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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wisconsin voters missed an opportunity

Kathleen Falk … new energy, new ethos, new era
Editing by Carolyn Bennett

The Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers reports that the United States “has a poor track record of electing women.”
The number of women in Congress to date “has dropped to 17 percent and the number of women in state legislatures declined by nearly 80 seats, the sharpest drop in forty years.
Yesterday’s results of the Democratic primary to field a challenger to Republican Governor Scott Walker indicate that voters chose the status quo  — entrenched Democratic federal, state and local politician Thomas Mark (Tom) Barrett — instead of fresh thinking and new energy, hope for a new ethos and real progress in high-level elective office.

Kathleen Falk came in second in the primary, taking 36 percent (124,685 votes) of the vote in a 30 percent turnout, which suggests a double-edged commentary on Wisconsin voters. But for her election totals and their import; and more importantly, for her public service, her priorities and qualifications, Kathleen Falk deserves attention.

She has established a reputation demonstrated in policy and performance of adhering to basic principles of preservation relative to human beings and their potential and environmental protection: not wasting land or money or children’s futures. She has been a leading advocate “for clean streams, lakes and forests.” As Dane County [Wisconsin] Executive, she exhibited “the very best of what it means to be a public servant,” said a statement by the Democratic Party.

Kathleen Falk was “not only on the front lines challenging the legality of [Gov. Scott] Walker’s unprecedented power grab, she traveled the state highlighting her opposition to Walker’s unprincipled moves which put Wisconsin’s freedoms and working families in … jeopardy.” Of all her accomplishments “in her long career of selfless service to the people of Wisconsin,” said the statement yesterday, Kathleen Falk’s leadership “in the formation of the movement to recall Scott Walker may prove to be the most important.”

Falk was the first woman County Executive in Dane County, Wisconsin’s largest county with a population of more than 475,000 and an annual county budget in the range of $500 million.

Her leadership earned her a reputation for “bringing people together over important and often contentious issues.” As Dane County Executive, Falk focused on initiatives to reduce sprawl and improve water quality; to serve the needs of kids, families and the elderly; and to be what she termed  “smart on crime” by using effective drug treatment strategies with repeat, non-violent offenders.

In 14 years’ service as chief elective officer of the county, Falk’s budgets reportedly included investments in public safety programs and law-enforcement infrastructure, jail diversion programs for non-violent substance-addicted offenders, and the launch of a community-based initiative aimed at gang prevention.

She struck the “first-ever” agreement with the state of Wisconsin to fund an environmental protection plan for a local highway development. She has called for stronger storm water regulations and a state ban on lawn fertilizer containing phosphorus and on toxic tar sealant. In 2010, Falk proposed and helped install one of the nation’s first neighboring-farm manure digesters to target phosphorus and runoff pollution in the county’s lakes and streams.

Born in 1951 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, her academic credentials taken at Stanford University (B.A. philosophy 1973), University of Wisconsin Law School (JD 1976) and Harvard University (Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program), Kathleen Falk is a U.S. attorney, politician and public servant. In addition to her work as County Executive of Dane County, Wisconsin (1997- 2011), she was an Assistant Attorney General in the Wisconsin Department of Justice (1983-1997); and before that she was co-director and counsel to Wisconsin’s Environmental Decade where she won nationally significant cases. In 2002, Falk was a candidate for Governor in the Democratic primary, the first major-party woman candidate for Governor in Wisconsin history.

In the Democratic primary yesterday to choose a challenger in the June Republican Gov. Scott Walker recall election, Kathleen Falk took 36 percent (124,685 votes) in an election that saw 30.2 percent of eligible voters casting a ballot.  

Speaking of women voting for women and U.S. voters bothering to vote and those who vote casting their ballots for women, the latest listing (2012) by the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), a unit of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, shows some depressing figures — 
74 women hold statewide elective executive offices across the United States 
Women hold 23.3 percent of the 317 available positions 
38 are Democrats
35 are Republicans 
1 was elected in a nonpartisan race.
 “The United States,” the Center reports, “has a poor track record of electing women…  The number of women in Congress has dropped to 17 percent, and the number of women in state legislatures declined by nearly 80 seats, the sharpest drop since CAWP began tracking numbers over four decades ago.”

According to Inter-Parliamentary Union, the United States is 70th internationally in terms of women’s representation.

However, the Center says, “The election of 2012 presents a unique opportunity for women to increase their numbers in office

Following the 2010 census, every congressional and state legislative district in the country is being redrawn, and new and open seats will be created. Reapportionment creates opportunity, and research shows that women have more success winning open seats. Also, presidential elections coincide with redistricting only once every 20 years, and research shows that voting patterns in presidential years further boosts women candidates.”

Maybe Kathleen Falk will be among the candidates. 

Sources and notes

“Democratic Party of Wisconsin (Chair Mike Tate) Statement on Kathleen Falk,” May 8, 2012, http://www.wbay.com/story/18236876/2012/05/08/democratic-party-statement-on-kathleen-falk

Tom Barrett, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Barrett_(politician)
Dane County Government Executive’s Office (Kathleen Falk), http://www.countyofdane.com/exec/kathleen_falk.aspx
Kathleen Falk, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kathleen_Falk

“Wisconsin recall: Turnout for primary breaks 30 percent” (AP), May 9, 2012,

About 670,000 votes were cast for Democratic candidates; about 646,000 votes were cast on the Republican side.

