Friday, May 13, 2005

Wineke, Rammelt Joust for Chair Position

While many Dems are talking about a possible primary between AG Peg Lautenschlager and Dane Co. Exec. Kathleen Falk, the major race at this convention concerns the contest for state party chair. The party chair's race appears to be increasing interest in the convention.

Chair contenders Joe Wineke and Jeff Rammelt met for their first debate in Madison on Wednesday, where they agreed recruitment of better legislative candidates was vital but disagreed when it came to allegiance to the party platform.

Rammelt, the longtime Jefferson County Democratic Party chair, squared off against Wineke, the former state senator and congressional candidate and now labor activist.

Rammelt kicked off the discussion of recruitment by indicating that the ability of a candidate to stay on message should be one of the most important factors under consideration. "We should find candidates who share the same beliefs that we do," said Rammelt. "We have great people who spend hours and hours developing our platform. We need to make darn sure that candidates are proud to run on that platform."

"We can't cherry pick from Madison," he stressed.

Wineke responded to Rammelt's view by saying that he would avoid creating a litmus test for Democrats -- and that he would pull on his solid track record of candidate recruitment to help the party climb back into the legislative majority

"We're a big-tent party," said Wineke, who's running with current chair Linda Honold (vying for the No. 2 party spot). "We need to have a diverse group of people to win. That includes liberals and that includes conservatives."

Wineke also criticized the recruitment record of the party last year while boasting of his times serving as chair of the State Senate Democratic Committee in '94, when all Republicans up for re-election had opponents. "In the last election for state Senate, there were seven Republicans up," said Wineke. "Two had opponents."

"Can somebody explain to me how we are going to win back the Senate when we don't even run enough people to possibly win back the Senate?

"I intend to spend as much time as possible recruiting candidates and I can tell you right now, I've already got several in the bag," said Wineke.

"As do I," added Rammelt.

See the WisPolitics story on the debate: