Monday, June 13, 2005

Falk, Lautenschlager React to Straw Poll

A spokesman for Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager said the AG's second-place finish in the WisPolitics Straw Poll was not an accurate gauge of her support.

"Straw polls are an amusing form of political entertainment," said Lautenschlager spokesman Mike Murphy. "This poll didn't reflect the enormous amount of enthusiasm and support that the attorney general recieved at the convention. Peg is excited about her prospects ... and is continuing to raise money and looks forward to Election Day in 2006."

A spokeswoman for Kathleen Falk, who tallied 152 total votes, or 50.8 percent, to Lautenschlager's 144, or 48.2 percent, said Falk was happy with the results.

“She is humbled by people's confidence in her,” Falk spokeswoman Lesley Sillaman said.

As for whether the results will spur Falk to run for AG, Sillaman said, “People have certainly encouraged her to do so, and she'll continue to think about it.”

See the straw poll press release

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Wineke Handily Defeats Rammelt in Chairs Race

The afternoon's events were laid to rest as DPW chair candidate Joe Wineke easily defeated opponent Jeff Rammelt, garnering 62 percent of the vote to Rammelt's 38 percent, according to a DPW tally.

With a total of 790 votes cast in the chair's race, Wineke won every congressional district except the 6th. "We had a good organizational structure and a strong message," said Wineke of the victory.

"The democratic party has to start playing offense instead of letting Republicans like Karl Rove define who the Democratic Party is," he added.

"I'll tell you I also put about 10,000 miles on my car."

Wineke is a former state senator from Verona, former 2nd CD candidate and a labor activist.

Rammelt couldn't be reached for comment.

Doyle Weighing All Options on Budget Vetoes

Gov. Jim Doyle today declined to rule out vetoing the entire Republican- crafted budget alternative making its way through the Legislature.

When whether he would consider vetoing the entire budget bill based on inadequate education funding, Doyle said:

"I am considering all my options, there is no real language in the budget yet....It will still be a couple of weeks before there is an actual bill that somebody can start to really look at and see whether I can correct it sufficiently by partial vetoes or whether I have to veto the whole thing.

Honold Gets a Vote Despite Typo

One delegate returning from the state chairman race voting noted an interesting ballot error.

Linda Honold's surname was mistakenly listed as "Honald" on the ballot, according to the tipster.

The delegate remarked that she voted for her despite the typo.

Honold, the current state party chair, ran this time with chair candidate Joe Wineke.

Official Convo Attendance

According to convention organizers, the final head count for delegates and guests reached 1,200 -- 795 delegates/alternates and 405 guests. These figures do not include the many convo-goers who were seen roaming the hallways sans credentials.

Left-Wing Challenge to Doyle Won't Happen, Dane County Dem Says

Following the 2nd CD annual elections in April, Margaret McEntire stepped up into the district chair position.

Being from the CD that includes Dane County, she has heard many a complaint from disgruntled state employees, Progressive Dane Loyalists and leftists fuming about Gov. Jim Doyle's agenda. But she swears she has never heard a single name mentioned as a legitimate left-wing challenger to Doyle in 2006.

"No one has name recognition," said McEntire of the crop of PD and Green potential candidates.

Falk Edges Lautenschlager in Straw Poll; Favorite Son Feingold Wins Pres. Preference

Kathleen Falk and Russ Feingold both emerged winners in a straw poll of activists at the Wisconsin Democratic Party convention this weekend.

Of the 299 ballots submitted for attorney general, Falk, the Dane County who unsuccessfully ran for governor in the 2002 Dem gubernatorial primary, edged incumbent AG Peg Lautenschlager. Falk tallied 152 total votes, or 50.8 percent, to AG Lautenschlager's 144, or 48.2 percent.

See the press release including full poll results.

Doyle Speaks Up on Possible Dem AG Primary

As chitter-chatter on a possible Dem AG race resonates through the convo halls, Gov Jim Doyle talked to reporters on the hot issue, saying that generally primaries can be a very good thing. Doyle indicated that they can be useful for motivating campaigners - saying that primaries help "gear up enthusiasum, they get people going and they get people focused early."

"If somebody decides to run, this is America, and that is their right," he added.

Doyle dispelled rumors that he was encouraging Dane Co. Exec. Kathleen Falk from entering the race, saying "she will look at it very closely and will make her own decision." He praised Falk for the many years they served together, including her years working as assistant attorney general.

