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Question of the Week for Democratic Hopefuls

Apr. 18, 2012
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In the final weeks leading up to the May 8 Democratic primary for governor, the Shepherd will ask the candidates questions about tough issues facing the state, then print their answers for our readers' review. This is the first installment in our “question of the week” series.

Question of the Week:
If you are successful and you are elected governor on June 5 and if the Democrats win control of the state Senate, as we believe they will, then you, as governor, will have to work with a state Assembly that will be solidly right-wing Republican. This Republican majority has shown that they are not interested in any kind of compromise, and this solid Republican majority in the Assembly will likely continue for the next 10 years under the new legislative maps. The state Senate will probably become Republican controlled in two years due to the new map. There is still time for Assembly recalls, and since the court invalidated the current legislatively drawn redistricting map, the Legislature can redraw the map again. The Assembly recall elections would occur in the fall, but since the winner of a recall election takes office within days of the election, there would be time to change current policies, including the redistricting plan, before the usual November election cycle.

So should the Democrats recall about 15 vulnerable Republican Assembly members in hopes of winning 11 seats to gain control of the Assembly and put together a fair and balanced redistricting plan?

Tom Barrett, Milwaukee mayor:

"The naked Republican power grab on redistricting was outrageous and abusive. These types of bare-knuckle tactics are exactly why two years ago I called for redistricting reform that would take the process away from self-interested politicians and put it in the hands of a fair, nonpartisan commission. My plan was based on the Iowa model, which has successfully redrawn legislative districts by doing what's best for the people. And I proposed this when my own party was in control of state government.

“Recalls remain a critical tool for the people to hold their elected leaders accountable, and if the people rise up in a grassroots movement to recall their leaders, I will always support that essential act of democracy. I believe the best and truest way to end redistricting abuses is to put the process in the hands of a nonpartisan body with the goal of making sure legislative boundaries work for people, not politicians.”

Kathleen Falk, former Dane County executive:

“It's my understanding the federal court did not invalidate the entire redistricting map, but invalidated districts in Milwaukee due to the unconstitutional dilution of the ability of voters there to elect a minority to the Legislature. So, the question does not appear to pose a scenario allowed by the federal court decision.

“Second, it would seem impractical now to start recalls against Assembly members because the normal election process to re-elect or replace them has already started and both processes take about the same amount of time. If you began a recall now of an Assembly representative, under the required time frames for signature gathering, confirmation and the calling of elections, the election would most likely be held in the fall at the earliest, only one month before the regular election. For regular November Assembly elections, the candidate signature-gathering process has already begun. The overlap, the confusion and costs make this an unlikely path.”

Doug La Follette, secretary of state:

“That would be a great idea; in the [candidate] forums, I have pointed out several times that our new governor will not be able to start reversing the Walker damage until we get a progressive majority in the Assembly.”

The campaign for state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout did not answer the question.


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