Experience: Served on Verona City Council while a student at UW; state Assembly, 1982-1992; state Senate, 1993-1999; political director for Operating Engineers Local 139; elected chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin in 2005; in 2009, became administrator of the Division of Compensation & Labor Relations in the Office of State Employment Relations.
Joe Wineke insists he's not an angry man, but it sometimes seems that way.
In announcing his bid for county executive in December (symbolically inside the state Assembly chamber), Wineke came out with both guns blazing, promising to fight back against Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP-controlled Legislature.
"If this becomes a war," he told those assembled, "I want to lead the fight."
A former state senator and Democratic Party chair, Wineke ran for county executive once before, in 1988, and lost to Falk's predecessor, Rick Phelps. He also made an unsuccessful run for Congress in 1998, losing in the primary to Tammy Baldwin.
Wineke says none of the other candidates have as much state and private-sector experience. He portrays Dane County as being under assault at the state level, and his rhetoric is loaded with bravado.
"When I saw Tom Barrett lose and Russ Feingold lose, I thought, who will stand up for the little guy?" he asks, explaining his post-Nov. 2 decision to run. "I looked in the mirror and said, 'I could do that.'"
He's been criticized as too combative. Bruskewitz, for instance, brags that she has friends in the Walker administration and access to him. "I'm not trying to fight with him," she says of the new governor. "I'm trying to get what's best for Dane County."
But Wineke says it's foolish to think Walker and the Legislature will make nice with Dane County. "You have to look at what's about to happen and not have your head in the sand," he says. "I believe what these guys are saying. I think they mean it."
With a $3 billion deficit, there aren't many areas where the state can find significant savings, except by making cuts to what Wineke calls the "big four": the UW, school aid, shared revenue and medical assistance.
Moreover, he expects state workers in Dane County to take a huge hit. He's heard the state is looking at up to 26 furlough days, which, combined with benefit cuts, amounts to about a 16% pay cut. And with so many state workers living here, that will have a trickle-down effect on everyone else.
"This is a government town, a government county, for better or worse," he says. "If you make draconian cuts, you're going to hurt private people just as much. Somebody's got to make that case."
Wineke promises his top three priorities will be, in order, human services, public safety and basic infrastructure, like "filling pot holes and mowing the grass."
On human services, he vows there'll be no compromise with Walker and the GOP: "I will fight them every step of the way."