Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

A look back at the year that was


Waukesha Freeman 12/31/14 Page A7 Opinion

A look back at the year that was

Walker, Kramer were big political stories; lots of turnover in local politics

When the old year passes, sometimes it’s with regret and sometimes it’s with joy. As we gather to toast the new year and drink away the old, it’s worth looking back to remind us from where we came.

The biggest story of 2014 in Wisconsin was the re-election of Gov. Scott Walker. Three times in four years the voters rejected the higher spending and taxes of the Doyle era.

First the voters rejected Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who promised a continuation of Gov. Jim Doyle’s policies. Then they rejected Barrett again in the recall election.

Finally the Democrats ran a focus group candidacy, Doyle’s former commerce secretary Mary Burke. Burke told the voters she would not have needed Act 10 to bring state spending under control. She opposed Walker’s tax cuts. She would have embraced Obamacare.

It makes you wonder if the Democrats ran any focus groups outside of Madison.

Walker’s victory was capped with an election night speech that sounded like the beginning of a presidential campaign. With his national network, largely built during the recall, and his national reputation among conservatives, we are probably going to hear a lot more presidential campaign speeches from Walker in 2015.

With Walker’s victory, the struggle over Act 10 is finally settled. The Supreme Court upheld the law last summer, ending the legal challenges. After Walker’s second successful defense of the law at the ballot box, the issue is effectively ended politically.

The biggest story locally was the Slender Man stabbing case. Certainly it was the Waukesha story that attracted the most attention.

We can all be grateful that the victim of the stabbing survived and is recovering. At the same time, we should all mourn what has become of her two alleged attackers.

It’s impossible to imagine two 13-year-old girls being competent of anything, let alone standing trial for attempted murder. It’s hard to look at my eldest child, roughly the same age as the two girls on trial, and imagine him on trial as an adult. It’s even harder to picture those children being tried as adults when the crime is alleged to be the result of believing a childish ghost story.

I also wonder at the hysteria directed at the Slender Man stories. Now that we have had some months to absorb the full details of that terrible crime, are we capable of seeing that it wasn’t the Slender Man stories online that were responsible? That these children who are alleged to have stabbed their classmate may have had other issues, and that Slender Man was merely the catalyst?

After the stabbing case ceases to hold our attention, we might notice all of the changes in local politics.

At the city level, the year started with Shawn Reilly defeating Jeff Scrima in a landslide to become mayor. Brian Running defeated Scrima ally Richard Congdon to replace Curt Meitz as city attorney. The year ends with City Administrator Ed Henschel being replaced by Kevin Lahner.

At the county level, Dan Trawicki decided to retire as sheriff and the voters chose Eric Severson to replace him. Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel is getting a promotion to state attorney general, with no replacement named yet. And the year closes with County Executive Dan Vrakas ending his long public career. His likely successor is State Sen. Paul Farrow.

Of course, the biggest story involving a local politician has to be the self-destruction of state Rep. Bill Kramer. We watched his rise to Assembly majority leader only to watch his career end with a conviction for fourth-degree sexual assault.

His replacement is local realtor and former city Alderman Scott Allen, who won a six-way Republican primary. When Farrow eventually resigns from the state Senate, which I predict he eventually will, it will be interesting to see how many candidates run to replace him to complete the makeover of Waukesha politics.

Onward to 2015, and a happy new year to everyone. And to all of the new faces in local politics, I’m looking forward to covering you in the new year.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at http://www.wigderson.com and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

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