Behind G.O.P. Power Play in Midwest: Fear of Losing a Gerrymandered Advantage

New York Times Dec. 10, 2018

LANSING, Mich. — When Michigan Republicans began moving legislation last week to limit the power of newly elected Democratic officials, some liberal activists shouted “shame!” through the Capitol rotunda while others trailed legislators with boom microphones, live-streaming their interactions online to make them uncomfortable.

But if many on the left see a power grab underway in this state and a similar one in Wisconsin, Michigan’s incoming Democratic governor sees something more: political possibility.

“This gamesmanship will keep voters and activists active through the 2020 election,” said Gretchen Whitmer, who takes office on Jan. 1. Referring to Republicans, she added, “They’re thinking short-term.”

The ongoing legislative maneuvers in Michigan and Wisconsin are part of a broader war for power in the Midwest, a politically prized region for both parties — but especially for Republicans, who are trying to dilute Democratic control ahead of bigger battles. The G.O.P., which lost the House in November as well as four key governorships in the Midwest, depends on its gerrymandered districts in the region for a trove of seats in both Congress and state legislatures. Without these safe seats, they would be unlikely to attempt such last-minute tactics.

But now, with incoming Democratic governors set to have veto power over the next round of redistricting following the 2020 census, a handful of states are confronting either court challenges to the existing districts or new, more equitable rules for drawing the next decade of legislative boundaries. In Michigan, voters this year approved an independent redistricting commission, but Republican lawmakers are using the current lame duck session to try to curb the new Democratic secretary of state’s implementation of it.

Read more…

Contact Governor Walker to speak out against bills to curtail Gov. Elect Evers and AG Elect Kaul.

While we all are waiting to see what Governor Walker will do – Veto or sign these bills to curtail the incoming Governor and AG powers, let’s raise our voices and send a message to Madison.    Here are just some of the ways you can engage and speak your mind. Send your emails now!

Click here to send an email to Gov. Walker:

Email this link to express thoughts to Gov. Walker as well.
Call on Monday to voice your concerns.   Call 608-266-1212 to reach Governor Walker’s office. You may have to leave a message but you have lent your voice. Keep trying even if you get a busy signal. If the phone is ringing, let it ring until someone answers (it may take a while for them to answer).
Don’t give up! We all need to ACT NOW to raise our voices together!

Wisconsin lawmakers vote to strip power from the incoming Democratic governor, attorney general

Washington Post

Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature passed legislation early Wednesday to weaken the power of the incoming Democratic governor, a move critics and Democrats said amounted to a naked power grab that subverts the will of voters.

The legislation consolidates power in the legislature and strips it from Gov.-elect Tony Evers and Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul, both Democrats. While Republicans lost all statewide seats in last month’s midterm elections, they retained majorities in both houses of the legislature, a result that Democrats said was achieved by gerrymandering.

Amid a throng of protesters, the legislature stayed in session all night to pass the bills, which will make it harder for Evers and Kaul to enact their proposed agendas. The state Senate approved the legislative package 17 to 16, and the Assembly passed it 56 to 27.

As a result of last month’s elections, Republicans picked up a seat in the state Senate, which they will control with a 19-to-14 majority, and lost one seat in the Assembly, where they will enjoy a 63-36 advantage.

Outgoing Gov. Scott Walker (R) has telegraphed his support for the legislation, which he has 10 days to sign. Evers, the state schools superintendent who bested Walker by more than 29,000 votes in last month’s election, has sharply criticized the efforts that he said “pushed aside” Wisconsin values so lawmakers could “usurp and cling to power.”

“Wisconsin has never seen anything like this,” Evers said in a statement released Wednesday. “Power-hungry politicians rushed through sweeping changes to our laws to expand their own power and override the will of the people of Wisconsin who asked for change on November 6th


Action Alert: Republicans have introduced bills to undercut Gov.-elect Tony Evers

Wisconsin Republicans lost badly in the midterms, but that hasn’t stopped them from being sore losers. Now Republicans in the legislature are moving forward on several proposals to undercut Governor-elect Tony Evers’s authority before he’s even taken office. They’re even floating the idea of moving the 2020 presidential primary in order to rig the election in favor of the Republican Supreme Court justice! We can’t allow Republicans to play politics with our state’s future. They’re blatantly ignoring the will of the people, and the people need to say something.

Call your legislator using the below script, and ask 5 friends to do the same. If you don’t know who your legislators are, you can call the legislative hotline at 800-362-9472 and an operator will direct you.

Find your legislators here

“Hello. My name is _______ and I’m a constituent of _______. I’m calling to urge ______ to vote against any efforts to undermine Governor-elect Evers’s authority and move the date of the 2020 primary to benefit a Republican Supreme Court justice.”
If you live in one of these Senate districts, it’s especially important that you call your Senator and ask them to vote against these bills:

Sen. Luther Olsen (SD-14, central Wisconsin and parts of Adams, Columbia, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Marquette, Outagamie, Waupaca and Waushara counties, 608-266-0751)
Sen. Patrick Testin (SD-24, central Wisconsin and parts of Adams, Marathon, Portage, Marquette, Wood, and Waushara counties, 608-266-3123)
Sen. Jerry Petrowski (SD-29, north-central Wisconsin; Marathon, Barron, Bayfield, Price, Rusk, and Taylor Counties, 608-266-2502)

Republicans are planning on bringing these bills to the floor as early as Tuesday, so we need to act fast. Please, spread the word so we can prevent this last-minute GOP effort to hold onto power.

Anti-Trump protests gave way to local fervor that helped turn Wisconsin back to blue

Washington Post

November 23 at 6:37 PM

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — Two years ago, before Donald Trump was elected, Anna Rybicki would not have been seated at the dining room table at her home on Rust Street, devising a school reform strategy with five allies. She would not have attended a three-day community organizing workshop or made a pitch to the school board.

“It has changed my life, him getting elected,” said Rybicki, 39, a lawyer who has been a stay-at-home mother since 2011. “I never cried; I mobilized. That’s what felt good to me. I went to every meeting of everything.”

Since the eruption of nationwide anti-Trump protests in January 2017, a central question has been whether the energy would persist. The signs in Wisconsin so far have been positive for Democrats: They unexpectedly won a state Supreme Court race in April and flipped a reliably Republican state Senate seat in June. On Nov. 6, they defeated GOP Gov. Scott Walker for the first time in four tries. The statewide turnout percentage was among the highest in the country.

In Eau Claire, population 68,000, voters toppled a Republican-appointed judge and elected liberal City Council candidates this year. That pointed to an unexpected development: Democratic activism spurred by a national election is being channeled into changes at the local level.

For Rybicki and Erica Zerr, it is an effort to change the middle school science curriculum and open a public charter school. For Bill Hogseth, it is a voting rights campaign. For Becca Cooke, it is the advancement of women in business. For Amy O’Connor, it is work at a cultural center and support for an array of liberal causes.

The alternative was to “wake up every morning and check Twitter and be furious every day,” said O’Connor, who shapes theater and arts offerings at a new performing arts center in Eau Claire. Confronting a feeling that “everything is lost,” as she put it, she aimed “to build something positive as my form of protest.”

“The sense of civic engagement has never been higher,” said Rep. Ron Kind (D), who this month won a 12th term in his western Wisconsin district, which includes Eau Claire. “There are a lot of people I’ve never met, and I’ve never known before, coming out of the woodwork. I think it’s real.”


Voters cast ballots at a polling station in Wauwatosa, Wis., on Nov. 6, 2018. (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News)

North of Eau Claire, Wren Keturi is a Democrat who ran for State Assembly in a district that Republican Rob Summerfield won in 2016 with 64 percent of the vote. She fell short in November, yet what struck her as she navigated long rural driveways to knock on doors was an openness to engage on local issues, from schools to roads and bridges.

“Folks are tired of how hateful things got,” said Keturi, 29, a former teachers union organizer. “Most people want to have conversations with their neighbors, but they don’t know how when they disagree on big [national] issues.”

