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Curmudgeon's Corner

cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner

Split in the Ranks?

Wisconsin, Political, Quality of Life

Democrats in the Wisconsin Senate surprised many observers when Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) was elected over Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) in an 8-7 victory in the Democrat’s caucus.  Larson is a comparative neophyte while Erpenbach has been a Senate fixture for a long time.

Apparently at least two outside groups, Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) and an environmental group, the Wisconsin League of Conservation, had actively lobbied Democrat Senators to get Larson the victory.  That is the first time I’ve heard of any outside group involving itself in this kind of internal organizational process.

Erpenbach feels he was betrayed by a member of the caucus whom he says he knows [supposedly Sen. Bob Wirch (D-Pleasant Prairie)] and who had said he’d vote for Erpenbach but switched his vote.

Larson is seen as a ‘young gun’ by those whose job it is to lobby the body on behalf of clients.  He was solidly in support of the move to try to cripple the Senate’s ability to accomplish anything by leaving the state and trying to conduct ‘business’ in public television interviews from supposedly “secret locations” in Illinois.  He enjoyed the television exposure this got for him, and that might actually have been part of the reason these 8 thought he was the right person. 

This is an interesting split in this caucus given that Larson is much newer to politics and with much less real world political experience than Erpenbach.  Both seem solidly liberal, but Erpenbach would have to be considered as the more thoughtful politician of the two.  It may be that there is a very real split between the 8 on one side and the 7 on the other side of this vote, with the group of eight thinking it is time to get rid of the old, more thoughtful approach to Wisconsin politics.

That having been said, this is the caucus that left its seats when it found itself in the minority without much power other than to disrupt and delay.  It, of course, saw itself as using the same tactic that was attributed to Abraham Lincoln when he was in the Illinois statehouse and chose to leave that building by climbing out of a window.

For now, it looks as though we are in for yet another interesting political season in Mad City.  It seems seldom that ‘interesting’ and ‘productive’ are ever used together in a sentence describing the results achieved by a political group.  If the Republicans can keep their body in line, the only thing left for the Democrats is to disrupt and delay the inevitable approval of various bills…or to leave the state again.  I suspect the ‘leaving the state’ solution would not be anywhere near as popular as they thought it was a short time ago.

Of course, there is always the ‘fight everything’ route through the liberal courts in Dane County that can be used effectively to slow the process, and it will be used.

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