Skip to comments.Cullen breaks with Democratic caucus in Wisconsin state Senate, may become independent
Posted on 07/24/2012 7:06:16 PM PDT by JerseyanExile
State Sen. Tim Cullen, a moderate Democrat from Janesville, broke with his party's caucus Tuesday, saying he may become an independent over what he felt were political "insults" by the Senate majority leader.
Cullen said he made his decision, announced to the rest of the caucus by email, after Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, slighted him with committee assignments. Every senator in the caucus was given at least two committee leadership positions. Cullen has none.
Miller said in a statement Tuesday that Cullen turned down an "important" committee overseeing small business and tourism.
The immediate result of the defection is not known. Democrats took control of the Senate on July 16 by a 17-16 margin and are still moving into new offices. State Sen. Rich Zipperer, R-Pewaukee, is stepping down Aug. 6 to take over as Gov. Scott Walker's deputy chief of staff, so even if Cullen leaves the party, Democrats will still hold a slim majority: 16-15-1.
The Senate isn't scheduled to meet until January, and 16 of 33 seats are up for election in November.
Cullen said he did not know why he was ignored for leadership positions that appealed to him, but imagined it had to do with his independent nature and track record of working with Republicans on certain issues.
The 68-year-old senator returned to Madison in 2010 after a 24-year break from politics. He was among the 14 Democratic senators who left the state during the historic protests at the Capitol in 2011. But Cullen, along with state Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, worked to find a compromise with Walker a compromise Miller never backed. His moderate stance, and frequent partnership with state Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, did not sit well with some in his own party.
Cullen said Miller initially offered him what he considered a token committee chairmanship tourism and small business. He rejected the position and was negotiating with Miller for a more important role when he said the majority leader essentially told him to "take it or leave it."
"This was not an accident," Cullen said. "I was not accidentally overlooked. It was blatantly, intentionally, intending to insult me and the people of the 15th (Senate District)."
Cullen said that during his last discussion with Miller, the Democratic leader hung up on him.
Miller refused to talk to reporters Tuesday, but issued the following statement:
"I am disappointed in Sen. Cullen and the decision he made today. Sen. Cullen turned down the chairmanship of the Committee on Small Business Development and Tourism. He told me that if that was the committee offered to him, he would rather chair no committee at all. It was an important committee as small business is the economic engine for Wisconsin."
Cullen said he preferred leadership positions on the education and health committees, given his experience and expertise. He said he was willing to serve as a vice chairman of the education committee, and possibly fill spots on the business commission and transportation projects committee.
Several Democratic senators did not return calls Tuesday, but state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, said he hoped Miller finds a way to bring Cullen back into the fold.
"Tim has a lot of knowledge and a lot of experience, and that is something any leader needs in his caucus," he said.
Cullen briefly sought the Democratic nomination in the recall of Walker before bowing out due to lack of funding.
He was first elected to the Senate in 1974 at the age of 30. He quickly became known for his political acumen. He eventually rose to the position of Senate majority leader, where his opponents dubbed him "The Prince of Darkness" because he seemed capable of working political magic.
He was also known as a moderate who could make deals with Republicans. In a controversial move, former Gov. Tommy Thompson picked Cullen to be Health and Social Services secretary.
"What's weird about this is Tim is a really easy guy to work with," said Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau.
Fitzgerald said he has placed a call to Cullen to see if there is a way for him to work with Republicans on some issues.
Note how the dems deal with “bipartisanship” in their own ranks.
Don’t trust the Rat.
There’s no room for moderates in today’s political climate. Unfortunately the pubbies will take him, he’ll turncoat on them, and leave them spinning in the wind.
Why did a state senator decide to resign and took a job in the governor office when the senate power balance is hanging by a thread?
Yep. Our state representative was a nice fellow with a moderate reputation. When the RATs had a majority in the state house and senate back in the dark days of Ed Rendell, they sneaked a generous raise for themselves into a late night holiday session, just before the 4th of July, as I recall.
Our guy blew the whistle. The Democrats stripped him of all committee assignments and hung him out to dry. He decided to retire in 2008 rather than run for reelection. The RATs didn't care because they assumed an overwhelming registration advantage in our district would give them the seat anyway.
Imagine their shock when we elected a conservative Republican who is so popular now that the RATs aren't even going to put up a token challenger this year!
I presume that since this Lame Duck Senate is powerless and they are expecting big gains next year they don’t feel him staying is of any importance. That appears to be the case.
Everything I have read or heard suggests the Dems will "relose" the Senate in WI come election day. Do you have a link to stories claiming otherwise? I tried a search and came up with nothing regarding this, only stories about the Dems victories in the recall elections being temporary in nature.
We're barely at the end of July! How much $$ are these people being paid by the taxpayers of WI that they can go almost 6 months without getting together ?! /rhetorical
Of course, since the State Senate is now controlled by Dems, it's probably best that they stay away from Madison, WI, for as long as possible!
No, all I have seen is that the Wisconsin RATS are demoralized, bitter and out of money. Even The Disaster kept his distance from these whackjobs.
Wisconsin Democrat Senator breaks with caucus ping — may become independent
FReep Mail me if you want on, or off, this Wisconsin interest ping list.
Maybe this ping should be call “Democrats eating their own”. Geeesh! I go out of town for a few days, and all heck breaks out! (Yesterday was a travel day, and I didn’t see my computer at all.)