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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Brand-New Election Day

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Lost in all the uproar over the vicious tactics of Gov. Scott Walker and legislative Republicans to ravage collective bargaining rights, education and state aid to local government are the fast-approaching April elections.

They may barely be mentioned by the media, but a growing number of folks around the state are beginning to realize those elections are the first opportunity for voters to register a thundering objection to Walker's heavy-handed, destructive agenda.

In a few months, the recall elections of eight Republican co-conspirator state senators can give Democrats control of the Senate, taking away Walker's rubber stamp as the governor continues to do his worst until he himself can be recalled in a year.

But, first, in just a couple of weeks, two elections—one in Milwaukee County and the other statewide—are directly tied to the radical right-wing schemes of Walker and the Tea Party Republicans.

The election to determine who will succeed Walker as Milwaukee County executive has taken a comic turn.

State Rep. Jeff Stone, a suburban Republican ally of Walker, finished first in the primary by running as the next Scott Walker. Now he's blasting his opponent, Chris Abele, for running an ad linking him to Walker.

The connection is open-and-shut undeniable. Stone stood proudly behind Walker as the governor announced his bill to destroy collective bargaining rights. Stone voted for the original bill in the Assembly and for the amended bill after it was jammed through the state Senate in minutes without any Democrats present.

In between, Stone alternately claimed he didn't support the destruction of collective bargaining rights in the bill when asked about it at county executive forums and claimed he did support destroying those rights when asked about it on conservative talk radio.

At this point, even conservative Republicans have to be a little embarrassed by Stone's dishonest contortions. It's pretty insulting to those who still support Walker for Stone to attack a commercial accurately linking Stone to Walker as negative campaigning.

It's a public admission that Walker has become a liability to Republicans running for office.

Meanwhile, Abele is on the side of the angels. Not only does Abele support collective bargaining rights, but his whole campaign is built around cooperation among various levels of government to reduce costs by merging services.

Abele's theme of taking the best ideas from both Democrats and Republicans is the exact opposite of the scorched-earth, crush-the-other-side tactics of Walker and Stone.

Vital Supreme Court Election

The other election on April 5, between Justice David Prosser and Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg for a 10-year term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, could have a profound effect on the state for the next decade.

For some reason, the ties of Prosser, the incumbent justice, to the right-wing movement behind Walker has not yet become an issue in the media despite clear questions the connection raises about Prosser's judicial ethics.

A year ago, a statewide convention of the Wisconsin Tea Party movement took place in Wisconsin Dells.

The crowd included the usual collection of racists and other extremists. One speaker called President Barack Obama a cabana boy who needed to be kept in his place by the master who ran the mansion.

Not surprisingly, Walker, running for governor, was there. So was Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, running for re-election, who denounced illegal immigration by declaring: "We need to preserve America for Americans!"

But many judges around the state were surprised two Wisconsin Supreme Court justices also attended, flouting ethical guidelines against involvement of the judiciary in partisan political activity.

The justices were Prosser and the well-known-to-be ethically challenged Michael Gableman.

Prosser even gave a bizarre speech attacking a famous philanthropist as some kind of evil, foreign influence who might try to buy the Supreme Court race. He warned of "George Soros-types flying alien ships into Wisconsin."

Ironically, Soros, who grew up in Nazi-occupied Hungary, has donated billions of dollars to create democracies in Eastern Europe and reform the criminal justice system in America.

Anyone who believes that's some kind of alien plot should not hold any public office and certainly should not be on the bench.

JoAnne Kloppenburg, on the other hand, is a longtime independent state prosecutor. She's served in the attorney general's office under both Republicans Don Hanaway and Van Hollen and Democrats Jim Doyle and Peg Lautenschlager.

With Walker and legislative Republicans showing their willingness to use novel interpretations of state laws to justify whatever they want to do, it's more important than ever for justices on the state Supreme Court to be guided by the law, rather than some extremist agenda.

Polls across the state show Democrats, independents and fair-minded Republicans oppose the extreme, undemocratic actions Walker has taken (and which were never part of his campaign).

April 5 will be the first of a series of brand-new Election Days in Wisconsin.