Small communities like Paoli and Belleville joined larger cities, such as Fitchburg and Madison, in knocking down the effort, successfully moving the pipeline to a different route.
What was striking was the bipartisan opposition from then Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisconsin), State Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Middleton), State Rep. Joe Wineke (D-Verona), State Sen. Chuck Chvala (D-Madison) and local Republicans such as Dane County Supervisors Denise Solie and the late Lyman F. Anderson of Oregon with legal assistance of super attorneys, Ed Garvey and Michael R Bauer.
Farmers, landowners, environmentalists, radicals, progressives and other citizens joined together across parties to protect the land and the Little Sugar River and in colorful terms told Enron what to do with their pipeline idea.
What is sorely missing from politics throughout the country is this kind of bi-partisan support for issues that matter greatly to local populations. Joe Wineke would bring that much-needed focus back to Wisconsin politics.
I had some coffee in January with Joe Wineke (who was my most prolific source for a Capital Times series on the Enron pipeline), discussing his current run for the chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW), which he had held in 2005-09.
I said to Wineke: Everyone, I mean everyone, from Sunny Schubert of the Wisconsin State Journal to Isthmus and the Capital Times to every politico I talked to went to bat for the citizens of Green and Dane counties, never missing an opportunity to blast Enron and Northern Natural Gas for what Chvala called the "off-the-charts arrogance" of Enron.
“That wouldn't happen today. The Republicans have abandoned their constituents for special interests. Republicans are the most extreme, the most destructive I have ever seen them operate and this is precisely because they have abandoned the people who they are supposed to be in office for," said Wineke. "What floors me is the cavalier way they have attacked public schools, which is a blow across the state and especially rural communities. What we need to protect the people of Wisconsin is effective representation. But first we have to win elections. When I was Chair, we fielded a variety of candidates in every legislative and local race we could, not just competing in the ‘so-called’ competitive seats. Not to mention we were pretty darn successful in doing it, filling the vast majority of seats for the Assembly and Senate. [But] in 2014, we left 31 Assembly Republicans off with ‘free rides.’ If I am elected Chair those days are over.”
Facing the massive amount of money (open and dark), the domination of Wisconsin government by the Republican Party, and the fecklessness of the Democratic Party, Wineke was asked if the DPW needs the political equivalent of the Manhattan Project.
“Yes, but you have to remember you have to dance with the girl or boy that brung you, i.e., we can’t change the rules right now. The United State Supreme Court five years ago stacked the deck for rich people and corporations to play the elections. Somehow, a corporation is a person who has the right to vote? I don’t even know who that person is,” said Wineke. “But until we can get a better Supreme Court, and if we can elect a Democratic president in 2016, which is one of my top goals, along with getting back the U.S. Senate seat in 2016 and I sure hope Russ Feingold runs [he is], if we can elect Hillary and we have four to eight more years of a Democratic presidency, we will get a Supreme Court that will be better on these issues that doesn’t kowtow to the billionaire crowd. And then we will be able to fix the mess we are in. Until then, we have to play by the rules we got and since we cannot compete dollar-to-dollar with the Koch brothers and the Republicans we have to go grassroots. And grassroots is the way it should be anyway.”
Wineke sees a once dominant state Democratic party that has abandoned the fundamentals of running campaigns.
“Democrats have been so focused on their hatred with Scott Walker, the problem the Democrats have is that we identified ourselves as against Scott Walker but we’re not getting through with our own message. We need an opportunity agenda. What I want do is: Economic security, educational opportunity and equal opportunity.” Wineke says, “I don’t believe in confiscatory tax rates, punishing people because of wealth. It is really true the current system is just ripping off the poor and working class, Joe and Jane lunch bucket making $25,000 to $50,000 a year are in trouble right now.”
Wineke says if he is elected and the Democrats lose more seats, he'll resign. If the Party loses seats after his prospective two-year term, the former legislator of 16 years said by phone, “I’ll promise to leave the post because I would not have been doing my job. Look, since September, 2012 I have been retired; I don’t need the money. What’s driving me is the direction our state and our party are careening.”
Wineke several times brought the conversation back to the mechanics of running campaigns.
“Message. Message. Recruitment of candidates. Message. When I talk about that opportunity agenda, I’m talking about creating a simple message that we pound home over and over. And the point I want to really raise on this is the sharp contrast between where a Democrat stands and where a Republican stands so that people have a clear idea that if you’re concerned about the future of your rural school—and in a rural area the school is the community center, everything revolves around the rural school district—if you care about equality for people so your child is not being discriminated against because they happen to be black, they happen to be gay, they happen to Native-American, vote for the Democrat because the other side is pandering to prejudice.”
There are five announced candidates for the election of the of the Chair of the Democratic Party next weekend in Milwaukee.
Unless two candidates for chair come together to defeat Tate's hand-picked successor, Jason Rae (who would spell disaster for the people of Wisconsin), I don't see anyone other than Rae winning this rigged election held in Rae's hometown, per Tate.
That's another fundamental Wineke mentioned: Coalition building and grassroots against special interests. "You don't win from the top-down," said Wineke last year on the Joy Cardin show (WPR).
I strongly urge the delegates to the Wisconsin Democratic convention to vote for Joe Wineke for chair.