Doyle concluded that he wants to have an AG who has a good balanced approach to law enforcement and that the most important thing is that the position is held by a Democrat.

Green Team Hits the Streets

A 10-strong contingent of the Lake Winnebago Green Party arrived today, calling themselves a "Rally for Real Democracy." They are standing outside of the hall on Main Street holding signs to voice their general discontent with Gov. Jim Doyle and the current state of politics in Wisconsin.

Some of the signs hoisted read, "WITH DEMS LIKE THESE, WHO NEEDS REPUBLICANS?" and "STOP DOYLE'S GRAFT TAX." Demonstraters voiced their concerns to passerbys on issues they classified as unfair tuition increases, disgraceful treatment of students and minimum wage pre-emption.

Said one participant, "We're tired of the established parties giving us the lesser of two evils."

Day One of Active 8th CD Exploration for Nusbaum

Nancy Nusbaum, the former Brown County exec who left the Department of Justice this week, explained to WisPolitics that legal ramifications, including a possible infringement on the Hatch Act, have kept her candidacy intentions on the down low. "Yesterday was my last day of work at the Department of Justice...the first opportunity I have had to explore an active candidacy," said Nusbaum.

"I'd characterize myself in the exploring phase -- there is no question about that. I mean it is pretty serious stuff when you leave your job," she added. Nusbaum said the next step would be formation of an exploratory committee.

Despite her public caution, she is all but declared as a candidate for the 8th Congressional District, according to campaign-watchers at the convention.

Several observers said they thought she would wait until after the June 30 fundraising deadline to announce, which would give her three months to catch up on fundraising before the next quarterly deadline.

Declared 8th CD candidate Jamie Wall refused to speculate on her entry into the race, but said he had known her for a long time and expected a friendly race. U.S. Rep. Dave Obey called Wall one of the state's rising stars during his speech Friday night.

When asked about recent GOP 8th CD race dropouts, Nusbaum was not aware of the news, saying she didn't follow the Republican side.

Appleton Rep. Steve Wieckert and former GB Mayor Paul Jadin have both recently announced that they are no longer exploring bids.

Convention Scenes

Mercury Rising in Chairs Race

During a pre-convention interview with WisPolitics, DPW Chair Linda Honold, (currently vying for 2nd Chair on a ticket with Joe Wineke) said that if opponent Jeff Rammelt were to win the chair's race, it could result in party staff cuts.

Honold's reasoning: Rammelt has indicated he plans to take the $45k - $50k salary offered to party chairs. Wineke said he will follow in Honold's footsteps, opting not to take the salary, instead pumping it into party staff building.

In terms of his chances, Rammelt foresees a close race - with each candidate winning half of the districts. "With what I have been hearing...I expect it to be a squeaker," he said today.

Wineke said he was fairly confident his planning and organization would carry him to victory. He also pointed out the discrepancy in campaign signs at the convention -- dozens of Wineke-Honold were taped to walls at the hall, compared to only a couple plugging Rammelt's campaign -- saying if signs were votes "it'd be a landslide."

The vote in the chair's race is scheduled to be completed at 2 p.m.

When the Guv's Away, Catfight Will Play

Gov. Jim Doyle's hospitality suite at Arizona's Bar became a scene of drinking and debauchery after the guv left around midnight. Six people (four men and two women), ran from a hot tub adjacent to Arizona's into the bar and proceeded to have a self-proclaimed "bikini contest" in front of the stage as the all-girl band Catfight rocked out.

Unfortunately, the WisPolitics photographer had already left the party.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Similar Themes for Convention Hospitalities

Other than Gov. Jim Doyle and Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton's hospitality in the hotel lounge, none of the convention hospitalities really stood out Friday night.

Red, white and blue themes dominated, appearing on balloons, campaign signs and table centerpieces in each of the first-floor ballrooms.

See a picture of the band at the Doyle/Lawton event:

The Lovely Convention Media Room

With internet access out at the convention hall, bloggers and a few reporters took the skywalk across the street to the Park Plaza hotel, where free wireless access in a seventh floor business lounge saved the day. The seventh floor was also a hot spot for convention VIPs, with Sen. Russ Feingold and Gov. Jim Doyle staying on the floor.

