In an election that could help determine control of the state Senate, voters in Wisconsin’s 32nd District will chose between a veteran lawmaker swept into power last year in a wave of anger over collective bargaining reforms and a relative newcomer pushed into politics by rising property taxes.

Sen. Jennifer Shilling, who studied politics and public administration at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, has two decades of political experience. She served one term on the La Crosse County board and was a legislative and congressional aide before being elected to the state Assembly in 2000.

The La Crosse Democrat easily held the 95th District seat for 10 years before being elected to the Senate in a 2011 recall against two-term Republican incumbent Dan Kapanke.

Shilling won with nearly 56 percent of the vote in an election fueled by furor over a 138-page bill that Republicans introduced that year, shortly after taking control of both legislative houses and the governor’s office.

The bill, known as Act 10, included sweeping reforms, notably the elimination of collective bargaining rights for most public sector workers, and it sparked weeks of historic protests, with tens of thousands of people descending on Madison. Fourteen Senate Democrats fled the state in an effort to stall the bill, which Gov. Scott Walker said he wanted passed in seven days.

In the end, nine senators — six Republicans and three Democrats — were hit with recalls. Democrats won two seats, but weren’t able to win a majority until 2012, when John Lehman defeated Van Wanggaard in another recall.

Republican challenger Bill Feehan came to politics late in life.

A salesman with the food company Unilever, he traces his involvement to a 2005 letter to the editor calling for personal Social Security investment accounts.

“That was a very scary thing for me,” he said. “To actually put my ideas in writing in a letter to the editor.”

That led to a column, but it was President Barack Obama’s acceptance of the Democratic party nomination in 2008 that Feehan said spurred him to volunteer with the local GOP.

Then in 2009, Feehan said, “I got mad about my property taxes and decided to run for county board.”

Though one of a handful of conservative voices on the board, Feehan said the experience showed him government isn’t all bad.

“When you look at people who are conservative, you have too many who don’t see that government does good things,” he said. “On the other side you have people who are Democrats and liberal who think government can do everything. For me it was about coming to a place to see it in a way that’s more balanced.”

Shilling and Feehan agree that jobs and the economy remain the top concern for the district’s 172,122 residents. Their approaches differ, though.

Shilling says the state needs to look for ways to partner with businesses and to restore education funding — particularly to the technical colleges — in order to close the skills gap, which has left some 44,000 open jobs even as unemployment remains above 7 percent.

Feehan points to property tax reform — he would rely on a sales tax — and loosening regulation, particularly at the Department of Natural Resources, which he singled out for being unfriendly to business.

“I think it’s part of the culture,” he said. “Are the people from the state DNR there to work hand in hand as a partner with businesses, or are they coming in in a heavy-handed way and not being sympathetic to the challenges these businesses are facing?”

Both say education is a priority, but only Shilling advocates immediate restoration of the K-12, university and technical college budgets, all of which suffered deep cuts in the last budget cycle. Feehan supports restoring funding only as the economy — and subsequently tax revenues — improve.

Shilling advocates paying for it in part by closing the so-called Las Vegas loophole, which allows businesses to avoid Wisconsin taxes by opening phantom offices in states without corporate income taxes, as well as reining in spending on prisons.

“It’s about priorities,” she said. “We’ve seen $2.3 billion in tax breaks over the next 10 years in (Gov. Walker’s) last budget. I hope we can have a more balanced approach. When we talk about shared sacrifice, we need to recognize those who were asked a lot in the most recent budget.”

With Democrats holding a one-seat majority, won in the course of two rounds of recalls, the race could play a critical role in determining control of the Senate.

The race has been competitive, with Feehan outraising the incumbent through July and Shilling coming back with a hardball mailer highlighting Feehan’s 2000 arrest in a domestic battery case. (He ultimately pleaded guilty to a non-criminal disorderly conduct citation.)

The 32nd district’s voters have been fickle.

Dan Kapanke won even in 2008, a big year for Democrats. In 2010, Scott Walker carried the district by 412 votes; the following year, it swung hard to the left as Shilling defeated Kapanke by nearly 6,500 votes. But in this summer’s recall election, Democrat Tom Barrett’s margin was just 81 votes.

