Iron County Progressive

Weekly News from Your Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair

Follow this newsletter to keep current on the events shaping our state and the work our party is doing to win in 2020 and beyond. 

Dear fellow Wisconsin Democrats,

Here are two articles that are very much worth your time. Both in the New York Times. Both by the same reporter, Reid Epstein. One bleak. The other, a cause for hope.

The first: "In Wisconsin, Virus Creates New Front in Long-Simmering Partisan Wars." As the piece illustrates, Wisconsin is not just 2020's electoral college tipping-point state—we're also  the front line in the fight against a Republican Party that has gone completely over the edge.

The piece quotes the treasurer of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, who posted this plea to fellow organizers of today's anti-Safer-at-Home protest in a Facebook group:

"Ok folks, I implore you, please leave Confederate flags and/or AR15s, AK47s, or any other long guns at home... I well understand that the Confederacy was more about states rights than slavery. But that does not change the truth of how we should try to control the optics during the event.”

The reason why Wisconsinites fought and died in the Civil War was to end slavery. The Republican Party was founded in 1854—in Wisconsin—to oppose slavery. That was a very different party. Today's Wisconsin Republicans defend the banner of slavery, hiding it in order to manage the optics of their protest against public health measures intended to keep them (and all of us) alive. It says everything about what we're up against.

But the second article is a cause for hope: "Vote by Mail in Wisconsin Helped a Liberal Candidate, Upending Old Theories." The piece describes an analysis of ballots cast in person versus via mail. The finding:

Jill Karofsky performed 10 percentage points better than her conservative opponent in votes cast by mail than she did in votes cast at Election Day polling places.

71% of the votes in our April 7 election were cast via absentee ballot. The piece concludes that
"The gap suggests that Democrats were more organized and proactive in their vote-by-mail efforts."

That's no accident. That's the result of tireless work by thousands of us across the state—not just in the three and a half weeks that we spent helping people vote by mail before April 7, but in the three and a half years since we launched the DPW's year-round field program. And for many DPW members, it's the fruit of three and a half decades—or longer—involved in building our party from the grassroots up.

We won on April 7 not despite our values, but because of them. Because our values drive us to care for our communities. To keep people safe. To help people vote, not shut people out. To make democracy work.

As anti-science, anti-health Republican protestors gather in their thousands to oppose public health measures, our counter-protests won't be in the streets. We won't mourn. We won't gather and boo.  We'll organize.


P.S. -- Earlier this week, I joined Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Ady Barkan, Bradley Whitford and Desmond Meade for a conversation on how to protect an election during a pandemic (we have a little experience on the matter here in Wisconsin). You can watch our conversation here.

FIGHT on the Issues & FIGHT to Win

Republican Power Grab in Court

In a blatant political power grab, Republicans in the Legislature sued this week to overturn Gov. Evers’ latest stay-at-home order. Robin Vos and Scott Fitzgerald, the same people who forced an election in the middle of a pandemic, are now showing once again that their personal political power is more important to them than your health. Safer at Home is working and saving lives, and if Republicans are successful in this lawsuit, Wisconsinites will die.

Our elected officials must listen to science and data to inform their decisions about how to move forward. That's why Gov. Evers relied on public health experts to inform the Badger Bounce Back plan which will get Wisconsin back on track and ensure our workers and businesses are prepared to reopen as soon as it is safe to do so.

Gov. Evers’ plan responsibly prioritizes the health and prosperity of Wisconsinites in an unprecedented time of social disruption. Republicans, on the other hand, are actively endangering the public and undermining efforts by the governor to move the state forward through this pandemic. Today, right-wing groups are planning to put themselves and everyone else at risk by gathering at the capital to stage a protest against Safer at Home. Republican leaders themselves have encouraged these protests in an attempt to delegitimize the safety measures that will slow the spread of the pandemic.
We should expect better from our leadership.

Mike Pence Posing Instead of Helping Wisconsin

After wasting months ignoring the coronavirus, Trump sent Mike Pence to Wisconsin for a photo-op on Monday while health professionals and patients here and across this country still don’t have the medical equipment they need to fight coronavirus. Wisconsin’s economy and people continue to struggle because of what Donald Trump and Mike Pence both did and failed to do. The Vice President should be working on solutions, not smiling for the camera.

