• WisPolitics

Monday, May 31, 2010

 2:06 PM 

Johnson says learning politics will be a challenge

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ron Johnson told “UpFront with Mike Gousha" Sunday that moving into politics will be an adjustment.

Johnson, the 55-year-old owner of Pacur, an Oshkosh plastics manufacturing facility, said he'd never considered joining politics until federal health care reform was passed, which he described as an “assault on our freedom” and a “budget buster” advanced with a goal of moving toward a single-payer system.

“I am not a politician; this was not my life's ambition by any means,” Johnson said. “I'm just going to have to learn how to do it, bottom line. And that's going to be a challenge.”

See more WisPolitics coverage here.

Friday, May 28, 2010

 4:09 PM 

Wall withdraws from U.S. Senate race

Despite insisting he had proven he could win the Senate race with an “honest, clean campaign,” developer Terrence Wall reluctantly dropped out of the GOP primary Thursday.

Wall, who has struggled to grain traction since he was dogged in the early days of the campaign over questions regarding the state taxes he’s paid, had a poor showing at last weekend’s state GOP convention, fueling speculation about his campaign.

But Wall’s statement ticks off what he says are a series of accomplishments, including closing to “within the margin of error” in recent polls against Feingold.

He made no mention of GOP frontrunner Ron Johnson, who won the party’s endorsement at convention.

“And no matter how much I want to stay in and fight, I feel the honorable thing to do is exit,” Wall said in the release.

See more WisPolitics coverage here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

 12:54 PM 

Feingold's Afghanistan timetable amendment voted down

The Senate Thursday rejected an amendment by U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold to place a timetable on the country's military obligations in Afghanistan.

Feingold, D-Middleton, attempted to add his measure to an emergency supplemental spending bill aimed primarily at funding continuing military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq; the Senate rejected the amendment by an 80-18 vote before voting 69-29 to cut off debate on the bill.

“This amendment is the first attempt in the Senate to get an idea of when this nine-year war in Afghanistan will end. Only 13 senators supported my original attempt to require a timetable for Iraq, and today, a timetable is exactly what is in place in Iraq," Feingold said in a statement. "I am confident that, over time, more and more members will listen to their constituents and support my efforts to require a flexible timeline for ending the Afghan war.”

 10:09 AM 

Kohl's work on retirement issues profiled in Fortune

U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl is the subject of a Fortune Magazine profile highlighting his work on retirement issues.

"While his better-known colleagues mud-wrestle over regulating derivatives, Kohl is quietly building bipartisan support for changes that govern how we finance our golden years," the article says, arguing that the Milwaukee Dem should be as prominent the Capitol's more high-profile financial reform figures, such as U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd and U.S. Rep. Barney Frank.

 9:54 AM 

Rasmussen poll: Feingold, Johnson nearly even in Senate race

The latest Rasmussen Reports survey has U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold and Oshkosh businessman Ron Johnson about even.

The poll, done Tuesday after Johnson won the state GOP’s endorsement, found 46 percent of respondents backed Feingold, D-Middleton, compared to 44 percent for Johnson. Three percent preferred some other candidate, while the rest were not sure.

The automated phone survey of 500 likely voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Rasmussen, which Dems complain is biased toward Republicans, also found Feingold leading other GOP candidates Dave Westlake 47-38 and Madison developer Terrence Wall, who's expected to leave the race soon, 47-41.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

 10:12 AM 

Neville confirmed as Wester District U.S. Marshal

Dallas Neville has been confirmed as U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Wisconsin by the U.S. Senate.

Neville served in the same post during the Clinton administration. He currently serves as the state Department of Military Affairs' Deputy Director of Emergency Police Services, and is a former Eau Claire city councilman and Clark County sheriff's deputy.

 8:40 AM 

Gassman testifies on unemployment measures before Senate panel

DWD Secretary Roberta Gassman told a U.S. Senate Finance Committee hearing Tuesday that the agency has increased its unemployment insurance staff by a third, extended call hours and taken other measures during the recession.

Gassman, in D.C. to testify at a hearing titled “Reducing Overpayments and Increasing Quality in the Unemployment System,” said the measures have resulted in a reduction of claimant wait times on the call lines and enabled the agency to meet its goal of new claimants receiving their first payment in less than a week.

State benefits to UI claimants jumped from $900 million in 2007 to $2 billion in 2009, Gassman told the committee. Over that period, non-fraud overpayments went from $13.4 million in 2007 to $33.4 million in 2009.

Of the non-fraud overpayments in 2009, $23.9 million have been recovered, she said.

Fraudulent overpayments jumped from $4.7 million in 2007 to $17.7 million in 2009, Gassman said. Of the $17.7 million in fraudulent overpayments in 2009, $7.1 million has been recovered.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

 10:28 AM 

Ryan among lawmakers to receive death threats, according to FBI documents

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, is among a handful of federal lawmakers who received death threats according to 2009 FBI documents provided to Politico.

Ryan was threatened while walking with his daughter near his home. According to the report, the driver of a black SUV pulled alongside Ryan and said, "You’ve got a bull’s-eye on your head. You’re gonna die, motherf---er.”

Local police records showed the driver believed Ryan had “blood on his hands” for supporting the Iraq war.

The man, who was on disability for arthritis and was frustrated he could no longer support his family, was arrested for disorderly conduct. But the FBI documents showed a search of his home revealed no weapons, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office decided not to prosecute him.

 8:13 AM 

Leinenkugel: Johnson the stronger candidate against Feingold

Dick Leinenkugel said he ultimately dropped out of the Senate race because he didn't want an expensive and bloody GOP primary that would make it harder to beat Dem Russ Feingold.

Leinenkugel told WisPolitics Monday he met with Oshkosh businessman Ron Johnson about two weeks before announcing his own Senate campaign and thought the two had a lot in common. He said he still decided to get in because it wasn't clear at the time what Johnson's plans were or if Tommy Thompson was going to make a run for the seat.

But Leinenkugel said he came to the conclusion last week that he should bow out.

"We’re not all that different," said Leinenkugel, most recently Gov. Jim Doyle's Commerce secretary. "We believe in the same things. But who’s going to be the strongest to beat Russ Feingold? I think it's Ron Johnson."

Leinenkugel said prior to deciding to pull the plug, he was preparing to put his own money into the race and was in the process of building his campaign operation.

One campaign source said Leinenkugel was ready to put in $2 million and was talking to an operative who worked on the U.S. House special election in New York last fall.

Leinenkugel said he also decided he didn't want it badly enough.

"You had to ask yourself, am I totally committed? Am I totally committed to do that? Not only that, am I 150 percent into this thing? Am I going to get up each and every day with that fire in my belly?" Leinenkugel said. "Sometimes it’s a hard thing to admit, especially for me as a former Marine, a guy that’s dedicated my life to serving our state and the family business. Sometimes it’s a hard thing to admit that, you know what, maybe I don’t want it all that badly."

Leinenkugel said the Republicans who gave him a rough reception were a minority within the party and that conservatives he talked to around the state understood why he went to work for the Doyle administration. Even so, he was taken aback by how some in the GOP "absolutely hate the governor, and that's surprising to me because it is so vicious."

"Anger is OK, but we need to be a party of ideas," Leinenkugel said. "We just can't be the party of no, no, no."

Monday, May 24, 2010

 10:21 AM 

Duffy says issues remain the same in newly vacant 7th CD

His opponent may be different, but Ashland Co. DA Sean Duffy says the issues are still the same as he seeks the 7th Congressional District.

With Dave Obey now opting out of re-election, it's looking like Duffy will face state Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, should he win the GOP nomination.

"My plan doesn't change really," Duffy said on this week's "UpFront with Mike Gousha."

"I'm still talking about jobs, the economy, debt, my vision for how we move American forward and Wisconsin forward, and now that Dave Obey is gone, the challenges and the issues that we face in Washington are still there."

GOP rival Dan Mielke has tried to cast himself as the true outsider in the race because Duffy has lined up party and establishment support. But Duffy insisted it was simply the result of putting together a solid grassroots campaign.

"These are career politicians," Duffy said. "I'm the DA in Ashland County, a lumberjack sports competitor, father of six. I'm really going up against the establishment. But I've built a grassroots team that I think can be successful in what has traditionally been a Democrat district."

 8:26 AM 

Leinenkugel drops Senate bid; Johnson wins GOP endorsement

Ron Johnson said he was surprised to win the backing of the both state GOP and former Commerce Secretary Dick Leinenkugel on Sunday as the party wrapped up its annual convention in Milwaukee.

Leinenkugel surprised delegates by announcing on the convention floor that it wasn't his time and that he was endorsing Johnson, who still faces Terrence Wall and David Westlake for the GOP nomination to go up against Dem U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold.

