Plale Recall Drive Begins
Can a group of south side political activists pull themselves together enough to acquire 13,212 signatures to force a recall election against Sen. Jeff Plale?
Rep. Jon Richards said he doubts it. “This thing is going nowhere,” says Rep. Josh Zepnick. “These people are so lazy! They’ve taken out a newspaper ad asking people to come by and sign a recall petition. Who is going to do that?”
True enough. To win an election, you’ve got to knock on doors, post signs in windows and do all kinds of grass-rooted activities. There is scant evidence of this in the Plale recall attempt, and absolutely no evidence of it in the northern fringes of Plale’s district, including Brady Street and the East Side.
That hasn’t stopped Plale from printing up thousands of football schedules that he is handing out at every turn.
“They’ve got until September 7th to get the signatures to recall me,” Plale told the audience. When told there seemed to be no effort on the East Side to circulate petitions, Plale said, “well, these people wouldn’t know how to find Brady Street.”
Plale was also in the Brady Street area for what the neighborhood hopes is an annual Artisinal Food Festival. The gig was held Sunday, July 25th, and Plale was there along with his schedules.
The recall effort against him stemmed from his crucial vote to uphold Governor Doyle’s veto of a republican-sponsored measure to limit property tax increases.
Plale says the upcoming plans to sponsor a constitutional amendment known as the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, (TABOR) is similarly flawed, and a potential recipe for disaster. He cites Colorado, a state that has enacted similar provisions into its laws and is now in the midst of its worst fiscal crisis ever.
The legislature republicans spent the last unedifying session promoting the agenda of Gays, Guns and Gambling. The Madison gang came up with loads of goofy legislation, none of which could sustain a veto by the governor. Leave it to this group to be able to reconvene and pass a constitutional amendment, no less, in just one week.
This was the decision of Sen. Mary Panzer, the republican leader who had earlier been criticized for not rushing a Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights law through the Solomonic deliberations of the nation’s most august lawmakers.
But, as soon as she faced a primary challenge from Rep.Glenn Grothman, an ambitious fellow republican who covets her senate seat, Panzer decided to schedule a vote for this week.
Then, the legislature can go home and come back next year to vote again. Then, finally, the matter will be put to public vote in a referendum, if it is still alive.
But, if the legislature does not act by August 5th, the whole procedure would have to be repeated in yet one more session of the legislature.
As of Monday, the exact wording of the proposed amendment had not been finalized, which is truly bizarre since there is such a bum’s rush to call the legislature back in session.
The Democrats do not want this bill, and many are outraged at the audacity of Panzer scheduling it during their party’s national convention, although Panzer says she will make every effort to accommodate their schedule.
The Democrats realize the entire charade of a special session is due to Grothman’s challenge to Panzer, so although they are inconvenienced, they are also quite amused at the spectacle of two republicans bashing each other in the primary. Which leads us to …
Mary Panzer’s supporters are fond of saying their candidate is a good, solid conservative, and that Glenn Grothman’s challenge to her is ideologically indefensible, and that intraparty challenges are decidedly un-Republican.. The facts may point otherwise.
Lost in the mists of time is that Mary Panzer was a founder and leader of the New Republican Committee, or NRC. The “nerks,” as they were called, were formed in the early eighties with the goal of combating the rising power of the conservative, far right wing of the party. One of the means espoused by the NRC was an aggressive use of intraparty challenges, particularly in legislative races. Examples: Rosenzweig v. Klicka; Dilweg v. Lassee. Or take the example of Lee Dreyfus, the NRC who challenged then-incumbent Congressman Robert W. Kasten, Jr. in a race for governor. Dreyfus went on to win, and Kasten went into the shoe business for a couple of years until his successful run for Senate. [Kasten himself had been a frequent primary challenger.]
Although Rep. Panzer professes horror that one republican might choose to run against another – and a party leader, at that! – the fact of the matter is she is simply getting the same medicine she once gave along with fellow NRC leader Scott McCallum. [“Vote Panzer: She’s a McCallum Republican.”]
There was a time, not many election cycles ago, that the visit of a vice-presidential nominee would not attract an appreciable crowd, and provisions for the candidate’s security were minimal.
In 2004 things are different – perhaps not the crowd part – and a mere vice presidential candidate travels with a security entourage about equal to what Richard Nixon enjoyed – as President.