Political observers point to the 32nd as one of the four most vulnerable Democratic districts.

Republicans expect to pick up the 12th, which has become redder with redistricting and where incumbent Jim Holperin is not seeking another term. A win there would give them a majority, but with Sen. Dale Schultz proclivity for breaking ranks, as he did with the collective bargaining bill, an extra seat would ensure control.

“The 32nd is one that we’ve had our eye on for a long time,” said Dan Romportl, executive director of the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate. “It’s not the easiest seat for us, but I keep saying that’s the seat that’s going to surprise people on election night.”

Nevertheless, the state GOP has not put money into the race, which Romportl said reflects both thinner resources and Feehan’s ability to raise money on his own.

Feehan got an early jump on fundraising, putting him in second place among legislative candidates through the first half of the year, and he claimed to have raised more than $100,000 by early September. Candidates aren’t required to file another report until Oct. 29.

Arnold Shober, a political scientist at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., doesn’t expect many districts to change hands — with the exception of possibly King’s and Lehman’s — thanks largely to the GOP’s strategy of consolidating votes in already Democratic districts.

“With the new legislative districts, there are essentially no marginal districts,” he said. “Democratic districts are more Democratic, and Republican districts are more Republican.”

Either way, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse political scientist Joe Heim sees the 32nd District as the region’s premiere matchup this fall.

And he summons a Wisconsin political adage: “Almost always in every election there’s at least one surprise.”

(54) comments

Napoleon
Napoleon

Re: “Nobody was hurt,” he [Tommy Thompson on deer collision incident] said. “It did a lot of damage. I think the deer was named Tammy Baldwin, but I’m not sure.”

Tommy wins the Bill Feehan Award for Ungallant Attitudes Toward Women. Last year's winner: David Prosser.

Republican males are weird toward women: Akin on rape, et cetera:

What's With Republicans and Rape?

So now we have Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock saying that if a woman becomes pregnant as the result of a rape then "that's something God intended."

(There was also Idaho Republican state Sen. Chuck Winder who back in March suggested some women might not understand when they've been raped and then falsely use a claim of rape as an excuse to get an abortion. I am not making this up.)

http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/growls/Whats-With-Republicans-and-Rape.html

pheasant
pheasant

“Voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury.
From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury.”


Shilling is up to her armpits in this spending.

TeapartiesR4L'ilGirls
TeapartiesR4L'ilGirls

Nestor

I am sure any type of call or message you send a public official would be harassing in nature and not worthy of their time.

I would be concerned about the public officials that would take time to acknowledge you.

pheasant
pheasant

Now you see Tea, Senator Kapanke answered my calls and met. As well as Huebsch. In fact Meyer previously would not either. Funny a Dem again, imagine that? So I went to Mike when he was not even my Elected Official. But they continued to get me my answers, and return my calls. Imagine that again?


Just another clear illustration of the circling of the Dem wagons. To protect their bloated benfits, and combined power in WI, Counties, and Municipalities.

David Lee
David Lee

You can accomplish something with a positive attitude, That is probably why you accomplished nothing when you supposedly talked to the dem's.

pheasant
pheasant

I have accomplished plenty. Politically and personally. Send over your resume.

pheasant
pheasant

Funny how the largest Residential Roofer in the Lacrosse Area. Uses Subs where they do not even speak English. And I get whacked for using Schleifer Construction, literally a couple days a year, for advanced carpentry emergency work, who has turned in Tax Returns for well over 30 years. Oh Yeah,.....real funny! While self-serving Dems/WRS Recipients like you posters attack to keep what you have and we can only dream about. Keep it coming dim-wits you serve only one purpose. By being a straight man for the truth.

greatgeneration
greatgeneration

Did Bill "Choker" Feehan learn his attitude about women from Judge "Choker" Prosser, Todd Akin, and Mourdock from Indiana? I found it interesting that his start in politics was a letter he wrote in 2005 supporting privatization of Social Security. Yup, just another GOP privateer -- oh, until federal help is needed: think New Jersey, think Virginia -- two Obama bashers with their hands out big time, despite spouting "states' rights." Do we really want a thug like Feehan to represent the citizens of this area? Not me! You go, Jen. Thanks for standing with and for regular, middle-class, working people against wanna be plutocrats like Feehan.

