As the new session of the Wisconsin legislature gets underway, Republicans are once again in control of state government and Democrats are essentially powerless. But Democratic leaders say it would be a mistake for Republicans to view their position as a mandate.
To hear Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chris Larson describe it, the reason Republican Governor Scott Walker is sounding more moderate these days is because he saw Republicans lose statewide races in November. That's not necessarily the case, says Larson, in the legislature, "You have Republicans in the Assembly and the Senate who might be willing to try and go a little bit further because they feel like they have that mandate, but it's a gerrymandered mandate."
Gerrymandered, Larson says, in the sense that Republicans drew legislative maps that protect their members, even in a Democratic year.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald dismissed Larson's comments, "No, I mean it's Monday morning quarterbacking by the minority."
And Assembly Speaker Robin Vos outright rejected them, "I do believe Republicans have a mandate. We have had more elections over the course of the past two years than probably any state in the country. Every citizen has had an opportunity to either accept or reject what Republicans have been doing over the course of the past two years."
Repeatedly, Vos said, voters had accepted it.
But Assembly Democratic Minority Leader Peter Barca said Republicans won in part because they promised bipartisanship, "Virtually every candidate that was in a competitive seat made it the centerpiece of what they ran on. So I think people rightfully expect that people will be true to their campaign promises."
The first test of how Republicans view their situation could come Thursday, when Assembly lawmakers might vote on a new package of legislative rules.