Commentary Politics

Will Wisconsin’s Recall Result in Election of the State’s First Female Governor?

Andy Kopsa

“The next step is to exercise our basic right to vote,” said Kathleen Falk the woman who could be Wisconsin’s first female governor.  She was talking about Governor Scott Walker and his extremist GOP legislature’s declared war on women.

“The next step is to exercise our basic right to vote,” said Kathleen Falk the woman who could be Wisconsin’s first female governor.  She was talking about Governor Scott Walker and his extremist GOP legislature’s declared war on women. 

Wisconsin is getting ready for an historic election.  By delivering over a million signatures to the capital, Wisconsinites forced a recall of the Governor which will take place in June. The recall alone is an historic event.  That Wisconsin is poised to elect its first woman Governor could make history as well.   

I caught up with Falk and her campaign communications director Scot Ross after the “Mad as Hell” pro-choice, pro-woman rally in Madison this week.

“Did you hear the person at the rally when Lisa [Subeck of NARAL WI] said we need to vote?  That person yelled back ‘at least we still have that’,” Falk said.  

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This year the war on women has reached an insane, fevered pitch. Wisconsin is acutely aware of that as Governor Walker and his like-minded GOP legislators (who control both House and Assembly) shoved radical anti-woman bill after radical anti-choice bill onto the floor of the capital. This week, bills were passed that ban access to telemed abortion, enshrine erroneous “anti-coercion” language into a doctor’s script prior to obtaining abortion, and overturning the Healthy Youth Act effectively paving the way for failed abstinence-only-until marriage programs being taught in public schools. 

“That was their primary purpose,” said Falk, “We have just gone through a session you could not have foreseen a year ago.”

“The extremity of these bills to prevent sound sex education, to require women to go to abortion “counseling” all alone, to make it impossible for women who are being paid less than the man right next to her – right next to her – to take legal recourse.”

We share looks of incredulity.

“It s the 21st century, the extreme nature, the extent to which the legislature and this governor have been so out of touch with Wisconsinites and with Wisconsin women, that is part of what this rally today was about.”

I asked Falk about the idea of a real “war on women” not only in Wisconsin but also throughout the US; did she believe there to be a war on women or were “we” overreacting? 

Falk, still wearing her pink leather jacket–the color of the Mad as Hell rally, gives me what I interpret as a knowing look, and turns to Ross, who hands me a ready copy of a press release titled “Falk: Wisconsin Must End Walker’s ‘War on Women’. 

In it, Falk cuts to the chase:

“We have seen the rights of women under assault at the federal level with the Blunt amendment to allow employers to deny women basic health care coverage but here in Wisconsin we see an even more unrelenting attack on women’s rights from Governor Walker that will not end until he is recalled and we elect a new governor.” 

Falk believes she will be the new governor.  

A judge finally set a date for the recall election of Governor Walker for June 5.  This move wasn’t anticipated until Monday but the early announcement could push another democratic contender to declare.  

Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett has been rumbling about throwing his hat into the Democratic primary ring, his decision must come soon as he will face reelection as mayor in April.  

Representatives of Barrett’s office had said that the mayor would not make a decision on the gubernatorial race until the recall date was set. I called the Mayor’s office and the Mayor’s campaign office, neither would comment on a possible Barrett run. 

Neither NARAL Pro Choice Wisconsin nor Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin was willing to go on record with an endorsement for the recall election. But, Lisa Subeck of NARAL said:

“As [Dane] County Executive, Kathleen Falk was a champion for women’s health. I would expect that as governor, she would continue to be a strong advocate for choice and access to reproductive health care.”

The same can’t be said for Kathleen Vinehout, Falk’s declared primary opponent.

Vinehout came down on the wrong side of women’s reproductive health by voting to allow pharmacists the right to refuse filling birth control prescriptions (2008 – SB 232), In 2009, she aligned herself with Wisconsin Right to Life and anti-choice GOP senators in voting against reappointment of two University of Wisconsin board members because they supported providing abortion services at the Madison Surgery Center. And just last year, Vinehout stood with GOP extremists in “honoring” fraudulent crisis pregnancy centers. 

Barrett’s record on choice is sketchy, the most concerning issue was his flip flop on support for late term abortion care. 

Falk feels she is best qualified to give the women of Wisconsin what they need in a governor:

“I was on the Planned Parenthood advisory board 30 years ago as a young mom because I thought it was important for mom’s like me to be active in Planned Parenthood so women could have every opportunity to make their post profound and personal health decisions.” 

