My Campaign Blog
Two hundred fifty bucks or a free press pass? That was an easy call, and I made it to the media representative of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, who told me to come on down to the Midwest Airlines Center Saturday at 4 p.m. to get “credentialed” to attend the party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson Day Gala event, this year honoring James Doyle and his wife.
“Not the James Doyle, the Governor?” you ask.
No, indeed. The party’s “Founder’s Award” this year went to James Doyle, Senior and his wife Ruth Bachhuber Doyle, the parents of the governor. Doyle père and Doyle mère were an early power couple. He served as a Federal judge, and she was the fourth generation of her family to serve in the legislature. I didn’t stick around to see the award be presented to the Governor and his sister Catey Doyle, because I skipped the speechifying part of the party to attend the Present Music concert at the Milwaukee Art Museum, but I did show up at the convention center at around 5 p.m. for the pre-gala reception to mingle with the VIP’s and, as always, to inspect the catering.
By about 6 p.m. the room had filled up nicely, including such luminaries as Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, clad in a vivid wrap with a design as complicated as a Supreme Court brief. She said she bought it in Appleton, and if you want one, you better race there soon, since there can’t be too many like it.
Jim Doyle fils was there. While he worked his way through a corned beef sandwich, the firefighters lined up behind him for a group photo shoot. “Get the plate out of the governor’s hand,” an aide exclaimed to another aide as the shutter was about to click. Apparently, it wouldn’t do to have the governor photographed with a remnant sandwich, and away the plate was whisked. I figured it was time to score a couple of points with the governor so I fetched him another corned beef sandwich while the photo session was in progress. When I presented the sandwich to him he added the little piece that remained from the first sandwich. Waste not, want not! Just do that 3.4 billion times, and before you know it you’ve got a balanced budget.
The governor has been very successful in issuing vetoes that stick, and he may have to issue more, since you can never tell what crazy laws the legislature might cook up. “If you don’t watch out there will be an amendment requiring you to get married,” he joked. The way some of these characters in the legislature think, if you’re straight and single there still must be something wrong with you.
Marty Schreiber was there, and he was a kind of a governor once upon a time. He greeted Jim Doyle, and made his rounds of the powerful. Chris Abele, an early Doyle supporter, drew the immediate attention of Marc Marotta, the Secretary of the Department of Administration. Marotta asked him if he wanted a drink, and Abele asked for a gin and tonic. “Make that two,” I piped up. While we waited for our cocktails, Abele handed me a “Matt Flynn for Congress” card. Flynn is the co-chair of the Kerry campaign here and Abele is from Massachusetts, as is Kerry. I announced Flynn’s candidacy here a couple of weeks ago (the Journal Sentinel got around to it last week.) Sure enough, Flynn himself showed up to work the crowd, which has to be a lot more fun than being an attorney at stuffy old Quarles and Brady with no office to run for.
Shirley Krug showed up in a stunning green dress. She will abandon her seat in the assembly to run against Flynn and who knows how many others in what will be an exciting primary this fall. She said her quest is “like a trapeze act with no net.”
Jerry Kleczka, whose unexpected departure from the House of Representatives occasioned all these new candidates, was there in his customary suit emblazoned with the oversized lapel button that congressmen wear these days. I asked if his wife, Bonnie Kleczka, were in attendance. “No, she’s not,” he said.
“A shame,” I remonstrated, since I had heard that it was her idea to have her husband retire, because she’s sick of Washington. I told Kleczka I wanted to do a story about his departure and call it a “Change of Wifestyle,” which I thought was mighty clever.
“Well, she’d agree with you. We operate as a team.” A team in which one member never shows up at events like this, apparently.
The Chair of the state party, Linda Honold, was dressed smartly (she knows no other way) in beige. So what’s her role in the campaign? — especially since the party does not endorse candidates until after the primary.
“My job is to energize the electorate and win,” she replied.
I used to think Chris Ahmuty rhymed with “Shake Your Booty.” (It’s more like “Ah’-mutty”.) Anyhoo, the state director of the ACLU said he’s wondering if the U.S. Attorney in Iowa is a bit whacked since that office attempted to get the membership list and other information from a college group at Drake University that dared to oppose President Bush’s policies. This inquiry was halted last week, possibly after the U.S. Attorney dug up a copy of the constitution somewhere.
