October 24, 2014

Wisconsin Supreme Court rejects second look at Voter ID

The Wisconsin Supreme Court won’t take another look at voter ID. The justices rejected reconsidering their July ruling that Wisconsin’s voter ID law is constitutional. The Milwaukee NAACP, League of Women Voters, and Voces de la Frontera had requested the second consideration. The court noted that the time to move for reconsideration expired in August, and that the U.S. Supreme Court has already put a hold on the law, rendering the request moot.

The U.S. Supreme Court has not ruled on whether or not the ID law is unconstitutional, indicating instead that it was reinstated too close to the November 4 election. Voter ID was used successfully in a spring primary election in 2012, but has been the subject of legal challenges since then.

Brett Hulsey reenters race for Wisconsin governor

Less than two weeks from Election Day, state Representative Brett Hulsey has announced an independent bid for governor. The Madison Democrat, who lost resoundingly to Mary Burke in the August Democratic primary (Hulsey received 51,830 votes to Burke’s 259,921), said at the time that he had no intention of running as an independent and would support Burke.

“I thought I could, but the more the campaign goes on, the more I realized we need real change in Wisconsin, and she’s just more of the same failed policies of Governor Walker and past administrations,” Hulsey said. The Burke campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Asked about the possibility that his candidacy could peel off enough votes from Burke to hand what appears to be a close race to Republican Governor Scott Walker, Hulsey insisted that’s not his intent. “It’s not my goal,” Hulsey said. “If it looks like at the end that that’s happening, I’ll pull out. I do not want to reelect Scott Walker.”

Hulsey won’t be on the ballot, but has informed the Government Accountability Board that he will run as a write-in candidate, joining three other write in candidates for governor. Election Day is November 4th.

Impact of Petri snubbing Grothman likely limited

U.S. Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI)

U.S. Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI)

The Republican in the race for the state’s Sixth Congressional District will not get the incumbent’s support, but a political expert says it may not hurt him too badly.

Retiring Congressman Tom Petri (R-WI) told a Fond du Lac newspaper this week that will not be endorsing Sen. Glenn Grothman, after Grothman said at a recent fundraiser he would be “insulted” to be compared to Petri. Lawrence University political science professor Arnold Shober says that, along with Grothman initially challenging Petri to a primary before the long-time incumbent announced his retirement, has clearly created some friction between the two.

Petri went on to complement the Democrat in the race, Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris, saying both candidates are qualified for the seat. Despite the kind words, Shober says that should not be seen as Petri endorsing Harris either. He says it was just an observation from a political moderate, although it could give Harris some “ammunition” against Grothman, allowing him to go the voters and point out that the Republican is not supported by the current office holder. Still, he says it’s by “no means a death knell” for Grothman’s campaign.

Shober says Grothman still has an advantage, because he’s running in a Republican-leaning district.


Wisconsin Democrats file lawsuit over training videos

DPW Chairman Mike Tate (Photo: Andrew Beckett)

DPW Chairman Mike Tate (Photo: Andrew Beckett)

The head of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin says the public has the right to know what’s on training videos that feature Republican candidate for attorney general Brad Schimel.

Democrats are suing the state Department of Justice, after the agency refused to release the videos through an open records request. The agency cited concerns about victim privacy and argued that criminals could view them to learn tactics used by prosecutors. During a call with reporters Wednesday, DPW chairman Mike Tate questioned that reasoning, and voiced his belief that the objections are more about “J.B. Van Hollen and Brad Schimel trying to prevent the public from getting a full true picture of who Brad Schimel really is.” Tate believes the videos may contain something objectionable about Schimel that he says Republicans “don’t want the public to see.”

The videos in question come from training events for prosecutors organized by the state DOJ. Schimel, who serves as the Waukesha County District Attorney, participated in five such talks, although the DOJ says it only has videos from two of those events.

In a statement released Wednesday, Schimel offered his rationale for keeping the videos from being released to the public. “During many of my presentations I break down specific real-life cases and explain to my fellow prosecutors how we catch and prosecute those who try to prey on our children. I analyze known patterns of behavior and explain how my fellow prosecutors can exploit the common mistakes these men make. I help my peers become better prosecutors and keep more predators off the streets.”

Schimel also dismissed allegations that the videos show him doing anything improper, arguing that “I would not have been invited back again and again and again,” if that were the case. He also criticized Democrats for filing the lawsuit, accusing them of showing “callous disregard for the safety of Wisconsin’s children” by trying to make law enforcement’s playbook public.

A Dane County judge plans to review the tapes, before deciding whether Democrats should get to see them. A ruling on that could come at a hearing scheduled for next week, just days before an election where Schimel faces Democrat Susan Happ, the Jefferson County District Attorney.

Lawmaker wants audit of Walker’s plane use

A state lawmaker wants an audit of the governor’s use of state planes. Representative Melissa Sargent wants an audit of the usage and costs associated with state aircraft by Governor Scott Walker. “Governor Walker’s been using the state plane more in first term than his predecessors,” Sargent said.

The Madison Democrat said Walker used planes for 34 flights under 40 miles, and 275 flights to the Milwaukee area. Sargent has sent a letter to the co-chairs of the Joint Audit Committee requesting that the non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau conduct the review

Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick says nearly all of the shorter trips were legs on days during which Walker stopped in multiple locations, and nearly all the flights between Madison and Milwaukee were beginning or returning legs of much larger trips or returning legs. Patrick said Walker feels it’s important to get out of Madison and around Wisconsin to talk with the people of the state, and his schedule reflects that.