Johnson said Leinenkugel told him of his plans moments before he took the podium to address the delegates, catching the Oshkosh businessman off guard.

Johnson vowed to run a "complete campaign."

"I'm going to reach out for support from conservative Democrats, independents, Republicans, everybody in the Wisconsin; everybody is concerned about the direction of this country," Johnson said.

See more in the WisPolitics GOP Convention Blog.

Friday, May 21, 2010

 11:07 AM 

Molepske won't run for Congress; 7th CD Dem field appears cleared for Lassa

State Rep. Louis Molepske, D-Stevens Point, announced this morning that he will not run in the Dem primary for the vacant 7th CD, further clearing the field for state Sen. Julie Lassa.

Longtime U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wausau, announced May 5 he would not seek re-election, and Lassa, of Stevens Point, jumped into the race the following week.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

 2:22 PM 

Wall Street reform moves forward without Feingold support

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, once again joined Washington Dem Maria Cantwell in voting against ending debate on a financial regulatory overhaul in the Senate Thursday.

But the bill will move ahead anyway after three Republicans -- Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Scott Brown of Massachusetts -- voted in favor of the motion.

The Thursday vote was 60-40; Feingold's initial vote against ending debate Wednesday left the bill short of the 60-vote threshold required to move ahead.

 12:04 PM 

Moore, Kagen laud new protections for Wisconsinites with pre-existing conditions

Washington-based health care advocacy group Families USA argues in a new report than 1.1 million non-elderly Wisconsinites with diagnosed pre-existing health conditions stand to benefit from the implementation of federal health care reform.

The study also shows that those conditions cut across a wide swath of demographics, including nearly one in six adults aged 18-24 and more than three-quarters of the pre-existing condition population living above 200 percent of the poverty line.

In a conference call with reporters this morning, Families USA Director Ron Pollack speculated that the number Wisconsinites potentially facing denial of health coverage under the current system could be even higher.

"This has an impact on every single age group and every single income class in Wisconsin," U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, said on the conference call. "Literally a quarter of Wisconsinites have one kind of pre-existing condition. ... This basically has an impact on every single family."

Moore said new federal health care legislation has "already begun to hold insurance companies accountable," with some insurers voluntarily complying with some provisions. But she predicted that lawmakers will have to work hard to ensure that companies don't charge excessively high premiums to newly insured Americans with pre-existing conditions.

"I suspect we're really going to have to be very hawkish ... that they will not in fact drive up the cost of health care," Moore said.

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, added that the new law has the effect of enforcing consumers' civil rights against discrimination. But he said the system remains unsustainable, and that "we now have to move through the door that leads us to transparency."

Kagen also urged voters to earnestly protect their new freedom from discrimination and to "be sure than in this election no one takes this away from us."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

 4:06 PM 

Feingold joins GOP in defeating motion to move ahead with financial regulation

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, joined Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell as the only two Democrats to vote against a measure that would have cut off debate on the Wall Street reform bill currently winding through the Senate.

The measure fell short of the 60-vote threshold needed to pass, instead passing by a 57 to 42 margin.

“We need to eliminate the risk posed to our economy by ‘too big to fail’ financial firms and to reinstate the protective firewalls between Main Street banks and Wall Street firms," Feingold said in a statement. "Unfortunately, these key reforms are not included in the bill. The test for this legislation is a simple one -- whether it will prevent another financial crisis. As the bill stands, it fails that test."

See more from Feingold here.

 3:30 PM 

Kagen: No new licenses for offshore drilling

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen said he agrees with President Obama that no new licenses for offshore oil drilling should be granted until a comprehensive study can be completed of the full impact on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Kagen, D-Appleton, spoke with reporters on a conference call following a Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing on the spill. He told oil executives at the hearing to set aside $25 billion “to make certain we have available funds to study the full environmental impact” of the leak, and the potential toxicity of the substances they’re using to disperse the oil.

Kagen said the BP exec said the company will take responsibility for “any and all legitimate claims.”

Kagen is concerned of the long-term impact materials the company is using to disperse the oil and their potential impact on the ecosystem and food supply. He said the dispersants contain arsenic and other toxins.

“We have never studied it long-term in a food web such as the gulf and we at this point have no idea of the long-term complications to the habitat along the wetlands of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and all of Florida, let alone Cuba” he said.

Kagen said a comprehensive energy plan is needed, including investments in renewable and nuclear energy. He said a plan should also include responsible domestic drilling and guarantee that all oil extracted in U.S. territories and waterways “comes to Americans first.”