I told her I pointed out that while the do-nothing duties suited Scott McCallum perfectly well, she, on the other hand, was a real go-getter, and we ended up friends. Sen. Russ Feingold refused to handicap whom he would like for his opponent, preferring to let the Republicans bash each other for a change.
By now, the clock was nearing 7 p.m., and the guests at this exclusive $150 Pre-Gala cocktail reception were asked to adjourn to the main hall. You’d think after two hours the atmosphere would be quite giddy, with the exception of Governor Doyle, who is congenitally giddy-free.
Ah! But you practically had to be a Republican to afford to drink with these Democrats, since the $150 did not cover so much as the cost of a drop of water. Some cocktail reception, indeed! Bottled water was $2.50, wine was $4.25, bottled beer was $4.50 and mixed drinks were pegged at $4.75 a serving. Milwaukeeans are used to paying prices like this only when they go out to watch their teams lose at sporting events. Even so, the bar did a fair amount of business, but it wouldn’t have killed the Democratic Party to spring for a barrel of beer, if only to keep the firefighters happy.
Even more interesting was the surprisingly lax cash handling procedures, especially considering that the event took place in the taxpayer-supported Midwest Airlines Center. You’d expect at prices like those charged, the convention hall would have used cash registers to log the sales and to safeguard the money. Instead, the harried bartenders simply stuffed the money into an empty sink attached to the portable bar. Now, of course, all bartenders are honest – any tavern owner will tell you so – but did it make any sense to leave that much money lying around loose with so many politicians in the room?
As the pre-Gala revelers made their way to the main hall where the evening’s formal event was to take place, the regular folks who only paid $100 made their way in. They included Senator Herb Kohl, who is probably the only fellow in the city who charges more for a lousy can of beer, mayoral candidate and congressional sacrifice Tom Barrett, and Peter Bock, accompanied by his wife Kathleen Falk. Bock is still on crutches, and his right foot is still messed up after surgery. Ald. Marlene Johnson-Odom and her husband John Odom strolled in together. Everybody filed past tables filled with position papers, stickers, pins and other detritus of political campaigns. My favorite was the Gay Dean stickers that I spotted rolled up on a shelf. (See illustration.) An aide peeled off a half-dozen of them for my collection. By the time Chris Abele made it to the room he was joined by fellow future billionaire Peter Buffett and his lovely wife Jennifer Buffett, making a rare appearance at an event of this magnitude (expense wise.) Peter’s dad Warren Buffett didn’t get rich by spending his money, that’s for sure. Buffett looked positively wistful when I told him I was on my way to the Art Museum to hear the incomparable Robin Pluer performing with Present Music, the group he has championed for years. “Oh, I really wanted to go to that concert,” he said. Buffett’s not a drinker. (Neither are his parents; they prefer to sip Coca-Cola and nibble chocolates all day instead.) Even if he were a drinker, four-and-a-half bucks for a beer would be enough to get him to quit.
A Note on the Founder’s Award
How badly did the Democratic Party of Wisconsin need to be rebuilt?
From 1923 to 1927 there was only one Democrat in the entire assembly, which then consisted of 100 members. The number jumped from 2 in 1931 to a solid majority of 59 in the landslide year of 1933. By the time Governor Doyle’s mom arrived in 1949 there were 26 democrats in the assembly, or about one in four members.
Journal Lays it on Thick as Debate Backdrop
The presidential debate Sunday at Marquette University was the “brainchild” of Journal Sentinel editor Marty Kaiser. We learn this from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel itself, and it must be so. The candidates spoke locally on Channel 4 and nationally on the NBC broadcast network. Behind them was a blue backdrop featuring a dizzying array of logos that are altogether familiar to Milwaukeeans and probably inscrutable to the national audience. The logos included those for Channel 4, naturally enough, and for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. A similar logo, in the same typeface as that of the newspaper’s read “Journal Communications,” the parent company of the television station and of the newspaper. That latter logo really cluttered up the backdrop, particularly since it so closely resembled the newspaper’s. Journal Communications is now listed on the New York Stock Exchange. If anybody out in television land deciphered the logo and had a hankering to buy a media stock based on a backdrop at a candidates’ forum, well then it was worth the effort to include the logo.