Save the Veto

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin is proud to announce the launch of its Save the Veto initiative, a campaign to prevent Republicans from gaining a supermajority in each chamber of the state legislature. Due to gerrymandering, the GOP is just three seats away from the ⅔ control they would need to override Gov. Tony Evers’ veto in both the Assembly and state Senate. You can read about this initiative here:

At a time when Republicans are blatantly vying for power in the midst of a pandemic, it is vital that Democrats protect the Governor’s authority. The party has already raised over $2 million for the initiative, and the scale of the program is unprecedented and will work both to protect incumbent Democrats and challenge vulnerable Republican legislators. Save the Veto will stop Robin Vos and Scott Fitzgerald’s supermajority, ensure Democrats continue to wield the executive power that voters elected them to hold in 2018, and prevent the GOP from re-rigging the maps in the 2021 redistricting process.


Earth Day and Environmental Justice

This week Wisconsin Democrats celebrated Earth Day which was established 50 years ago by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson who harnessed grassroots action to bring about awareness and to politically center environmental issues. In his Earth Day speech, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson said, "Our goal is not just an environment of clean air, water, and scenic beauty. The objective is an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect for all other human beings and all other living creatures. Our goal is a decent environment in its broadest and deepest sense." Wisconsin Democrats continue to carry on that legacy of justice for those disaffected by the exploitation of the planet.

Earth Day is an important reminder of what can be achieved collectively when the most vulnerable populations are included in the fight for action on climate change. Wisconsin has a dangerous legacy of environmental injustice, whether it is that children of color are twice as likely to live near hazardous chemical facilities or that zoning laws created industrial dumping grounds in predominately poorer and Black and brown neighborhoods. In calling for action, it is essential to remember that many communities are disproportionately affected by climate change and that any solution must address those inequities.

Coronavirus' Disproportionate Impact

As coronavirus continues to affect communities across Wisconsin, it has become clear that it is disproportionately hurting Black Wisconsinites and now appears to be expanding in rural areas. Deaths and cases of COVID-19 in Wisconsin have been concentrated in Milwaukee's Black community, and the pandemic is only exacerbating long-established socioeconomic and health care inequities in one of the country's most segregated cities. While this virus can and will impact everyone, any solutions must address the fact that this pandemic is magnifying the inequalities that our system already upholds.

Similarly, though coronavirus has been concentrated in cities across the state, it appears to be expanding in rural communities and continues to hurt their economies and health. It is crucial for Wisconsinites of all races and in all geographies to work together to control the spread and fight for the common good of the state.

EMPOWER the Grassroots

Volunteer to Win the Wisconsin 7th District

Help us defeat Toxic Tom Tiffany in the Wisconsin 07 special election for Congress on May 12, by volunteering to help Tricia Zunker-- an outstanding champion of families throughout Northern Wisconsin:

Sign Nomination Papers for the Candidates in your Districts

Nomination signatures are required for Wisconsin candidates appearing on the Fall 2020 ballot. Signatures can begin circulating on April 15, 2020 and are due by June 1, 2020. To find the candidate in your area and sign their papers follow this link:

Call Out Robin Vos

Robin Vos and the GOP are encouraging folks to break Safer-At-Home orders saying that he thinks people should feel free to protest-- but they refuse to say whether it’s actually safe. Call out Speaker Vos for encouraging Wisconsinites to risk their lives for his political games--

Hello to my constituents in Northern Wisconsin,

As always, I want to extend my gratitude to all of you. This has been a hard time for everyone, but we have so far prevented our medical systems from becoming overwhelmed as we band together, stay safe and stay home when we can. I'm so proud of my communities in the 74th Assembly District.

In my last COVID-19 update, which you can see here, I provided information on the extended Safer at Home order and Governor Evers’ plan for safely reopening our state. As a reminder, here are the things we need to begin dialing back the Safer at Home order:
  • Expanded contact tracing in order to monitor contacts of infected people and notify them of their exposure.
  • Access to more testing and labs.
  • Access to more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and supplies.
  • Increased hospital capacity.
  • A sustained reduction in the number of cases. 
Yesterday, Governor Evers announced a turn of the dial as we've begun to reach some of these benchmarks. To provide opportunities for more businesses to responsibly reopen, the governor expanded allowable operations for non-essential businesses. The following businesses will be permitted to operate as long as payments are completed online or over the phone, proper cleaning procedures are in place, and the service can be provided by one person.
  • Dog groomers
  • Repair services
  • Upholstery businesses
  • Taxidermy businesses
  • Outdoor recreational rental services
  • Automatic or self-service car washes
This went into effect on Wednesday, April 29th. You can read the order here, and Frequently Asked Questions here.