See a picture of the media room:

Views from Above

A view of the convention hall from an upper walkway during Sen. Evan Bayh's speech.

The hallway outside the convention hall.

Reaction to Bayh's Speech

Sen. Judy Robson called Bayh's speech inspiring, indicating that she didn't know much about the senator before she heard him speak. "He reminds me of Kennedy" she added.

Assembly Minority Leader Jim Kreuser called his speech outstanding, saying that he managed to create many ties between Wisconsin and Indiana.

8th CD candidate Jamie Wall said he missed the speech because he was out shaking hands, but he had talked to Bayh earlier and though he was a very sharp man who would make a great presidential candidate.

No Live Webcast for Bayh

Existing network problems at the convention site coupled with severe tornado-like weather in Oshkosh prevented the All America PAC from presenting a live webcast of Sen. Evan Bayh's speech, as had been planned. A representative said the All America PAC regrets any inconvenience it may have caused and said the PAC staff is working on compressing a video of the speech and and will post it as soon as possible.

Bayh Introduces His Pragmatic Philosophy to Wisconsin

In his speech, Bayh created connections between Wisconsin and Indiana, saying that both states share values, dreams and concerns -- Bayh indicated that Wisconsin and Indiana both hold a strong farming and manufacturing base.

"Washington doesn't share those," he added.

Bayh said that some days when he wakes up and goes to work he wonders if he is not an ambassador to a foreign country.

He expressed disdain for the Bush policies on Social Security, Iraq and Mideast oil dependence. "We need a new Declaration of Independence and it needs to be a declaration of energy independence," Bayh said.

Bayh also expressed his concern for health care and education funding, the two major cogs of his campaign platform.

A little more biographical info about the senator:

On his wife Susan: Bayh says his Dad always told him "Son, you've continued a fine family tradition. You've out-married yourself."

On fatherhood: During the time Bayh was at the hospital as his wife was giving birth to twin boys, the media reported live on the frequency of his wife's contractions. "How the hell did they know that?" Bayh asked.

On youth: A young Bayh once received a presidential escort to the bathroom as a young child after standing up during a small family meeting with President Harry Truman (who was by then out of office) when he exclaimed "I gotta' go to the bathroom." Truman said he had to go as well and escorted the 6-year-old to the bathroom.

Doyle, Bayh Scratch Each Other's Backs

Gov. Jim Doyle introduced the keynote speaker, calling the senator from Indiana a "common sense pragmatist and a champion for affordable health care." Doyle praised Bayh, saying that though he comes from a very red state, the last time he ran he got 62 percent of the vote, crushing the GOP competition.

Responding to Doyle's intro, Bayh said, "I always am surprised when I'm introduced exactly as I wrote it, so I'd like to thank Gov. Jim Doyle for sticking to the script."

Bayh went on to say he emphathized with Doyle for being in the situation that he was in. "An old saying around the circus is that the elephant act leaves a couple of unpleasant things you have to clean up. This is what your governor is dealing with now with the $1.6 billion deficit," said Bayh.

Praise for Wisconsin pols continued as Bayh hyped Sens. Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold for being one of "the best one-two punches in the U.S. Senate."

Feingold Rallies Dems, Hypes Bayh as Presidential Candidate

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, the axe-wielding, straight-talking champion of the state Democratic party, tonight qave a speech that could be interpreted as a declaration of his intentions, or the endorsement of another Dem senator. Though Feingold has been rumored as an '08 presidential candidate, the U.S. senator also seemed to set up Sen. Evan Bayh as a contender party members could throw their support behind.

"Bill Clinton once spoke to this convention", said Feingold, "Who knows, maybe one of the speakers tonight will be the next Democratic president of the United States?" Feingold went on to call Bayh a symbol of the Democrats' new 50-state strategy, a man of unusual eloquence and a true gentleman. Both Feingold and Bayh appeared on the WisPolitics Straw Poll ballot, which asked attendees about their preferred candidate for 2008. Check back tomorrow for results.

Feingold touched on current issues facing the nation's Dems, including the filibuster on judicial nominees. Feingold criticized the compromise reached by seven Dems and seven Republicans.

"When they threatened to take away our filibuster it was like someone putting a gun to our head and saying 'give me $1,000.'"

"And what did we do with this deal?" he asked, "We said - take $800."

Feingold asked gruffly, "What would fighting Bob (LaFollette) have done?"

