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GOP lawmakers ask court to require Tony Evers to re-install Scott Walker appointees

Nowak

Accusing Gov. Tony Evers of acting illegally, GOP lawmakers asked a state appeals court Monday to require Evers to re-install appointees of former Gov. Scott Walker whose appointments were vacated earlier his month by a judge’s order.

That includes Public Service Commissioner Ellen Nowak, a Walker appointee who was blocked at the door from returning to work at the commission last week.

Evers’ office quickly responded that his actions were “lawful and valid” and charged Republicans with creating a political stunt.

The latest exchange deepens the legal quagmire between Evers and GOP lawmakers. They have spent much of recent weeks locked in multiple court fights over the validity of laws passed by Republicans just before Evers took office that curtailed his powers, as well as those of Attorney General Josh Kaul.

The appeals court granted GOP lawmaker’s request to temporarily suspend an order by Dane County Circuit Court Judge Richard Niess earlier this month that blocked the laws curtailing powers of Evers and Kaul.

As part of the order — which invalidated the December extraordinary session in which the laws were passed — Niess also vacated 82 Walker appointments to state boards, councils and commissions that the state Senate had confirmed during that session.

Republican lawmakers contend last week’s appellate court order means the 82 Walker appointees are now back in their jobs.

Nowak tried to return to work Thursday after appeals court ruling was issued, but a security guard stopped her. After meeting with state officials, Nowak said she had been told that Evers’ administration doesn’t believe the court’s decision reinstates the Walker appointees.

In a request filed Monday with the District III state Court of Appeals, an attorney for GOP lawmakers, Misha Tseytlin, wrote that Evers’ actions are harming state government and the Walker appointees.

“The governor’s unlawful actions are causing needless uncertainty and confusion,” Tseytlin wrot.e

Evers’ administration says that’s not the case and contends he retains authority to fill those positions. On Thursday Evers re-appointed all but 15 of Walker’s picks but omitted some of the most high-profile appointees, such as Nowak for the Public Service Commission, the state’s energy utility regulatory agency, and Scott Beightol, Walker’s pick for the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents.

Evers spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff, in a statement, said Evers “properly submitted nominations to the state Senate for confirmation” to fill the vacated positions.

“It’s unfortunate that Senate Republicans sat on some of these appointments for years under the former governor and it would be a shame if Republicans continue with their political theatrics,” Baldauff said.


Wisconsin Supreme Court race
What's at stake in Wisconsin Supreme Court election

MADISON (AP) — The Wisconsin Supreme Court race to be decided Tuesday won’t have an immediate impact on majority control of the state’s highest court, but it could put liberals in position to take control in 2020 by a court that has long been marked by partisan leanings. Lisa Neubauer, who is backed by liberals, faces fellow appeals court judge Brian Hagedorn, the favorite of conservatives.

A look at key factors in the race:

Who are they?

Hagedorn, 41, served as a law clerk for state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, whose victory in 2008 gave conservatives control of the court. Hagedorn served as an assistant attorney general, worked in private practice and was former Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s chief legal counsel for nearly five years. Walker appointed him to the state appeals court in 2015 and Hagedorn won election two years later.

Neubauer, 61, was appointed to the appeals court in 2007 by former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. Neubauer was elected to the appeals court in 2008, re-elected in 2014 and has been chief judge since 2015. She spent almost 20 years as an attorney in private practice and clerked for U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb.

Who supports them?

Nearly every judge who has endorsed a candidate in the race — more than 340 — backs Neubauer. She also has support from more than two dozen current or former police chiefs and county sheriffs and more than 50 district attorneys. Liberal outside groups that spent money on her campaign include the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which is run by former Democratic U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the Service Employees International Union and Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.

Hagedorn was endorsed by the National Rifle Association and Wisconsin Right to Life. Two current, and three former, Wisconsin Supreme Court justices all back Hagedorn. He also won backing from more than 40 current or former sheriffs. The conservative group that’s part of the Koch network, Americans for Prosperity, spent money to help Hagedorn and an arm of the Republican State Leadership Committee said a week before the election it was spending $1 million for Hagedorn.

Issues in the race?

Neubauer pitched herself as fair, impartial and independent. Hagedorn said she isn’t being honest about her judicial philosophy and has been lying about his record. Hagedorn said he interprets the constitution and laws based on their original meaning and holds conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch as role models.

Hagedorn is an evangelical Christian who said his personal views don’t affect his work as a judge. Hagedorn wrote a blog in 2005 and 2006 while in law school where he called Planned Parenthood a “wicked organization” and denounced court rulings favoring gay rights by likening homosexuality to bestiality.

In 2016, he founded a private Christian elementary school that bars homosexual teachers and allows for the expulsion of gay students.

Hagedorn was also paid $3,000 to give speeches at meetings of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a group that supported criminalizing sodomy and sterilizing transgender people and has been deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Neubauer denied lying about Hagedorn, saying she was talking about his past blog writings and actions to inform voters about his beliefs.

Neubauer defended attending a 2017 People’s Climate March in Madison with her daughter, Greta, who is now a Democratic state representative from Racine. The march was promoted as opposition to President Donald Trump’s environmental agenda, but Neubauer said “I did not view it as a partisan activity in any way. It was about climate change.”

Why does it matter?

The conservative majority would increase to 5-2 with a Hagedorn win. A victory by Neubauer would keep the conservative majority at 4-3, but give liberals a chance to take control in 2020. If that happened, liberals would control the court until at least 2025.

