Cullen's departure could be bad news for state's Democrats
MADISON Sen. Tim Cullen is making waves that could erode the Democrats' chances to retain control of the Senate in November, a political observer says.
Jeff Mayers of WisPolitics.com said Cullen's move is a major display of anger from a prominent member of the Senate.
"It shows divisions within the new (Senate) majority party. That's not usually a good thing going into elections," Mayers said. "It's not the kind of thing the Democrats need right now. They'd like to have a unified front going into the fall elections, and now there's controversy and apparent dissatisfaction with one of the biggest names in the caucus."
Mayers noted Cullen has been pushing the idea that the state could benefit if Democrats and Republicans get along with each other. He has made several joint appearances, for example, with Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center.
"When somebody of that stature sounds off, it's just not a good thing for Democrats," Mayers said.
Democrats hold a 17-16 edge in the Senate in the wake of the Senate recall elections, with Cullen, D-Janesville, counted on the Democratic side. That would jump to 17-15 next month after Sen. Rich Zipperer, a Pewaukee Republican, leaves to join Gov. Scott Walker's staff.
But Mayers said the likelihood of the Legislature coming back into session before January is remote, so Cullen's status likely won't make much difference when it comes to lawmaking until then.
If the Senate remains closely divided after the Nov. 6 election, then Cullen could become a power broker in January, Mayers said.
"We don't know how the November elections will turn out, but most election watchers think the odds are against the Democrats holding the majority," Mayers said. "But if it's close, … that could magnify his role."
If the Democrats retain control in November and Cullen becomes an independent, it's possible his former colleagues in the Senate Democratic Caucus would make it difficult for Cullen to get bills passed. But if the Republicans regain control, Cullen's bills might get more attention than if he were a Democrat, Mayers said.
"I wouldn't rule out that they (Cullen and Miller) find a way to patch things up, too," Mayers said.
Mayers said he doesn't know what happened between Miller and Cullen. "Obviously there's some friction between the two."