Capitol Notes

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In this week’s Capitol Notes conversation, we look ahead to the political stories that will likely top the headlines in 2021. 

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In this week’s Capitol Notes conversation, we’re going to look back at the top political stories of 2020. One of the biggest stories was the impact of the coronavirus, and how elected officials responded.

Here in Wisconsin, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and health officials declared a state of emergency at the outset, which resulted in a couple of stay-at-home orders, as well as mandates for masks and capacity limits on businesses. Several lawsuits ensued from Republican lawmakers and political groups.

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Newly elected Republican state Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu says he wants to pass a bill early next year that would allow clerks to begin counting absentee ballots before Election Day.

LeMahieu tried to get a bill to this effect passed earlier this year.  It had bipartisan support but failed because some Republican lawmakers opposed it. 

In this week’s Capitol Notes conversation, WUWM’s Marti Mikkelson asks JR Ross of wispolitics.com, if he thinks such a bill would pass this time.

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The Wisconsin Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision Monday on whether the Nov. 3 election was conducted illegally in Milwaukee and Dane counties, as President Donald Trump has claimed.

President-elect Joe Biden won Wisconsin by about 21,000 votes but Trump is seeking to throw out thousands of ballots in the two counties, which could result in a victory for him here.

The state Supreme Court heard arguments in the case on Saturday and would need to issue a ruling by noon Monday, when Wisconsin electors are scheduled to cast the state’s 10 electoral votes for Biden.

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It’s shaping up to be another busy week for the Wisconsin courts. The state Supreme Court rejected a couple of lawsuits last week related to President Donald Trump’s claims that the election was conducted illegally in the state.

The court ruled that Trump’s grievances must first go through lower courts. His attorneys then filed similar claims in federal court in Wisconsin.

Becca Schimmel / WUWM

Milwaukee and Dane counties have finished their presidential recounts. It turns out President-elect Joe Biden netted 87 additional votes between the two counties. Unofficial results show Biden maintains a roughly 20,000 vote lead in Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump says he’ll file a lawsuit by Tuesday disputing the validity of about 240,000 ballots. He claims early in-person absentee voting was conducted illegally, among other arguments. Trump wants to overturn the election results by getting those ballots thrown out.

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The presidential recount in Milwaukee and Dane counties is entering its fourth day. Unofficial results from Nov. 3 show President-elect Joe Biden ahead of President Donald Trump in Wisconsin by about 20,000 votes.

Milwaukee County election officials say the recount is moving slowly because Trump’s attorneys have been constantly interrupting and challenging tens of thousands of ballots, alleging fraud and seeking to discount them. They say few votes have actually been counted and the process is falling far behind.

Maayan Silver / WUWM

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers says he’ll introduce a coronavirus relief package for Wisconsin this week, amid soaring numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.  He announced his intention after he delivered a statewide address, urging Wisconsinites to voluntarily shelter-in-place but stopped short of issuing another emergency stay-at-home order. 

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With Democrat Joe Biden the president-elect, President Donald Trump is still vowing to ask for a recount in Wisconsin. His legal team is looking into whether voter fraud occurred in other states.  Meanwhile, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has called on an Assembly committee to investigate whether there was voter fraud here — unofficial results show that Biden won Wisconsin by about 20,000 votes. 

In this week’s Capitol Notes conversation, WUWM’s Marti Mikkelson asked JR Ross of wispolitics.com what kind of answers the committee hopes to obtain from witnesses.

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A number of media outlets are declaring Democrat Joe Biden the winner of Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes. Biden holds a lead of about 20,000 votes over Republican President Donald Trump. Trump’s campaign says it will request a recount in Wisconsin.

In this special edition of Capitol Notes, WUWM’s Marti Mikkelson asked JR Ross of wispolitics.com what a recount would look like if it takes place.

Tuesday is Election Day. In addition to the presidential race, Wisconsin’s eight congressional seats are up for grabs, as well as all 99 state Assembly seats and half of the state Senate.

In this special edition of Capitol Notes, we look at some of the more contested legislative races. Some of the Assembly seats have been particularly lively, especially in the Milwaukee area. WUWM's Marti Mikkelson asked JR Ross of wispolitics.com where he sees the most competitive races.

Scott Olson / Getty Images

President Trump worked in another visit to Wisconsin over the weekend. He drew a crowd of about 10,000 people to a rally Saturday night in Waukesha. It was the fifth time since August in which Trump has visited the state. The Waukesha rally was held a week after thousands turned out for a rally in Janesville, and Trump is scheduled to hold another rally near La Crosse on Tuesday. 

Chuck Quirmbach

The number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Wisconsin continues to break records. Cases have been averaging 3,000 per day, then on Friday, topped 4,000. In the midst of all this, Gov. Tony Evers issued an emergency order, requiring bars, restaurants and retail stores to operate at 25% capacity. Some had been running at 50%. A judge set a hearing for Monday in Sawyer County after the Wisconsin Tavern League sued to overturn the order. 

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President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are resuming in-person campaign stops across the country after a bout with COVID-19 sidelined the president.  Trump is set to deliver a speech and attend a fundraiser in Janesville on Saturday, according to an invitation to supporters, while Pence is scheduled to visit a manufacturing facility in Waukesha on Tuesday. The presidential election is only three weeks away.

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President Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis late last week thwarted the Republican's plans to campaign over the weekend. Meanwhile, Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who tested negative, indicated he would press ahead with in-person events.