Turnout

Polls are open statewide from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Turnout is generally around 20 percent for past Supreme Court elections that don’t fall on the same year as presidential primaries.


Local
featured
Man dies after vehicle was found in Chippewa River

A man has died after he was found in a vehicle in the Chippewa River on Sunday morning in Chippewa Falls.

The male was pronounced dead after he was transported to HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chippewa Falls, according to information from the Chippewa Falls Fire and Emergency Services Department.

Battalion Chief Trevor Weiland said the male was pronounced dead after lifesaving procedures at the hospital. It was still considered a rescue at the time the male was pulled from the river, Weiland said.

According to a news release from the Fire and Emergency Services Department:

The department was dispatched at 8:28 a.m. for a report of a vehicle in the river south of the Pumphouse Road boat landing.

The fire department responded with two engines, two medic units, the boat and water rescue equipment with eight personnel. A second alarm was initiated for additional fire department personnel.

Mutual aid was requested from the Chippewa County town of Anson Fire Department for water rescue equipment along with the Chippewa Fire District Dive Team and a Chippewa Fire District medic unit.

First arriving fire units observed a vehicle 150 yards downriver from the boat landing. A bystander said he saw one person in the vehicle.

Xcel Energy was contacted to see if the Chippewa dam could be shut down. Xcel was unable to shut down the dam because of the amount of water coming over the spillway at the Wissota dam.

The divers and fire department personnel used boats to make their way to the car and victim. The high water conditions made it difficult to reach the car. Upon reaching the vehicle a male subject was removed and then transported to the hospital.

The Chippewa Falls Police Department assisted with securing the scene. State Department of Natural Resources also was on the scene.

There were no injuries to any responding personnel. Fire crews left the scene at 11:03 a.m.

The incident remains under investigation, which is being led by the Police Department, Weiland said.


Evers


Nowak


Washington
AP
NATO's subdued 70th birthday overshadowed by skeptic-in-chief

WASHINGTON — In normal times, NATO’s 70th anniversary would bring alliance leaders together for elaborate ceremonies, self-congratulatory speeches and declarations of unshakable unity. Not when they’re meeting in Donald Trump’s Washington.

Instead, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has opted for a more subdued commemoration this week. As foreign ministers gather at the State Department and fan out across town for speeches and conferences, they’ll be watching their Twitter feeds to see whether President Donald Trump uses the occasion to belittle their efforts and question their cause.

“NATO is not looking for a high-profile event with Donald Trump,” said Doug Lute, a former U.S. ambassador to the alliance during the Obama administration. “This is unprecedented. We’re at the 70th anniversary but the first time where allies have doubted the commitment of the American president.”

These aren’t happy days for NATO. Trump has repeatedly questioned the utility of the alliance to his “American First” foreign policy and regularly complains that the U.S. is being short-changed because few other members meet the goal of spending at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense.

He may renew those complaints today, when NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is scheduled to meet with the president at the White House. So far Stoltenberg, a former prime minister of Norway, has succeeded in finessing Trump’s criticism by showering him with praise and credit.

At a NATO summit in Brussels in July, Trump hurled insults at members and made false claims that he’d extracted promises of new defense spending. Rather than taking umbrage, Stoltenberg said Trump has created a “new sense of urgency” in the debate over NATO members’ military budgets.

“All allies have heard President Trump’s message loud and clear,” Stoltenberg told reporters at the time, in an echo of past efforts by France’s President Emmanuel Macron and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to assuage the president through flattery. That political acumen might have helped Stoltenberg, 60, win an extension of his term last week to 2022.

Stoltenberg could be more tempted to allude to differences over Trump’s policies when he speaks to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, as Macron did in an appearance before lawmakers last April.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo is sure to echo Trump’s criticism of other NATO members’ defense spending when he hosts his counterparts at the State Department on Thursday.

“There’s real value in the partnership with Western countries that share our democratic values,” Pompeo said Thursday at the National Review Institute Ideas Forum in Washington. “There is also real value in a country that is wealthy spending more than 1.25 percent of its GDP on defense.”

Exacerbating the differences over defense spending is a push by the Trump administration for allies that host U.S. troops to pay far more for their presence, even floating an idea known as “Cost Plus 50” — for governments to pay the full cost, plus a 50 percent premium.

In a letter this month, U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell threatened to cut back on intelligence sharing with some NATO allies if they buy equipment from China’s Huawei Technologies Co. for new 5G telecom networks. The U.S. says the equipment can be used by the government in Beijing to spy on the West.

NATO is also under unprecedented strain given divisions over how best to confront Russia. The alliance so far has been able to maintain unity in putting the blame squarely on Russia for violations of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which the U.S. pledged to withdraw from in February.

That unity could crumble with the approach of 2021, when another crucial arms agreement, the New START deal, is set to expire. The U.S. is also pushing to stiffen fellow members’ resolve in confronting one of their own, Turkey, which committed to buying a Russian missile defense system.

All of this makes Stoltenberg’s efforts to paper over the strains between Trump and other members of the alliance a difficult diplomatic feat.

Trump often complains that the U.S. is being short-changed because few other NATO members spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense.

Virginia Mayo, Associated Press 

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks Monday during a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels. NATO foreign ministers this week in Washington will mark the 70th anniversary of the world's biggest security alliance amid heightened tensions with Russia and years of military stalemate in Afghanistan.