Sounding as much like he's running against Republican Governor-elect Scott Walker as the likes of Zach Brandon and Scott McDonell, Joe Wineke announced his campaign for Dane County executive Wednesday afternoon at the State Capitol and wasted no time in calling attention to the symbolism of the venue.
"You may be asking why we're gathered here, in the Assembly parlor of the State Capitol," Wineke said. "The answer is simple. Our very way of life in Dane County is at great risk and great peril because of actions that are going to take place in this building."
Wineke was introduced by former Gov. Tony Earl and joined at the podium by former Assembly speaker and U.S. Ambassador Tom Loftus, former state Rep. David Travis, his wife and kids and WTDY talk radio host John "Sly" Sylvester, on whose show he'll appear Thursday morning.
A former state representative and senator himself, Wineke's reputation as an affable and humorous hometown guy from Verona bled into his announcement, but he also used the word "fight" several times to indicate the role he'd like to play as county executive.
"If this becomes a war, I want to lead the fight," he said, referring to the perception that Walker, along with a Republican-controlled legislature, intends to reduce the state's budget shortfall by cutting state jobs and salaries and reducing state support for local government programs and the University of Wisconsin system.
"You cannot balance the budget of this state without raising taxes unless you're going to do it on the backs of local government," Wineke said.
Wineke is the latest entrant in a crowded field which includes county Sup. Scott McDonell, Deputy Secretary of Commerce Zach Brandon, former county executive Jonathan Barry and State Rep. Joe Parisi. To distinguish himself, he repeatedly referred to his personal history, which includes attending a one-room school in rural Dane County, working his way through college at the UW-Madison and representing the interests of union labor both as a legislator and in the private sector.
From 2005-09, Wineke chaired the state Democratic Party, a job Earl called "no kiss for Christmas" in his opening remarks.
Focusing on fiscal issues ("I'm a bit of a tightwad"), public safety and maintenance of infrastructure, Wineke barely mentioned issues relating to Regional Transit Authority and commuter rail in his remarks and explained why afterwards, saying he's not opposed to rail provided it would lead to a reduction of auto density on the roads.
"But I think it's a little premature," he added. "We don't even have a plan yet, do we? Plus, I don't think we can sell a half-cent sales tax."