“If we’re going to begin to point fingers (for the spill) we should all take part of the blame,” Kagen said. “We are a nation that depends upon oil and other hydrocarbons. We’re dependent upon importing energy, not just in the United States but also Wisconsin where much of our energy is derived from the burning of coal. So this really gives us an opportunity to ask the question how are we going to consume and produce energy?”

 9:32 AM 

Johnson says he has 'plenty of time' for Senate run

U.S. Senate hopeful Ron Johnson said Tuesday in Madison that there's "plenty of time" for him to mount a campaign before the Sept. 7 primary.

Johnson, a wealthy Republican businessman from Oshkosh, said voters haven't turned their attention to the election, and he plans to aggressively fundraise in addition to using his personal fortune.

"I intend to spend what it takes to get my message out there," he said, adding, "It can't just be Ron Johnson against Russ Feingold and all those special interests. I am going to aggressively fundraise from people that are like-minded, who have the exact same concerns that I have in terms of the direction of this country and out-of-control spending and debt."

Johnson owns Pacur, and said his manufacturing and accounting background will be helpful in Washington.

Johnson has never held political office, but he says that won't hinder his candidacy. He said he'll be a "citizen legislator."

"I think a different perspective needs to be taken in Washington. I think people who have actually lived under the rules, regulations and taxes that politicians have imposed on the rest of us, we've got to take that perspective to Washington," he said. "It's the politicians who have gotten us into this mess. I, for one, have no faith they'll be able to get us out of it."

Johnson also made stops Tuesday in Eau Claire and La Crosse after starting his formal announcement swing Monday.

Johnson said the Tea Party movement will be an important part of his campaign.

"I do get upset when I hear people in the Tea Party movement referred to as crazies and loons," said Johnson, who has been a speaker at some TP rallies. "I tell you the people I met at those rallies were good, honest, hard-working, taxpaying, patriotic, loyal Americans who shared the exact same concern I have in terms of the direction of this country."

He said he hopes those activists will get behind him.

"This is a two-party system," he said. "The worst thing that could happen would be a three-party split. That type of thing elects Al Franken. We've got to join the party. I'm joining the Republican Party, and I'm taking the Tea Party with me."

Johnson was endorsed by former GOP Lt. Gov. Margaret Farrow at the Madison press conference.

"It's clear conservatives have been looking for someone who can take the fight to Russ Feingold and win in November. Ron Johnson's that candidate," said Farrow a day after the man who picked her as lt. gov., former Gov. Scott McCallum, endorsed Terrence Wall.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

 10:36 AM 

Kohl calls for 'modest changes' to Social Security

A new report from the Senate Special Committee on Aging -- chaired by U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl -- recommends that lawmakers adjust Social Security to accomodate longer lifespans, changing worker demographics and declining pensions in its efforts to address the program's solvency.

But the analysis also shows that subtle changes could effectively address the long-term health of the Social Security program.

“This report shows that, contrary to popular belief, the sky is absolutely not falling for Social Security," said Kohl, D-Milwaukee, in a statement. "By implementing one or more of these modest changes, we can ensure solvency and even strengthen benefits for those who count on their monthly check the most."

Kohl said he hopes the report, delivered to members of the president's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, helps inform the debate about the solvency of Social Security. He reitierated that, "Social Security has never been responsible for one penny of the federal deficit, and by law is barred from doing so."

Monday, May 17, 2010

 3:17 PM 

Wall says Johnson too late to enter GOP field

Terrence Wall said today he believes it's too late for Oshkosh businessman Ron Johnson to enter the GOP primary field for U.S. Senate, saying, "If you really cared about the future of this country, you would have been looking at this last fall."

The Madison developer said that not only does Johnson not have enough time to build a campaign to take on U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, but that he's missed the critical Lincoln Day season for local GOP affiliates throughout the state. Wall said he's visited some 60 counties so far in the campaign, hitting dozens of Lincoln Day events along the way.

"I do think it's going to be very difficult for any candidate to jump in the race this late," Wall said in a conference call with reporters. "You cannot replicate the Lincoln Day Dinner slate. ... Those groups of people are not going to be getting back together again."

Former Gov. Scott McCallum, who announced his endorsement of Wall Monday, told the conference call that Wall's work on the campaign circuit was a key reason he agreed to support him several weeks ago. McCallum said he backed Wall on his own merits and regardless of Johnson's long-rumored announcement.

