11 Predictions for 2017 Politics
Scott Fitzgerald gets Trump appointment, redistricting is upheld and more.
Here are my predictions for Capitol politics in 2017. Remember, please, that pundits – just like polls – can be wrong.
1. Republican Gov. Scott Walker will announce this summer he will seek a third term in 2018. What he’ll say in that announcement: Record numbers of state residents working and business startups. Unemployment cut by more than half since he took office in January 2011. Trump Administration policies will make Wisconsin an exciting laboratory of reforms.
2. Scott Fitzgerald Will Get Trump Appointment. Serving as Senate leader for seven years, massaging senatorial egos and refereeing feuds between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Assembly Republicans, gets old and tiring.
That’s one reason why Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald is open to – and likely to get – a job in the Trump Administration. Fitzgerald helped punch a ticket to Washington last summer when, while other Wisconsin Republican leaders sneered at Donald Trump becoming their presidential nominee, Fitzgerald shouted, “Trump Train – all aboard!”
3. Several Republicans may prepare to challenge Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin in 2018. If Fitzgerald doesn’t go to Washington, he may also be one of several Republicans running against Baldwin. Other Republicans who may run are Congressman Sean Duffy and Madison business executive Eric Hovde, who finished second in a three-Republican primary in 2012. Another possible GOP candidate is Assistant Majority Leader Leah Vukmir.
4. Vukmir will face a critical choice. If Fitzgerald does go to Washington, Vukmir must choose: Become Senate majority leader, which is a full-time job, or stay as No. 2 leader and travel the state laying the groundwork – and raising money – to challenge Baldwin.
5. Republican Sen. Frank Lasee may resign. Lasee, 55, a legislator since 1995, lost a bid for Congress last year and has openly discussed his desire to “make some real money” – either as a lobbyist or working for a statewide trade association. This could be the year he steps down — and up.
6. Highway funding deal raises new revenues. There will be some increase in either the 30.9-cent per gallon gas tax and/or the $75 annual vehicle registration fee, although it will require finding a way for Walker to declare victory. Walker, for example, may have to point to another tax cut that offsets the new highway funding revenues.
Assembly Republicans, and some Democrats, won’t agree to a budget deal that simply credit-card borrows huge new amounts of cash for highways.
And standing with Assembly Republicans on this issue are county, city, village and town leaders saying: We don’t care how you pols do it, but give us a stable, long-term way to maintain our streets and highways. Chambers of commerce groups have also not ruled out a tax-and-fee increase package, if other demands are met.
8. Ron Kind won’t run for governor. Every four years, some Democrats say they wish Congressman Ron Kind would give up his safe 3rd District seat and take a risk for his party by running for U.S. Senate or governor. But why should someone who starts their 21st year in the U.S. House this month, and who didn’t even have a Republican opponent last year, give that up to run for governor?
9. Democrats will search for a business leader to run for governor.
Democrats light a candle every four years, praying that a business executive or retired executive willing to spend $5 million or more of their own money will run for governor. But one of them, retired Kehl Foods CEO Katherine Gehl, has said she won’t run in 2018. Is there another possible candidate?
10. Criminal charges will be filed on Lincoln Hills problems. Years of abuse, negligence and mismanagement at the state’s juvenile prison will likely culminate in criminal charges by federal prosecutors. That means Lincoln Hills, and questions about state government’s policy of locking up juvenile criminals more than 200 miles from their homes and family members, will become a major issue in the 2018 race for governor. Democrats are already criticizing Walker for saying, in six years as governor, he has never visited any prison – adult or juvenile.
11. Redistricting will be required in Wisconsin. A deadlocked U.S. Supreme Court will uphold a lower federal court’s ruling, forcing new legislative districts that are fairer to Democrats to be redrawn before 2018 elections
Yes, some of these predictions are risky. Good thing they won’t be scored for a year.
Steven Walters is a senior producer for the nonprofit public affairs channel WisconsinEye. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org