No doubt Governor Scott Walker's fiscal reforms have caused angst among public sector unions, but it has also elicited some unsettling yet surprisingly aggressive behavior from Wisconsin Democrats.
On Friday, shortly after the motion to engross Walker's budget-repair bill - a procedure that prepares the bill for a final vote - Democrat Representative Gordon Hintz told Republican Representative Michelle Litjens "You Are F'N Dead." There is some debate about whether the threat was meant for Litjens or meant for the entire Republican Assembly, but we should keep in mind that this came from a man who just received a municipal citation for his involvement in a prostitution sting. Hintz' respect for women shouldn't be understated here. The fact he chose to threaten a female lawmaker in a room full of men is just as telling.
After Radio Host Charlies Sykes had exposed Hintz' threat, Hintz has since apologized to Representative Michelle Lijens. Again, this is telling. If Hintz meant his threat for the entire Republican Assembly, then why did he only apologize to Litjens?
Lijens has accepted Hintz' apology, but she wants him to be disciplined by the legislature. They have yet to take up her recommendation, but do they really need to? The guy is politically dead in the water. Hey, speaking of water . . .
Overshadowed by an earlier nomothetic death threat, there was yet another instance of Democrat warmth and affection. Representative Chris Danou - a former police officer and SWAT member for the La Crosse County Emergency Response Team - couldn't keep a water lid on his temper last week.
As Walker's budget-repair bill passed on the Assembly floor, Danou reportedly threw a stack of papers and a cup of water across the isle at Republican legislators. While the papers had predictably gone nowhere, the water hit several Republican dissidents including Assemblyman Scott Krug. A video captured the event, but doesn't identify Danou specifically. (Hint: skip to the end of the video and look in the upper right-hand corner. You can also see a lawmaker pointing his finger toward Danou during the incident.)
Several GOP lawmakers - all of whom witnessed Danou throw the water - have rebuked his actions. Was Representative Danou just caught up in a mob-mentality moment, or was this a watershed moment for Republicans?
Republican lawmaker Alvin Ott told us that he was "extremely disappointed and expected more professionalism in the chamber from a former police officer." In a statement, Lawmaker Dale Kooyenga said, "Fact is, if it was a protester that performed in this manner, they would be cuffed and cited for disorderly conduct." And Lawmaker Chris Kapenga added, "The floor of the Assembly is a place for the controlled debate of ideas. The offensive behavior we experienced last week was a disgrace to our democratic process, and all citizens should be outraged with this severe breach of decorum."
When talking with Representative Scott Krug, he said that after 60 hours of debate, he can understand that emotions run high. He added he expected a phone call from Danou apologizing for the incident - after all, both Assemblymen were former law enforcement officers. Rep. Krug told us he will be issuing a press release asking Rep. Danou for an apology.
We have called Rep. Danou's staff for a statement, and after 12 hours we received a "No comment." Apparently Mr. Danou thinks throwing things at political opponents is the appropriate chamber etiquette.
The city of Madison has become ground zero for an epic battle between organized labor on the one side and a Republican Governor with a spine of steel on the other. Wisconsin Democrats, who are decidedly in the minority, seem to be pulling out all the stops. In true Texas fashion, 14 Democrat Senators (also called the Rockford 14) have fled the state to avoid a pivotal vote. They intend to break the will of a politician who has yet to back down from a labor fight in his entire career.
More recently, we have a former SWAT member throwing things at State Representatives, and we have a womanizing Assemblyman threatening a female lawmaker. If you're a Republican strategist in Wisconsin, it doesn't get much better than this. All in all, these tactics haven't put a good face on Wisconsin's Democrat Party and are probably adding to the resolve of the GOP. We're told from a member of the Rockford 14 that extreme situations call for extreme measures. Perhaps the reason for extreme behavior has less to do with political relevancy and more to do with preserving a vital source of campaign revenue.