"It's because of his economic approach in large part," McCallum said. "He understands the private sector."

John Kraus, a senior adviser to Feingold's campaign, said Johnson's entrance into the race wouldn't have any impact on the Dem's approach to winning a fourth term. He also said none of the four Republican candidates have offered any plans to deal with the problems they seein Washington, D.C.

"They’ve got their slogans down. They’ve got their sound bites down. They’ve got their attacks down," Kraus said. "But none of them have put forward any solutions, none of them have put forward any plan on spending, jobs and the economy, health care, foreign policy, you name it, nothing."

 10:32 AM 

Johnson enters GOP Senate primary field

Oshkosh businessman Ron Johnson formally entered the GOP primary for the U.S. Senate this morning –- his first attempt at any elected office -- saying he was inspired to run in an effort to stop national health care.

“To me, nationalized health care is a real assault on our freedom," Johnson said at a Milwaukee news conference, surrounded by family.

Without a free market system, he said, "We won't have the advances in medicine that we have had in the past; we won't have the advances in life-saving drugs. To me, that was the real trigger."

Although he calls himself a lifelong conservative, Johnson said he's not into "labeling" and "hopes to reach out to everybody." He said, for example, that as a small business owner, he's not against all government regulation.

"I'm a small business person. I'm not anti-government," he said.

See more WisPolitics coverage here.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

 10:54 AM 

Neville nomination passes committee hurdle

Dallas Neville's nomination for U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Wisconsin was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning without dissent.

The nomination now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

Neville served in the same post during the Clinton administration. He currently serves as the state Department of Military Affairs' Deputy Director of Emergency Police Services, and is a former Eau Claire city councilman and Clark County sheriff's deputy.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

 10:43 AM 

Duffy debuts first TV ad

7th CD hopeful Sean Duffy, the leading Republican candidate in the northern Wisconsin district, says in a new TV ad that "Washington politicians have failed us."

The ad debuts a week after U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, a Wausau Dem who held the seat for 42 years, announced unexpectedly that he is retiring.

"They told us they were going to stimulate jobs and focus on the economy," Duffy says in the ad. "But now again we hear another plant is closing in Schofield.

"Harley-Davidson is talking about leaving Wisconsin," says Duffy. "You send me to Washington, I'm going to work to keep our businesses open and create jobs right here in the great state of Wisconsin."

Duffy, the district attorney in Ashland County, faces a primary with Rudolph farmer Dan Mielke, who was soundly defeated by U.S. Rep. Dave Obey in 2008.

 10:25 AM 

Molepske still mulling 7th CD run

State Rep. Louis Molepske said this morning he continues to consider a run for the 7th Congressional District, saying it should be the voters who decide who represents the Democratic Party.

"I just think the people should decide who their representative should be," Molepske, D-Stevens Point, said.

State Sen. Julie Lassa, also a Stevens Point Dem, announced Monday she'll run to replace longtime U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, and state party leaders have indicated they'd like to coalesce around her candidacy. Molepske said he's concerned he'd have to give up his Assembly seat if he decides to run, but he said a candidate for the House seat must have "the fire in the belly" to cover the expansive district.

Asked if he thought Lassa had that desire, Molepske said, "I think she got into the race because she thinks she has that, and I think she believes that."

Molepske admitted he'd have to make a decision "sooner rather than later" to get in. Former state Sen. Kevin Shibilski also has been studying a run for the Dem nomination.

 10:21 AM 

Sensenbrenner says best chance to repeal federal health care reform is courts

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, participated in a panel discussion on the constitutionality of "Obamacare" at the National Press Club.

Sensenbrenner said the best chance to repeal national health care reform is through the judicial branch, because any other major change would be vetoed by President Obama.

"In my opinion judicial action is the only way to stop Obamacare, at least until January 30, 2013," Sensenbrenner said. "The reason for that is political action will be impossible even if the Republicans win control of both houses of Congress in the November election."

See the press release with a link to video from the panel here.

Monday, May 10, 2010

 3:25 PM 

Sources: Lassa getting in 7th CD race

Dem state Sen. Julie Lassa has decided to get in the race for the 7th CD to replace the retiring U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, sources tell WisPolitics.

One top Dem source said an announcement was "imminent."

Lassa, 39, was elected to the state Assembly in 1998 and then won a special election in 2003 for her Senate seat, which covers the Stevens Point, Wisconsin Rapids and Marshfield areas along the southern edge of the 7th CD.