Lucenut
Lucenut

So you are from the "great generation" who thinks your handouts are important enough to put MY children in debt?

Every American Under 18 Now Owes $218,676... so you can get yer friggin checks. Patehtic.

pheasant
pheasant

Tell me, Why didn't Rusty and the Tribune just rent a Billboard for Shilling?

Answer- Because they are out of money too!

Shilling does not answer her calls, she fought to keep her and her friends bloated benfits, and they are out of money as well. Her mailer was just plain slimy, and well timed. This is a war between government and private sector employees. Yes, just like many parts of the world, and our entire nation. God save us.

tower
tower

You called me Nestor and I wouldn't call you back either.

pheasant
pheasant

Who could call you. You do not even have the courage to identify yourself as you pee down their leg. Coward.

Tim Russell
Tim Russell

Were you calling her to share your view that Tommy Thompson was responsible for your audit by the State?

pheasant
pheasant

My view that "Tommy Thompson was responsible for your audit"? Funny Tim. But I asked for Genoa WI based Steve Ivalis' records. Nowhere in those records was that claim made. BUT!!!! When I went to the first Administrative Law Judge Hearing (BTW he also works for DWFD). He asked me the same question? Now where did he hear such a thing, at the Latrine standing in a line. Because this Man should not be discussing anything about the case before him out of the Hearing. Thanks Tim for bringing up the sick system that we have that can be used by WRS Employees to attack. Like night and day.

pheasant
pheasant

Bring it on Tim. You are on the wrong side here, and you are dim, and ignorant. A bad combination. You try to rationalize that this supposed 'Judge' made the same comment. I am sure it will be as weak/limp as your other posts.

Hockeydad
Hockeydad

My impression of Shilling is that she will be nothing more than a Union puppet. Anybody care to enlighten me?

David Lee
David Lee

Madison -- In a Monday newspaper article detailing his arrest and plea agreement with prosecutors in connection with criminal charges for domestic abuse, recent La Crosse County Republican Chair Bill Feehan declared his “character speaks for itself.” One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross agreed.

Ross commented, “The police report describing Feehan’s choking of his girlfriend, throwing her to the ground and then behaving in a ‘belligerent and cocky’ fashion when questioned by authorities certainly does speak for his character. And it sure doesn’t say anything good about it.”

According to the newspaper report, based on court records, Feehan was arrested in 2000 after an argument with his then-girlfriend in which he was alleged to have choked her and threw her to the ground. He was charged with battery and disorderly conduct and, as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors, pleaded no contest to an ordinance violation.

When questioned about the incident by a reporter, Feehan first alleged he was wrongly accused and then went on to imply that he ought not be considered a domestic abuser, because those guilty of domestic abuse do it repeatedly. Feehan said he was only alleged to have abused a woman once. “Feehan’s behavior, when he was criminally charged in connection with an alleged domestic violence incident involving his then girlfriend, and his recent unrepentant excuses and explanations, are unacceptable. Feehan’s actions, and his despicable response, puts him right up there with the likes of U.S. Rep Todd Akin and his outrageous comments about violence against women,” said Ross.

He concluded, “It is simply ridiculous of Feehan to ask the public to accept his actions because he is only alleged to have beat up his girlfriend once.”

Buggs Raplin
Buggs Raplin

Ross is a big time Democrat out to protect the gutter politics of Jen Shilling.

David Lee
David Lee

Gutter comments are your standard reply. Went a long way back to act stupid on this one.

TeapartiesR4L'ilGirls
TeapartiesR4L'ilGirls

If you are going to run for public office your record showing your character will be out there. Is this the best the local GOP could produce to run for this office?

pheasant
pheasant

You post anonymously Tea. Does that reflect on your character, and commitment to those around us and our community? Coward

Opus
Opus

"Feehan points to property tax reform — he would rely on a sales tax — and loosening regulation, particularly at the Department of Natural Resources, which he singled out for being unfriendly to business."

His support of these two things are two very good reasons to not vote for Feehan. Relying on sales tax puts further pressure on the poor while relieving the wealthy. The DNR regulations are there to protect the environment for all of us.

