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A Look Back on The Year in Wisconsin Politics


As 2014 draws to a close, we revisit some of the big political developments in Wisconsin. The governor’s race dominated the scene, while the courts intervened in a couple hot-button issues.

For nearly the entire year, Marquette Pollster Charles Franklin detected the race between Gov. Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke, as neck-and-neck.

But on election night, the incumbent Republican governor rather comfortably won a second term. Supporters gathered around Walker at State Fair Park. He took several shots at Washington D. C., stoking rumors that he’s eyeing a bid for the White House. Walker also mentioned his goals, including to move people off of government dependency.

“Not that we want to push them out into the cold, but because we understand that true freedom and prosperity doesn’t come from the mighty hand of the government. It comes from empowering people to live their own lives and control their own destinies through the dignity that comes from work,” Walker says.

Since election night, legislative leaders have created several new committees, including one to fight benefits fraud. One issue lawmakers briefly debated in 2014, was same-sex marriage. Democratic Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa of Milwaukee urged her colleagues to repeal the ban state voters approved, in 2006.

“I remember crying myself to sleep that night and promising myself that I would always continue to advocate for marriage equality for our LBGT Wisconsinites, because we deserve to enjoy the right of marriage just as our straight allies do,” Zamarripa says.

While the Legislature did not advance Zamarripa’s proposal, a federal judge overturned Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex marriage, later in 2014.

Another item the courts took up this year, is Voter ID – the requirement that people present government identification, in order to vote. Conflicting decisions rendered the state law on again and off again. Attorney Lester Pines argued that the courts should scrap it.

“Our constitution says there are three qualifications, that one must be a U.S. citizen, 18 years of age and a resident of the state. Those are the qualifications to vote, nothing more and nothing less,” Pines says.

The Wisconsin Dept. of Justice defended the law. Assistant Attorney General Clayton Kawski insisted that the Legislature has the power to adopt election rules.

“This case is not about whether the Voter ID law is good public policy. It’s instead about whether the Legislature had the authority to enact such as law. The state’s position is that under Article 3, Section 2 of the Wisconsin Constitution, it is not prohibited,” Kawski says.

The U. S. Supreme Court intervened – because the November elections were quickly approaching. It overturned Wisconsin’s law.

The election saw Republicans sweep into office again and later reveal their goals for 2015. They include pursuing a Right to Work law – it would ban mandatory union dues.

GOP leaders have also spoken about overhauling the Government Accountability Board – the agency that oversees elections. And a few are mulling restrictions on abortion, such as banning the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.