UPDATE: Lassa officially announced late this afternoon, talking up her connections to the district and her work as the chair of the Senate Economic Development Committee.

“The hard working men and women of our area deserve a representative who will keep fighting to turn our economy around, even when it means standing up to big special interests," Lassa said in a statement.

“I have been a tireless advocate for our small businesses, taxpayers, and children, and in Congress I will follow the same common sense principles to deliver real results for Wisconsin.”

Dem sources this afternoon indicated lawmakers who had looked at the campaign like Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker and Sen. Pat Kreitlow have decided against a run. The state senators and others met with Obey over the weekend as Dems looked for a candidate.

Lassa will not have to give up her Senate seat to run for the 7th CD, unlike Decker and Kreitlow, who face GOP opposition this year.

The NRCC didn't wait for an official announcement to get a shot in on Lassa.

NRCC spokesman Tom Erickson said in a statement that the state has lost 175,000 jobs during Lassa's tenure as chair of the Economic Development Committee.

"America's economy is struggling right now and sending a Madison Democrat like Lassa to Washington will only make things worse for the thousands of northwest Wisconsin families who are already struggling to make ends meet," Erickson said in the statement.

GOP frontrunner Sean Duffy issued a statement welcoming Lassa to the race.

 10:25 AM 

Kohl expects thorough review of Kagan nomination

Wisconsin's senators both had some praise for Elena Kagan as the president's nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. But Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, also sent some signals she could face a thorough hearing.

Kagan, the solicitor general and former Harvard Law School dean, was critical of confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominees in past writings. Both Kohl and Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, sit on the Judiciary Committee that will review the nomination.

"In light of her critique of Supreme Court confirmation hearings as often times a ‘vapid and hollow charade, in which repetition of platitudes has replaced discussion of viewpoints and personal anecdotes have supplanted legal analysis,’ we certainly do hope that she will provide us with substantive and meaningful insight into the kind of Supreme Court Justice she would be," Kohl said in a statement.

Feingold said in a statement that he welcomed the president's decision to nominate someone for the court from outside the judiciary.

"As Solicitor General, Ms. Kagan has served the nation ably," Feingold said in a statement. "Considering the impact the Supreme Court has on our country, I take very seriously my responsibility as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee to evaluate a nominee. I look forward to reviewing thoroughly Ms. Kagan’s record, meeting with her and questioning her during what I hope will be a productive and informative confirmation process.”

Friday, May 7, 2010

 1:29 PM 

Feingold, Ryan praise push for line-item veto

The Wisconsin sponsors of a proposed presidential line-item veto for spending measures praised President Obama today following reports that he would seek a version of line-item veto authority from Congress.

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, joined Arizona Sen. John McCain in proposing the “Janesville line-item veto” early last year.

"With soaring deficits, we need more tools to stop unnecessary and wasteful spending that Congress has so far been unwilling to give up," Feingold said in a statement. "I plan to hold a hearing on the line item veto in the Constitution Subcommittee and I look forward to working closely with President Obama, as well as members of both houses of Congress and both parties, to pass line item veto legislation and better protect taxpayer dollars.”

Ryan said he is "eager to work with the President and my colleagues in both the House and the Senate to pass long overdue constitutional line item veto legislation."

"While an important tool, a line item veto cannot stop Washington’s unchecked spending spree and the glaring lack of a budget for the upcoming fiscal year," Ryan added. "Claiming this tool alone can tackle our fiscal crisis is tantamount to using a paper towel to clean-up the oil spill in the Gulf."

 10:54 AM 

Sources: Johnson meets with GOP, business leaders in Madison

Oshkosh businessman Ron Johnson continues to introduce himself around Wisconsin as he moves toward announcing his Senate run.

GOP sources said Johnson was in Madison Wednesday to meet with 14 former officials from Gov. Tommy Thompson's administration, as well as trade association heads. The meeting was to introduce himself as well as to lay out a plan to beat Dem Russ Feingold.

Johnson also sent an e-mail to the state’s county chairs introducing himself and asking them to spread the word to their friends and family, along with members of their county delegation to the state convention.

“I believe our country is rapidly heading in the wrong direction, and that the next two national elections will be the only chance we have to reverse course,” Johnson writes. “That is why I am considering taking this step. This was never my life's ambition. But at this moment in time, I believe it is essential that we begin populating Washington D.C. with citizens that can bring real world experience to solving our Nation's looming fiscal problems.”