Feingold went on to promote the agenda supported by his Progressive Patriots Fund PAC agenda, directing supporters to his website which includes a petition on CAFTA. Feingold called CAFTA basically NAFTA on steroids. Supporters hoisted signs promoting the Progressive Patriots Fund, which read "Stop CAFTA" on the reverse.

See a post below for more on the PAC's new CAFTA push.

In Praise of Deep Throat

U.S. Rep. Dave Obey used his convention speech to praise Mark Felt for his contribution to American politics.

Obey said Felt, the former FBI official known as "Deep Throat," chose an opportune time to reveal himself.

"At no time since Watergate have we needed a more stark reminder" of the benefits of openness in governnment, Obey said, comparing the present-day administration to that of former President Richard Nixon's, saying both were run by a small circle of "ideologues."

"I want to simply raise a glass and thank Mark Felt," Obey said. "He has reminded us of the dangers of excess secrecy."

During Obey's administration-bashing, he was interrupted by a lone delegate who shouted "Impeach Bush!" which was greeted by a brief scattering of applause.

Baldwin a Top '04 Vote-Getter

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin thanked the crowd for helping her to get more votes than any other Democratic representative last year.

"Thank you 2nd Congressional District Democrats for making me the highest Democratic vote getter in the nation," Baldwin said. "253,627, but who's counting?"

Baldwin also criticized the Republican party for looking out for a narrow group of interests (HMOs, pharmaceutical concerns and credit card companies, to name a few), instead of being concerned with the well-being of all citizens.

"They've taken care of the outsourcers and the traitors and the military-industrial complex," she said, and said Democrats needed to be focused on working for the common good.

Obey Gets Help from Edwards

U.S. Rep. Dave Obey has a fundraiser with former veep candidate John Edwards scheduled for Sunday in Wausau. Obey will introduce Edwards at the Plaza Hotel in Wausau at 1:30 p.m. and the senator will speak and answer questions from the audience. The event is expected to last two hours and is Edwards' only stop. "Gold Circle" members of Obey's "Better Way Club" may attend a reception before the speech, and Edwards is expected to sign autographs at 3:30 p.m. Individuals may attend for a cost of $50 and couples will be charged $75. Those are annual membership fees.

"The Better Way Club is Dave Obey's individual fundraising arm," says campaign treasurer Marlys Matuszak. "He started it in the early '70s as a better way to raise individual dollars." Last year's speaker was author Jim Hightower. Previous speakers include Congressman John Lewis, Sen. Edward Kennedy and then-First Lady Hillary Clinton.

"It really gives the audience the chance to meet people of national stature and ask them basically anything they want," Matuszak says.

AG Fired Up to Run Again

As media and politicians alike continue to question her political viability and future as a candidate, an energetic and politically-charged Peg Lautenschlager seized the attention of the convention -- delivering a heated speech to a roaring crowd, blasting critics and conservatives for labeling her an activist attorney general.

"Do they want a passive one?," she asked.

"If an activist attorney general is one who emphatically believes that now is the time for the war on all public employees to be over - than I am an activist attorney general.

"If an activist attorney general is one who takes tough stands on women's rights, global warming, against the underfunding of child left behind and who calls the law as I see it... consequences and conventional wisdom be damned... I am an activist attorney general.

"I look forward to continuing to serve as your attorney general"

Bloggers’ Paradise it is Not

It’s now nearly five hours after registration started and still no Internet connections available, wireless or Ethernet. One disgruntled reporter resorted to leaving the hotel and driving to a coffee shop to access his e-mail. We’re carrying our computers across the street to the seventh floor of the Park Plaza hotel to get our Internet access.

Hospitality Suites Announced

All the parties are scheduled to begin at 9:30 p.m., but word on the floor is they’re already one hour behind, so we’ll see when things actually get underway.

Doyle/Lawton (Cocktail Lounge and Restaurant)
Feingold (La Salle Ballroom C)
Ramelt (La Salle Bedroom B)
Wineke/Honold (La Salle Ballroom A)
Lautenschlager (Hennipin/Marquette)
Bryan Kennedy for Congress (Perrot – 2nd Floor)
Winnebago Co. Dems (Nicolet – 2nd Floor)
ADCC (Riverwatch & Tradewinds in convention center)

It’s Getting’ Hot in Here

In an echo of the high temps at last month’s GOP convention, glistening delegates and alternates are pacing the halls wondering why the temperature inside the venue is almost as unbearable as it is outside on the pavement. One delegate from Oshkosh remarked that she had attended many events in the Park Plaza halls yet had never experienced such an uncomfortable heat.

