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Governor Kleefisch? | As Scott Walker goes presidential, Rebecca Kleefisch is emerging from the shadows of an administration that didn’t want her

EDITOR: The following is news analysis.

Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.

That name with that title prompts derisive chortles and exclamations of “God forbid” from progressive leaders.

Or outright dismissal. “The chances of (Kleefisch becoming governor) are infinitesimal,” said Scot Ross, executive director of the liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now.

But with Scott Walker on the verge of mounting a vigorous campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, the prospect that Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor could write the next biennial budget is possible even if improbable. Walker might be a long shot for winning the nomination — and an even longer shot for winning the White House — but he might more conceivably wind up working in a Republican presidential administration.

And that, according to the state Constitution, would make Kleefisch the state’s chief executive.

Wisconsin knows little about how Kleefisch would govern. The lieutenant governor has no real constitutional duties except to fill in if the governor dies or becomes incapacitated, so Wisconsinites have had few opportunities to see her in action. The public tends to fill in the blanks with some of her more outrageous behavior, such as the 2010 radio interview in which she compared same-sex marriages to unions between humans and inanimate objects, including clocks and tables.

That statement drew national headlines and prompted her gay uncle Chris Pfauser to donate $500 to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett’s campaign against Walker. Speaking with reporters at the time, Pfauser blamed his niece’s anti-gay putdown on her newfound religious fundamentalism. (Pfauser did not respond to a message WiG left for him.)

By her own account, Christian orthodoxy guides Kleefisch’s life. Speaking to a tea party group during the 2010 campaign, she said, “My qualifications for a governor are a Christian man who can actually right our financial ship.” In a campaign flier, she pledged to make decisions by “relying on the wisdom and faith she has in Jesus.”

The rhetoric is identical to what Republicans in Iowa are hearing from Walker.

Given her record — or lack thereof — it would be easy to dismiss Kleefisch as a fringe character who landed in a do-nothing office on a fluke. But some people who are familiar with her maintain that she has developed more substance and proven more capable than detractors think.

‘Not worth the time’

Kleefisch turned down WiG’s request to be interviewed and declined to answer questions we emailed her. Instead, we relied on previously published statements and Capitol observers, including some who asked not to be identified, to look at her trajectory.

It’s well known that Kleefisch was not on Walker’s short list of running mates. Having never held either political office or a management position, she had little to recommend her for the role of governor-in-waiting. But she did have what proved to be the most important assets — the approval of Charlie Sykes, the king of Wisconsin right-wing radio, along with the state’s tea party and religious activists.

Walker wanted former state Rep. Brett Davis on his ticket, and he went to extreme lengths to push for it. Davis emerged as a central figure in the John Doe investigations that led to indictments of former staffers who served under the governor while he was Milwaukee County Executive.

In 2010, Davis’ home was among those raided by the FBI in connection with the investigation. He was not charged, however, and he was eventually repaid for his loyalty when he was appointed Medicaid director in Walker’s administration.

Walker operative Kelly Rindfleisch also preferred Davis, but she was not as lucky. She was sentenced to jail time after prosecutors charged her with illegally fundraising for Davis on taxpayer time via a secret Wi-Fi system in the county executive’s office. Emails that she and other Walker supporters traded about Kleefisch were confiscated and later shared with the media under the Freedom of Information Act.

“We are not touching anything to do with Kleefisch — she is radioactive and not worth the time,” wrote Walker campaign manager Keith Gilkes in an email that typifies the Walker camp’s attitude toward Kleefisch.

“I cannot see how anyone can take this woman seriously,” wrote one of Davis’ aides.

Walker’s county spokesperson referred to Kleefisch as “fluff,” and Rindfleisch wrote, “I can’t stand Becky.”

It’s not clear whether Kleefisch was aware of the disdain that Walker’s camp had for her prior to the email release. If not, it must have been a crushing blow.

It’s also unclear whether Walker’s people knew Kleefisch was battling Stage 2 colon cancer in August 2010, at the height of the campaign. At the same time she was campaigning tirelessly on behalf of the ticket and helping to win over women voters, Kleefisch was undergoing chemotherapy and fighting for her life.

In retrospect, it’s possible that some of her stranger public moments, the spacey ones that have drawn comparisons to former U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, might have been influenced by her medical condition.

