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Capital City Sunday: GOP senator pushes back on Gableman letter; what CA recall means for mid-terms

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9-17 CAP CITY FSG Guest 3

MADISON (WKOW) -- Earlier this week, the lead investigator hired by legislative Republicans to carry out their investigation of the November 2020 election sent Wisconsin's county clerks a letter asking them to preserve records on voting machines.

In the letter emailed to clerks Monday, former state supreme court justice Michael Gableman asked clerks to preserve "any and all records and evidence relating to the November 3, 2020 election in Wisconsin, including but not limited to information retained on any and all voting machines."

Sen. Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls) said the letter indicated to her Gableman didn't know how the data storage process works with regard to election data.

"My initial thought is former justice Gableman doesn't really understand the process is," Bernier said. "I wasn't sure if, you know, anyone informed him that the electronic voting equipment is a dummy terminal."

Bernier explained the machines themselves don't store any data; instead, the information from each election is recorded on memory sticks that local clerks return to their county. Under federal law, the data from those memory sticks already have to be preserved for 22 months.

While Assembly Republican approved giving Gableman $676,000 in taxpayer money to search for irregularities in the November election. Dozens of court challenges and recounts in the state's two most populous counties have maintained President Joe Biden won Wisconsin by more than 20,000 votes.

Bernier said she put was putting her faith in a concurrent investigation being conducted by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau.

"I will point out it is a forensic audit the Legislative Audit Bureau conducts," Bernier said. "They've done it for us for years. I have a great deal of confidence in them."

Bernier, who previously served as the Chippewa County Clerk, said she was also uncomfortable with some of the plaudits she was receiving from Democrats for her willingness to push back in election misinformation people within her own party.

"We had Democrats, for four years, complain that Donald J. Trump was not our legitimate president because the Russians somehow hacked our election and got him elected," Bernier said. "Now we see the same or similar concerns by Republicans in regard to our current president."

Lessons from California Recall

Scott Walker has company; he's now the second governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election following California Gov. Gavin Newsom's victory Tuesday.

UW-Madison Political Science Professor David Canon said while it might be easy to view the California outcome in isolation since it's a very liberal state, he said the strategy used to rally Democratic voters there could be instructive for party efforts in swing states like Wisconsin.

"That, I think, is a good signal for Democrats that they can still galvanize their base by basically running against Donald Trump," Canon said.

Canon noted the California recall essentially put Newsom's aggressive COVID-19 mitigation measures on the ballot as Republicans pushed back on the efforts while Democrats rallied around them.

While Newsom was always likely to prevail in the deep blue state, Canon said the near-30 percentage point victory, which largely mirrored the November margin there, was a sign Democrats elsewhere could feel good about running on their own efforts to push for pandemic-related measures like masks mandates and vaccine requirements for public workers.

"At least in states that are blue or competitive states and have had aggressive COVID response, it looks like it might be a winning approach for Democrats," Canon said.

Taking stock of the Wisconsin governor's race, Canon said the data was mixed on the attitude of GOP lobbyist Bill McCoshen, who after months of rumors announced he was not going to enter the race. McCoshen said he hoped someone else would emerge to challenge the current clear frontrunner, former lieutenant governor Rebecca Kleefisch.

"If there is at least a contested primary where there's some level of contestation and you can keep the frontrunner's name before the public, that's actually better than being unopposed," Canon said. "But what a party wants to avoid is a divisive primary that splits the party."

Lasry on whether his wealth turns off voters

If an internal poll released earlier this month by Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes's campaign is even somewhat accurate, the rest of the field in the Democratic Senate primary has a lot of work to do.

The poll found Barnes with support from 37 percent of respondents. The next candidate was Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson and eight percent, followed by State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski at seven percent and then Milwaukee Bucks Executive Alex Lasry.

Lasry said he was unmoved by the results pointing to the significant percentage of respondents who had not chosen a candidate 11 months out from the primary election.

As for how he can be competitive between now and next August, Lasry touted his past political experience while simultaneously branding himself as someone who's not a politician.

"I've got high level political experience," Lasry said. "I worked in the White House for President Obama and I led the bid to bring the DNC here to Wisconsin."

Lasry acknowledged a challenge for his campaign is winning over voters who are skeptical that the son of a billionaire hedge fund manager can truly understand the lives of working class people. Lasry came to Wisconsin after his father, Marc Lasry, became a co-owner of the Bucks.

"What we've been saying constantly is don't look at that," Lasry said. "Look at what we're talking about and what we've actually accomplished. When I talk to people at Fiserv Forum about a $15 minimum wage, we hear about how important a $15 minimum wage is."

Lasry touted the $15/hour wage at the Bucks' publicly-funded arena as an example of his family's commitment to expanding access to good-paying jobs.

Bucks players were prominently involved in protests last summer following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha. Lasry said he supported increasing spending on alternative criminal justice and violence prevention programs but did not want to reduce funding to police departments.

"I'm not for defunding the police but what I am for is making sure we're increasing funding for other types of public safety," he said. "I think a lot of the times, we overutilize the police and put them in situations that they're not trained for."