Partisan gridlock has gone beyond Washington D.C. and has hit much closer to home, as two Democratic senators have decided to retire, citing the frustrating atmosphere working in the state Capitol.
Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, who has represented his northern district since 1983, said in a statement that his decision to not seek re-election in 2014 was “emotional and difficult.”
Jauch added being a senator from a northern district was difficult because other legislators did not understand his constituent’s predicaments.
Democracy is on “life support” at the state Capitol, Jauch said, and continuing his commitment to his constituents is something that he does not have the energy to continue.
“Recent efforts to achieve common ground have been rejected by those who act as though compromise is a sin,” Jauch said. “Moderation, which has always been a mainstay in Wisconsin politics that has led to common sense compromise serving the common good, has been suffocated by those who seek to win at any cost.”
In September, Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, also said he plans to retire at the end of his term in 2014.
Cullen said in a statement his ability to help and reach others would be better used at his two foundations, rather than the Legislature.
“I am not proud of or pleased by the fundamental conclusion I have reached: that I can make a bigger difference in my community as a private citizen than I can in the ugly political environment we see now in Wisconsin government,” Cullen said.
Upon Cullen’s announcement, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said he could understand Cullen’s disappointment with the environment in Madison.
Barca said Cullen’s sentiments about elected leaders remaining accountable to their constituents is of high priority, rather than skewing districts to encourage partisan extremism.
Jauch said in his statement political leaders and money have become too controlling over both political parties.
Rep. Andy Jorgensen, D-Milton, one lawmaker interested in running for Cullen’s Senate seat, formed an exploratory committee last week to discuss his options.
Jorgensen said he believes through continual conversation with the public, along with cross-party negotiation, he would be able to help pass bills through the Senate.
“If a bill has common sense, and if you keep fighting and keep talking, it will eventually get done,” Jorgensen said. “That is something I have a history of doing and something I plan on continuing to do.”
Jauch said in his statement the public should be informed, rather than “inflamed and enraged.”
Despite Jauch’s claims, Jorgensen said in a previous interview with The Badger Herald constituents are getting more and more involved as the atmosphere in Madison becomes more divided.
“This is a moment in time we can change things around and change the polarizing atmosphere,” Jorgensen said. “People more than ever are paying attention to what we do in the Capitol, it’s on their minds and they are getting vocal with it.”
Calls to Jauch and Cullen were not returned.