Colorful couple

Many political insiders contend that Rebecca Kleefisch and her husband, state Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, are oddballs any way you look at them. Their policy positions are fundamentally the same — and the same as Walker’s: They’re for trickle-down economics, they’re opposed to marriage equality and choice and they hate “big” government, which appears to mean government agencies or contracts that do not employ or profit their family and friends. 

Rebecca Kleefisch frequently toes the party line that lowering taxes is the most reliable economic-growth strategy. When she meets with business groups, one of her go-to lines is, “How can we love you more?” — presumably expecting them to ask for tax breaks. 

Joel Kleefisch emphasizes the same talking point, but he tops his wife in the “colorful character” category. A man who’s met few animals he didn’t want to shoot, Kleefisch proposed a bill in 2012 to create a hunting season for sandhill cranes. “Many call (sandhill cranes) the rib-eye of the sky,” Kleefisch told the Wisconsin State Journal in pushing for supportive legislation. It died in committee but has since resurfaced.

Joel Kleefisch often appears at the Capitol wearing various articles of camo clothing. Democratic strategist Patrick Guarasci said that during his time working in Madison, he and others viewed the Kleefisches as whackos.

In addition to hunting, Kleefisch was obsessed with sex offenders, according to Guarasci. “He fashioned himself as an expert on the subject,” Guarasci said. “He was always trying to come up with stricter and stricter rules for the placement of sex offenders.”

One of his proposals was to force sex offenders to drive with chartreuse license plates on their cars for easy identification, Guarasci remembered.

More recently, Joel Kleefisch landed in hot water after records surfaced showing that he’d allowed one of his wealthy donors to help him draft a bill that would have substantially reduced the donor’s child support payments.

Ross criticized Rebecca Kleefisch for never commenting on her husband’s behavior.

Like his wife, Joel Kleefisch is a former broadcast news reporter. But otherwise, they make for a rather odd couple, which is obvious just seeing them together. She’s fastidiously groomed, while he’s a rather slouchy man who treats hunting garb as formal wear (see photo). 

In her early and inexperienced days, Kleefisch had to rely on physical style over substance. She didn’t have time to develop the kind of inside knowledge and engaging political persona that Walker has perfected. So she used the familiar newscasters’ tools — heavy makeup and reading words written by someone else.

The results were poor but largely overlooked by voters. An insider who asked not to be identified said people working on her 2010 campaign considered her “like a political android. She was wooden and had no substance. It was just all talking points.”

The Walker administration didn’t help her much. Campaign advisers seemed determined to keep her away from the press and the Walker administration initially kept her under wraps. Walker never made a campaign commercial with Kleefisch.

But she seems to be proving more capable and determined than her detractors had figured.

Growing into the role

Despite not having specified constitutional duties, Kleefisch has managed to carve out a role for herself in the Walker administration as “the marketing guy.” 

That’s how she described herself to the Wisconsin State Journal in a recent interview. She’s lived up to the title, reaching out to recruit businesses from other states, attending new business openings throughout the state and even participating in an important trade mission to China.

Today, Kleefisch seems to fit smoothly in Walker’s groove. She’s not basking in the spotlight, but she’s clearly in the loop and acting as an effective surrogate for Walker at local events as he ramps up his White House run.

Demonstrating how much her status within the Walker administration has advanced, Kleefisch toured the state last fall with Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Revenue Rick Chandler to host listening sessions on tax reform in advance of the 2015–17 biennial budget. 

“That was something that some of us looked at and thought, ‘This is kind of an attempt to give her a kind of a role,’” said Collin Roth, editor of Right Wisconsin, a conservative news and opinion website. “I thought that was something (that positioned her) more in a substantive policy realm.”

Even Democrats were impressed with her appearance in January at a groundbreaking event for a Walnut Way Conservation Corp. project in Milwaukee. She demonstrated far more polished retail political skills than she possessed in 2010, generating some positive buzz.

“I’ve been very impressed with how far she’s come in the past few years,” Roth said. “I think she’s proven herself capable and up to the task. If you look around, she makes some of these short lists of rising stars. I very much think she is a frontrunner — if not the frontrunner — in 2018.”