Tight Security

On her way into the main convention hall, Dem star U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin caused a minor hold-up in the line as she was stopped by one of the sergeants-at-arms for not displaying proper credentials. Baldwin staffers flashed a bewildered gaze as their boss quickly searched her bag to produce the pass. Apparently the door guard missed Baldwin’s prime-time speech during last year’s national Democratic convention.

Roll Out the Barrel

Supporters for A.G. Peg Lautenschlager are drawing a lot of attention handing out root beer barrel shaped candies that say “Join the Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager for Root Beer Floats in the Marquette/ Hennepin Room!”

Internet Problems at the Convention Center

Problems with the internet connection here in Oshkosh are keeping bloggers and reporters off the web for the time being.

Tech staff are working on resolving the issue, but until then posting to the WisPolitics Convention Blog will be sporadic at best.

Please bear with us.

Feingold to Push Progressive Patriots Fund Agenda

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold will likely use some of his mic time at the DPW convo to hype up his newly formed Progressive Patriots Fund website and blast the Bush administration for its stance on CAFTA.

A "STOP CAFTA NOW" online petition was unveiled today as attendees sign up at the convention.

According to Feingold - a staunch opponent of NAFTA, GATT and Fast Track - CAFTA would result in increased outsourcing and job loss across the nation. Feingold says the Bush Administration is pushing Congress for summer passage of CAFTA.

See more at Feingold’s Progressive Patriots Fund website

Bayh Webcast to be Featured on All America PAC

Senator Evan Bayh's All America PAC is setting up a live webcast of Gov Doyle's and Senator Bayh's speech at the DPW State Convention. The link will go live around 8:45 p.m. (CST) and will remain active until Senator Bayh's speech is finished. The link should be posted on the frontpage of All America.

Bayh Interview Posted at WisPolitics

Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh knows a little bit about winning in Republican territory - lessons that could help national Dems find better success in the '08 presidential race.

Bayh has won five straight statewide elections - first as Indiana secretary of state, then two terms as governor and now is in his second term as a U.S. senator from a red state who outperformed President Bush in '04.

"One of the big challenges for our party is to demonstrate to people that we have an agenda for economic prosperity and that we can be trusted with their money," Bayh tells "I think that would reassure many citizens that we can be good stewards of our government. If we emphasize those things, I think we can succeed in any part of the country."

And as to the current governors of Wisconsin and Iowa, he agrees with their centrist leanings. ``Well, I don't know too many governors who are flaming ideologues. Being governor, at least from my experience, is a pretty practical undertaking.''

Will he run for president? Bayh won't set odds, but he admits he may be following in the footsteps of father Birch Bayh (presidential candidate in 1976) and make a run for the highest office in the land.

WisPolitics President Jeff Mayers interviewed Bayh on Thursday night via telephone from Washington, D.C.

See the interview: Evan Bayh - Building a Recipe for National Dem Success

Bayh's Wisconsin Connections

The Hoosier pol has some connections to the Badger state.

His wife's sister lives in Milwaukee.

He fondly remembers seeing a NCAA regional hoops game between Purdue and Marquette when he was a kid.

He was in Milwaukee last fall to raise money for his U.S. Senate re-election campaign.

And he knows well one Thad Nation, a former Doyle campaign worker and initial administration media man who now is a PR consultant in Milwaukee. Thad's father was Evan Bayh's press secretary during his eight years as governor and served Sen. Birch Bayh as press secretary during the last couple of the elder Bayh's tenure in the U.S. Senate.

Home State Paper Notes Bayh's Interest in Iowa story: Bayh's travel plans point to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

WASHINGTON -- Indiana's Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh addressed Iowa business and civic leaders Wednesday and told reporters he'll be traveling to Iowa in August and hinted that a trip to New Hampshire was in his future.

So is he running for president?

Read the whole story.

See Bayh's official bio:

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Team Lautenschlager Transitions

AG Peg Lautenschlager, fresh from her victory in the Vang motions hearing in western Wisconsin, late Thursday afternoon announced some new appointments.

