Wisconsin Goes At It Again

The deadline for this year’s crop of recall signature gathering was yesterday.  Something close to 1.5 million signatures will be carted to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) on Tuesday.

And the fun begins again.

Because of a recent court ruling, the GAB will need far longer than its mandated 31-day limit to deal with the paperwork.  A new software system and some 4 dozen extra employees will be needed to scan and verify the signatures, and the best guess for when recall elections may be held is late spring to early summer.

This favors the D’s, who can use the extra time to build name recognition and campaign war chests for their challenger candidates.

But pretty much everything else favors the R’s, which gets me wondering why the D’s decided to go through with it.

First, there is inertia.  Last summer’s recall elections demonstrated that it’s basically impossible to unseat an incumbent who got at least 52% of the vote in the prior election.  Of the four state senators likely to face a recall election this year, all surpassed that threshold.  Even if the incumbent squeaked by in the last election, it’ll be tough (remember Alberta Darling barely won her 2008 state senate race but successfully fought off a strong recall challenger last summer).  BTW, Walker won the governor’s race with 52.25% of the vote, putting him in the ‘inertia will out’ column.

Second, there’s money.  Due to a quirk in the state’s campaign finance laws, those R’s facing possible recall have been able to raise unlimited amounts of cash from individuals since mid-November.   Their D challengers, whomever they may be, can’t.

Third, there’s name recognition.  The R incumbents have it.  The challengers, especially those who enter the 4 state senate recall contests, may well not.

Fourth, the D’s have a depth-of-bench problem.  They need a strong statewide candidate to told onto retiring Herbert Kohl’s US Senate seat.  And a strong statewide candidate to unseat Gov. Walker.  It’s not clear they’ve got one such person, let alone two.  Current sentiment towards D’s from the Milwaukee and Madison areas isn’t high in other parts of the state and the D’s can’t win without rural/small city swing votes.  Every article I read still wistfully mentions former US Senator Russ Feingold, even though he’s been consistent and adamant about not running.   Now that signature gathering is over, voters will inevitably ask, “If not Walker/Kleefisch/Fitzgerald/Moulton/Wanggaard/Galloway, then who?”  The longer the D’s wait to present their answer, the more it hurts them.

Fifth, it seems more strategically important in the short term for the WI D’s to retain Kohl’s US Senate seat and ensure Obama wins Wisconsin in November.  Anything else is a distraction.  The D’s then can focus on developing homegrown talent to unseat Walker and a few state senators in 2014.

WI jobs agency’s revoloving door

Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) promised the people of Wisconsin 250,000 new jobs in 4 years as part of his 2010 campaign. So far, it’s been a tough slog. Job creation since Walker took office has been minimal and the WI Department of Revenue now projects the state will fall far short of this goal.

Most of the Midwest is experiencing job creation challenges, so Walker has plenty of company. But one of the quirks that makes Wisconsin unique is a department called the Department of Workforce Development (DWD). The department is now on its third chief in ten months. One wonders how viable programs can get created and sustained when the boss’ office is fitted with a revolving door.

Manny Perez, Walker’s first DWD head resigned in May after less than five months on the job to return to the private sector. Perez had been a co-owner of a Milwaukee-based temp help firm and was a featured speaker at a 2009 seminar on keeping unions out of business. While he resigned allegedly to return to the private sector, there were unanswered questions surrounding his departure.

And now Perez’ replacement, Scott Baumbach, has abruptly left. In his resignation letter to Walker, dated October 24, Baumbach said, in part:

“Very soon, I will be starting this exciting new adventure which will allow me to connect jobseekers to jobs in ways above and beyond what I could do at DWD, and I look forward to sharing this new enterprise with you.”

If I understand this correctly, Baumbach is leaving the DWD to do precisely what he was hired to do as the DWD chief. One hopes his successor, Reggie Newson, will stick around long enough to have an impact.

This raises a lot of questions. Is connecting jobs with seekers far more lucrative in the private sector than the $120K Baumbach was being paid to do it for the state? Is the DWD too bureaucratic/ineffective/antiquated for anyone to turn it into a jobs creation engine? Is Walker selecting the wrong people to head the department? Is the economic situation in WI worse than the Department of Revenue’s already gloomy forecast?

If I were a Wisconsin resident, I’d be writing to Walker instead of posting to this blog.

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