Lucenut
Lucenut

Or Opus, the sales tax argument could be seen as more fair. Our current progressive income tax scale is what's unfair.

If 10 friends are eating at a restaurant and their bill comes on one check, why should the 2 with the highest income that year have to pay 90% of the bill even though they didn't even eat as much as the 5 teachers who ate lobster and drank top shelf cocktails? It's insane to try and understand.

Opus
Opus

Lucenut - first, kudos on working an insult directed at teachers into your argument. It really helps to perpetuate the lack of civility in politics today.

Adding more tax burden to our poor is simply a bad idea.

pheasant
pheasant

Opus, the fact is you Teachers added to our Tax Burden for over two decades. While you combined City, Township, County, State, and Education employees into the WRS. Having your neighbors bapy for you, what they will never see in their lives. BTW, there is nothing Special about the vast majority of you. Just stealing from your neighbors.

Opus
Opus

The fact is, pheasant, I am not a teacher. And, from your comments about yourself, YOU are a financial burden on society. Just stealing from you neighbors, pheasant, just stealing from your neighbors and accusing others of the same.

Tim Russell
Tim Russell

Apparently you are ignorant as to the definition of "progressive" and "regressive". Are do you maintain the Merriam Webster and the other dictionaries are controlled by the liberals?

pheasant
pheasant

Opus is a government employee. Admit it!!!!!

Opus
Opus

No I am not, have never been and never will be.
I know I have told you that many, many times before.

pheasant
pheasant

BS!

Technomom
Technomom

I fully support Jennifer Shilling. Bill's history of domestic disturbance indicates a problem with temperament. Jennifer is steady and consistent as well as someone who understands the balance of development, growth and the needs of those who cannot advocate for themselves. She is intelligent, wiling to negotiate and cares about all constituents, not just the wealthy ones.

pheasant
pheasant

You make your arguments loud enough that the cops come Tech and someone will go! It's the Law! Usually it is the man.

superman
superman

What Shilling's campaign did to Bill on those mailers is down right dirty. I have given her both my financial and electorate support in the past, but no more. Not only has she begun engaging in cheap shops, but she's been frigid out in the public. Whether I see her in parades, or local gatherings, she has been reluctant to talk or shake hands. I'm not sure what has been going on with her over the last couple years, but this isn't the Jennifer I supported in the past.

On the flip side, Bill has been the most approachable and willing to listen. Plus he does not deserve to be drug though the mud. He's a good businessman, and down some real good for this area. Plus he's a passionate fisherman. However he's made the cardinal mistake of splitting the people into Conservatives and Liberals. I will not support someone who wishes to split the people he supports.

For this race, the write in and none of the above, gets my vote.

Frangel45
Frangel45

So, Superman (?) - Because Feehan is an abuser and you don't want voters to judge his character based upon his criminal behavior you won't vote for Shilling? Are you ever twisted. Abusive characteristics must be taken very seriously - you are essentially condoning his phyical abuse of women - or anyone that crosses him. You're sure a peach.

pheasant
pheasant

Frange is so committed that she is anonymous? LOL!

Balancr
Balancr

Oh my- now that I look closer it was actually a battery charge initially, and that was dismissed and he pled guilty to the disorderly conduct. Oh boy, my mistake- I wonder what happened there with this fine citizen

Balancr
Balancr

Feehan pled down to a disorderly conduct. Assaulted his girlfriend. Nuff said.

olderthandirt
olderthandirt

I heard people saying Jennifer Shilling would not stoop so low as to be involved in the Feehan mailer with the photo shopped picture. I gave her the benefit of doubt. Then the next week, I received another similar mailer with her name listed as the sender. WOW, that is desperation! Somehow, someone from her campaign got a copy of police reports that even the DA cannot find! A mug shot too. This is like Jerry Springer! Vote anyone but Shilling. She used the same tactics on Dan Kapanke. Dan is a 100% better person than ole Jen!

laxcitizen
laxcitizen

Napolean....WHAT do you do for a living? really curious. Amazing you have all this information... I am SO impressed....and you take it right from the quotes! Truth OR not! You are offering YOUR opinion as others here are as well. But's its amazing..you are believing the quotes, much of the time.

pheasant
pheasant

Jennifer Shilling's double standard on civility? After Shilling's disgusting/misleading attacks on Bill Feehan, it's time to point it out again! In January of 2011 Shilling wrote an editorial calling for more civility in public discourse.