But there are democratic establishment questions about the viability of a Falk run.  Falk was the first woman for Governor in 2002 a race she lost.  Some have said that is an issue, a fear around backing a candidate who already lost a gubernatorial run even though Barrett lost to Walker in 2010. There are conversations about suitable men who could or should enter the race to take on Walker; in addition to Mayor Barrett there the rustling chatter about a Russ Feingold, Herb Kohl or perhaps John Redenbacher run. 

And then there is the question of money.  I asked Ross about Falk’s ability to take on Walkers Kochian campaign coffers if she emerges as his challenger from the primary. Ross is unfazed by this. Wisconsin for Falk (not affiliated with the Falk campaign) has already spent over $500,000 on a television ad buy. They are planning more buys in the very near future. 

But money just might not matter.  What Governor Walker, and the Wisconsin GOP legislators have done to union rights and women’s rights has been so egregious perhaps no amount of money can save them now. 

News Law and Policy

Wisconsin Can’t Enforce GOP’s Voter ID Law in November

Jessica Mason Pieklo

Republican lawmakers in other states, like Ohio, have turned up almost nothing during lengthy investigations into claims of voter fraud.

A federal judge in Wisconsin on Tuesday ruled that voters unable to comply with the state’s photo ID requirement be allowed to vote in November, striking a blow to conservative efforts to drive down Democratic voter turnout in the state.

Tuesday’s decision, issued by Judge Lynn Adelman, did not strike the law, but instead carved out an exception, ruling that voters who are unable to obtain an ID be permitted to sign an affidavit testifying to that inability and receive a ballot to vote. “Any voter who completes and submits an affidavit shall receive a regular ballot, even if that voter does not show acceptable photo identification,” according to Adelman’s decision. “No person may challenge the sufficiency of the reason given by the voter for failing to obtain ID.”

Conservatives in Wisconsin, including former Republican Party presidential candidate Gov. Scott Walker, proposed the measure, arguing it was necessary to prevent voter fraud.

Republican lawmakers in other states, like Ohio, have turned up almost nothing during lengthy investigations into claims of voter fraud.

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“Although most voters in Wisconsin either possess qualifying ID or can easily obtain one, a safety net is needed for those voters who can’t obtain qualifying ID with reasonable effort,” Adelman wrote. “The … affidavit option is a sensible approach that will both prevent the disenfranchisement of some voters during the pendency of this litigation and preserve Wisconsin’s interests in protecting the integrity of its elections.”

Adelman declined to apply the photo ID exception to the state’s August primary, ruling state officials would not have enough time to prepare for it.

The fight over Wisconsin’s voter ID law goes back to 2011, when attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union and National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty sued, arguing the law violated both the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

Adelman initially blocked the law, but the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision and sent the case back to Adelman for another look. That left the requirement in place for Wisconsin’s presidential primary in April.

Tuesday’s ruling means those who were unable to comply with the photo ID requirement can still cast a ballot in the November 8 presidential election.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Clinton Hits Back Against GOP’s Voter Suppression Efforts

Ally Boguhn

“When [Scott] Walker's Republican allies sat down to write this voter ID law, they knew full well it would unfairly target communities of color and prevent 300,000 mostly poor, elderly and student Wisconsinites from voting,” Clinton wrote. “In fact, that was the whole idea.”

Donald Trump secured enough delegates to win the Republican presidential nomination this week, and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton sounded off on GOP-imposed voting restrictions.

Associated Press Declares Trump the Republican Nominee

Trump has won enough delegates to become the nominee for the Republican Party, according to a Thursday count by the Associated Press (AP).

Trump’s victory comes as little surprise given that he was only ten delegates away from the nomination after winning Tuesday’s primary contest in Washington state. According to AP, a count including unbound delegates was enough to put the presumptive nominee over the edge:

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The New York businessman sealed the majority by claiming a small number of the party’s unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the national convention in July. Among them was Oklahoma GOP chairwoman Pam Pollard.

“I think he has touched a part of our electorate that doesn’t like where our country is,” Pollard said. “I have no problem supporting Mr. Trump.”

It takes 1,237 delegates to win the Republican nomination. Trump has reached 1,239 and will easily pad his total in primary elections on June 7.

The billionaire’s win marks the end of a heated primary season. However, the departure of Trump’s rivals from the race doesn’t mean the end of their influence on the election. Former challengers Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) both control their delegates, “potentially giving them influence over the direction of the party’s platform at the Republican convention July 18-21 in Cleveland,” according to the New York Times.