In this week’s Capitol Notes conversation, WUWM’s Marti Mikkelson asked JR Ross of wispolitics.com how he thinks the developments might affect the campaigns in Wisconsin.

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President Trump has announced his Supreme Court pick to replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away earlier this month. Trump has chosen conservative federal appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett and confirmation hearings are scheduled to begin Oct. 12.

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Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has essentially fired Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Secretary Caleb Frostman. It happened amid a huge backlog of unprocessed unemployment claims that had piled up since the state shut down in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Evers called for Frostman’s departure on Friday and he resigned shortly thereafter.

Scott Olson / Getty Images

At least two major party candidates are heading to Wisconsin again this week. Republican President Donald Trump and his running mate, Vice President Mike Pence, will make stops here  — after both visited within the last two weeks. Pence will be in Janesville Monday, while Trump will hold a rally Friday night in Mosinee. 

Political observers have highlighted Wisconsin’s importance in this year’s presidential race. Even so, it’s unusual to get two visits from both the president and vice president in such a short period of time.

Maayan Silver

Last week saw historic visits to Wisconsin from President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Both candidates went to Kenosha in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Trump surveyed the damage that happened following looting and burning of businesses, and then held a roundtable with business leaders and law enforcement officials. Then, Biden visited Kenosha two days later and met with the family of Jacob Blake. He also called for the officer who shot Blake to be charged.

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President Trump is expected to visit Kenosha Tuesday, nine days after the police shooting of Jacob Blake.  Trump's appearance happens among pleas from Gov. Tony Evers and Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian not to come to the city.

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The mostly virtual Democratic National Convention is behind us now. Even though it wasn’t actually held in Milwaukee because of the coronavirus, the convention did have a bit of a Wisconsin flavor to it each night. Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Gov. Tony Evers and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin all spoke. Now, we turn to the Republican National Convention, which begins Monday in North Carolina and runs through Thursday. Republicans have also planned a mostly virtual event, and it will have a Wisconsin presence, too — as former Gov.

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Monday marks the start of the long-awaited Democratic National Convention. The four-day event when it was announced a year ago was originally going to take place in Milwaukee, dropping $200 million into the regional economy and attracting 50,000 visitors. But now, it’s mostly virtual because of the coronavirus pandemic. Joe Biden will accept his party’s nomination from his home state, Delaware. Most other speeches will occur in other places, too, although a few will be broadcast from Milwaukee.

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Voters will go to the polls on Tuesday to cast ballots for the August partisan primaries. In this special edition of Capitol Notes, we look at some of the more interesting races. One that’s received a lot of attention in the Milwaukee area is a two-way Republican primary for retiring GOP Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner’s seat. The district covers areas north and west of Milwaukee. Longtime state Sen. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald announced a year ago that he was running for the seat, but he faces a challenge from Republican business owner Cliff DeTemple.

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Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide mask requirement took effect over the weekend as coronavirus cases continue to rise in Wisconsin — and Republicans who control the Legislature are threatening to block it. Evers declared a public health emergency in order to issue the mandate, which applies to anyone over 4 for all indoor spaces except a person’s home. It also applies to bars and restaurants with outdoor seating areas.

Maayan Silver

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has directed state agencies to slash $250 million from their budgets in the coming months to make up for revenue losses incurred by the coronavirus pandemic.  The cuts would serve as a blueprint for when Evers and the Legislature craft a new state budget early next year. The cuts are in addition to the $70 million the governor ordered a few months ago, which took effect July 1. 

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Vice President Mike Pence was in the battleground state of Wisconsin last week, campaigning for another four years of him and President Donald Trump. Pence made a couple of stops, including one in Ripon, the birthplace of the Republican Party. Trump narrowly won Wisconsin in 2016 and is trailing former Vice President and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the polls.

Chuck Quirmbach

The Wisconsin Republican Party held its annual state convention over the weekend in Green Bay.  About 300 people attended the two-day in-person event in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.  Masks were available, but few people wore them, and participants sat close to each other.  The GOP took the opposite approach of state Democrats, who held an all-virtual convention last month.

Maayan Silver

A federal appeals court panel has upheld some voting restrictions in Wisconsin just four months before the November presidential election. They include limits on in-person early voting hours to two weeks before an election -- and a return to requiring people to live in a district for 28 days, not 10, before they can vote.

In this week’s Capitol Notes conversation, JR Ross of WisPolitics.com discusses the winners and losers of the ruling with WUWM’s Marti Mikkelson. He also describes what the November presidential election might look like if the ruling stands.  

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence made separate stops in Wisconsin last week, while surrogates for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden held a virtual event here. Both sides took swipes at each other during their appearances.

In this week’s Capitol Notes conversation, WUWM’s Marti Mikkelson asked Jeff Mayers of wispolitics.com if all the attention signals Wisconsin’s importance in the November election.

Maayan Silver

Former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson is back in the public eye. The Board of Regents announced late last week that Thompson will be the interim UW System president while the search continues for a permanent replacement for Ray Cross, who is retiring. Thompson will assume the job on July 1, after the lone finalist for the position took himself out of the running.

In this week’s Capitol Notes conversation, WUWM's Marti Mikkelson asks JR Ross of wispolitics.com what he thinks an interim Thompson presidency will look like.  He says it won't be easy.

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