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Walker up against deadlines on health-care reform; GOP now controls both house of state Legislature; more briefs

Gov. Scott Walker may be in a pickle over health care this morning.

The Republican governor has done very little to tailor the federal health care law to Wisconsin, saying the law could be thrown out if voters choose Mitt Romney as president. Well, that didn't happen.

Now Bobby Peterson of the ABC for Health group says Wisconsin has only nine days to adopt a health care purchasing exchange tailored to the state's needs or else Wisconsin will have to accept a one-size-fits-all federal package at the start of 2014.

When the Supreme Court upheld the package in June, Walker said he didn't think it would be hard to get Washington to grant an extension of the deadline. But Milwaukee Assembly Democrat Jon Richards says the Obama White House might not have any power under the health law to extend the deadlines. He and other Democrats have been pleading with Walker to do something in recent weeks.

Assembly Republican Robin Vos, who's in line to become the next speaker, said he'll need to discuss the matter with his fellow GOP lawmakers and the governor and decide how to move forward.

Peterson said the state should have come up with a plan and shared it with consumers, doctors and others affected. But he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel an agreement is still possible.

"Hopefully the grown-ups come out on both sides and say, 'Let's get this done,'" said Peterson.


GOP now controls both house of state Legislature

Republicans have regained full control of state government after recapturing the Senate Tuesday, but the extent of their power is still up in the air.

The GOP will have at least a 17 to 16 majority after Assembly Republican Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst easily won an open Senate seat given up by Democrat Jim Holperin.

They will have a three-vote majority if Fond du Lac Republican Rick Gudex can preserve a close victory over Oshkosh Democrat Jessica King, who won a recall election last year. Final totals showed Gudex winning by just 590 votes out 85,000 cast, and a recount can certainly be expected.

If Gudex wins, Republicans will have enough of a majority to push through pretty much what they want - just like they did in the last two years when the virtually took away the bargaining powers of public employee unions.

But if King can hold on, Democrats will have a chance for compromise on at least some issues. That's because moderate Republican Dale Schultz of Richland Center doesn't always go with the party line.

Meanwhile, the GOP came into Tuesday's elections with a 20-vote majority in the other house, and its control of the Assembly was never threatened.

Democratic incumbent John Steinbrink of Kenosha County lost to GOP Rep. Samantha Kerkman after re-apportionment moved both into the same district.


National economy still biggest issue, but voters blame Bush

It's the economy, stupid. Bill Clinton's famous words from the 1990's still ring true in Wisconsin as the economy was by far the No. 1 issue among state voters Tuesday.

President Obama carried Wisconsin as he won re-election to his second term.

According to exit polling for the AP and the TV networks, a majority of Wisconsin voters thought the economy was the top issue. And 54% blamed George W. Bush more than Obama for today's struggling economy.

Wisconsin saw its last auto plant, the Chrysler plant in Kenosha, disappear under Obama's watch, but half the state's voters still approved of Washington's bailout to U.S. automakers.

Only one in five voters thought health reform was the top issue. And they were split on what should happen to Obama's reform package, which will presumably remain intact. Forty percent said unemployment was the biggest economic problem among Americans. Thirty percent cited rising prices, and 22% cited taxes.


Franklin voters say yes to new classrooms and auditorium, no to gym

The Franklin School District will get new classrooms and an auditorium for its high school, but it won't get a new gym for the middle school.

Voters approved the high school projects Tuesday, but they said no to the gymnasium. The academic facilities got the biggest support among Franklin voters, at 53%.

The three projects together would have cost $49 million. They were among Wisconsin's six most expensive school referendums, and counting Franklin, voters said yes to three of them.

The biggest package was in the Middleton-Cross Plains district where voters said yes by a 2-1 margin to almost $60 million for additions and renovations to a pair of middle schools.

In Pulaski, 62% of voters said no to $33 million in various renovations and technology updates plus a new athletic complex.

In Lake Mills 51% of voters said yes to a new $19 million elementary school.

In East Troy, $17 million for high school renovations was voted down 53% to 47%.

In Antigo, voters rejected a $26 million elementary school, plus funding for additional operating costs. Both were voted down by 2-1 margins.


