate. I’m not sure he really cares if people are mad at him — he’ll do what he thinks he should do no matter.

    By the way, look for the film this fall and broadcast is set for November 5th on the PBS series Independent Lens. We’ll be posting updates on our facebook page:

  7. I first met this smug jerk in the 70’s when working with activists for positive reforms of the work comp system. His attitude was that if you treated injured workers too well they would get lazy and not help themselves. That told me all I need to know about this guy. Furthermore Janesville has precious little to show for all of his time in office.

  8. I don’t know about you, but hearing the guy speak makes me gag. He seems the typical hide behind the desk bureaucrat. It’s telling that he considers tenure as his contribution

  9. After listening to Cullen’s point of view on how chairmanships were appointed, I am surprised more members within the caucus were not upset. It would have been better if this was not done in the public eye, but sometimes going to the public is the only way to make the necessary changes for the future. The constant threat of leaving the caucus is annoying though.

    The reality is that only so much can be done for Janesville through elected office. If GM is coming back its because GM needs it to come back because they cannot keep up with demand for automobiles at their other facilities. Wisconsin had one of its best congressional delegations, with the most power it had in years during the time GM decided to leave Janesville. At least Cullen understands tourism in Janesville is a dead bang loser. If you ever watched “Roger and Me”, Auto world, shopping malls, and luxery hotels were a giant waste of government and philanthropic dollars in order to make Flint, MI what it was in the 1950’s.

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