I call shenanigans! Although predictable.
Well, you have to hand it to the new Republican State Legislature and Governor -- they've so far stuck to their promise to start work on their various pet projects right away. PolitiFact Wisconsin started a Walker tracker to see how many of his campaign promises he fulfills during his term, and so far he's four of four (among those items rated).
Trick is, so much of what he and the Republican legislators promised are raw deals for the state. Saying "Walker kept his promises!" whitewashes the real issue, which is that the Walker administration is, far as I can tell, all about kowtowing to their biggest donors, lining the pockets of the already wealthy, attacking real science and comprehensive education, and allowing corporations to run roughshod over the natural environment.
The new Republican-controlled Legislature also gets to headline the state's 10-year redistricting, and already they're pulling some shady moves that raise serious suspicions of gerrymandering.
The GOP is hiring two outside law firms, Michael Best and Friedrich and Troupis Law Office, to help them draw the new legislative district boundaries -- but disallowing the Democrats to hire their own attorneys for the process.
And -- surprise surprise! -- there are direct ties between Republican officials and these firms:
Reince Priebus, chairman of the state's Republican Party and a candidate to lead the Republican National Committee, works for Michael Best. But campaign finance reports show attorneys from the firm have donated to both Republicans and Democrats. James Troupis, who has frequently contributed to Republican campaigns, worked at Michael Best for years before starting his own company last year.
Is it wrong to hire people one knows and presumably trusts for this kind of work? Not inherently, I don't think, but it certainly warrants a raised eyebrow or two. Add on top of that the fact that the fees charged by these outside firms will likely be paid for with taxpayer money, and that Democrats aren't being allowed the same benefit, however, and this goes from suspect to dirty pretty fast.
Ultimately, redistricting should be handled by a nonpartisan, neutral-as-you-can find organization --preferably filled with stats nerds who don't give a jot for party politics. Republicans and Democrats alike have been prone to gerrymandering of various degrees in the past. Hiring lawyers really only serves to make it look like you're anticipating a fight over your decisions and casts doubt on the whole process.
It would be refreshing to have our districts drawn to reflect the hard data, and not the dreams of politicians.
The basement dweller among them
Yet more shenanigans! Newly elected Rep. Joe Knilans (R-Janesville) is under scrutiny at the moment for his supposed 44th district residency status. Turns out, the address he gives (the one that qualified him to run for the seat he now occupies) on his state website.
WKOW's "Inside Scoop" blog reports that the address is actually for his brother's home, where he claims to be leasing the basement to satisfy residency requirements until he can sell the family home in the 45th district.
The basement of the property, it would seem, is unfinished and may not be up to code for serving as a bedroom -- both strong indications that Knilans doesn't actually stay there (no, really?!). "Janesville building and development services manager Gale Price said he wants to verify the room has required exits, windows and fire safety features."
Said inspection could lead to definitive proof that Knilans carpetbagged his way into the 44th's seat -- for which he wasn't even allowed to vote, since he did not live in the district. Knilans beat out Mike Sheridan, former Assembly Speaker, for the spot.
It may seem like a small thing, but I doubt the people of Janesville would feel that great about being lied to by their elected representatives.
How many times can I type "shenanigans" in one post?
So far, three times.
So many races to watch
2011 is going to be a great year for political campaign junkies -- in Madison, we have a mayoral contest that's shaping up to be pretty interesting thanks to Paul Soglin throwing his somewhat worn hat into the ring. But there are a handful of other candidates, some of which I wouldn't write off just yet. Isthmus writer Joe Tarr as begun a series of profile/interviews with the mayoral wannabes, starting with John R. Blotz.
There are 13 alder spots being contested in Madison this year, which will take some serious elbow grease to keep track of (full list here). Brian Solomon's race to hold onto his Dist. 10 spot should be interesting given that he's currently under investigation by the Department of Justice for allegations of sexual assault.
Moving out to the county level, the race for Dane County Executive seems to grow ever larger by the day. Six somewhat familiar faces are all vying for the spot:
They include three Madison residents and one each from Verona, McFarland and Westport.
The city-dwellers are Zach Brandon, a former City Council member and deputy commerce secretary; Scott McDonell, who is serving a short stint as interim executive before returning to his post as county board chairman; and Joe Parisi, a Democratic state representative and former county clerk.
From outside the city limits are Eileen Bruskewitz, a county board member from the town of Westport; Joe Wineke, a former state representative and state Democratic Party chairman from Verona; and Spencer Zimmerman, a McFarland resident who has run unsuccessfully for several public offices in recent years.
Ouch, WSJ, not a terribly ringing endorsement of Zimmerman there. This should be a tight contest heading into the primary on Feb. 15, though, as most of those folks enjoy decent name recognition and Democratic bona fides in this heavily blue county.
Statewide this will be the first race for Wisconsin Supreme Court where candidates can opt to take advantage of public financing through the Impartial Justice Act (find our which candidates are doing so over at Forward Lookout).
I'll be doing my best to keep track of and comment on all three of these races -- but I may pay special attention to the one for Supreme Court. I'm very curious to see what effect, if any, public financing has on the campaign -- especially considering how dirty recent contests have been, and how we've ended up with two sketchy conservative Justices as a result.
It would be refreshing to see partisan politics pulled from Supreme Court races. A girl can dream, anyway.