On Tuesday, state Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, announced in an angry email to his colleagues that he would no longer be a member of the Senate Democratic caucus. He explained that he felt Senate Majority Leader Mark Miller, D-Monona, had intentionally slighted him by not offering him a committee chairmanship.
The one-seat majority Democrats had gained mere weeks earlier — by ousting Republican Sen. Van Wanggaard of Racine in a recall election — was immediately put in doubt.
Even though Cullen promised he wouldn’t caucus with Republicans — thereby giving them the majority — it was unclear how leadership in the Senate would be determined with the parties split evenly and Cullen as a potential independent.
Those calculations have been largely set aside, however, since Republican Sen. Rich Zipperer will soon be vacating his seat to serve in Gov. Scott Walker’s administration, meaning that seat will remain unoccupied (and therefore un-Republican) until it is filled in the November elections.
Some blame Miller for being an ineffectual leader, while others blame Cullen for being stubborn and selfish.
“I can’t decide whether I’m madder at Miller for being an idiot or at Cullen for being a jerk,” said one Democratic insider, who refused to be named.
It is unlikely, however, that the intense speculation Cullen’s “treason” has spawned will amount to much in the end.
“(It) might mean more if it was possible that the Democrats were going to maintain their majority come November, but nobody I know who hasn’t drunk the Kool-Aid thinks that’s likely,” wrote former Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz on his blog for The Daily Page.
Indeed, there is considerable consensus among politicos that the Republicans will have the upper hand in this fall’s Senate races, largely as a result of the newly drawn Senate districts the GOP-controlled Legislature approved last year above the protests of Democrats and government watchdog groups who decry partisan gerrymandering.
In particular, Republicans are heavily favored to win control of the seat currently held by Sen. Jim Holperin, D-Conover, who represents a district that includes most of the North Woods and other areas of northeast Wisconsin.
The district already leaned Republican. But it became even more so in the redistricting process, as Republican map designers replaced a number of heavily Democratic communities — particularly those with heavy Native American populations — with more Republican areas.
The most recent fundraising report further demonstrates the advantage the GOP holds in the district. The Republican candidate, state Rep. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, had $100,000 on hand as of the most recent campaign finance report on June 30, $88,000 of which had been raised in the previous quarter.
In contrast, Lisa Theo and Susan Sommers, the two Democrats competing for the party nomination, had $2,200 and $757 on hand, respectively.
Even if one assumes that some donors are holding on to their money until after the primary, the picture still isn’t pretty for North Woods Democrats. Combined, their two Senate candidates received roughly $8,800 from individual contributors, approximately a tenth of what Tiffany raised during the same period of time.
Read the Rest: Madison Politiscope: Senate Dems’ squabble likely pointless.