“Barrett wins Wis. Dem recall primary” (UPI), May 8, 2012, http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2012/05/08/Barrett-wins-Wis-Dem-recall-primary/UPI-99981336462200/

The Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), a unit of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is nationally recognized as the leading source of scholarly research and current data about American women’s political participation. Its mission is to promote greater knowledge and understanding about women’s participation in politics and government and to enhance women’s influence and leadership in public life.

Facts on Women in Statewide Elective Executive Office 2012

Women in Statewide Elective Executive Office 2012 (74 (38D, 35R, 1NP)

GOVERNORS - 6 (2D, 4R)

AZ- Jan Brewer (R)

OK- Mary Fallin (R)

NC- Beverly Perdue (D)

NM- Susana Martinez (R)

SC-Nikki Haley (R)

WA-Christine Gregoire (D)

LIEUTENANT GOVERNORS - 11 (4D, 7R) (* Elected independent of the governor)

AL- Kay Ivey (R)*

CT- Nancy Wyman (D)*

FL- Jennifer Carroll (R)

IA-Kim Reynolds (R)

IL-Sheila Simon (D)

IN-Becky Skillman (R)

MN-Yvonne Solon (D)

NJ-Kim Guadagno (R)

OH-Mary Taylor (R)

RI-Elizabeth Roberts (D)*

WI-Rebecca Kleefisch (R)

CA-Kamala Harris (D)

FL-Pam Bondi (R)

IL- Lisa Madigan (D)

MA-Martha Coakley (D)

MN-Lori Swanson (D)

NV-Catherine Cortez Masto (D)

PA-Linda Kelly (R)


AL-Beth Chapman (R)

CA-Debra Bowen (D)

CT-Denise Merrill (D)

IN-Connie Lawson (R)

KY-Alison Lundergan Grimes (D)

MI-Ruth Johnson (R)

MO-Robin Carnahan (D)

MT-Linda McCulloch (D)

NC-Elaine Marshall (D)

NM-Dianna Duran (R)

OR-Kate Brown (D)

WV- Natalie Tennant (D)

STATE TREASURER/CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER - 8 (6D, 2R) [* The Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party is the state's Democratic Party]

AR- Martha Shoffner (D)

CT-Denise Nappier (D)

MS-Lynn Fitch (R)

NC-Janet Cowell (D)

ND-Kelly Schmidt (R)

NV-Kate Marshall (D)

RI-Gina Raimondo (D)

VT-Beth Pearce (D)


AL-Samantha Shaw (R)

MA-Suzanne Bump (D)

MN-Rebecca Otto (DFL)*

MT-Monica Lindeen (D)

NC-Beth Wood (D)

WY-Cynthia Cloud (R)


ID-Donna M. Jones (R)

IL-Judy Topinka (R)

NV-Kim Wallin (D)

TX -Susan Combs (R)

CHIEF STATE EDUCATION OFFICIAL 5 (2D, 2R, 1NP*)  (title varies from state to state) [* Election was nonpartisan]

MT-Denise Juneau (D)

NC-June Atkinson (D)

OK-Janet Barresi (R)

OR-Susan Castillo (NP*)

WY-Cindy Hill (R)


DE-Karen Weldin Stewart (D)

KS-Sandy Praeger (R)


NC-Cherie Killian Berry (R)


AZ-Sandra D. Kennedy (D)

AZ-Brenda Burns (R)

OK-Dana Murphy (R)

OK-Patrice Douglas (R)


MS-Cindy Hyde-Smith (R)


AL-Lucy Baxley (D)

AL-Twinkle Cavanaugh (R)

MT-Gail Gutsche (D)

NE-Anne Boyle (D)

NM-Theresa Becenti-Aguilar (D)


SD-Kristie Fiegen (R)


TX-Elizabeth Ames Jones (R)



Votes for women, http://dc.ecowomen.org/resources/career-resources/women-in-politics/womens-suffrage/
Elect women 2012, http://electwomen2012.eventbrite.com/
Kathleen Falk, http://www.nbc26.com/news/local/139484468.html
Votes for women, http://www.edinburghmuseums.org.uk/Venues/Museum-of-Edinburgh/Exhibitions/Votes-for-Women-(1)
Women’s Rights Museum, Seneca, NY, http://www.nps.gov/wori/photosmultimedia/photogallery.htm
Make votes count, register, http://dawn.thot.net/women_vote.html
Century of Action: Oregon Women Vote, eventbrite.com
Women the right to vote, http://www.congressforkids.net/Constitution_righttovote.htm
Kathleen Falk, host.madison.com

Bennett's books are available in New York State independent bookstores: Lift Bridge Bookshop: www.liftbridgebooks.com [Brockport, NY]; Sundance Books: http://www.sundancebooks.com/main.html [Geneseo, NY]; Mood Makers Books: www.moodmakersbooks.com [City of Rochester, NY]; Dog Ears Bookstore and Literary Arts Center: www.enlightenthedog.org/ [Buffalo, NY]; Burlingham Books – ‘Your Local Chapter’: http://burlinghambooks.com/ [Perry, NY 14530]; The Bookworm: http://www.eabookworm.com/ [East Aurora, NY] • See also: World Pulse: Global Issues through the eyes of Women: http://www.worldpulse.com/ http://www.worldpulse.com/pulsewire http://www.facebook.com/#!/bennetts2ndstudy

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