Wisconsin Democrat defects, leaving state senate control in doubt
posted at 8:41 am on July 25, 2012 by Mary Katharine Ham
After the Democratic Party’s failure to recall Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker, their consolation prize was control of the state senate, by one vote. Senate control would only have lasted until November, when yet another election (this time a regularly scheduled one) would have thrown 16 seats into question again, but it was a meager something for the millions liberals spent, at least.
As of last night, meager something may be nothing. Moderate Democratic Senator Tim Cullen declared Tuesday he will no longer caucus with Democrats, possibly taking the Senate back to dead even again, even as Democrats are moving into new offices. He says he won’t become a Republican, but may be an independent. Why’d he do it?
Cullen said he made his decision, announced to the rest of the caucus by email, after Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, slighted him with committee assignments. Every senator in the caucus was given at least two committee leadership positions. Cullen has none.
Miller said in a statement Tuesday that Cullen turned down an “important” committee overseeing small business and tourism.
Freaking out and vastly overreaching to punish one’s political adversaries, thereby alienating moderate and independent former allies and delivering victory to Republicans? That doesn’t sound like the Wisconsin Democrats I know.
This isn’t the end of the story. A Republican member of the senate will also complicate matters when he moves into the Walker administration:
The effect of Mr. Cullen’s decision is, like seemingly everything else about Wisconsin politics lately, complicated. So long as Mr. Cullen remains a Democrat – even if he does not caucus with Democrats – it appears that the Democrats will formally hold onto control of the Senate. There’s another factor, too, that appears to assure Democratic control: another senator, Rich Zipperer, a Republican, is expected to resign from the Senate in August to work in the administration of Gov. Scott Walker, meaning that Democrats would widen their margin to 17-15. (A special election will be called to fill his seat.)