Walker administration Secretary Mike Huebsch told the Wisconsin State Journal that he’s seen Kleefisch go from sitting quietly at meetings to asking questions to participating in policy discussions about transportation, Medicaid and taxes. Her former political rival Brett Davis also praised her, telling WSJ that she’s “really grown into the role.”

Kleefisch has begun to stake out opinions of her own. In a March radio interview with Sykes, she acknowledged that states developing clean, renewable energy sources have a “competitive advantage” over states like Wisconsin that don’t.

“When I’m talking to my colleagues in the National Lieutenant Governors Association and they have already gotten online to different (carbon emissions) standards than what is traditional in our state, all of a sudden they have a competitive advantage,” Kleefisch said.

The Walker administration seems to have done everything in its power to discourage if not outright halt wind and solar projects in the state. Critics charge that his anti-renewable position is a way of supporting Koch Industries and other fossil fuel businesses that have contributed heavily to his campaigns.

Whether Kleefisch’s statement on clean energy was a faux pas or an indication of forward thinking on her part remains to be seen. But it’s clear she’s used her three campaigns and four years in office to develop a knowledge base of the issues as well as communication skills.

Roth said people who have tuned out Kleefisch are going to be surprised as they become more familiar with her in coming months. There’s more to her than has met their eyes so far, he says.

Even Guarasci concedes: “I would not be surprised if I’ve underestimated her.”

Ultimately, Kleefisch’s positions are as out-of-synch with the progressive agenda as Walker’s. She’s a religious conservative who still believes that tax breaks for the rich will create jobs. Her focus would likely be on reducing government regulations,  privatization of government functions and selling off the state’s natural resources.

But she’s not the punch line that progressives think she is. She’s proven to be tenacious, committed and a fast learner. Liberals dismiss her at their own peril.

5 things to know about Wisconsin’s mid-term elections

 Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke are running neck-and-neck in recent polls, but close contests are nothing new for Walker, who survived a recall election just two years ago. Walker has been plagued with constant scandals, revelations of massive croynism, missing money from his flagship “job creation” agency and his failure to reach even half of the 250,000 jobs he pledged to create during his first term. Meanwhile, groups backed by the Koch brothers are spending millions of dollars in advertising designed to tarnish Burke’s image, putting her at a distinct disadvantage in a political landscape where money wins races.

With Election Day just two months away, here are five things to know about the races on November’s ballot:

2 TELEVISED DEBATES

Walker and Burke have agreed to two televised debates, neither of them in the state capital where Burke lives and Walker spends most of his time. They will meet Oct. 10 in the La Crosse-Eau Claire television market and Oct. 17 in the Milwaukee market. Both debates are sponsored by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Foundation Board. Specific times and locations have yet to be announced.

CASH WILL POUR IN

Expect another election season in which outside groups spend more than the candidates. The Republican Governors Association is backing Walker, with an anticipated $2 million television ad buy expected to begin in September. Meanwhile, the Greater Wisconsin Committee is airing television ads attacking Walker, and Emily’s List, which works to elect Democratic women, also is expected to spend heavily on her behalf. Walker’s 2012 recall election was the most expensive race in state history, costing $81 million.

HAPP AHEAD

With two motorcycle-riding prosecutors running against each other, the attorney general’s race is one to watch. A poll released Wednesday by the Marquette University Law School puts Democrat Susan Happ ahead of Republican Brad Schimel by 7 percentage points. But that’s within the 3.5 percent margin of error, and one-fourth of registered voters don’t know who either of the candidates is. Plus, Happ ran TV ads in the three-way Democratic primary, while Schimel was not on the air and ran unopposed. Happ is the district attorney in Jefferson County; Schimel holds the same post in Waukesha County.

SENATE COULD FLIP

Democrats are unlikely to regain control of the Assembly, where Republicans have an overwhelming majority. But the Senate is a different story. The GOP holds a slim 17-15 majority, with seven seats open, including four held by Republicans. Three of those races look competitive. If Democrats can hold their current seats and pick up those three GOP districts, they’ll take back the chamber.

FRESH FACE IN CONGRESS

Incumbents are likely to return to Congress in seven of Wisconsin’s eight districts. But U.S. Rep. Tom Petri’s retirement ensures at least one fresh face will be heading to Washington. State Sen. Glenn Grothman is the favorite after winning a hard-fought, four-way primary to capture the GOP nomination in the Republican-leaning district. The outspoken and uncompromising Grothman faces Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris, a fiscally conservative Democrat who could have some crossover appeal in a district accustomed to the moderate Petri.