If you don’t know if your business is allowed to operate or what services you can provide, you can fill out the form on the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation website here (scroll to the bottom of the page). WEDC reviews each inquiry on a case-by-case basis and will provide you with a formal opinion.

Again, thank you to everyone, from the front line essential workers to those staying at home. I have faith that we will get through this.  

Unemployment Updates and Assistance

The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) has been working hard to field the massive increase in Unemployment Insurance applications, as well as updating their system to accommodate expanded benefits. Here are some recent changes:

Self-Employed/Gig Workers - If you do not qualify for regular unemployment insurance, you can now apply for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. You can learn more and apply at this link.

Increase in benefits - This week, DWD will be providing the additional $600 per week benefit to claimants. This benefit will be retroactive to the week ending on April 4. Claimants do not need to take action to receive this benefit. You can find out more at this link.

For further questions on Unemployment Insurance, please visit the DWD Frequently Asked Questions page.

Are you having trouble getting your unemployment benefits? If it has been at least three weeks since you submitted your application and you have not received your benefits, my office may be able to help you. Email with the following information: 
  • Full name 
  • Phone number
  • Issue you want to be resolved (i.e. When will I receive my benefits?)
  • Status of your application
    • Did you apply online?
    • What date did you submit it? 
    • Are you awaiting a decision on something that had to be investigated? 
My staff will send this information to the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and request that they promptly look into your case. I understand that this is a difficult financial time for many, and I am committed to helping you receive your benefits in a timely manner.

New Money for Small Businesses

Last week, President Trump signed another COVID-19 rescue package into law. This package includes $310 billion in additional funds for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Due to the high demand, the first round of funds for PPP was exhausted in just two weeks.

PPP is a loan through the Small Business Association (SBA) that provides a direct incentive for small businesses to keep employees on their payroll. The loan will be forgiven if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utilities.

You can apply for PPP through certain lenders, and under the new legislation, the number of eligible lenders has increased. You should consult with your local lender to see if they are participating in the program. If you have already started the PPP application process with a lender, you should not have to restart the process. However, you should contact your lender to be safe.

For additional questions on PPP, you can visit the SBA website here.

Businesses can also request tax relief from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue. The following taxes are included: withholding, state and county sales tax, excise tax, local expo district tax, premier resort area tax, limousine tax, rental car tax, police and fire protection fee, and dry cleaning licensing fees.

Businesses can fill out the COVID-19 Tax Relief form at this link.

State Parks Update

As the weather warms up and many of us could use a pick-me-up, now is a good time to get out and safely enjoy our beautiful parks.

Today, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will reopen 34 previously closed state parks and forests. Parks can now operate under special conditions to minimize over crowding and promote a safe experience for visitors and staff.

Here are some of the changes to state park operations:
  • An annual park sticker and/or trail pass will be required to visit state parks and trails. 
  • State parks and forests will be open from 6am to 7pm daily.
  • Properties will be closed to the public every Wednesday for maintenance and upkeep.
  • At times, many properties will reach their predetermined safety capacity. When this happens, visitors may be denied entry to the park until existing visitors leave. Visitors are encouraged to visit during non-peak hours (before 10am and after 4pm).
  • Restrooms at all properties will be closed.
  • Hunting and fishing will be allowed on properties in accordance with the season structure and hours.
  • DNR boat launches are open at properties.
  • All linear/rail-trails are open to the public, which includes ATV trails.

Face Masks

The CDC now recommends that you wear a face mask when out in public. There are a number of ways you can make your own cloth mask.

Check out this link from the CDC for instructions on how to sew a mask, cut one out from a t-shirt, repurpose a bandana and more.

I also want to thank the wonderful volunteers who have made and donated masks to those in needs. I'm still inspired by this Fred Rogers quote:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'"

If you are interested in other ways to help, please contact your local health department (see links below). Thank you, helpers!

As always, the best information on COVID-19 can be found at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. There is also great information to be found for all of the state of Wisconsin agencies at the governors website, For local updates, here are the county health departments in the 74th Assembly District:
Important note: The information in this update is relevant as of May 1st at 10:30 am. Things are moving quickly and bound to change. 

Feel free to reach out to my office with any questions or concerns. Email me at or call at (608) 266-7690.

We are all in this together, and I have great confidence that the people of Wisconsin will rise and meet this challenge.

Be well, and thank you,