Shibilski out; 7th CD coronation nearly done

The coronation of State Sen. Julie Lassa as the Democratic candidate for Dave Obey's Congressional seat takes another step forward as Kevin Shibilski, who held the Senate seat before Lassa, says he won't run.

Shibilski, pictured,  could have self-funded a race and given Lassa a real run. One other Portage County Dem, State Rep. Louis Molepske, is still thinking about it.

Molepske and State Rep. Amy Sue Vruwink weren't even invited to the secret weekend conclave where Lassa was crowned, and he's not ready yet to say he won't run. Here's what Shibilski had to say:

It is no secret that I have had a desire to run for Congress if the opportunity should arise. Since I learned of Dave Obey’s decision, I have seriously considered entering the race. I believe I would have been a strong candidate with a good chance of success, and I’m grateful to the hundreds of people who expressed their support and encouraged me to run.

I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit that I wish there had been more time and a more open process to select a candidate.

Big Steel Money Comes to Wisconsin and Illinois

On Tuesday the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced a grant award of nearly $1 million to assist with restoration efforts along Lake Michigan's shore in Wisconsin and Illinois.

The money came from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a non-profit created by Congress in 1984. The NFWF is federally funded but it partners with private entities, too, including big corporations:  five major oil companies (including British Petroleum), Wal-Mart, and others. One of the companies is ArcelorMittal, maker of steel.

Steel giant ArcelorMittal sent a spokesman to the grant award announcement.  Here's what Bill Steers of ArcelorMittal had to say recently in Grand Rapids, Michigan:

Scott Walker's shocking mental health mess

I couldn't have said this any better, so why try?  Here is State Rep. Tamara Grigsby's take on the disastrous way Scott Walker has managed Milwaukee County's mental health programs:

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By State Rep. Tamara Grigsby

As Scott Walker prepares his taxpayer-funded campaign tour across Wisconsin, what is he leaving behind in Milwaukee? Years of mismanagement and neglect that have put some of the County’s most vulnerable people at risk.

News reports last week confirmed that under Scott Walker’s watch a pregnant patient was repeatedly sexually assaulted at Milwaukee County Behavioral Health. Now troubling stories are emerging that this may be institutional practice under Scott Walker.

Scott Walker’s hand-picked mental health executive said last week that the county intentionally houses female patients with men they know are dangerous "because the presence of women reduces the likelihood of the men being violent," according to news reports. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported yesterday that Scott Walker and his cronies consider this a reasonable “Trade Off.”

Another Public University Selling Out the Public

The Journal Sentinel continues to support UW-Milwaukee's engineering land grab (assisted by Milwaukee County and the City Council of Wauwatosa). Apparently university engineering departments are the gold mines of the 21st Century; certainly the corporations who benefit from all the public-supported research and development think so, but why do so many public officials and members of the press concur?

When public dollars are used to support private interests, when university science is used as an "economic engine", what generally tends to happen is the public gets the short end of the stick and nature is threatened with further degradation.  Academic scientists pursuing outside grants and private profits end up compromising their independence and science is placed under the power of the rich and powerful. Trying to reinvent the butterfly (for considerable profit)  is always fraught with the far more likely possibility of harming the butterflies we already have.

Voters should choose 7th CD candidate

John Nichols in the Capital Times agrees that the best way for Democrats to pick a candidate to replace Congressman Dave Obey is to let the voters decide.

That's the Wisconsin Progressive tradition, since the days when Fighting Bob LaFollette fought for open primaries to wrest candidate selection away from the party bosses in their smoke-filled rooms.Says Nichols:

If D.C. Democrats try to impose a candidate on the district, they will almost certainly get it wrong. And, frankly, there is no reason to have any more confidence in the crew in Madison. An open Democratic primary in the 7th is the best way to pick the candidate who is the right fit for the district.