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Thompson’s son apologizes for send Obama to ‘Kenya’ comment

The son of U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Thompson has apologized for telling voters this fall should send President Barack Obama back “to Kenya.”

Jason Thompson, the son of the former governor, made the comments Sunday during a brunch hosted by the Kenosha County Republican Party.

The video was taken by a Democratic Party operative and posted at BuzzFeed Politics Sunday.

Obama’s father was Kenyan, but Obama was born in Hawaii.

In a statement, Thompson’s campaign said the 38-year-old son apologized for saying something he should not have. Jason Thompson is an attorney and has represented his father’s campaign at some events.

Running against Thompson is Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin. A Baldwin spokesman declined to comment.

The conservative tide: how high will it rise?

In his inaugural address, Gov. Scott Walker might have fired his administration’s opening salvo against LGBT equality when he vowed to “honor and respect the foundational role of the family in our society.”

Although most LGBT people would agree with Walker’s statement on its face value, it sounded to many like standard-issue rhetoric from the anti-gay right. “I certainly saw that line, and it certainly is a concerning line,” said Fair Wisconsin executive director Katie Belanger.

Amid the rising conservative tide in Wisconsin, as throughout the nation, LGBT citizens and political progressives are anxiously watching the Tea Party-infused GOP and searching for signs of coming struggle. Although most of the newly elected Republicans ran campaigns focused on creating jobs, eliminating deficits and reducing government, their social views are largely in step with those of the radical right.

“We can’t even see the end of the right wing they’re going to run to,” predicted Wisconsin Democratic Party chair and former Fair Wisconsin director Mike Tate.

“We know that they’re going to come out and do some very anti-LGBT stuff,” he said. “If they start persecuting LGBT people, it sends a signal right out of the gate that these people are going to dismantle the Wisconsin way of life.”

But Belanger was relieved that the first round of legislation proposed by the incoming GOP did not include a measure to repeal the state’s domestic partner registry. “It’s really going to be interesting to see how closely (Republicans) stick to their jobs agenda,” she said. “Hopefully, they’ll stick to the jobs development stuff, but it’s something that we’re really watching.”

For now, Belanger is taking a wait-and-see approach about the new Republican majority. So is Bill Keeton, director of government relations for the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin. While Belanger is concerned about the domestic partner registry, Keeton will focus on the GOP’s proposal for HIV/AIDS-related funding and Medicaid programs.

During his campaign, Walker made conflicting statements about cutting the state’s BadgerCare program. Various sources estimated that he would enact policies to eliminate between 68,000 and 350,000 people from healthcare coverage under the program, which includes many Wisconsinites with HIV/AIDS.

But Keeton is confident that HIV/AIDS funding has bipartisan support in Madison.

“The fight against AIDS has really been something that members of both parties have embraced,” Keeton said. “We’ve worked hard all these years building consensus and not focusing on programs where there’s dissension.”

Tanya Atkinson, vice president of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, is more wary of the impact conservatives will have on her area of interest – sexual health and reproductive freedom.

“Signs indicate the new leadership will be pursuing a dangerous agenda,” Atkinson said. “Their goals are to outlaw abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, to restrict access to birth control, and to stop comprehensive sex education that also protects students from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender.

“If Scott Walker and new legislative leaders are serious about reducing government intrusion and enhancing fiscally responsible healthcare practices, they should support strengthening the health of Wisconsin with access to basic reproductive healthcare.”

On the Legislature’s opening day, lawmakers proposed a flurry of measures that, while not attacking LGBT rights or reproductive freedom, contained a strong conservative bent.

“At 8:01 a.m. this morning, the Republicans began their bait-and-switch away from job creation and onto right-wing social issues,” said openly gay state Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, in a statement released Jan. 3.

“Between 8:01 a.m. and 8:02 a.m. this morning, Rep. Joel Kleefisch circulated 15 co-sponsorship memos to all legislators asking us to become sponsors of right-wing legislation, highlighted by permitting guns on school property, eliminating same day voter registration and a bill that prohibits certain stem cell research equipment from a proposed tax exemption,” Pocan said. “Not one bill will create jobs. Less than one hour later, Rep. Dean Kaufert circulated further expanded gun legislation.”

