A year ago I confidently predicted that Hillary Clinton would be the next president of the United States, though I expressed concern about the prowess of the obvious Republican nominee, Marco Rubio. I had no similar doubts about Russ Feingold’s ability to knock off Ron Johnson.
Now, as Clinton assembles her cabinet amid shards of glass ceiling, and Feingold debates whether he wants to be called Sen. Russ or just Russ, I bask in the glow of being so prescient, aided, of course, by the heavy dose of hallucinogens I’ve been on since the morning of Nov. 9.
But seriously, folks. You might think that having so completely misread every tea leaf ever grown in 2016 a person would be reluctant to try to read any more of them for next year. Actually, I am reluctant, but it’s the end of the year and a guy has to write about something. So offered here, with deepest humility, are some wild guesses about stories we might see develop in 2017, unless they don’t.
- Gerrymandered Wisconsin districts tossed out. A federal court broke new ground by striking down the heavily manipulated districts drawn by legislative Republicans after the 2010 census on the grounds that those districts disenfranchised Democrats. Both sides agree that the case is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court. And here’s the kicker: Attorneys who brought the case challenging the district lines thought they had a chance to win even before Justice Antonin Scalia died. So, even under the assumption that Donald Trump will appoint another conservative, it leaves the plaintiffs no worse off. If it all plays out, Democrats could wind up with a shot at recapturing one or both houses of the state Legislature in 2018.
- Sean Duffy gears up to run against Tammy Baldwin. Congressman Duffy has been thought to be a likely challenger for Sen. Baldwin. He raised his profile recently by saying something both outrageous and flat-out wrong. He claimed that “communist” Dane County was the only place where ballots were being counted by hand in the presidential recount. Actually, 48 counties counted ballots by hand. When that was pointed out, Duffy didn’t apologize; instead he doubled down. Huh. Saying crazy stuff. Telling bald-faced lies and then refusing to acknowledge the truth. Looks like Duffy has been paying attention and has decided to run as a Trump Republican.
- Walker announces bid for reelection...or something. One thing’s pretty much certain: Next year Gov. Scott Walker will have to announce if he’s going to run for a third term in 2018. I always thought it would make more sense for him to challenge Baldwin. Walker still harbors a hankering for the White House, and foreign affairs were an obvious weakness (remember when he said building a Canadian border wall was a “legitimate issue” to look at?) in his aborted race this year. A Senate seat could shore that up, and anyway, he’s pretty much run out of big, bold ideas for his current job. But I don’t think Duffy would be making his move now if he hadn’t gotten word that Walker won’t be in the way. My bet is that the governor will try to re-up for another four years.
- Democratic gubernatorial field starts to emerge. Walker’s approval numbers are weak, but you can’t beat somebody with nobody. So which Democrats want to be that somebody? Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and former state Sen. Tim Cullen of Janesville are already making serious moves, while Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ and Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) are considering jumping in. And, of course, there may be others. Never heard of Andy Gronik? Maybe you will.
- Mayoral candidates raise their profiles. The next mayoral election isn’t until 2019, but those thinking that far ahead will want to start getting their names in the papers soon. The best way to do that is to challenge the guy who always gets his name in the papers. It might not be an accident that Alds. Maurice Cheeks, Sara Eskrich and Mark Clear have been standing up to Mayor Paul Soglin as of late. There may be more of that kind of thing from these three and from others in the new year.
- Republicans rage over roads. A few years ago a blue ribbon commission recommended about $700 million in transportation tax increases to pay for road repair and expansions as well as improved bus service and facilities for bikes and pedestrians. Since then nothing has happened, but now a fissure has been exposed among majority Republicans, with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) backing tax increases, while the governor and other hardliners vow to oppose even a penny increase in the gas tax. It’s a rare case of trouble in GOP paradise, and, if the fight intensifies, it could lead to deeper, long-term conflicts among conservative factions.
Okay. Now that that’s out of the way, I have to finish my resume for a job with the new Clinton administration. I just need to find my pills first.
Dave Cieslewicz is the former mayor of Madison. He blogs as Citizen Dave at Isthmus.com