Steven Walters
The State of Politics

Catching Up on Summer’s Political News

Summer’s over. Election looming. What do you need to know?

By - Sep 4th, 2018 12:40 pm
Gov. Scott Walker and Foxconn plan.

Gov. Scott Walker and Foxconn plan.

It was another much-too-busy summer. Your days off were too packed to keep up with the news. The kids are now heading back to school.

So here is your annual “summer’s over, what did I miss” column?

Q. Is it too late for me to claim that $100-per-child tax rebate? I could sure use that $100 to pay back-to-school bills.

A. Sorry. The deadline was July 2. State government paid out about $85 million in rebates – one-third less than the $122 million expected. Either estimates of its cost were much too high, or lots of parents like you didn’t claim it.

Q. The last thing I wanted to follow this summer was Wisconsin politics. But the ads I’m starting to see talk about an upcoming election. When is it, and what will be my choices be?

A. The election will be Tuesday Nov. 6, about eight weeks away. There are three important statewide contests:

*U.S. Senate: Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, of Madison, is seeking her second six-year term. She is being challenged by Republican state Sen. Leah Vukmir, of Brookfield.

*Governor: Republican Gov. Scott Walker, of Maple Bluff, is seeking a third four-year term. If it seems like Walker is seeking a fourth term, that’s because he won a 2012 recall election that felt like a campaign for a second term. Walker was first elected in 2010, survived the recall in 2012 and re-elected in 2014.

The Democrat running against Walker is Tony Evers, of Madison, who won an eight-candidate primary on Aug. 14. Evers was elected state superintendent of public instruction in 2009 and re-elected in 2013 and 2017. If Evers loses, he will still be superintendent of public instruction.

*Attorney General: Brad Schimel, a Waukesha Republican, is seeking a second four-year term on Nov. 6. His challenger is Josh Kaul, a Madison Democrat whose mother, Peg Lautenschlager, was Wisconsin’s first woman attorney general (2003-06).

On Nov. 6, you also face choices for U.S. House and seats in the Legislature.

Q. Will President Trump be back in Wisconsin before Nov. 6?

A. Very likely. On August 13, the President tweeted this: “Scott Walker of Wisconsin is a tremendous Governor who has done incredible things for that Great State. He has my complete & total Endorsement!”

Trump also endorsed Vukmir, who backs the President’s policies, in her campaign against Baldwin. So it’s doubtful the President will stay away from Wisconsin, which he won in 2016 by about 27,200 votes.

Q. Will I know who is behind all these TV and social media ads denouncing some candidates and sanctifying others?

A. Not a chance. Special-interest groups and rich individuals from independent groups with wonderful names – the “Warm Pizza/Cold Beer Coalition,” for example – and run the ads without having to disclose what they believe and who gave them the money. And groups on both sides of the nation’s political divide do it.

Q. Any progress on a plan to fix the poor state highways, especially across northern Wisconsin, that our family just drove on?

A. No. It’s a centerpiece issue in the election for governor. Without being specific, Evers says “everything” should be considered as a way to pay for highways. Walker says he won’t raise the 30.9-cent gas tax, unless there is a tax cut elsewhere that offsets that tax increase.

You car mechanic is smiling. He knows your vehicle can only bounce over those crumbling highways for so long before coming in for repairs.

]Q. “Foxconn. Foxconn. Foxconn.” Why all this drama? I thought, after Walker and the Legislature approved huge tax breaks/tax incentives plan for Foxconn, the company would simply start construction on the Racine County manufacturing campus and begin hiring.

A. The Foxconn deal marries politics and economic development. Foxconn is setting up its North American headquarters in downtown Milwaukee, plans high-tech centers in downtown Green Bay and Eau Claire, and will give a $100-million research and development gift to UW-Madison, if the campus matches that amount.

Walker touts these investments as reasons why he should be re-elected. But, If he’s elected, Evers plans to rewrite Foxconn tax breaks he considers much too generous.

Q. Can we talk about something other than politics?

A. Sure. The Brewers are fighting for a playoff spot. The Packers will be opening their 100th season. Go Pack Go.

Steven Walters is a senior producer for the nonprofit public affairs channel WisconsinEye. Contact him at

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