The first fuels speculation that Nancy Nusbaum, the former Brown Co. exec, might run for the 8th CD, being vacated by GOP Congressman Mark Green. That's because Lautenschlager appointed Tina Virgil DOJ's executive director of the Office of Crime Victim Services, the office held by Nusbaum.

The other appointments fueled speculation that Lautenschlager's re-election effort is flagging. Scot Ross, a campaign vet, is leaving as DOJ communications director after only four months on the job.

Longtime DOJ employee Kelly Kennedy, who used to work for Jim Doyle when he was AG, is replacing Ross.

Lautenschlager has also appointed John J. Vander Meer communications and public policy coordinator. He's a former Battle Creek, Mich. newspaper reporter who has studied at UW-Madison's La Follette school.

Brian Rieselman continues in his position as DOJ communications officer.

See Bill Christofferson's Xoff Files, which broke the news Thursday morning and provides a negative assessment of the Lautenschlager re-election effort.

Falk AG Speculation Dates Back to February

--From the Feb. 4 WisPolitics REPORT, a paid subscriber product ...


Republicans are frothing at the chance to take on what they view as a very vulnerable AG Peg Lautenschlager, but there are also Dem whisperings about a possible primary challenge in the Fond du Lac Democrat's future.

There is a fear among some Dems that Lautenschlager's DUI arrest makes her an easy pick-off for aggressive GOP candidates who are not going to be bashful about pointing out her foibles. Declared GOP candidate Paul Bucher has already brought it up in several interviews, and he told WisPolitics it would be a part of the campaign: "It's impossible not to talk about that issue ... it's not just the conviction. It's the whole process of she's driving a state car, refuses a blood test. The handling of the aftermath I thought might have been worse than the sin itself. Her refusal to accept responsibility, the excuses."

See the Bucher interview:

Plus, Lautenschlager has been an anemic fundraiser, and the race promises to be costly. Lautenschlager's campaign reported $36,182 cash on hand as of year's end, compared to Gundrum's $65,619 and Bucher's $15,455.

Dane County Exec Kathleen Falk is a favorite among the Dem Doyle dissident crowd, but she is a friend and supporter of Lautenschlager, which excludes her as long as the incumbent stays in the race. "But if Peg doesn't run, (Falk) will run with Peg's support," an insider says. One Dane County Dem adds if Falk ran, she'd win. Falk finished third in the Dem guv primary of 2002, behind eventual winner Doyle and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, but the former enviro attorney came out of the race generally well-liked by rank-and-file Dems. She also is unopposed in her Dane County race this spring.

"I can't imagine Falk would primary challenge Peg under any circumstances -- it's not her M.O.," said one Dem, a supporter of both Lautenschlager and Falk. Falk's spokeswoman Lesley Sillaman said: "(Falk) is on the ballot in April, and she is focused on her job as county executive."

Other names talked about by Dem insiders are DOA Secretary Marc Marotta and Corrections Secretary Matt Frank, but as one Dem insider put it, "neither man is stupid, so don't expect to see them in a primary." Plus, the insider observes, the Doyle team will have their hands full with the guv's re-election efforts and won't have the time or energy to mount an AG campaign.

"My guess is that anyone who has the muscle to truly get a legit primary candidate against Peg, who will have the resources and the ability to overcome what would be a really pissed off base, wouldn't move unless it's absolutely clear she can't win," said the Falk and Lautenschlager supporter. "For any Dem with a brain, getting the governor re-elected is the top priority and that's where the top talent is going to have laser-beam focus on -- not on some ill-advised primary gambit."

Meanwhile, Lautenschlager supporters signal the AG is in the race to stay, and her appearance at an Algoma HS event this week stressing the evils of drunken driving is a signal to some that she's finally about to face the issue head on. "Everyone on the planet knows about Peg's DUI, and no one can show it's made a real difference in voters' minds that Peg can't do her job,'' one Dem strategist said. "Ask the guy who gave the State of the Union if a DUI is a kill shot.''

But Lautenschlager's defensive response (admonishing a newspaper to "be careful who you label a criminal") had some wondering whether she's ready to deal on the campaign trail with continued questions about what it seems will be a lingering topic.

