The day following the Democratic senators flee to Illinois, I was in the Senate chamber doing reporting for another site. I spotted Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay), who had been discussed in press and political circles as a potential vote against the budget repair bill.
Like other Republicans (besides Glenn Grothman), he was in no mood to talk. The fact that I mispronounced his last name may have further hindered my shot at getting a friendly response to this question: Why do people, including the protestors, seem to think you're a swing vote?
"I got no idea!" he said, before turning his back and taking his seat in the Senate chamber.
Now Cowles is urging Republicans to meet Democrats at the negotiating table and consider taking off some of the non-budgetary measures of the budget repair bill out of the legislation.
"The important part is the monetary concessions. That's the part that helps balance the budget. The other things are less monetary in nature," said Cowles, co-chair of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee.
"It's the challenge of the senate to go through those and find a conclusion on items that have little or no connection to finance."
This is a Republican senator essentially countering the spin put out by his leader, Gov. Walker. While Walker continues to put out press releases touting the necessity of stripping public sector collective bargaining rights, Cowles is saying that union-busting is not needed to restore Wisconsin's fiscal health.
Cowles is the subject of a recall effort that has so far garnered 7.5 percent of the signatures necessary to prompt a recall election. The effort was launched 6 days ago, and it only has 60 days to get nearly 16,000 signatures. That means that so far, the recall committee is a little bit behind pace. (7.5 percent of signatures vs. 10 percent of time). We'll see if the recall picks up steam as it is increasingly publicized.