Teddy’s In Town
The 1960 Wisconsin primary was one of the most important in the state’s history and was a major factor in the process that led to John F. Kennedy’s nomination as president. In 2004 another Massachusetts senator hopes to use the vote in the Badger State to secure his right to carry the party’s banner in November. What better way to do it than to drag a Kennedy along for a little “magic?” Sure enough, here comes Senator Edward Moore “Teddy” Kennedy, who is visiting this state rounding up votes and cash for his colleague John Kerry. If you’re reading this Monday, you can meet Kennedy at a rally at 7 p.m. at the Italian Community Center, 631 E. Chicago Street. Kerry’s staff printed hundreds of flyers announcing the rally over the weekend. Later, staff members spent hours painstakingly adding Kennedy’s name to the flyers by hand, after it was confirmed he’d attend. Kennedy is no stranger to Wisconsin. He has made numerous unannounced, non-political visits to the state over the years to see his sister Rose Kennedy, who resides in Jefferson.
More Interesting News
Roots takes hold … Roots, a new restaurant and bar opened February 12th at its hillside location carved into the bluff above N. Commerce Street at N. Hubbard Street. The closest thing the location has to an intersection is where Hubbard meets E. Vine Street. It is the first retail location to open in the newly developed Beer Line “B” corridor and is a product of the magnificent work, as always, of Milwaukee’s innovative Flux Design. The building rises two stories above its Hubbard Street perch, and is constructed of stone and brick, mostly reclaimed, as are many of the beams and other features of the environmentally-friendly architecture. The exterior is adorned with twisted metal rods that quite simulate sinewy roots. The theme is carried through elsewhere in the building, including along the stairs that lead a level below to the cleverly-named Roots Cellar. Don’t let the basement moniker fool you – the cellar nevertheless offers panoramic views of downtown, including three prominent spires. As you look south from the windows of the cellar your view is framed by Old St. Mary’s steeple to the right, City Hall’s bell tower in the center, and St. Hedwig’s magnificent copper spire to the left. The siting of the property is no accident, and is, indeed a tribute to former Mayor John O. Norquist, his departed planning director, Peter Park, and the master plan they commissioned for the long-vacant, former industrial corridor. Across the street, the Trostel condominia, impressive enough from Commerce Street, do not rise high enough to block this magnificent view. A peek down newly-created Cape Street offers a view of the Milwaukee River to the east, as does a view down Commerce toward Pleasant Street. It is nothing less than a visual amalgam of exciting prospects and vigorous architecture. The detailing of the building continues right down to little rootlets holding up the downstairs bar, where smoking is permitted, the floor is radiantly-heated, and where Lakefront Beer is available on tap, shipped all the way from the brewery, a couple hundred feet away. The restaurant will feature organic ingredients wherever possible, much to be grown on a 60-acre-plus Cedarburg farm. Yes, Milwaukee, it is possible to be trendy without being annoying. An outdoor deck, still unfinished, will complete the project if it ever warms up again. … “Alderman” Pratt still at it. – What’s this? A Common Council Resolution introduced January 21st by Alderman Marvin Pratt? Isn’t that supposed to be “Acting Mayor” Pratt? Actually, that’s why we call him “acting” mayor, and the resolution reminds us that the guy is still very much an alderman. The resolution, wouldn’t you know it, authorizes the sale of a lot at 4646 N. Teutonia Avenue from the city’s tax-deed inventory to Jerusalem Baptist Church for “religious facility construction.” Rev. Donnie Sims of the church, has offered $50,000 for the property. The Department of City Development has offered preliminary approval of the plan, which will remove yet another property from the tax rolls for church construction and “associated parking facilities.” The way Pratt and his pals build churches, he’s going to turn the City of Milwaukee into Vatican City.
Cop Turns In Badge, Sues Chief
Capt. Glenn D. Frankovis turned in his badge and gun Friday at about the same time his attorney, Lawrence P. Zieger submitted a $400,000 claim against the city alleging his client was subject to “constructive discharge” when Chief Nannette Hegerty relieved him of his command of District 3 after an internal memo was leaked in which Frankovis referred to criminals as “thugs.” Milwaukeeworld.com mentioned the demotion in an earlier transmission, and recounted a newspaper article in which he had used the same term in 2001. Frankovis claimed that his transfer to an administrative job with no duties was the result of a “sinister and cruel” conspiracy including then-Common Council President (and now-Acting Mayor) Marvin Pratt, and aldermen Willie L. Hines and Frederick G. Gordon. “This conspiracy was obvious, intential and illegal for the political purposes of its participants,” according to the complaint. The claim, filed with the City Clerk’s office Friday, is the first step in a possible lawsuit, apparently one which the attorney is willing to pursue in a more public manner than that to which we have become accustomed lately.