Dems ready to revel in '06 successes
Whereas Republicans viewed this year's state convention as a chance to regroup, state Dems go into their convo looking to celebrate.
"It's about celebrating '06," said Democratic Party of Wisconsin chairman Joe Wineke, who couldn't resist a dig at the GOP. "I tell you one thing -- we're not going to come out of our convention saying we need to 'rebrand ourselves.' I seem to remember the Republicans doing that."
"We have not been able to come together and celebrate," said Sen. Lena Taylor of Milwaukee, the first vice chair of the state party. "The last time we got together we talked about what we wanted to do. This is actually the homecoming, the reunion where we say, 'This is what we did, and this is what's next.' I think it's going to be an exciting time."
The annual soiree takes place next weekend at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center. See details: http://www.wisdems.org/ht/d/sp/i/1015605/pid/1015605
Dems are hoping to ride the momentum from an '06 election that saw Gov. Jim Doyle become the first Democratic governor to be re-elected since the early 1970s, saw them re-take control of the Senate for the first time since 2002, saw them win the Republican-leaning 8th Congressional District and saw them narrow the GOP margin in the state Assembly to 52-47. The Democrats are giddy about their chances to take the presidency and the majority in the Assembly in '08.
"People can see what's happened in the Senate," Taylor said. "Knowing that we only need three seats in the Assembly, there's a desire to want to see a difference. People can see a difference already in how things are being done."
Dems see enough vulnerability to flip the three seats needed to swing the majority. Rep. Eugene Hahn won his '06 race by less than 1 percent, while Rep. Brett Davis is back with a one percent margin, and Rep. Lee Nerison won re-election with less than a 3 percent margin.
The convention comes at down time for state campaign activity, with Wisconsin's previously contentious presidential primary taking a backseat as other states leapfrog up the calendar. Plus, 2008 will be the first time in 18 years that there will not be a statewide contest in an even numbered year.
Unlike the Republicans, who were able to draw two second-tier presidential candidates to their event -- Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback and former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson -- the Democrats weren't able to draw any of the candidates from their presidential field. Instead, Gov. Jim Doyle will be the keynote speaker. U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, and Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton will also address the convention on Friday, along with state legislators. Congressional delegation members will speak over the weekend as their schedules permit. U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, Secretary of State Doug La Follette and state Treasurer Dawn Marie Sass will appear on Saturday.
"When it became fairly obvious that the major candidates for president were not going to states that have primaries after February 5, we wanted to move toward celebrating the successes we've had with the governor being re-elected, and taking control in the Senate and making big gains in the Assembly," Wineke said. "We could have gone out and gotten some name, some governor from somewhere or something, but that really didn’t fit our goal."
Taylor doesn't think the lack of a national figure will dampen enthusiasm.
"I don't think it will kill the enthusiasm, because we have some people to be very proud of. We saved SeniorCare. Just getting our own representatives to come and say, 'Woo-hoo, you saved SeniorCare' and get a standing ovation."
Introducing themselves at the convention will be two congressional candidates; Roger Kittelson of Lomira, who will announce he’s taking on U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, and Marge Krupp, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville.
Dem Rep. Gordon Hintz of Oshkosh, the party's 6th CD chair, said the party will continue to hit themes that relate to the middle class: affordable health care, wage fairness and the war in Iraq. The budget will also be a topic at the convention, he said.
"Most people are getting tired of an agenda that says, 'Cut taxes, get rid of government,'" Hintz said. "Most people understand there’s one side that's offering real ideas, and there's the other side that’s pandering to their base."
All the elected party officials are unopposed, though Wineke did weather a storm earlier this year when it was found he'd lobbied for AT&T. He eventually quit the lobbying job.
-- By Greg Bump