She rebounded quickly today with this response:

Comments attributed to me in today's Green Bay Press Gazette are no reflection on my acknowledgement of the serious mistake in judgment I made last year. I have taken great steps to make some good come out of that unfortunate event and attending last night's Victim Impact Panel was part of this important process. Victim Impact Panels have shown to reduce recidivism rates for drunk driving and I want to do all I can to make a positive impact in this area for Wisconsin. Driving drunk is dangerous and irresponsible. I have fully accepted responsibility for my actions and continue to work as hard as I can to make our streets and neighborhoods safe and secure for Wisconsin's families.


Other AG speculation:

--See an April 3 story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

--From the Wisconsin State Journal's Scott Milfred, the editorial page editor, in an April 24 column:

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk surely had her eye on Herb Kohl's U.S. Senate seat until Kohl indicated he'll seek re-election next year.

Now Falk may be contemplating a bid for attorney general -- even if incumbent Peg Lautenschlager wants to keep the job.

When I asked Falk recently if she might challenge Lautenschlager, she paused for a few moments. Then she carefully responded: "Wherever I go, people are encouraging me to run."

--See an April 28 blog entry at the Xoff Files, by Bill Christofferson with a link to a Capital Times story:

--See a May 14 Capital Times article: Falk rakes in another $15,000

AG Straw Poll Question Stirs Protest

The AG straw poll question stirred protests from Lautenschlager and Falk loyalists, a Democratic Party operative and those caught in the middle who wish the question wouldn't be publicly posed at all.

But the topic of Lautenschlager's ability to win and Falk's potential candidacy is being talked about by Dem activists as the '06 campaign year draws near.

Lautenschlager loyalists and those who know the AG say she's determined to stay in the race and prove her detractors wrong.

Falk supporters generally hold to the theory that the Dane County exec won't directly challenge Lautenschlager. "My guess is she won't primary her," said one Falk supporter, dismayed the straw poll question appeared to pit Lautenschlager vs. Falk when Falk wasn't a declared candidate.

A Lautenschlager supporter likewise protested, noting the incumbent is the only candidate right now. "Things have died down," the supporter observed. But the question will stir up the speculation again, the supporter said.

Falk in recent public comments indicated interest in an AG candidacy and said no one had discouraged her.

Top Dem operatives continue to worry about Lautenschlager's campaign and fundraising.

Falk, meanwhile, has continued to raise money even though she was unopposed for re-election in April. She was scheduled to be at the convention this weekend, and her supporters acknowledged that if she goes she'll be asked the AG question by convention-goers -- straw poll or not. But her stance is to remain non-committal.

Bayh's Bloggers Ready for Convo

A note from Sen. Evan Bayh's PAC to Wisconsin bloggers:

Wisconsin Bloggers-

Sen. Evan Bayh's All America PAC is doing a LIVE BLOG from the DPW starting at 6:30 p.m. (CST) and will stay with live coverage following Sen. Evan Bayh's speech at 9 p.m. Three Wisconsin Students will be covering the convention for the All America PAC, they are Kate Moen (UW-Milwaukee), Amanda Leipold (UW-Madison), and Chris Semanas (UW-Parkside).
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Semanas was just this week named as a student representative on the UW Board of Regents.)

Check out the All America PAC at and we might have a few surprises during the convention!

If you know of other bloggers who will be working the convention, please write to and we'll add them to the list at right.

WisPolitics Announces Dem Convention Straw Poll will stage another straw poll at this year's state Democratic convention in Oshkosh to sample activists' opinions on the '08 presidential race and the '06 races for governor and attorney general.

This year's straw poll balloting will take place from 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Friday, June 10 and from 9:30 a.m until 11:30 a.m. on Saturday June 11. As in past years, will allow only official convention attendees to vote and will use various methods to assure only one vote per person. Official convention guests will vote in a separate line to allow delegates, alternates and elected officials to vote more quickly. is the state's premier online government and political news source and operates these companion sites:, and

WisPolitics frequently gathers opinions of insiders, activists and citizens through scientific polling, unscientific online polling at, convention straw polls and reporter interviews.


Which GOP gubernatorial candidate would you prefer Jim Doyle run against in
--Mark Green
--Scott Walker
Other, Please specify:

Which politician would be your preferred Democratic attorney general
candidate in 2006?
--Kathleen Falk
--Peg Lautenschlager
Other, Please specify:

Which politician would be your preferred Democratic presidential candidate
in 2008?
--Evan Bayh
--Hillary Rodham Clinton
--John Edwards
--Russ Feingold
--John Kerry
--Ed Rendell
--Bill Richardson
--Tom Vilsack
--Mark Warner
Other, Please specify:

The straw poll is not officially sanctioned by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and is run solely by

Results will be announced the afternoon of Saturday, June 11 at and here on the blog.