The visit of John Edwards to Milwaukee Friday and Saturday, July 23-24 is a case in point. He was scheduled to appear around 7 p.m. at the 1451 Renaissance Place, for the rich people fundraiser earlier scheduled by John Kerry at the Italian Community Center. But the plane was late, so things went a bit slowly. Although the event was scheduled for 6:30, he didn’t get in the building until 8:55 p.m. A thunderstorm was to blame, and Senator Edwards can’t risk following the fate of Senators Wellstone and Heinz.
Outside the Renaissance Place police were everywhere, Prospect Avenue was shut down, and Curtis Pl. was a sea of limousines and other austere vehicles.
Candidate Edwards spoke to the crowd for about 20 minutes, shook a bunch of hands and met privately with some of the wealthier donors.
The event was hosted by Jo Anne Anton, Barb Candy and Tom Schneider. Among those in attendance were such luminaries as Governor Jim Doyle, Mayor Tom Barrett, Attorney General Peggy A. Lautenschlager, (did you know Peg is a Dean delegate this week in Boston?), Gwen Moore, Matt Flynn, Julilly W. Kohler, Martha Love, Susan Stein, along with the McSweeneys, the Gendelmans and others too numerous to mention, including Chris Abele.
When the candidate departed about 9:40 p.m. or so, all traffic was halted and the motorcade pulled out in a blaze of flashing lights, and a thunder of roaring Harley Davidsons.
I spoke with a Commissioner of the Public Debt for the City of Milwaukee to see what kind of treatment Bear Stearns offered the group and its members. “Oh, they offered all sorts of things. They would ask if there were any event they could sponsor, things like that. I thank my lucky stars we just said, ‘no,’ and went about our business.”
Politics makes for strange bedfellows and for even stranger escorts. This lesson was readily perceived at Turner Hall Friday when Jim Hightower, “America’s #1 Populist,” dropped by to rally the troops at an Assembly Democrats fundraiser and, incidentally, to sell copies of his new $25 book, “Let’s Stop Beating Around the Bush.”
Hightower’s visit, conveniently on the same day as his appearance at a Harry W. Schwartz bookstore reading, was facilitated by his escort, Mary Gielow, who has a business of squiring visiting authors around town.
It’s nice that Ms. Gielow has a successful niche business so that she doesn’t have to rely entirely on the income of her husband, Curt Gielow, an Assembly Republican.
Sure enough, while Hightower lambasted Republicans in general and Bush in particular, Mary Gielow sat demurely in the crowd, eyes riveted on her charge, the model of composure and too perfectly coiffed and coitured to conceivably pass as a Democrat.
“I’m trying to be low key, here,” she said. “They must think I’m a spy!” Gielow admitted her usual practice is to pawn off visiting liberal authors on Journal Sentinel writer Mike Drew, “but he sails on Wednesdays and Fridays, so here I am.”
Alas, the Democrats handled the case with more equanimity than their Republican colleagues might have in a similar scenario, and kept their attention on the distinguished guest, one of the funniest commentators on the public scene.
His auditors, including Rep. Jon Richards, Jim Wahner, Former Acting Governor Martin Schreiber, Former Assemblyman [and now-candidate for the Assembly] Fred Kessler, Rep. Pedro Colon, Sen. Tim Carpenter (and his congressional candidate rival Gwen Moore), Rep. Josh Zepnick, Rep. David Cullen, new Judge Mary Triggiano, and Eamon Guerin heard Hightower recount the horrors of the Bush administration like “the ‘testosterone’ war. … Imagine what they would do if they actually won the election.”
Hightower is an animated, compact person who kept up a nonstop spiel, occasionally glancing at his spare notes, little shorthands to let him know where to interject timeworn jokes and simple homilies with a touch of barnyard and a dash of barbecue sauce.
Hightower said Bush never was a rancher until he decided to run for president. “It’s not a ranch. The Bushes have not made one dollar of income ranching. It never was a ranch. It was a pig farm. … You’ll see lots of horses at the ranch, but you won’t see George on a horse. He can’t ride a horse. … He’s got a real nice cowboy hat, Neiman-Marcus. A thousand dollar hat on a ten-cent head. But a hat’s not a hat until you’ve got a little blood and barbecue sauce on it.”
I asked Hightower about the Texas Railroad Commission, which despite its name, is the controlling authority for Gas and Oil in Texas, with three elected members. The Commission is a vestige of Texas populism.
Did the Bushes ever try to strip the commission of its powers, the way Tommy Thompson used to do here all the time?
“No, but they saw to it that they got their people elected to the Commission,” he said. “The first head of OPEC, back in the fifties was a student at the University of Texas. He studied the Texas Railroad Commission firsthand and said, ‘Aha! So this is how we can control the flow of energy!’”