Thursday, May 6, 2010

 11:26 AM 

Dems float names to replace Obey

The aftershock of longtime U.S. Rep. Dave Obey's decision to retire continues to ripple through the Wisconsin political scene.

State Reps. Amy Sue Vruwink and Donna Seidel said Wednesday they haven't determined yet whether they'll enter the race to replace retiring Obey, D-Wausau and powerful chair of the House Appropriations Committee. The two are among a handful of Dem lawmakers being discussed as possible candidates, along with Sens. Russ Decker, Julie Lassa and Pat Kreitlow, and Rep. Louis Molepske.

Other potential Dem candidates include Wausau attorney Christine Bremer Muggli, the former president of the Wisconsin Academy of Trial Lawyers, and Marathon County Judge Greg Huber, a former Dem Assembly member. Former state Sen. and Tourism secretary Kevin Shibilski said he also was thinking about getting into the race.

Sen. Bob Jauch and Rep. Ann Hraychuck have said they won't run. State Sen. Jim Holperin’s name surfaced as a potential candidate in some national stories on Obey’s retirement. But Holperin doesn’t live in the district and said “I’m not moving."

On the GOP side, Marathon state Rep. Jerry Petrowski is said to be looking to enter the primary race for the 7th CD Republican nomination along with Ashland Co. DA Sean Duffy and Rudolph farmer Dan Mielke. But a source tells WisPolitics that Petrowski may also be eying Decker's Senate seat should the Weston Dem opt for a congressional run.

 10:11 AM 

Duffy named a GOP 'Young Gun'

The GOP frontrunner in the 7th CD, Ashland County DA Sean Duffy, has now been moved to the top ranks of the National Republican Congressional Committee's "Young Guns" program.

Duffy is in a primary battle with Rudolph farmer Dan Mielke, who got beat badly by Obey in 2008.

“Sean Duffy has proven that he is ready to put this seat back in the Republican column,” said NRCC Chairman and Texas U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions in a statement.

8th CD candidates Reid Ribble and Marc Trager and 3rd CD candidate state Sen. Dan Kapanke are also on the watch list for the "Young Guns" program, founded in part by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

 1:04 PM 

Wisconsin delegation responds to Obey announcement

Wisconsin members of Congress are congratulating the dean of their delegation, Wausau Democrat Dave Obey, after he announced today that he'll retire after more than four decades in the House.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, called Obey a "cherished friend and mentor," and said he lived up to the standard of Wisconsin political giants and former U.S. Sens. Gaylord Nelson and Robert La Follette.

"Dave Obey holds a place of honor in the pantheon of great progressive voices, both in Wisconsin and in the U.S. House of Representatives," Baldwin said.

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, added, "Both our nation and our great State of Wisconsin owe a great debt of gratitude to Chairman Dave Obey," while U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, said, "He has stood on the right side of history. He has tirelessly fought for the little guy. His work has helped our families, our children and our workers. And Wisconsin and our nation are better off because of his service."

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the Menomonee Falls Republican who will take over as Wisconsin's longest-serving congressman, said despite his frequent disagreements with the House Appropriations Chairman, "I have always found Dave Obey to be a passionate public servant who has worked tirelessly for the State of Wisconsin and the country throughout his 48-year career in public service."

The state's U.S. Senators also acknowledged Obey's service. U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold commended Obey as "a strong defender of Wisconsin seniors and families, a tireless advocate for Wisconsin farmers and a staunch ally of Wisconsin veterans." U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl simply said, "We will feel his absence more than I can describe."

UPDATE: U.S. Reps. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, and Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, also issued statements. Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hailed Obey as "a visionary for a better life for the American people and a legislative genius."

"(H)e has an ability to see around corners, anticipate challenges and opportunities, and sustain a fight on behalf of what is right," Pelosi said. "For nearly a half century, he's been an indefatigable reformer."

And President Obama lauded Obey as "a true giant of the House of Representatives, where his wealth of knowledge and his unflinching dedication to middle class Americans will be sorely missed."

See more reaction here.

 11:29 AM 

Obey will not seek re-election

House Appropriations Chair Dave Obey said today it is "my time to go," announcing his retirement.

"Frankly, I hate to do it," Obey said during a Washington, D.C., news conference. "There is so much that needs to be done. But even more frankly, I am bone tired."

Obey noted he was the youngest member of Congress when he was elected in 1969, noting wryly that is no longer the case as he approaches 72 this fall.

