GOP didn’t complain when one of theirs ‘double dipped’

Matt Pommer • Wisconsin Newspaper Association

Are Republicans overplaying their political cards?

The GOP-controlled Legislature has decided that county executives should be barred from serving in the Legislature at the same time they hold their county offices.

It is an effort to prevent Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris of Oshkosh, a Democrat, from running for the 18th District seat in the State Senate.

Incumbent Rick Gudex, a Fond du Lac Republican, has announced he won’t seek re-election this year.

The Republican maneuver could turn Harris into a local government martyr. It will attract media attention and contributions. It could also stir speculation he might become a Democratic candidate for governor in 2018.

Republicans don’t need to retain the seat to keep the majority. They have a five-vote edge in the Senate, thanks in part to the district boundary lines the GOP majorities drew in 2011.

Republicans are in full control of state government. Gov. Scott Walker’s term extends until 2019. Republicans have better than a 3-to-2 advantage in the Assembly even though they got just about 45 percent of the vote in the 2014 election.

“The bill is a sign of misplaced priorities of Republican leaders,” Harris said after the bill was sent to the governor’s desk.

“Rather than strengthening our communities and growing our middle class, Republicans in Madison continue to focus on retaining political power. I am running for the State Senate because Wisconsin deserves better,” he added.

Newspapers have noted that other county executives have served in the Legislature. Manitowoc County executive Bob Ziegelbauer served in both jobs. He was first elected to the As- sembly as a Democrat in 1992. In 2010 he became an independent but caucused with Republicans.

Ziegelbauer was elected Manitowoc County executive in 2010 and did not run for re-election to the Assembly in 2014.

Most important, the Republican legislative majorities did not try to prevent him from doing both jobs at the same time. His conservative politics, or the huge GOP majority, protected him from charges of ‘’double dipping’’ by Republicans.

Perhaps Republicans are worried about this year’s elections because voter turnout is much higher in years when there are presidential elections.

The closeness of the partisan divide in Wisconsin politics was noted again recently in the primary voting for a State Supreme Court justice.

Rebecca Bradley, who has been appointed by Walker to three judgeships – including the Supreme Court – got 44.7 percent of primary vote. As an appointee, she is running for a full term and is the favorite of Walker’s Republican forces.

JoAnne Kloppenburg, an appeals court judge, will oppose Bradley in the April general election. She received 43.2 percent of the primary ballots this year. She lost a close Supreme Court election in 2011 to Justice David Prosser, a former Republican speaker of the Assembly.

The remainder of February’s Supreme Court votes – some 68,373 – went to Milwaukee Circuit Judge Joe Donald.

The immediate outcome of this year’s court election may not be as dramatically important as during Kloppenburg’s run in 2011. Then, the legality of the Republican anti-union legislation was headed toward the high court.

No matter who wins the race in April conservatives will control the high court. In addition to Bradley, there are four other conservatives on the seven-member court.

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