Friday, May 20, 2005

Next Dem E.D. Up in the Air

In addition to the chair's race, Dems likely will have a new executive director soon. reported in February that the current exec, Kim Warkentin, would be leaving.

When asked who would be chosen to fill her shoes, Rammelt quickly replied, "I would keep the current one.''

Wineke said that he's always been superstitious about considering hiring decisions before winning an election. "It is the least of my worries today," said Wineke, who has built a campaign team and spent money to win the chair's election. "I humbly hope to win."

Rammelt was also optimistic, noting that he has been in communication with more than 1,100 Democrats throughout the state through e-mail, phone conversation meeting in person and through speeches. "I'd say I've made about 40 to 50 speeches," said Rammelt.

Wineke the Apparent Fave in Dem Chair's Race

An informal sampling of a handful of local Democratic Party leaders around the state suggests that Joe Wineke is the fave for party chair and that local party faithful support AG Peg Lautenschlager over Dane County Exec. Kathleen Falk.

While some of the Dems are cautious about Wineke, of those interviewed most picked him as their choice for next party leader.

"I like Jeff Rammelt a lot but he doesn't have the charisma nor the drive to be state chair," said one district chair. "Joe, on the other hand, has the aggressive personality to fend off all takers."

"I think from what I've heard in (my district), it's pretty evenly divided," said another chair. But the Dem said that Rammelt may get votes because he's seen as less of a Madison insider, and a change of pace for the party.

"I think the Wineke and (current Dem Party Chair Linda) Honold ticket will be the winner," said another Dem, who has yet to decide. "Joe is better known (than Rammelt), and Linda's got the four years of chair under her belt."

But one out-state Wisconsin Dem says there are some out-state concerns about Wineke as chair. "I think Joe is an insider in Madison, and I don't know how concerned he will be with races outside the Madison and Milwaukee area, which is a traditional complaint those of us outside Madison and Milwaukee districts have."

The Dems are optimistic about Gov. Jim Doyle's prospects, with one chair putting his chances of re-election success next year at 65-35. They also don't anticipate a challenge coming from the party's left wing at Doyle. Some on the left have criticized the guv as too centrist.

"There won't be a primary," said one Dem. "My guess is Mark Green (will win the Republican primary) because Scott Walker seems to have some problems. And Green's more moderate than Walker, if there are any moderates left in the Republican Party."

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: