Feingold on war; new race in the 35th Assembly District?
Speaking to a group of supporters in Wausau yesterday, U.S. Senator Russ Feingold reiterated that he respectfully disagrees with President Obama’s Afghanistan policy, just as he disagreed with the Iraq War. Trying to bring the complicated scenarios to ground level, Feingold suggested that people think of the terrorist threat in the Middle East as if was a street gang that works in a large neighborhood of a city. So there’s an incident in some alley in the neighborhood and you send all the police there and say ‘well, we’ve got that alley under control now.’ It doesn’t work. They’re just going to show up somewhere else and it’s going to happen over and over again.
It makes a lot of sense.
Feingold also said that while the health care bill is far from perfect, it is a significant accomplishment that moves things in the right direction and it needs to be passed while the opportunity to do that is here.
Also in attendance was Wisconsin Attorney General candidate and former DNR Secretary Scott Hassett. (His last shot at elective office, ironically, was a primary contest for state senate back in the early 1980s against Russ Feingold. Today, he says he’s grudgingly willing to concede that the best person may have won that contest.) Hassett says GOP Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has pursued a partisan agenda in which he picks and chooses when he will defend the State of Wisconsin and when he will sit on his hands.
As usual, the best tidbits were under wraps or simply matters of speculation by various attendees.
First was the thought that Kevin Hermening is running for 29th Senate District against Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker primarily to position himself for a shot at Dave Obey’s 7th U.S. Congressional District seat at some point in the future. It makes some sense, because as difficult as it might be to unseat Decker, it isn’t nearly as tall of an order as Sean Duffy will have going directly after Obey this year. As an incumbent already holding office in a good-sized chunk of geography in the 7th gaining recognition and coverage for a few years, a person would be in a far better position to take the congressional seat someday. That would be particularly true if the congressman ever retires and the race becomes one for an open seat. Republicans represent two of the three Assembly districts in the 29th already. Of course, that is no guarantee of anything. Democrat Jim Holperin represents the 12th Senate District with all three Assembly seats comprising it held by the GOP.
Could the 35th Assembly District heat up?
Republicans can’t just assume that any off-year gains they’re likely to make on the national scene will assure them of wins back home in Wisconsin. One rumor: That Republican 35th Assembly District Representative Don Friske may not be looking forward to doing another term in Madison. Friske is a likeable guy and he has won re-election by decent margins. But he also has a business and being in the minority isn’t that much fun because it’s far more difficult to influence policy. (Incidentally, we have nothing from Friske to indicate this is even a remote possibility, but it’s January, after all.)
Democrat Jay Schmelling has run for the seat in the past and he’s still showing up in the right places where a potential candidate should, but it doesn’t necessarily make him the presumptive front-runner or even a candidate if the seat goes open. Another possibility is former Merrill Area Public School Board member Renea Frederick. She and her husband, Todd, are well known and have been politically active for years. They are co-founders of FM Enterprises, which was acquired by Graham Architectural Products of Pennsylvania last July – a development that brought Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton to Merrill for the announcement. The acquisition was expected to add 60 jobs in Merrill over the next two years and coming during the depths of the recession as it did was quite a story. It also presumably leaves Frederick with resources, an attractive resume — and perhaps the time and desire to pursue something like public office at a higher level. She didn’t rule it out.