“Wisconsinites deserve better from Republicans on their first day on the job, but this is just the start,” Pocan added. “It makes me wonder what other right-wing bills they are going to introduce.”

Since Jan. 3, many Democrats have echoed the charge that GOP lawmakers have wandered off their campaign message of job growth and budget cutting. An Associated Press analysis of eight bills submitted by Walker during his first week in office concluded they would increase the deficit by $80 million a year over the next two years.

Democrats, already incensed over Walker’s decision to give up $823 million in federal funds for a high-speed rail project, now say the governor’s decision to have Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen join a lawsuit against federal healthcare reform will prove costly both to the state and the nation.

“At a time of deep financial crisis, Scott Walker has sent J.B. Van Hollen on a costly political errand that, if it were successful, would have the effect of denying healthcare to tens of thousands of Wisconsinites and adding $1 trillion to the federal deficit over the next 20 years,” Tate said. “Van Hollen has already shown how political this is by consulting with Texas Republican operatives on the taxpayer dime. He must now be explicit about what costs there will be to Wisconsin taxpayers when their lawyers are doing Scott Walker’s partisan bidding, instead of fighting crime.”

In order to fulfill his campaign promise of creating 250,000 new jobs over the next four years, Walker is relying primarily on bills to make Wisconsin more attractive to corporations by giving them tax breaks, curbing union power and making it extremely difficult for consumers to sue manufacturers and other companies. This combination of proposals led Tate to charge that Walker was trying “to turn Wisconsin into Mississippi.”

More of Walker’s economic plan will be revealed when he submits his budget next month.

Democrats say they will tap more than 15,000 volunteers to counter any Republican proposals that are not targeted to improving the state’s economy and to hold Republican freshmen legislators accountable for their campaign promises to focus on the economy and the budget. In a similar spirit, the progressive group One Wisconsin Now has launched meetthemajority.com, a website that’s designed to be “a continuing clearinghouse of information about the 31 new conservative members of the Republican legislative majority.”

Protecting an equality majority

There are many important races in Wisconsin this election year.  All of them are deserving of our time and attention. While most of the focus is understandably on the high-profile statewide races, we should also remember to carefully consider the races that are not garnering as much attention, especially the many races for the Legislature. These races could have a tremendous effect on the state and specifically on the LGBT community.

Control of the Legislature hangs in the balance. Along with control comes an agenda that could be either good or bad for both the LGBT Community and for Wisconsin as a whole. When Republicans last controlled the Legislature, they clearly demonstrated where they stood on equality. Rather than model themselves after former Republican Gov. Lee Dreyfus, who signed the nation’s first statewide gay rights law in 1982, they made the decision to adopt the agenda of the most extreme elements of their party.  These are elements that thrive on mean-spirited division.

On Republicans’ watch, the University of Wisconsin became the only Big Ten University that did not offer its LGBT employees full benefit equality. In fact, whenever the issue was broached, it was immediately shot down without a fair hearing.

But perhaps the best example of the Republicans’ attitude toward equality is the way they repeatedly maneuvered and promoted the concept of marriage inequality while they controlled the Legislature.  Their actions eventually led to the unfortunate constitutional amendment of 2006.

When Democrats took control of the Legislature, we were given repeated examples of how they valued all Wisconsinites, regardless of their sexual orientation. Within just a couple of years the Legislature and Gov. Doyle have taken critical actions on several issues that are important to the LGBT community. Key legislation passed last year establishing a statewide domestic partner registry. Along with the establishment of the registry came 43 (of the over 200) protections that are afforded to married couples under state law. Those benefits include hospital visitation, the ability to take family medical leave and inheritance rights. Fair Wisconsin has compiled a useful reference guide that explains domestic partnerships and the protections these new policies bring. It can be accessed at http://www.fairwisconsin.com.

In addition to the domestic partner registry, Gov. Doyle and the current legislative leaders ensured that all state employees are treated fairly. Because of their actions, the domestic partners of state employees finally qualify for the same benefits as everyone else.  