See the results of the straw poll at the state Republican Party convention in May:


--A list of probable candidates will appear in alphabetical order on a paper ballot for each question. A blank-line labeled "Other, Please specify" will follow the names.

--All convention delegates, alternates, and official guests will be eligible to vote. Only one vote may be cast per person. WisPolitics staff will stamp the credentials of all voters and use other means to ensure nobody votes more than once.

--Ballots with more than one name marked will not be counted. Ballots with an illegible write-in name will not be counted. WisPolitics will be the sole judge as to whether a ballot should be counted.

--The results will be counted by WisPolitics staff and released at on Saturday, June 11.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Oshkosh, B'Gosh Could Be Good for Dems

It's been a long time since state Democratic Party convention-goers gathered to hear their incumbent governor speak.

Gov. Jim Doyle, revving up his re-election bid, is the first Dem guv since Tony Earl, who lost to Tommy Thompson in 1986. And he's aiming to be the first Wisconsin Dem guv to win re-election since Pat Lucey in 1974.

While there is griping on the left about Doyle wiping out local minimum wages, being too pro-business and supposedly lacking environmental passion, Dems on the whole have reason to be hopeful as they get ready for the '06 election year, party leaders say.

As hundreds of delegates and alternates prepare to descend on Oshkosh a week from today, they can feel good about holding seven of the eight statewide elected offices (state Treasurer Jack Voight is the only statewide elected Republican). They also know they've got a deficit to make up in the Republican-dominated Legislature and a couple of big fights ahead in '06 to hold the East Wing offices of the guv and AG.

"The focus has changed", says DPW Chair Linda Honold. "Because we have a Democratic governor, instead of focusing on how to win the governorship, we are now focusing on making sure we keep it."

Though intra-party rifts have developed between far-left factions of the party and pro-business Doyle loyalists, it is likely that at this venue the vast majority of attendees will stand behind their guv and vow to fight for every inch of turf against oncoming GOP opponents U.S. Rep. Mark Green and Milwaukee Co. Exec. Scott Walker.

Honold indicated that one of the main goals of this convention is to "come out as a unified party ready for 2006." Honold, by the way, is seeking to stay involved as the No. 2 party officer, running with favored chair candidate Joe Wineke. Wineke is running against Jeff Rammelt.

Though the governorship remains a top priority, fighting to regain seats in the Legislature also is critical to the Dems, according to DPW Executive Director Kim Warkentin. "Coming off of the successful 2004 election, the party made a lot of inroads in terms of building the party and invigorating new members," she says. The executive director stresses that the party needs to keep those new members engaged and instruct them to re-direct their efforts to help win back the seats in both the Assembly and Senate.

"Fundraising is always a focus," adds Warkentin, who maintains that though Democrats will never be able to compete at the same level as Republicans, the party can tap new members and virgin donors through net-roots fundraising.

Warkentin went on to plug the recently re-vamped and fundraising friendly DPW site,

Friday the 10th is Big Night for Dems

Friday night traditionally is the big night at the Dem convention, where speaker after speaker builds to a keynoter and then the ever-popular hospitalities. So Doyle is scheduled to address the Park Plaza convention Friday night around 8:30 p.m. and then pass the torch to rising party star U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind.

Bayh was selected due to his status as a possible candidate for president in '08. According to Honold, an invite was sent to each of the '08 potentials, a couple of people responded and Bayh was the best fit.

Following Bayh's speech, many convo attendees will scurry across the Plaza lobby to Arizona's Cocktail Lounge, where Doyle and Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton will host the convention's self proclaimed "#1 Party" featuring the all-girl rock band Catfight.

Saturday will bring hangovers and elections -- with the DPW officers' booth taking votes at 12:30 p.m. The DPW chair race pits Rammelt, the longtime Jefferson County Democratic Party chair, against Wineke, the former state senator and congressional candidate from Verona.

Other Plaza activities planned for the weekend include Saturday's 3rd Annual Women's Leadership Network Luncheon featuring U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore and Senate Minority Leader Judy Robson.

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: