Saturday, October 20, 2018

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Liberal group eyeing Ryan, Walker seats

It grew out of Obama’s campaign, aims to flip state Senate to Democrats

MADISON — A political group that evolved from former President Barack Obama’s campaign operation announced Tuesday that its priorities include defeating Gov. Scott Walker, electing a Democrat to the southeastern Wisconsin seat of U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville and flipping control of the state Senate.

Organizing for Action listed those races among 27 congressional races it sees as critical to Democrats taking control of the House, state elections important for redistricting and ballot measures across the country.

The group had previously announced it was teaming up with the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which is run by former Attorney General Eric Holder, to fight legislative gerrymandering during redistricting that will occur in 2021.

Holder’s group has become a player in recent Wisconsin elections, spending on behalf of the winning liberal candidate in the spring Supreme Court race and for two Democratic candidates in special elections that were decided Tuesday.

Obama does not have any official role with the group, which grew out of his previous campaign operation, but it is led by former strategists and staff.

The group is expected to deploy organizers and money to the races it is targeting across the country from North Carolina to California in the fall midterms. Walker immediately exploited the news to raise money, asking for donations in a Twitter message “to combat their out of state money and attacks.”

“If Wisconsin is going to win the 21st century, build on our success and push back against these Far-Left groups, we need your help,” Walker tweeted.

Ten Democrats are on the Aug. 14 primary ballot angling for the chance to take on Walker in November. The Obama-linked group did not single out any of the Democratic candidates, but is focused instead on the goal of beating Walker.

In Ryan’s 1st Congressional District, six Republicans are running to replace him, led by UW System regent and former Ryan aide Bryan Steil. The other are psychologist Brad Boivin of Nashota; Paul Nehlen, a conservative from Delavan who ran to the right of Ryan and lost in the 2016 primary; former Green Beret and political newcomer Nick Polce of Linn; Kevin Steen, an engineer from Burlington; and Jeremy Ryan, a liberal protester from Madison who got 6 percent of the vote when he ran against Ryan in 2014.

The Democratic candidates are union ironworker Randy Bryce of Racine and Janesville teacher and school board member Cathy Myers.

Republicans hold an 18-14 majority in the state Senate. The Senate, along with the state Assembly, has been under Republican control since 2011. They drew the political boundary maps that are now before the U.S. Supreme Court in a partisan gerrymandering case that could affect how redistricting is done across the country following the 2020 census.

The Obama-linked group said on its website it would be easier for Democrats to win control of the state Senate than the Assembly, where Republicans currently have a 64-35 majority.

The governor has veto power over the maps, something the group noted as part of its rationale for targeting Walker.

“We can’t let him maintain that power,” the group said.

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