If you want to know Dave Magnum's views on health care, the war in Iraq, immigration, or even why he thinks he can unseat Rep. Tammy Baldwin ' who beat him with 63% of the vote in 2004 ' well, you can stop reading. Magnum, a 43-year-old radio magnate from Portage who's making his second bid for Congress, has rebuffed multiple interview requests.
Apparently, Magnum is still mad about Isthmus' coverage of his last race, which included a story about how he paid no state income taxes. (Magnum hasn't paid income taxes since 1999, saying his radio company has not been profitable. Campaign finance reports show he's invested $525,000 of his own money into the race. Magnum's campaign told the Associated Press he borrowed this money.)
'I respect the role your paper plays in the Madison media market, but I'm not a masochist,' he wrote in an e-mail.
Fair enough. Magnum already has a tough battle ahead of him. Not only is Baldwin, 44, a popular incumbent, she's a Democrat in a year when the GOP's reputation has been rocked by failures in Iraq and a sex scandal in Congress. The Republicans stand to lose control of the House, if not the Senate. Not surprisingly, Magnum is desperately seeking to distance himself from both the party and the president. At a debate last month, he repeatedly noted that Bush has only two years left in office: 'I am not George Bush. George Bush is not the future.'
This was also the same debate, incidentally, where Magnum accidentally referred to himself as a 'moderate Democrat,' before hastily correcting himself when the audience laughed.
Baldwin, meanwhile, hasn't had to do much. She didn't even begin running television ads until two weeks ago. But at least she agreed to be interviewed.
This year, Baldwin finally introduced her long-awaited bipartisan health-care proposal. The bill would let states experiment with different health-care models, with a federal commission evaluating which work best. Magnum has criticized Baldwin for waiting until an election year to introduce the bill, but Baldwin says it took a year just to find two Republican co-sponsors and draft language everyone could agree on.
'There's been gridlock over this issue,' she says.
Baldwin has voted against additional funding for Iraq, to force Bush to address concerns about the war. 'That's the only way I see a new direction in Iraq,' she says, adding that Congress has seen plans to keep troops in Iraq through 2010. 'That's unacceptable.'
But while Democrats are poised to regain control of the House, Baldwin hesitates over whether they should use that power to impeach Bush. 'I'm torn,' she admits, noting that Congress needs to investigate whether the Bush administration manipulated data to support invading Iraq. 'Until we see evidence, we can't presuppose anything.'
Tammy's moment of truth
As the first out lesbian in Congress, Baldwin has experienced her share of discrimination ' including from religious conservatives, who, she notes, often encourage her to 'repent' for being gay.
'Ever since I came out, I've known there are those who are intolerant and unaccepting,' she says. But Baldwin remains hopeful that Wisconsin voters will reject a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions. 'Many people realize it's playing politics with real people's lives.'
Asked how passage of the amendment might affect her personally, Baldwin replies, 'The hardest thing for me will be the sense of pride I've had for the Wisconsin progressive tradition. It will be hard for me to accept that that's changed.'
Dane County Supv. Kyle Richmond is withdrawing his controversial proposal to restrict development on small shoreland lots.
'A lot of people got stirred up about it,' he says dryly. More than 70 people opposed the change at a public hearing last month. 'It's better to step back and go at it again next year.'
Richmond initially proposed the change to prevent a developer from building two new houses in the Arboretum neighborhood, near Lake Wingra. He later learned it would not have done so, since the developer has already applied for zoning permits.
'Never try to solve a local problem globally,' says Phil Salkin, a lobbyist for the Realtors Association of South Central Wisconsin. 'When you have a neighborhood issue, solve it at the local level.'
Richmond says he couldn't get a straight answer from county staff on how many lots would be affected. Estimates ranged from 300 to 2,000. 'It's been very frustrating,' he sighs. 'People naturally want a clear answer about who this would affect.'
He hopes the experience will help him craft a better proposal: 'I think we've established a credible argument that water quality is being affected by construction on shoreland lots.'
Sun Prairie thinks big
Sun Prairie may allow a developer to build several big-box stores along Highway 151 by County C, on the city's west side. Prairie Development has asked the city to amend its neighborhood plan to allow nearly 900,000 square feet of retail to be built there. The current plan calls for just 354,000 square feet of retail.
'We came up with this vision for the area that included a mix of land use, with retail, office space and housing,' says Robert Meyer, a Sun Prairie resident who's running for mayor. 'We did not want sprawl.'
But Meyer laments the proposal as a 'done deal' and says alders recently elected to Sun Prairie's city council are capitulating to the developer's demands. 'They're trying to push it through really fast before people know what's happening.'
The city's Plan Commission may consider the proposal Nov. 14.
Ald. Michael Bruhn, a Plan Commission member, says the west-side plan is merely a guide. 'Things change,' he says, noting that Sun Prairie has had a softening in the market for office space and housing. 'We need a big retailer in Sun Prairie. We have an older Wal-Mart that no longer fits the model for what Wal-Mart wants for its stores. If that store closes, that would leave us without a discount retailer.'
And Bruhn says the 129-acre site along Highway 151 is Sun Prairie's last chance for big development. 'There is no more land in tracts of this size,' he says. 'You only get once chance to redefine your city.'
The state Department of Administration recently dismissed appeals by cleaning companies and state labor unions protesting a nearly $2 million janitorial contract awarded to Clean Power. The DOA also decided that other labor groups, including Service Employees International Union, which has been trying to unionize Clean Power's workers, had 'no standing' to challenge the contract.
'I feel sick to my stomach because of all the workers,' says Leone Bicchieri, head of SEIU's local organizing campaign. 'It's very disheartening.'
SEIU says Clean Power does not pay workers a living wage and does not allow them to work full-time. But DOA spokesman Scott Larrivee says the state's contract requires Clean Power to use full-time workers and to pay them at least $9.45 an hour. And the DOA ' for the first time ever ' will have a committee monitoring the contract. 'Our department is setting it up to make sure we are getting what we're promised,' says Larrivee.
Bicchieri says it makes no sense for the state to pick Clean Power if it has to police it. 'Why choose the company that gives the DOA the most headaches?'