By State Representative, Leon D. Young
As you probably know, Spring Elections were held last Tuesday (April 3rd), and, if you’re a Democrat, you should be feeling pretty encouraged by the election results in general — and the outcome in two ballot decisions.
Statewide voters were being asked to weigh in on an important ballot referendum that would have changed the state constitution and eliminated the independently elected state treasurer that has existed for the past 170 years or, in other words, since the state’s inception. Among the many original functions intended by Wisconsin’s founders, the state treasurer’s chief responsibility is to be our independent fiscal watchdog.
In truth, Republicans have had this constitutional office in their crosshairs for some time and have slowly taken many of the administrative functions away from the state treasurer, weakening the office to such an extent that they now argue that the post is no longer needed. Case in point, the current treasurer Matt Adamczyk, a Republican, has been quite outspoken about his desire to eliminate his office.
Adamczyk is currently the only person in the office after he says he let go of the other three employees and alleges that “We don’t have anything left to do in the office.”
Make no mistake about it. Eliminating the state treasurer would have made it earlier for politicians to play fast and loose with our state tax dollars. In fact, former Republican State Treasurer Jack Voight campaigned hard to defeat this referendum because he was convinced that this office provides important checks and balances for hardworking tax payers.
The other pivotal ballot decision in last week’s election was the high-profile contest for the state supreme court. The race for the vacant seat on the bench pitted Judge Rebecca Dallet against Justice Michael Screnock.
In hindsight, voters were presented with a stark contrast between the two candidates seeking this judicial appointment. Justice Dallet, is viewed as a liberal-leaning moderate, who has been a public servant her entire working career: serving 11 years as a Milwaukee County prosecutor and 10 years as a Milwaukee County judge.
On the other hand, her opponent, Judge Michael Screnock is an extreme right-wing Republican. Screnock, a Sauk County judge, was on Gov. Scott Walker’s legal team that defended the controversial Act 10 and worked with the Republicans to draw gerrymandered legislative districts so extreme that they were declared unconstitutional by a federal three-judge panel – one Democratic and two Republican appointees.
And, when the dust finally settled, Rebecca Dallet had trounced her ultra-conservative opponent. Her impressive victory marked the first time in 23 years that a liberal candidate, who wasn’t an incumbent, won a seat on the high court – and it could be a harbinger of future things to come.
To illustrate the point, Dane County Circuit Judge Josann Reynolds recently ruled that the governor must call special elections to fill two vacant seats in the legislature. Walker had initially declined to call those elections after two Republican lawmakers stepped down to join his administration in December.
And, as the mid-term elections rapidly approach and Democratic voters around the country appear to be highly-motivated and active, the GOP could be facing a political tsunami in trying to maintain its majority.