Tag Archives: Wisconsin Democratic Party

WisDems delegates call for reform of primary system

Just days before Hillary Clinton clinched the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, the Wisconsin Democratic Party passed a resolution calling on the national party either to eliminate superdelegates from its presidential nominating process or require superdelegates to distribute their support according to a state’s primary results.

Superdelegates are mostly current or former party officials who are not bound to support a particular candidate. Unlike pledged delegates, who must vote on the first ballot for the candidates who won primaries in their districts, superdelegates can back whomever they wish.

The resolution was adopted on a voice vote at the party’s state convention in Green Bay, where about 1,000 party activists, officeholders and candidates focused more attention on presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump than on their internal divisions.

Conventioneers also approved a second resolution urging Wisconsin’s 10 superdelegates to vote in proportion to the state’s primary results at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, which begins July 25. The resolutions are non-binding.

Six of the superdelegates have said they support Clinton, one is for Bernie Sanders and three others are undecided.

Sanders won the Democratic primary in Wisconsin on April 5 by 57 to 43 percent. But because of that superdelegate support for Clinton, Sanders holds only a five-delegate advantage among Wisconsin’s delegation of 94 party members.

Sanders supporters have heaped criticism on the system, calling it “rigged” by the party establishment. They complain most of the superdelegates announced their support for Clinton before primary voting even began.

Democratic parties in some other states have passed similar resolutions calling for elimination of the superdelegate system.

Nationally, Clinton has the support of 571 superdelegates compared with 48 who back Sanders, who has never run before as a Democrat.

Although Clinton led by more than 300 pledged delegates and more than 3 million votes at the time, it was the additional backing of superdelegates that pushed her over the top June 6, making her the party’s presumptive nominee — and the first woman ever to carry that title for a major political party.

Clinton solidified her lead among grassroots voters on June 7 by scoring blowout wins in New Jersey and California, as well as prevailing in New Mexico and South Dakota.

‘Complicated and messy’

Some Wisconsin Democratic delegates to the convention also pointed to other problems in the nominating process beyond the superdelegate system.

For instance, Kaja Rebane, who helped to write the anti-superdelegate resolutions approved at the convention, believes the states should have uniform primary rules — and that all primaries should be open, meaning nonpartisan.

“Right now the patchwork of primaries and caucuses is complicated and messy,” she said.

Longtime Democrat Glendon Ward agreed primary elections should be conducted in a nonpartisan manner, the same way municipal elections are held in Wisconsin, with the top two vote getters moving into the general election regardless of political affiliation. Ward supported the resolutions adopted by the Wisconsin Democratic Party.

He also echoed Rebane in saying the current nominating process negatively influences people’s perception of the party.

“The majority of people can’t understand the convoluted way that they do things,” he said. “It makes it look to the outside world like we’re doing something shady. And we can’t do that — we have to look like we’re on the up-and-up.”

Not every delegate agreed with the resolutions, however. Marlene Ott said she opposes changing the current system, because it acts as a “safeguard.”

“I think it provides some assurance that some gifted, charismatic speaker can’t come along and captivate people without being supportive of Democratic ideals,” she said. “I think the Republicans would pay a lot of money to change their system right now so they wouldn’t have gotten Donald Trump.”

Republicans do have superdelegates, but far fewer than Democrats.

Despite disagreements within the party, the state Democratic convention was largely a show of unity. There were no hecklers or demonstrators and no one was shouted down.

“There’s already been division, and it’s up to all of us to work together … to move beyond some of those bad feelings,” Rebane said.

Trump roast and the big rematch

Wisconsin Democrats were certainly united in their disdain for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. The convention at times felt like a Trump roast.

Wisconsin’s Democratic officeholders made Trump the brunt of jokes and pointed political jabs, as well as the focus of a video highlight reel.

Trump is a “loose cannon” who “lacks the temperament to hold the most important job in the world,” said Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairwoman Martha Laning at the start of the convention.

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, of Milwaukee, even brought out a Trump bobblehead doll as a prop for a speech in which she compared him to villains in Grimms’ fairy tales.

The focus on Trump at times overshadowed the biggest Wisconsin race this year — the rematch between Russ Feingold and Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson. One of the most closely watched races nationally, the contest has already drawn millions of dollars in television ads paid for by third-party groups.

Democrats are eyeing Johnson as vulnerable in a presidential year. Wisconsin hasn’t gone for a Republican presidential candidate since 1984, and that pattern generally provides a bump for Democrats in down-ticket races.

Johnson has said he supports Trump (but does not endorse him), which also might damage his chances.

In his speech to the convention, Feingold joined in the free-for-all against Trump.

“We won’t pay our bills with anger and insults,” he said. “Complaining doesn’t create good-paying jobs. Showing up all the time on Fox News doesn’t clean our drinking water. And sitting behind a desk deciding which ethnic or religious group to blame today won’t move Wisconsin or the United States forward.”

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind of La Crosse said he was “shocked and dismayed” that Trump would be the Republican nominee. “We cannot allow a person like Donald Trump to be an occupant in the Oval Office for one minute,” he said.

Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, the minority leader in the state Assembly, noted U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s endorsement of Trump and predicted all of the state’s top Republicans would soon fall in line and get behind “the Trumpster.”

