The Democratic primary is getting pretty crowded right here in the 77th Assembly district, which is being vacated by veteran Rep. Spencer Black, who announced his retirement almost two months ago. The newest addition to the field is attorney Fred Wade, who I interviewed moments ago.
Wade is not a typical candidate. Although his opening press release described him as an advocate for the environment and education, it dealt mainly with the issue of "representative government," which Wade believes is threatened by the governor's veto power. I asked him about this statement:
This contradiction of the basic principle of representative self-government has allowed governors to spend billions of dollars that the Legislature did not authorize to be spent, to impose tax and fee increases "without representation," to increase a cap on borrowing authority by $860 million, to gut the enforcement provisions of other legislation, and even to outlaw an entire industry with the stroke of a pen."
Apparently, he was referring to auto title lenders, who the governor targeted when he issued a partial veto of the payday loan bill in May.
"My understanding is that auto-title loans are predatory," says Wade. "However, as a matter of process and democracy, that is wrong."
Still, Wade supports the notion of a line-item veto, and says the veto Wisconsin has today was originally written to be just that. However, instead of using the word "item," the legislation from 1930 used the word "part," which governors have interpreted to mean anything, from a punctuation mark, letter or number.
Wade says the system has been flawed since the 1930 law, but attributes the gross abuses of power to more recent executives. "It wasn't used as a creative power until Tommy Thompson," he says. He is also disappointed in Doyle's use of partial vetoes.
Although he was not comfortable assessing the performance of legislature Democrats in recent years, he emphasized that a progressive agenda could be moot if so much power is vested in the governor.
He gave the example of Sen. Jon Erpenbach, whose bill to establish a no-call list was weakened by Doyle's veto, which downgraded the penalty from several thousand dollars to $100. "He replaced it with a parking ticket," says Wade.
Wade says he is aware that some of his primary opponents have better name recognition that he does, but insists he is serious about winning.
One question I forgot to ask does he have a website? I'll find out soon.