MADISON — By all rights, politics and the Green Bay Packers‘ first preseason game should have been the most important news coming out of Wisconsin this week.
The days are ticking down to Tuesday’s primary election, when Wisconsin voters decide which candidates will represent the political parties in the November general election.
Most of the attention is focused on the four-way GOP battle to replace retiring Democratic U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-District 1, is getting major buzz as a top contender for vice president.
And anyone catching Thursday’s Packers game had to come away thinking that the team has a lot of work to do if it hopes to return to the Super Bowl this year.
Broadcast nationally on ESPN, the game featured the first female to officiate an NFL game.
Some other time, those stories would have been the headlines.
This week, however, began with a shooting in Oak Creek that left seven dead, including the shooter, and others in critical condition.
This week, politics takes a backseat.
Officials, including the FBI, spent most of the week investigating the Oak Creek tragedy, in which they believe Wade Michael Page entered a Sikh temple, shot and killed six people and wounded others, before fatally shooting himself.
On Thursday, police announced that the condition of two of three men injured in the shooting was upgraded to serious from critical, while the third man still remains in critical condition.
A condolence book has been placed at the main visitors’ desk inside the Capitol where people can share messages of support for the victims’ families and the Sikh community.
“While we are still trying to determine exactly what motivated the killer, it’s important to note discrimination and violence targeted toward a specific ethnic or religious group runs contrary to America’s core ideals,” Gov. Scott Walker said in his weekly radio address. “By placing it in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, our Founding Fathers placed special emphasis on protecting religious freedom for all Americans. We must show constant vigilance in defending our founding principles.”
Countdown to primary vote
Former Gov. Tommy Thompson leads the GOP pack in the U.S. Senate race, according to the latest Marquette Law School poll, but the race is tightening.
In the poll of 725 likely Republican primary voters, 28 percent support Thompson, versus 20 percent for businessman Eric Hovde, 18 percent for former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann of District 1 and 13 percent for Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald of Horicon.
That indicates a closer race than the July poll, in which Thompson held a 12-point advantage over Hovde, who came in second.
Self-described “very conservative” voters prefer Hovde or Neumann over Thompson, but the former governor is the favored candidate among more moderate voters, according to the poll.
With the recall elections now history, the attention has turned to the Senate race — and the attack dogs are out.
A few examples:
“D.C. insider and lobbyist Tommy Thompson could be professor emeritus at the Washington School for Disingenuous Politicians,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Mike Tate said in a statement. “After railing against Eric Hovde for trying to buy the election, Tommy Thompson went ahead and tried to buy the election. Thompson has made a fortune on K Street and is doing exactly what he criticized Eric Hovde for doing. Sounds like typical Washington double speak.”
Hovde released an ad attacking Thompson for supporting President Barack Obama’s health-care reforms.
Thompson, in turn, said he’d make repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act a priority and retaliated, “Hovde should be worried about answering the growing questions regarding his candidacy, including his political donations, Wall Street bailouts, farm subsidies and not paying property taxes.”
Tuesday’s vote will determine the GOP contender, but that’s just the first phase of the war.
Whoever wins Tuesday will face U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-District 2, in November.
Vice President Ryan?
Speculation is rampant about who presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney will pick for a running mate.
But the buzz surrounding Paul Ryan got louder Thursday after the Wall Street Journal put in a plug for the Wisconsin congressman, who is chairman of the House Budget Committee.
“Against the advice of every Beltway bedwetter, (Ryan) has put entitlement reform at the center of the public agenda — before it becomes a crisis that requires savage cuts,” says the Journal’s editorial page. “And he has done so as part of a larger vision that stresses tax reform for faster growth, spending restraint to prevent a Greek-like budget fate, and a Jack Kemp-like belief in opportunity for all. … As important, Mr. Ryan can make his case in a reasonable and unthreatening way.”
Romney’s campaign has said his VP announcement will come via smartphone app, which can be downloaded here.
Republicans officially will choose their presidential candidate at the Republican National Convention, which will be held from Aug. 27-30 in Tampa.
The Democratic National Convention will be held next month in Charlotte, N.C.
Everyone needs a little JFC
The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance met for the first time since Democrats took control of the state Senate in the late spring recall elections.
The power shift meant that co-chairman and state Rep. Robin Vos, R-Burlington, sat next to new co-chairwoman state Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, instead of former co-chair state Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills.
Taylor drove the action in the meeting, calling for bipartisanship in the committee “to do the work of the people.” On Friday, that work included approving $2.7 million for the Department of Employee Trust Funds to modernize and integrate agency operations.
Setting bipartisanship aside for a moment, before voting to approve summaries of the fiscal effect of legislation enacted by the 2011 Legislature, Taylor took the time to explain to the audience watching on WisconsinEye that she by no means supported Walker’s budget.
When roll was called, Vos voted, “Yes for the Walker budget.”
After some discussion, the committee also allocated $25 million to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. in the form of tax credits for job creation. Lawmakers discussed granting an additional $25 million to WEDC in December, but that money remains on the table.