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan of Madison showed comments made by Trump and other Republicans that Pocan dubbed a “collection of intellectual incoherence.” Calling on the crowd to say Trump’s name after listing several of his most controversial policy proposals, Pocan joked that the Democrats had said “Trump” more times than state Republicans did during their entire convention.

Most Republicans did not refer to Trump by name at their convention last month.

“We can’t let Donald Trump and the Trumpettes win this fall,” Pocan said to loud cheers.

Democrats pledged to unite to defeat Trump. Video footage of both Sanders and Clinton on the campaign trail elicited loud cheers from supporters of each, with no audible booing.

“It’s time to turn the page and unite, vote and win in November,” Laning said in a call for unity.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Laning to run for Wisconsin Democratic Party chair

Martha Laning over the weekend announced her candidacy for chairperson of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

Laning is a community leader, businesswoman and former candidate for Wisconsin’s 9th Senate District.

“I’m running for Democratic Party chair because our progressive principles of quality public education, economic prosperity, a clean, sustainable environment and equality for all citizens is under attack by the Republican Legislature,” Laning said in a news release. “I want to offer my services to my party to build a stronger democratic party that serves the best interests of all Wisconsinites.”

Laning made her announcement at the annual Democratic Party County Chairs Association meeting, where, according to the news statement, she stressed a need to support and invest in local party leadership.

“We need build a strong grassroots team across the state — a team where all voices are important and are heard. Our party is great because of all of you — you’re the boots on the ground, the heart of our party and when we empower and strengthen you, we strengthen our progressive message, our legislators, and our candidates,” she stated.

Laning thanked Democratic activists across the state for encouragement and support as she considered entering the race.

She also thanked Mary Lang Sollinger, the former chair candidate from Madison who announced on the weekend that she would be suspending her campaign and supporting Laning.

“I’m humbled by the outpouring of support from grassroots leaders of our party from all around Wisconsin,” Laning stated. “Together we’re going to overcome the challenges of recent years and elect Democratic candidates up and down the ballot in 2016 and beyond.”

The news release said Martha Laning is a business professional and community leader. She has experience in budgeting and finance for large companies, such as Target Inc. Laning also has a record of success in leadership, including spearheading the effort to fundraise and build a $4.6 million community center in Sheboygan.

Laning and her husband Wayne live in Sheboygan and have three children.

On the Web …

Martha Laning’s website is www.laningforwisconsin.com.

De Blasio to keynote Wisconsin Democrats’ gathering in April

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is set to rally Wisconsin Democrats as they look ahead to the 2016 elections.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin announced that de Blasio is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the party’s Founders Day gala. It will be in Milwaukee on April 25.

De Blasio has been building a profile as a national progressive voice since he took office last year.

He gave a speech at the United Nations on climate change and spoke about progressive values at a conference of the United Kingdom’s Labour Party.

In Wisconsin, he’ll get a Democratic spotlight in the home state of Gov. Scott Walker, who’s viewed as a top potential GOP presidential contender in 2016.

Tate will not seek another term as Wisconsin Democratic Party chair

Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate will not seek another term when his contract expires in June 6. 

In 2009, at the age 30, Tate was elected with the endorsement of state party chair, Joe Weinke, becoming the state’s youngest Democratic Party chairman to date.

Tate formerly served as executive director of Fair Wisconsin, the state’s LGBT advocacy group. In that position, he tried to defeat the 2006 referendum to amend the state’s Constitution to ban same-sex marriage in the state. The referendum passed with nearly 60 percent of votes cast.

Tate says his reasons for moving on are personal.

“I’ve got a three year old, and I feel it’s the best decision for my family,” he told WiG. “(The job) places an undue burden on my wife, because I’m gone so many nights during the week. When it’s time to move on, I think you know.

“I could have left in 2012 on a relative high note. However, I had some unfinished business with respect to the governor, and I did everything I could to win that election for us.”

Under Tate’s tenure, Democrat Tammy Baldwin became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Wisconsin and the first out lesbian ever elected to Congress’ upper chamber. Wisconsin voted solidly for President Barack Obama in 2012. Party membership doubled under Tate’s leadership, and the party raised $45 million dollars

But Tate’s tenure was rocked with criticism as his party’s control of all branches of government collapsed over the past six years. A costly but failed 2011 recall election solidified Gov. Scott Walker’s base.
Critics said Tate as too inexperienced for the position and failed to articulate a clear, positive message about why people should vote for Democrats.

Critics said that Democrats under Tate became focused on negative messaging.  

Former party spokesman Graeme Zielinski was an example of what went wrong under Tate, according to his critics.  Zielisnski sent out a much-criticized Tweet comparing Walker to serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. 
Still, a MoveOn.org petition calling for Tate’s resignation garnered only 246 signatures. Tate said he had “no doubt” that he could have been reelected to another term.
Over the past seven years, Wisconsin favored the Democrats in presidential elections and Republicans in other elections.

“Quite honestly, Mike Tate’s performance one way or another doesn’t have a lot to do with the outcome of our elections,” U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan told Capital Times.

Possible new Democratic leaders include Mary Lang Sollinger for state party finance director and 28-year-old political consultant Jason Rae.

New leadership will take control after the Democratic State Convention on June 6.