Really can these well timed attacks be anything else but?

Balancr
Balancr

Fehan pled down to a disorderly conduct. Pled down. No maybe about that. No dirty tricks about it- just fact. Assaulted his own girlfriend.

Buggs Raplin
Buggs Raplin

One can be disorderly without being assaultive.

Comment deleted.
pheasant
pheasant

Right now "idiot" could be a toss up. You might be paying for their benefits that you will never se in your life?

Comment deleted.
David Lee
David Lee

You are totally wrong. Don't let that stop you though. Feehan did in fact commit assault, they let him off easy with a plea deal.

DOL
DOL

I forgot David lee that you were there and that you are an eyewitness. The DA must have dismissed the criminal charges bc you have a criminal history and your credibility would be impeached before a jury so as to make your testimony worthless.

DOL
DOL

People lie to the police all the time. Jennifer Shilling is a prime example of lying ot the police when she claimed she was the victim of a domestic abuse incident in 1998 with a former boyfriend. The case went to a jury trial and the former boyfriend was found not guilty of Disorderly Conduct here in La Crosse. Check out Court File No. 98-CM-1767. Napoleon is a one trick pony, keeps repeating unfounded allegations in a police report. You dems are desparate and are now resorting to BS to try and sway the election. Guess what, your scummy tactics are going to back fire big time.

David Lee
David Lee

honesty of not a sign of despiration, making up facts like you do is. Because someone is found not guilty of a charge does not in fact mean they did not do it.

pheasant
pheasant

Now that is a convoluted post. Wow!

Balancr
Balancr

Maybe you're wrong- I don't think there's any maybe about it. How can someone say he respects women, if he physically assaults one of the women he cares about the most? This person is supposed to represent the interests of women in our area?

crank
crank

So... You were there and have all the facts? Don't bother answering. You weren't and you don't. My understanding is he's happily married but that probably doesn't matter. You know those stupid women always stand by their man.

i stand by my comment earlier. It would be great if politicians spent more time speaking about themselves. I imagine Jennifer could have spent the same amount of money selling herself with a glossy mail piece but instead used it just to sling mud.

Frangel45
Frangel45

Anyone voting for Feehan is in essence approving this kind of irresponsible behavior. It is a shame voters turn a blind eye to such character shortcomings when considering who will best work for all people. This is worse than the bullying issue currently making news. Bullying is a precursor to physical abuse - it is time for voters to take a stand against abusers and bullies as well. Or are these just words in the media to create celebrity for one? Do not vote for Feehan - he can continue to write letters to the editor where he has no authority - only opinions - close enough.

Maybe You're Wrong
Maybe You're Wrong

Napoleon - It would be great if politicians would talk about specifically what they have to offer the public and offer up reasons why you should vote for them. Unfortunately, that isn't done. This is the epitome of scummy politics.

If this is the primary message Jennifer Shilling offers as a reason to cast a vote for her, she doesn't deserve it.

pheasant
pheasant

The vast majority of Napoleons sales are generated from government institutions. TRUTH!

Napoleon
Napoleon

Shilling, Feehan matchup key in battle for Wisconsin senate

...ah well, yeah, I guess....don't beat yourself up about it....or your girlfriend....

From the Shilling mailer, direct verbatim quote: "Bill Feehan Was Arrested for Beating His Ex-Girlfriend... But Said He Wasn't a Domestic Abuser Because He Only Got Caught Once. Bill Feehan was arrested by the Holmen Police after getting into an altercation with his girlfriend. The police report says that Feehan "grabbed her by the neck, choked her, lifted completely off the ground, and then threw her into the yard... Feehan continued the assault by hitting her in the head and throwing her around." State of Wisconsin v. William J. Feehan, Jr., Circuit Court, La Crosse County, CASE NO. 00CM1438"

http://lacrossetribune.com/news/local/feehan-cries-foul-over-abuser-mailer/article_85d878c4-18db-11e2-bbe3-0019bb2963f4.html

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