See WisPolitics coverage here.

 10:06 AM 

Ron Johnson adds campaign staff

Darrin Schmitz and Juston Johnson are joining Ron Johnson’s U.S. Senate campaign as the Oshkosh businessman moves toward a formal announcement.

Juston Johnson, no relation to the Oshkosh businessman, will serve as campaign manager. His past work includes political director for RPW political director, director of the Republicans’ Wisconsin Victory effort in 2008 and campaign manager for J.B. Van Hollen’s 2006 AG campaign.

Schmitz will serve as a consultant. The president of Persuasion Partners Inc. has worked with numerous GOP and conservative state campaigns, including Van Hollen’s AG bids and Supreme Court Justices Michael Gableman and Annette Ziegler.

Schmitz wrote in an e-mail that Johnson’s campaign is coming together quickly and the businessman is “close to putting the final pieces of the puzzle together in anticipation of making an official announcement.

“It’s clear people are craving real leadership, and they rightly see Ron as someone who can defeat Russ Feingold,” Schmitz said.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

 10:31 AM 

Ryan lends name to both GOP gov. candidates

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan is co-hosting Washington, D.C., fundraisers for GOP guv hopefuls Mark Neumann and Scott Walker today. But he isn't expected to attend either one.

Ryan's campaign said the Janesville Republican won't endorse a candidate in his party's gubernatorial primary, but is allowing both candidates to use his name for the fundraising events.

Neumann's fundraiser is also being hosted by U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., whose endorsement Neumann announced Monday.

Walker's fundraiser is also being hosted by U.S. Reps. Tom Petri and Jim Sensenbrenner, former U.S. Sen. Bob Kasten and former Gov. Tommy Thompson.

Neumann's DC plans include a visit with the Republican Governors Association and other meetings, according to his campaign.

Walker also plans a round of national media interviews while he's in town, a spokeswoman said.

 9:47 AM 

Republican 8th CD, Senate candidates to debate Saturday in Northern Wis.

The first GOP U.S. Senate primary forum since Dick Leinenkugel joined the race is set for Saturday. But Leinenkugel won't be participating.

The Republican Women of the North sent out a press advisory Monday regarding a forum Saturday in St. Germaine. Senate candidates Terrence Wall and Dave Westlake are listed as participating in a debate at 10:15 a.m.

Leinenkugel's campaign said the former Commerce secretary was invited to take part but he has plans for Mother's Day weekend.

Wall and Westlake have made a series of joint appearances.

Also scheduled to debate are GOP lt. guv candidates and 8th congressional district candidates.

Monday, May 3, 2010

 4:02 PM 

Kind receives award from shooting sports group

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind has been named the National Shooting Sports Foundation's Legislator of the Year, the La Crosse Democrat announced today.

The group cited Kind's work as a member of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, namely his efforts to reform the exise tax process for firearms and ammunition. The proposed reforms would create quartlerly payments of the excise tax to fund wildlife conservation.

“I am proud to win this award and I will continue to advocate for legislation that protects the rights of outdoorsmen across the country," Kind said in a statement. "I will not only continue to support the sporting tradition but ensure that there is legislation in place to preserve wildlife, hunting and fishing opportunities for years to come.”

 11:27 AM 

Duffy wins Pawlenty PAC contest

Ashland Co. DA Sean Duffy has been named the winner of a "Favorite Candidate" contest spondored by Freedom First PAC, the political action committee of Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

The Duffy Campaign says the Ashland County DA, after beating out more than 20 other candidates previously endorsed by Freedom First, will co-host a Facebook town hall event with Pawlenty. The PAC has also vowed to match all donations to Duffy's campaign through the promotion up to the $5,000 campaign finance limit.

Duffy, who's challenging longtime 7th CD U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wausau, credited the win to his own online effort plus recent stories on the campaign in the New York Times and the Weekly Standard.

"We don't have a Republican governor or even an assembly or senate, so we like to adopt governors from nearby states," Duffy told CQ Politics, suggesting that the neighbor state's governor could be an important asset in the 7th District. "I think (Pawlenty has) most definitely raised his profile recently, so people know who he is."

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· Tammy Baldwin (D)
· Ron Johnson (R)

· 1st CD: Paul Ryan (R)
· 2nd CD: Mark Pocan (D)
· 3rd CD: Ron Kind (D)
· 4th CD: Gwen Moore (D)
· 5th CD: F. James Sensenbrenner (R)
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