Bice: Top Dems Initially Fought Wisconsin’s Jason Rae’s Bid for DNC Secretary

Bice: Top Dems initially fought Wisconsin’s Jason Rae’s bid for DNC secretary
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Dan Bice
March 8, 2017

Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairwoman Martha Laning and Vice Chairman David Bowen opted to back candidates other than Milwaukee activist Jason Rae on the first two ballots for Democratic National Committee secretary.

Only when it became apparent that Rae, 30, was going to be elected secretary on the third ballot at the DNC’s annual winter meeting in Atlanta last month did Laning, Bowen and another Wisconsin delegate, Andrew Werthmann of Eau Claire, decide to cast their ballots for Rae for the powerful political post.

“Martha and David sought to support candidates for secretary who would best support state parties,” said Brandon Weathersby, spokesman for the state Democratic Party. “They both voted for Jason Rae on the final ballot, and they’re both supportive of Rae as DNC secretary.”

But on the first two ballots, Laning and Werthmann voted for Wyoming Democratic Party Chairwoman Ana Cuprill, and Bowen — a Milwaukee state rep — supported Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the incumbent for the job. Rae had the support of Milwaukee union leader Martha Love and state Sen. Janet Bewley of Ashland.

“I find it absolutely appalling that not only did Martha Laning not vote for Jason Rae but she was actively campaigning against him.”— Glendale Mayor Bryan Kennedy

Glendale Mayor Bryan Kennedy, who is challenging Laning for state party chairman, lashed out at her for trying to block Rae for the DNC slot. Kennedy said the vote shows Laning is “not about bringing the state party together.”

In 2015, Laning defeated Rae — the youngest person elected to the DNC — for state Democratic Party chairman in a hotly contested race.

“I find it absolutely appalling that not only did Martha Laning not vote for Jason Rae but she was actively campaigning against him,” Kennedy said. “To have a national officer who is from Wisconsin is a big step for us as a party. And to be actively working against him just comes across as incredibly petty.”

Carlene Bechen, campaign manager for Laning, disputed Kennedy’s point, saying Laning and Bowen did what they thought was best for the state party.

“Bryan Kennedy’s comment about Laning and Bowen actively campaigning against Jason Rae is misinformed and another example of how disconnected Bryan is from the internal workings of the DPW,” Bechen said.

During the recent campaign for DNC secretary, Rae ran on a platform stressing the need for transparency in Democratic Party affairs. This week, he released the voting results by person on the two ballots for DNC chairman, a post won by former Labor Secretary Tom Perez over Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison.

Those records showed Laning, Bowen and Werthman backed Ellison, the more liberal candidate, while Bewley supported Perez, who had the backing of the Democratic establishment. It appears that Rae, who did not return calls or emails, did not vote on the first ballot and backed Perez on the second.

In addition, Love’s votes weren’t counted because she submitted unsigned ballots in the chairman’s race.

Love, who favored Ellison, said this week that she doesn’t remember signing the first ballot but thought she had the second one. Either way, she apologized for turning in an invalid ballot, saying her actions were “regrettable” and “stupid.”

“This was just negligence on my part,” Love said. “I feel like a jughead.”

Read the story online here.