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Tunisia RPCV Jim Doyle still making his own name
Tunisia RPCV Jim Doyle still making his own name
Kerry Salesman's Still Making His Own Name
By MONICA DAVEY
Published: August 15, 2004
MADISON, Wis. - It cannot be easy to arrive here in the wake of Tommy G. Thompson, Wisconsin's governor for 14 years, the everyman who sometimes clad in leather pants rode a motorcycle, the author of changes in the welfare system that were held up as a national model.
It has been more than three years since Mr. Thompson, a Republican, stepped down to become the federal secretary of health and human services. But whether they adored him or despised him, some voters still speak of Mr. Thompson as The Governor.
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For them and others, the current governor, James E. Doyle, a Democrat, has yet to make as much of an impression, but they say he seems quiet, cerebral, hard-nosed. Mr. Doyle, 58, was elected two years ago, and though he leads John Kerry's presidential effort in this battleground state, some here question how much he will be able to sway voters, because some voters are still, in many ways, getting used to him. For his part, Mr. Doyle hopes to sway the candidate, saying he intends to offer Mr. Kerry advice on issues people here need to hear about.
"It's no secret what those are," Mr. Doyle said in an interview. "It's jobs, No. 1. It's quality of education for people who really care about that, as they should for their kids. It's health care. And now it's Iraq - it's peace in the world. There aren't any trick issues this time around."
He grew up in Democratic politics in Madison, often seen as the most liberal spot in Wisconsin. His mother, Ruth Bachhuber Doyle, served in the State Legislature in the 1940's. His father, James E. Doyle Sr., once ran for governor.
After serving in the Peace Corps in Tunisia, protesting the Vietnam War and working as a lawyer at an Indian reservation in Arizona, he was elected district attorney in Dane County and later was elected Wisconsin's attorney general.
But in his run for governor, Mr. Doyle received no staggering mandate. In the 2002 primary, he narrowly survived a three-way race, winning 38 percent of the vote while his closest opponent, Tom Barrett (now Milwaukee's mayor) received 34 percent. Likewise, the general election was close, but Mr. Doyle fended off the incumbent, Scott McCallum, who had been lieutenant governor until Mr. Thompson resigned, and Ed Thompson, the former governor's brother, who ran as a Libertarian.
By the time Mr. Doyle took office in 2003, Republicans dominated both bodies in the Legislature. Battles soon erupted. Mr. Doyle and the Republicans argued over control of the gambling compacts with Indian tribes and over a proposed cap on local property taxes.
Some Republican legislators complain that he has been aloof, unwilling to compromise.
"It's been the greatest frustration to me," said Representative John Gard, the state Assembly's Republican speaker, from Peshtigo. "I guess that's his style. But if he continues to belittle people and basically treat them poorly, they'll say, 'Hey, I'm not going to work with that guy.' "
Donald F. Kettl, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, blames both sides. "He has been a tactical governor caught in a vicious crossfire in the Legislature," Professor Kettl said. "He has spent most of his time in a foxhole. But given how wild and turbulent things have been for him just dealing with that, it's certainly unclear how big an impact he could have when it comes to John Kerry."
Linda Honold, the state Democratic Party chairwoman, said Mr. Doyle's role in the presidential race was clear and simple. "He is a prominent Democratic leader in the state," she said. "He brings the visibility and the prominence of being the governor."
Perhaps. But it is not easy to compete with a predecessor who remains one of the state's best-known political figures. Joe Heim, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, put it bluntly: "Tommy Thompson was the big man on the block. Doyle is not Tommy."
| This Month's Issue: August 2004|
Teresa Heinz Kerry celebrates the Peace Corps Volunteer as one of the best faces America has ever projected in a speech to the Democratic Convention. The National Review disagreed and said that Heinz's celebration of the PCV was "truly offensive." What's your opinion and who can come up with the funniest caption for our Current Events Funny?
Exclusive: Director Vasquez speaks out in an op-ed published exclusively on the web by Peace Corps Online saying the Dayton Daily News' portrayal of Peace Corps "doesn't jibe with facts."
In other news, the NPCA makes the case for improving governance and explains the challenges facing the organization, RPCV Bob Shaconis says Peace Corps has been a "sacred cow", RPCV Shaun McNally picks up support for his Aug 10 primary and has a plan to win in Connecticut, and the movie "Open Water" based on the negligent deaths of two RPCVs in Australia opens August 6. Op-ed's by RPCVs: Cops of the World is not a good goal and Peace Corps must emphasize community development.