It's a big day, Wisconsin! Democratic Sen. Dave Hansen holds the dubious honor of being the first incumbent to face a full recall election today in District 30, with the six Republicans and two other Democrats coming up for their recalls next month. Today is also the day the Legislature is to take up the GOP redistricting plan in extraordinary session, which can only mean we'll be witness to the democratic process at its finest and most honorable.
Hansen is facing challenger David VanderLeest, a Republican that even most Republicans seem to find a bit distasteful. VanderLeest was one of the main organizers of the recall effort against Hansen, and was not the candidate the GOP hoped to have running against Hansen -- that was Rep. John Nygren, who was denied ballot access after falling just two signatures shy of the required amount.
Nygren might have presented some challenge to the incumbent, but VanderLeest came into the campaign with quite the colorful court record:
VanderLeest has pleaded no contest to two counts of disorderly conduct stemming from two separate incidents with his ex-wife. He has never been found guilty of domestic abuse, because his wife has twice submitted written affidavits recanting statements made to police. VanderLeest also did not pay property taxes in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and has an unpaid settlement of almost $30,000 from 2006.
In an interview with Politiscoop, though, Rachel Gerritsen, the ex-wife in question, claims those recanted statements were part of the deal so that she could continue to have access to her child -- not the result of them being false in the first place.
VanderLeest isn't particularly happy that so much media ink has been spilled over his various indiscretions, of course. He's gone rather a little off the rails accusing several groups of colluding against him -- in alleged violated of RICO laws -- and has threatened lawsuits left and right, including against bloggers, seeking millions of dollars in punitive damages (he should probably figure out the difference between slander and libel first, though).
Despite all his sound and fury, VanderLeest probably won't pose much of a threat to Hansen as the citizens of the 30th go to vote today. A recent survey by Public Policy Polling for Daily Kos puts Sen. Hansen at 62 over VanderLeest's 34.
Meanwhile, Gov. Scott Walker is feeling a little pessimistic about the recalls -- as he should. In an interview with the Washington Post he claimed, "If the election were January 9th rather than August 9th, I'd feel a lot better."
Then again Walker also seems to think that given more time to see the results of his many policy decisions the public would actually come to understand how great they all are -- so I can't say I'm overly optimistic about the man's perception of reality.
Speaking of Walker and recalls, WaPo's Greg Sargent appears to have a bead on why state Democrats may be pushing for that election to happen later-in November 2012-as opposed to the more protester supported spring 2012 date. He writes:
Leading Wisconsin Dems are leaning towards a plan to ensure that the recall election against Walker is held on the same day as the November general election in 2012. This would ensure maximum turnout among Dems in the state, making Walker's recall more likely, and provide a big boost in grassroots energy that could help Obama win a key swing state.
But Graeme Zielinski, a spokesman for Wisconsin Dems, tells me that party members have picked up private scuttlebutt from Republicans that they have another scheme in mind -- to ensure that the recall election is held on the same day in April as the GOP presidential primary.
The date of the recall election against Walker -- which everyone now seems to be talking about as a certainty -- depends on when collection of signatures starts. That means that if activists begin collecting signatures for the Walker recall right after the state senate recalls end, they'll have 60 days to hit the required number. If the end of that 60 days falls well enough before the April primary date, it's likely the recall will be scheduled for the same date.
If, however, signature collection is put off until early next year or even spring, it's more likely the recall vote would be scheduled to coincide with the November presidential election. I can see where that might benefit Democrats more than Republicans, what with Obama running for reelection and all. Still, there is some concern that waiting might stall the current recall momentum. At this point, though, I'm beginning to think that the people's anger at Walker and the GOP agenda will have only increased by next year.
And that's the only major problem I see with waiting: It gives the Republicans still more time to ram through their radical agenda, leaving an even bigger mess to be cleaned up once they're gone.
The Gogebic Taconite story did not end when the mining company said it would hold off on its plans until the state's mining laws are revised in their favor. If you live in the vicinity or want to make the trip, tonight at 6:30 p.m. GTAC president Bill Williams will be making the case for the mine at an Ashland Science on Tap event being held at the Deepwater Grille (808 Main Street West in Ashland). I can't make this meeting, but I will be doing some further research on the subject in the future, as the issue isn't likely to go away any time soon.
Sen. Ron Johnson has decided he doesn't like the way the state's federal judge nominating committee has worked for the last several decades. He's currently blocking a couple of appointments to the bench on procedural grounds, with a dash of partisan maneuvering thrown in for good measure.
Mayor Paul Soglin and other Madison officials have submitted their first big policy reaction to this year's Mifflin Street Block Party: They'd like to give police the authority to shut down any house party with a visible keg and/or that violates one of 17 existing laws. The proposal would also allow for stiff fines for party hosts, attendees and landlords. I can't help but wonder what '70s Soglin would think of this -- then again, the legal drinking age back then was still 18, so kids didn't have to go to unregulated house parties to imbibe. They just went to the bars like everyone else.