Watch for Ryan as 2016 presidential candidate, say some observers

Some observers say Janesville's Paul Ryan may be the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 despite his loss Tuesday as Mitt Romney's running mate.

St. Louis University Professor Joel Goldstein, an expert on the vice presidency, told the Wisconsin State Journal that even a defeated VP candidate tends to be elevated to ranks of White House contenders.

Goldstein said Ryan's controversial plan to reform Medicare might have dampened Romney's support, but not nearly as much as some had expected.

Ryan will stay in Congress after being re-elected to his eighth term in the House yesterday. With Republicans still in control, he's expected to keep his high-profile chairmanship of the House Budget Committee.

Former U.S. Senate Republican Bob Kasten said Ryan's influence has grown over the last four months, and he's now the most important lawmaker in Washington on budget and fiscal decisions.

Gov. Scott Walker said Ryan's credibility is as strong, if not stronger, than when he was named the VP nominee back in August.

There are not many House members who gained the national stature that Ryan did. And as the State Journal pointed, no House member has been elected president since James Garfield in 1880.


All seven of state's congressmen re-elected

Wisconsin will continue to have five Republicans and three Democrats in the U.S. House of Representative.

All seven of the state's incumbents were re-elected yesterday.

And State Assembly Democrat Mark Pocan easily won the Madison area House seat by a 2-1 margin over GOP businessman Chad Lee. Pocan replaces Senator-elect Tammy Baldwin, who held the House post for 14 years.

After losing his bid for vice president, Janesville Republican Paul Ryan will keep the House seat he's held since 1999. Democrat Rob Zerban, a former Kenosha County board member, got 43% of the vote against Ryan, and while he's disappointed he didn't win, he's proud of what he accomplished.

Two freshmen also had the state's closest races, but both won their second terms by about 12 points each. Wausau area Republican Sean Duffy defeated former state Senate Democrat Pat Kreitlow, and Sherwood Republican Reid Ribble out-polled Green Bay's Jamie Wall.

Ribble said he was "humbled and honored."

Duffy said he was "over-joyed" that voters thought enough of him to give him a second term.

Milwaukee Democrat Gwen Moore had the biggest margin of victory among the state's House incumbents. She got around 72% of the vote over Republican Dan Sebring.


Baldwin finds her support among women, younger voters

Tammy Baldwin got lots of support from women and younger voters as she defeated Republican Tommy Thompson for the state's open U.S. Senate seat.

Exit polls showed 56% of women supported the House Democrat from Madison as did 57% of those under 30.

The two split the 30 and older vote.

Thompson got the nod from 60% of families making over $100,000 a year, plus Christians and born-again voters.

Baldwin will become the Senate's first openly gay senator, but her sexual preference was not much of an issue in the campaign. Twenty-seven percent of white born-again Christians voted for Baldwin. They're a group that's normally conservative on social issues.


Rape comment may have cost assemblyman his job

Four state Assembly incumbents went down to defeat, including the one who got in trouble for a comment he made about teenage rape.

Rice Lake Republican Roger Rivard lost his bid for a second term in a close contest. Democrat Stephen Smith got 51% with a margin of 582 votes out of 27,000 cast.

Rivard was commenting on a high school rape case last December when he said his father warned him that "some girls rape easy" - meaning that they claim consensual sex as rape later.

Rivard said he was misquoted, but he lost some key endorsements from top Republicans along with financial support from a statewide committee.

In Janesville, first-term Assembly Republican Joe Knilans only got 38% of the vote in losing to Democrat Debra Kolste.

Whitewater Republican Evan Wynn and Kenosha County Democrat John Steinbrink lost after they were pitted against other incumbents due to redistricting.

Meanwhile, Assembly Chris Kapenga of Delafield won twice yesterday. He was re-elected to his Assembly seat, and he won a Republican primary for a Senate seat that became vacant when Republican Rich Zipperer joined the Walker administration.

Kapenga will move to the Senate since there's no Democratic challenger for his general election. The lawmaker he beat in the primary, Paul Farrow of Pewaukee, will stay in the Legislature after being re-elected to his Assembly post.