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Barish, Lawrence S.; Theobald, H. Rupert (ed.) / State of Wisconsin 1991-1992 Blue Book

Wisconsin political parties,   pp. [833]-868 PDF (16.1 MB)

Page 836

former Progressives, Socialists, and others began moving into what has been
described as a mori-
bund Democratic Party. This influx both revitalized the party and made it
more liberal. In the
following decade, the Democrats worked at uniting the party and building
their strength at the
polls. Meanwhile, the conservative faction's control of the Republican Party
was solidified by
the departure of the more liberal-minded Progressives and the addition of
conservative Demo-
crats fleeing their former party as it became more liberal.
  In the years following World War II, the resurgent Democratic Party began
seriously chal-
lenging the majority Republicans. Steady Democratic growth culminated in
the 1957 election of
U.S. Senator William Proxmire, the first "new" Democrat to win
a major statewide election.
This turning point marked the emergence on Wisconsin's political scene of
a Democratic Party
fully capable of competing successfully with the long dominant Republicans
for public office.
During this period, third party and independent candidates have usually failed
to garner any
significant support on a statewide level.
  The hallmark of contemporary Wisconsin politics is a highly competitive,
2-party, issue-ori-
ented system. Of the state's major elected partisan offices, in January 1991,
the Republicans held
the positions of governor, lieutenant governor, state treasurer, one of the
2 U.S. senate seats and
5 of the 9 congressional seats. Democrats filled the positions of secretary
of state, attorney
general, as well as holding one U.S. senate seat, 4 congressional seats,
and a majority of seats in
both houses of the state legislature.
                           Statutory and Voluntary Organizations
   Wisconsin law provides that each major political party must have various
local offices and
committees. In effect, these "statutory" organizations have been
merged with the voluntary
party organizations, which are governed by their own constitutions and bylaws.
The actual
power is found in the voluntary structures.
   Control of the voluntary parties is vested in statewide central committees,
which are selected
from among the active, dues-paying members of the Wisconsin chapters of the
national political
party organizations. For the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, the central committee
is the State
Administrative Committee; for the Republican Party it is the State Executive
Committee. Re-
spectively, these 2 committees constitute the Democratic and Republican Parties
in Wisconsin.
It is their responsibility to attend to their party's interests, collect
money to finance campaigns,
maintain cooperation between the various county and congressional district
organizations, and
carry out the directives of the national party organizations within the state.
                               Statutory Political Committees
   Party Committeemen and Committeewomen. As provided by state law, the committeeman
 committeewoman is the basic elected political party functionary. This officer,
who is elected to a
 2-year term at the September primary in even-numbered years, is the party's
statutory represent-
 ative in each election district. Candidates for this party office must be
at least 18 years of age, and
 there is a residency requirement. Their names are placed on the ballot by
the submission of
 nominating petitions signed by 20 to 40 electors in their district. No write-ins
are permitted. If
 no candidate files nomination papers, the office does not appear on the
ballot, and the vacancy is
 filled by the party's county committee.
   From the standpoint of party coherence, political parties find it desirable
that the elected com-
 mitteemen and committeewomen be activists in the party's voluntary organization.
The parties
 attempt to slate their voluntary workers for the election district positions.
This connection is not
 required by law, however, and occasionally the persons elected are not members
of the voluntary
   One important statutory duty of an election district committeeman or committeewoman
is to
 submit a list of nominees for election officials (poll workers) to the appropriate
municipal officer.
 Municipal governing bodies (or the board of election commissioners in the
City of Milwaukee)
 are required to appoint anyone designated by a committeeman or committeewoman
as a "first
 choice nominee" unless the state Elections Board permits nonappointment
upon a valid showing
 of cause. Committeemen and committeewomen who are members in good standing
of their
 county parties are, by virtue of their office, granted party credentials
for participation in any
 caucus or convention called by their congressional or state committees.
They represent their
 neighborhoods by acting as liaison between their party and residents of
the district they serve.
 Other duties include information gathering and dissemination, voter identification
and registra-

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