Abortion rights have been a key issue among GOP candidates battling to showcase their extremism on the subject throughout the race, and may play a large role at the convention. Trump told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie in April that he would “absolutely” look to change the party’s platform on abortion to include exceptions for cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment—much to the dismay of conservatives and anti-choice activists.

Cruz backers and other influential Republicans have reportedly moved to block “language that could be added to the platform or watered down in the existing party roadmap on abortion, transgender rights and same-sex marriage,” according to CNN.

Clinton Pitches Expansion of Voting Rights in Wisconsin Op-Ed

Clinton pushed her plans to expand voting rights in an op-ed published Wednesday in Wisconsin’s Journal Sentinel.

Clinton used Wisconsin’s voter ID law, which may have disenfranchised as many as 300,000 voters in April’s presidential primary, to discuss barriers to voting and the communities they impact. “When Walker’s Republican allies sat down to write this voter ID law, they knew full well it would unfairly target communities of color and prevent 300,000 mostly poor, elderly and student Wisconsinites from voting,” Clinton wrote. “In fact, that was the whole idea.”

The former secretary of state noted that laws suppressing voter turnout are popping up in states with GOP-majority legislatures. “From Alabama to South Carolina, to Texas, state legislatures are working hard to limit access to the voting booth,” Clinton wrote. “And since it’s clear we now have to be vigilant everywhere, as president, I would push for taking several additional actions at the national level.”

Over the course of the 2016 election season, 17 states will experience new voting restrictions—including voter ID laws and registration restrictionsfor the first time, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

Clinton detailed the specifics of her platform to expand voting access. Her four-pronged approach included urging Congress to act on restoring the protections in the Voting Rights Act gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013; implementing reforms to the Presidential Commission on Election Administration pertaining to early and absentee voting; creating a “a new national standard of 20 days of early in-person voting everywhere”; and instituting universal voter registration for all Americans when they turn 18.

Clinton on the campaign trail has repeatedly addressed voting rights and Republican efforts to suppress votes. The Democratic presidential candidate outlined a similar plan to improve access to the polls in a June 2015 speech in Houston, Texas.

“We have a responsibility to say clearly and directly what’s really going on in our country,” Clinton said at the time, according to MSNBC. “What is happening is a sweeping effort to disempower and disenfranchise people of color, poor people, and young people from one end of our country to the other.”

What Else We’re Reading

Of Trump’s 70 paid campaign staff members, 52 of themor roughly 75 percentare men, reports Laura Basset for the Huffington Post. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ campaign also has some troubling gender demographics: none of the ten highest paid employees on staff are women.

Meanwhile, those over at New York Magazine’s The Cut wonder “who are the women who make up 25 percent of Trump’s campaign staff and are they okay?”

The Atlantic details Hillary Clinton’s “Medicare for More” health-care platform.

Would you be surprised if we told you that Trump’s new Christian policy adviser is a televangelist who believes he single-handedly stopped a tsunami and that AIDS is caused by “unnatural sex”?

The [Trump] campaign probably won’t choose “a woman or a member of a minority group” for Trump’s running mate, adviser Paul Manafort told the Huffington Post in an interview published Wednesday. “In fact, that would be viewed as pandering, I think,” Manafort said.

Vox’s Dara Lind explains the problem with Manafort’s admission: “The assumption: The only reason someone might pick a woman or person of color for a job would be because they’re a woman or person of color.”

Trump’s proposals for colleges and universities have at least one thing in common with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), but “could lock poor students out of college,” Donald Heller, provost and vice president of academic affairs at the University of San Francisco, writes for the New Republic.

More bad news for the Republican presidential candidate: Many white women living in the suburbs of swing states whose votes are needed for Trump to win the general election just aren’t feeling him. Sad!

“There are more examples of shark attacks in the United States and exploding toilets than there was of voter fraud,” Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA) said this week, referring to a conservative myth that leads to legislation perpetuating voter suppression. Larsen is a part of the newly-formed Voting Rights Caucus, which was created to “educate the public about their rights as voters, advance legislation that blocks current and future suppression tactics, and brainstorm creative ways to bring our election process into the 21st Century.”

An Ohio court ruled that former Republican presidential candidate Kasich’s efforts to cut early voting days are “unconstitutional and … accordingly unenforceable.” The state of Ohio has filed an appeal to the decision.

Janell Ross examines “the race-infused history” behind the disenfranchisement of those who have been convicted of felonies.