Trump was the first Republican presidential candidate to win Wisconsin since 1984, beating Hillary Clinton by about 23,000 votes among 3 million cast. A host of counties and rural communities in western Wisconsin supported him, although Eau Claire, a former industrial town 90 miles east of Minneapolis, stayed blue.

Hogseth, a wildlife biologist, wondered in early 2017 what he would tell his young children 15 years later if he did nothing. “I didn’t want to tell my kids, ‘Well, I was busy.’ ” He devoured the organizing manual of the Indivisible political group, began reading about political movements and called a meeting with a Facebook post. He was unsure who would show up, but felt he had to do something.

Seventy-five people turned out. Within a few weeks, the nascent chapter of Indivisible had grown to 1,500 members, he said. They wrote scores of letters demanding that Trump release his taxes. Some joined the 715 Group, created by Cooke and named for the local telephone area code, which pooled campaign contributions from young voters to maximize their access and influence.

But as the months went by, the Indivisible organization splintered.

“The resistance model kind of ran out of steam,” Hogseth, 38, said, with “people feeling like they were beating their heads against the wall. Going to town hall meetings, calling Congress, writing letters, reacting to the news cycle. People wanted to be working for something rather than against something.”

That was Zerr’s story. A Montessori teacher raised in South Dakota, she had campaigned briefly for Barack Obama in 2008 but otherwise was “simply complacent,” as she put it. Trump’s election was a “punch in the gut,” she said.

Zerr, 35, credits the early Indivisible meetings with giving her the confidence — and the contacts — to push a science learning model for middle schoolers that put her in front of the school board with Rybicki in December. As she sat in Rybicki’s dining room, coaching new colleagues, she said, “This is the first time I’ve led a community-wide effort.”

Trump’s election changed Rybicki, too, shifting her focus from being “polite and well-liked and private. I don’t like going out on a limb. It’s a risk. There could be disrespect and unpleasantness and it could be uncomfortable.”

And now?

“I connect with the protest sign I once saw: ‘So bad, even introverts are here,’ ” she said. “This is just too important to keep playing it safe.”

Almost immediately after the election, Rybicki volunteered to register voters. She invited neighbors to her house for drinks. She started a book group. She attended Indivisible meetings. She searched for female mentors, telling herself, “I need to figure out how to make a difference.” The day after a white-supremacist gathering in Charlottesville left counterprotester Heather Heyer dead, Rybicki and a friend organized a rally in a public park. More than 150 people attended.

“It’s so cool to feel communities coming together,” Rybicki said, “feeling that warmth, feeling connected.”

The sensation is familiar to O’Connor, who recalled that upward of 100 people ventured out to raise money for the Family Support Center, a nonprofit organization focused on helping those affected by domestic and sexual violence. Also, the gathering of the new Midwest Feminist group to increase funding of the Red Letter Grant, Cooke’s effort to support female entrepreneurs.

“There’s an accountability about having a group fighting together,” she said. “I can’t say, ‘I’m tired,’ or ‘I’m busy.’ It’s not really an option, because I know they’re tired and busy, too.”

Cooke, 30, may be the most experienced figure in party politics among the crowd of young Eau Claire liberals. She served as finance director for Democratic candidates in four states before moving back to town in 2015 to open a store, Red’s Mercantile. She considered getting out of politics, but after Trump’s victory, an exit didn’t feel right.

“People started coming to me: ‘What do we do?’ ” Cooke explained, “because we had this women-charged message coming out of the store. We’re cultivating a feeling that you’re connected, that you’re not just by yourself, that you’ve got your girls backing you up.”

Jodi Emerson has seen the impact. After working on human-trafficking issues, she became a first-time candidate for office, winning a State Assembly seat this month. Noting a growing brigade of volunteers one Sunday afternoon as she canvassed for votes, she said, “There’s a feeling out there of people saying, ‘I can’t sit out.’ Some people join the military to serve their country. Some people knock on doors to serve their country.”

Hogseth turned to voting rights, registering people to vote and helping others locate documents to comply with Wisconsin’s voter ID law. He is also lobbying for a state law requiring automatic voter registration. He recruited trainers to work with volunteers and attended community organizing sessions in Milwaukee and Eau Claire to hone his skills.

