Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Sudden and Sad Farewell to Senator Mike Ellis

Common Cause in Wisconsin Reform Update
Tuesday - April 15, 2014

Jay Heck – 608/256-2686

1. Mike Ellis Retires from Wisconsin Politics
2. Redistricting Reform, Voting Rights and Campaign Finance Reform Draw a Full House in Eau Claire

1. The sudden and sad end of the political career of Senate President Michael G. Ellis (R-Neenah) ought to bring joy to no one – although there are plenty of folks on both the right and the left who are no doubt very happy. We're not. We worked closely with him for many years because he was, for many years, the "go to" legislator on political reform. And he understood the necessity of reaching bipartisan compromise to achieve effective, lasting political reform. This is a concept far too many on both sides of the political divide don't even comprehend, let alone do. And we are the poorer for it. And we are more polarized and distrustful and uncivil than ever. So the loss of Mike Ellis is huge.

CC/WI Director Jay Heck knew Mike Ellis very well and CC/WI Board members Bill Kraus and Dave Martin, even better. We worked closely with him on political reform issues for more than a decade. Here are Heck's reflections on last week's incredible chain of events – a combination of public and personal observations. And here are Bill Kraus' thoughts on Ellis' departure.

There was a lot of media coverage about the unexpected Ellis exit from Wisconsin politics and therefore considerable comment from CC/WI because of the close working relationship we had with him for many years.

For reaction from Jay Heck in The Capital Times go here.

For television coverage go here, here, and here. For Wisconsin Public Radio coverage, go here. For additional radio coverage, go here, here and here.

2. A capacity audience of approximately 130 citizens – a great mix of people from Eau Claire and outlying areas, as well as students turned out for a lively forum discussion of political reform issues at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire last week. Panelists included State Representative Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire), State Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) and former State Rep. Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire), as well as Jay Heck. Four other area legislators were also invited to be panelists but declined our invitation. UWEC Political Science Professor Rodd Freitag ably moderated the event and helped organize it.

The dire need for non-partisan redistricting to be in place by 2021, as well as renewed efforts to make it more difficult for Wisconsin citizens to be able to vote, and the most recent and misguided U.S. Supreme Court decision on money in politics, McCutcheon vs. F.E.C. were the "hot" topics of discussion. There were also suggestions about what citizens can do to advance reform and to fight back against voter suppression measures and the increasing and corrupting money in our politics.

For media coverage, go here and here; the forum was filmed in its entirety by Chippewa Valley Community Television and will be available to watch later this week on their website here and then will be posted on our website.

Another CC/WI reform forum is being planned now – perhaps in a community near you – so check our website often for details.

Jay Heck, Executive Director
Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703

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