Holder’s group, still burned by Trump win, sets sights on Wisconsin

by WisPolitics.com

Donald Trump’s win in Wisconsin still lingers in the minds of national Democrats.

The “firewall” for Hillary Clinton went to Trump in 2016, the first time a Republican had won the presidential race in the state since Ronald Reagan in 1984. The loss still stings for Democrats, especially for those who helped Barack Obama win here twice.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that Obama’s former attorney general, Eric Holder, is active in a national group that is very active in Wisconsin. Holder chairs the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. Holder’s group so far this year has:

• Filed a lawsuit in Dane County Court seeking to force GOP Gov. Scott Walker to call special elections for two vacant legislative seats. The voters in the 1st Senate District and 42nd Assembly District will be left without representation for more than a year because of Walker’s refusal to call special elections for the seats, the suit alleges.

The plaintiffs in the suit are three voters in the 1st Senate District near Green Bay and five in the 42nd Assembly District north of Madison. Those two seats have been vacant since Republicans Frank Lasee and Keith Ripp resigned Dec. 29 to join Gov. Scott Walker’s administration.

• Spent $140,000 on digital ads in the Supreme Court general election backing Milwaukee County Judge Rebecca Dallet and opposing Sauk County Judge Michael Screnock. Dallet and Screnock face off April 3 in an officially non-partisan election to decide who will fill the seat of departing conservative Justice Michael Gableman on the state Supreme Court.

• Arranged a campaign-styled swing for Holder in Milwaukee and Madison the week of March 12. A NDRC spokesman said the Milwaukee and Madison events focused on redistricting reform, voting rights, getting people of color and young voters engaged, and supporting Dallet in the April 3 election.

Groups participating in the Dane County lawsuit included the Black Leaders Organizing Communities in Milwaukee, Organizing for Action - the successor of President Obama’s campaign - and NextGen America, Tom Steyer’s group that advocates on climate change.

The lawsuit deals with two Republican seats. Both seats are up in November with the new lawmakers taking their seats Jan. 7.

But the lawsuit says the voters in the 1st Senate District and 42nd Assembly District will be left without representation for more than a year because of Walker’s refusal to call special elections for the seats.

“A right to representation in the lawmaking body is a bedrock of democracy, and Governor Walker’s refusal to comply with his plain legal duty ... denies Plaintiffs that right, causing them substantial harm,” the suit says.

A Walker spokeswoman said the suit wants to “force Wisconsin taxpayers to waste money” by having elections that would not seat new members before lawmakers are done meeting for the year.

“The Legislature will be adjourned for 2018 before these seats could be filled in special elections, and staff in these offices are working for constituents until new leaders are elected,” said Amy Hasenberg. “Our decision is consistent with the law.”

The suit alleges Walker has failed to call special elections to fill the vacancies “as promptly as possible” as required under state law. The only exception is when a vacancy occurs after the final regular floor period of the Legislature that session. The suit notes the Legislature’s last regular floor period ends March 22, that there’s a limited floor period scheduled April 17-19 and a veto review period May 8-9. Because the vacancies occurred nearly five months before May 9, the exception does not apply, the suit argues.

The Assembly adjourned its regular session. But it did not ended the special session on welfare legislation because the Senate has not acted on one of the bills, according to the Assembly Chief Clerk’s office. The Senate’s last planned day on the floor was March 20.

The Capitol Report is written by editorial staff at WisPolitics.com, a nonpartisan, Madison-based news service that specializes in coverage of government and politics, and is distributed for publication by members of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.

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