So pay close attention to your legislative candidates and learn where they stand on these important issues. Actively support those who value equality by contributing to and volunteering for their campaigns. Let your friends, co-workers and straight allies know the candidates’ positions on equality.

If the current majority is replaced by the extreme alternative, history already shows us what could happen. What better reason is there to become fully engaged? Our pro-fairness majority in the Legislature is certainly worth protecting.

Racing against the right | Jim Sullivan faces another anti-gay candidate

Although there are higher profile races on the ballot in Wisconsin this year, it’s the contest for a state Senate seat in Wauwatosa that could have the greatest impact on the state’s LGBT residents.

State Rep. Leah Vukmir, a Tea Party activist, is challenging moderate Democrat Jim Sullivan in the 5th Senate District in November. Vukmir’s victory would set the stage for Republicans to regain control of the Legislature, according to political analysts, putting socially conservative lawmakers at the helm of the state’s legislative agenda.

Both parties have identified Sullivan as the No. 1 legislative target in 2010, and his race with Vukmir is expected to draw big bucks from coffers on both sides of the aisle.

The darling of talk radio host Charlie Sykes, Vukmir has routinely taken positions reflecting his radical-right agenda. She opposed the “Compassionate Care for Rape Victims Act” and was one of only 14 Assembly members to vote against funding to eliminate the state’s DNA crime lab backlog. The latter vote put her to the right of ultra-conservative Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.

Most recently, she voted against a law to curb the predatory practices of payday lenders. Sullivan authored the Senate version of the bill.

Vukmir’s legislative record helped earn her a place on Milwaukee Magazine’s list of the state’s 10 worst legislators last year. The political group One Wisconsin Now has branded her “Wisconsin’s Michelle Bachmann-in-training.”

Vukmir also has been outspoken about her fundamentalist Christian vision for Wisconsin. Several months ago, the homepage of her campaign website featured numerous biblical quotations, but they’ve since been removed.

Vukmir declined WiG’s request for an interview.

For Sullivan, a supporter of LGBT equality, running against Vukmir is in many ways a replay of his 2006 race, when he narrowly defeated far-right incumbent Tom Reynolds. Also a religious fundamentalist, Reynolds was so obsessed with anti-gay fervor that he tried recruiting a gay Senate page into an ex-gay ministry.

“For whatever reason, that was a big part of (Reynold’s) world view,” Sullivan says. “To me, it was him indulging in his idiosyncrasies. This is a position of public trust, and you’re supposed to represent all of your constituents. Leah’s clearly coming from the same place. She’s somebody who’s decided she can make her way in politics by hewing to a hard-right ideological line.”

The LGBT community’s support was vital to Sullivan’s victory, and it will be again, says Dennis Kohler of HRL-PAC. In addition to endorsing Sullivan, the group is staging a May 17 fundraiser for him.

“We want to maintain a pro-equality state senate, and Jim Sullivan is a good candidate who’s very supportive of pro-equality legislation,” Kohler says. “His is a key race in maintaining our pro-equality majority. I’m hoping LGBT individuals and our allies will support this race any way they can.”

Sullivan says he’s relying on the community’s support in what is shaping up to be another tough race. “I hope the leadership that I’ve provided over the past four years has warranted that support,” he says.

He adds, “When Democrats are in charge, a lot of legislation that’s hurtful to the LGBT community never sees the light of day.”

Sullivan voted against the budget that contained Gov. Jim Doyle’s provision to create a domestic-partner registry in Wisconsin, but only because it gutted funding for a regional transit system and delayed reconstruction of the Zoo Interchange, he says. He believes the subsequent closure of the interchange’s Highway 45 bridge due to excessive damage vindicated his concerns.

Despite his vote on the budget, Sullivan says same-sex couples have a “fundamental right” to the same legal benefits and responsibilities as heterosexual couples.

Sullivan worries that Tea Party radicals such as Vukmir have marginalized moderate Republicans and intimidated Democrats into inaction. As a result, he says, the Legislature failed to pass a bill promoting clean energy jobs at a time when Wisconsin should be working to cultivate renewable energy sources.

In addition to the new payday lending law, Sullivan was behind legislation mandating transparency in health care costs, strengthening penalties for drunk driving and cutting taxes on retirement accounts. He was named Legislator of the Year by the Wisconsin Professional Police Association.