“It has become all-consuming,” said Hogseth, who added that he has no regrets. “However it does turn out, I feel I’ve gone on a journey. I’m very different from who I was a year ago,” he said. “And in a place I totally thought that I knew, it has revealed a new version of my hometown to me.

Republicans in Madison try to rig future elections after midterm losses

Town Officials:

For those of you that follow state politics, you know the legislature is planning to hold a lame duck session in December. Late last week several media outlets reported that the legislature is considering creating a third spring election in March as part of their lame duck session agenda. The March election would be for the Presidential Preference Primary, separating this from the April general election. Links to two of the many articles are noted below. You can find more by searching the internet.

According the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Article, the April 2016 election cost about $6.8 million, an amount that one would expect to be repeated in a March election. Regardless of the political motives or lack thereof that the parties and media have focused on, having a third spring election is an unfunded mandate both financially and also on town clerks and election workers.

Please consider contacting your legislators to let them know your thoughts on creating a third spring election.

Wisconsin Towns Association
W7686 County Road MMM, Shawano, WI 54166

Our opponents may move to restrict the powers of the Governor’s office



Our opponents in the Wisconsin State Legislature have discussed limiting the powers of our newly elected governor, Tony Evers—before he even takes office.

These are the same powers this opposition-controlled legislature expanded when Republican, Scott Walker occupied the governor’s mansion. 

Like gerrymandering and our Voter ID law, this is another crystal clear attempt by our opponents to subvert the will of the people—and it’s making national news. 

Make your voice heard:

Find your State Representative and contact him by Monday evening. 

Tell him you expect that your vote has been heard and that Governor-elect Evers will be afforded the very same powers granted to Governor Walker in 2011. 

District 28

State Representative Adam Jarchow

p. (608) 267-2365


District 29

State Representative Rob Stafsholt

p. (608) 266-7683


District 30

State Representative Shannon Zimmerman

p. (608) 266-1526


 District 75

State Representative Romaine Quinn

p. (608) 266-2519


Nothing happens by accident. Every drop of decency is fought for.

From Davis Hammett, a Kansas LGBT activist in Kansas via Facebook: 

Year 2013: I’m a 22 year old queer who moves to Kansas to paint a rainbow house across from a notorious hate group. I realize the politicians here are more dangerous than the hate group; however, the people seem nothing like the politics that dominate. I start to really like Kansas. My boss asks me when I’m coming back to New York since this project was suppose to only be a few months. I tell him “I think I live in Kansas now.” 

2014: The most extreme right-wing one-sided government in KS history is elected. 

2015: Brownback rescinds LGBTQ protections by executive order making it legal to fire and harass LGBTQ state workers. The KS government increasingly uses prejudice and scapegoating to distract from their failing economic experiment. In response, we organize the largest protest in many years. I get messages from gay state workers who are scared for their safety and future. Kansas is a very dark place in this moment… A Senator walks by me in the Statehouse and softly mentions how wrong the attacks on the LGBTQ community are. 

2016: I leave LGBTQ activism to devote myself completely to voter registration and turnout. I’m convinced that if more young Kansans voted things would be different. 

2017: 1/3 of the KS legislature is newly elected as a rebuke to Brownback. The first week of session they are greeted by over a thousand Kansans screaming “Whose House? Our House.” We’ve united different groups under a Kansas People’s Agenda demanding change. The Legislature starts to turn things around and activism is growing. The Brownback Experiment is repealed… Some random lady messages me saying she wants to talk about the future of Kansas. She’s pretty great.  

2018: That random lady, Sharice Davids, is elected the first LGBTQ Congressperson from Kansas. She gives a victory speech surrounded by LGBTQ youth. I’m overwhelmed thinking back to how most my life I thought accepting my sexuality meant forfeiting my future. The same night Brandon Woodard and Susan Ruiz are elected the first LGBTQ Kansas State Representatives.  

2019: The Senator who softly spoke words of solidarity to me in 2015, Laura Kelly, is the Governor and her first executive order is restoring LGBTQ protections to state workers.

Nothing. Nothing. Nothing happens by accident.

Every drop of decency is fought for.