Democrats should recall that Russ Feingold, Herb Kohl, Tammy Baldwin, Ron Kind, Gwen Moore and Steve Kagen all won their seats after first winning highly competitive Democratic primaries. The last three Democrats to win the governorship -- Jim Doyle, Tony Earl and Pat Lucey -- all won tough party primary contests first.

Secret conclave annoints Lassa for 7th CD pope

It wasn't easy, but a secret weekend meeting of top Democrats in the 7th Congressional District, plus some Washington party operatives, has produced a candidate to run for David Obey's seat.

It's Julie Lassa, a mid-term state senator from Stevens Point, although she is reportedly a reluctant candidate who declined the role but finally agreed when no one else stepped up.

State Sens. Russ Decker and Rob Kreitlow were also in the mix, but either of them would have to give up his current seat to run. Lassa has a free ride.

Does that clear the field? We'll see. Obey's million dollar warchest, which could go to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, could carry a lot of clout, not to mention his personal endorsement and his reported threat to publicly trash and burn at least one other prospective candidate if he runs.

This one may still be unfolding for awhile, and the way it's starting should make the GOP gleeful.

Mark Green endorses sleaze merchant

Mark Green, who chased Scott Walker out of the 2006 GOP primary for governor but lost badly to Jim Doyle in the general, has endorsed Walker this year, saying "I will be proud to call Scott Walker my governor."

Gee, last time around Green was accusing Walker of running a sleazy" commercial and lying about him.

Of course, as Mark Neumann pointed out, that was before Walker dropped out and endorsed Green four years ago. (Photo)  Time to pay off an old political debt.

So Walker continues to pile up the big name endorsements from the politicians and insiders, and is no doubt en route to a state convention endorsement. That and $4 will get you a mocha at Starbucks.

If endorsements were votes, Wisconsin's political history would be a lot different. But that's not how it works.

At the 1988 state Dem convention, Herb Kohl probably didn't have enough friendly delegates to use all of the fingers on one hand, but he won the primary and general.

Making Health Care Affordable for Small Businesses

“I am quite worried about health insurance reform,” the small business owner told me. “Can you tell me how all of this is going to affect me?” She went on to explain, “I do buy insurance for my employees, but it is very expensive and I am not sure I can continue.”

High costs hit small employers hard. They are left with few options. Pay more or drop coverage for employees. It is little surprise that half of those uninsured in the U.S. own or work for a small business or are self employed. If they do have insurance, workers in small businesses pay higher deductibles, have fewer choices and poorer coverage.

Many businesses are looking at sharp rate increases this spring. Concerned business owners have contacted me looking for ways to reduce health insurance costs. They are not sure changes at the federal level will provide much help.

Much of federal health care reform is phased in over several years. Beginning in tax year 2010, small businesses offering coverage for employees will receive a tax credit of up to 35% of premiums. This will help when the tax man comes to collect but it won’t provide relief for business owners struggling under high premiums right now.

Nuclear Engineering: UW-Madison and Wisconsin Energy Corp.

Today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel features a letter to the editor by Michael Corradini, Chair of the Engineering Physics Dept. at the Univ. of Wisconsin at Madison. Corradini is writing in support of Wisconsin Energy Corp.  CEO Gale Klappa's call for lifting the nuclear power moratorium here in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin readers should know that the Engineering Physics Dept. includes the Nuclear Engineering program. What's more, Corradini is a research specialist in nuclear energy and director of the Wisconsin Institute of Nuclear Systems , essentially a university-created nuclear power research and education organization that receives funding and other assistance, according to its website, from many pro-nuclear government and corporate sources, including the Dept. of Energy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Westinghouse Electric, and-- you knew it was coming-- Wisconsin Energy Corporation.

Going Mobile

We're making a move into the late 20th century.  Our site is now more easily accessible on mobile phones, as there is a mobile version of the site that should come up automatically if you browse from a mobile device.   Well, at least if I got this right.  This is a first pass, but you'll find that the news on the site is now a lot more easily browsable.  This will probably change later.  Let us know what you think (and this is all primarily prompted by the arrival of a new Droid Incredible at the farm - and I'm in love).

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