Saying both political parties have lost touch with the progressive people of Wisconsin by catering to special interest groups, state Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, announced Wednesday he will not seek reelection when his term expires at the end of 2014.

“This government is no longer transparent,” said Jauch, 67. “Special interests have too much power ... no matter which party is in control.”

Jauch added that leaders in both caucuses have stifled efforts to reach across the aisle to compromise.

“I think democracy in this state is at risk. Both sides play way too much to their base,” said Jauch. “Wisconsin is a progressive state. When you begin to lose the center, which is where the public is and wants you to be, democracy is at risk.”

From Poplar, which is near Superior, Jauch was first elected to the Assembly in 1982, with his term beginning in 1983. Four years later he was elected to the Senate. He has a reputation as a talkative lawmaker, with a good sense of humor who believes in reaching across the political aisle to broker compromises.

Wearing a tie with a rainbow and a smiling sun and fighting back tears when making his announcement, Jauch started his press conference Wednesday by joking he was going to take a job with a controversial mining company.

“I’d like to confirm the rumors going around the Capitol are true,” Jauch joked. “I am leaving to become the vice president of government relations for Gogebic Taconite.”

Jauch’s reference to Gogebic seemed appropriate, as the company’s ongoing effort to build a 4.5-mile-long iron ore mine in a portion of his district that includes Ashland and Iron counties has been a controversial topic that has played front and center at the Capitol for the past several years.

Jauch worked with other known moderates Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, and Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, to broker a more environmentally friendly mining bill than the one eventually passed by Republican lawmakers.

Cullen announced in September that he also would not be seeking reelection. Many believe Schultz may not seek reelection, either, leaving the Senate void of its trio of moderate veterans.

Jauch had high praise for both men. When asked if Schultz was going to announce his retirement from the Senate, Jauch said he “wished him well as he made that decision” and described him as a “progressive, practical, problem solver.”

Republicans now control the Senate 18-15.

Jauch also was part of the “Fab 14,” the knickname for the then 14 Senate Democrats who left the state for Illinois for three weeks in a failed attempt to stop a vote in 2011 on Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial bill to strip collective bargaining for most public workers.

The bill sparked mass protests at the Capitol. Jauch and Cullen crossed the border back to Wisconsin in an attempt to reach a deal with Republicans.

During a meeting with a Cap Times reporter at a hotel in Illinois, Jauch said “I am proud of the decision I have made. I think the other 13 are as well.

“We think we have set a precedent for the rest of the nation on how you should deal with disagreement over something as fundamental as workers’ rights,” said Jauch during the Illinois interview.

He again touched on the time in Illinois Wednesday.

“He and I were not trying to cut a deal to vote with Republicans," Jauch said of Cullen. "We were trying to preserve as much of the collective bargaining (rights) as we could. I think in the end, people understood what we were trying to do was the right thing.”

“I am proud of the decision I have made. I think the other 13 are as well,” Jauch said.

He added too many of his colleagues believe that Highway 29, which runs through east-to-west across the state through Wausau, is Wisconsin’s northern border, and they don’t understand the needs of the north. His district includes the Ojibwe tribes and his entire district is ceded territory, meaning different standards regulating hunting, fishing and environmental decisions.

“After traveling almost 750,000 miles and being involved in most of the Legislature’s most contentious issues, including bookends of the violent spear-fishing controversy and the volatile mining debate I have the same passion as I had on the first day, 31 years ago, to fight for the issues that matter to the citizens of the north,” Jauch said. “However, I simply do not have the energy to maintain that commitment in a political landscape where representative democracy is on life support.”

Lawmakers present for the announcement included the representatives from Jauch’s district; Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton; Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca of Kenosha; Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, and Senate President Mike Ellis, a veteran Republican member of the Senate who has served in the Legislature since 1970.

“We are losing a great senator,” Ellis said following the announcement.

Reporter

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(22) comments

WI_Expat
WI_Expat

Became a representative in 1982.

Yep, there is a poster "child" for the term "career politician"

Mr Mellow
Mr Mellow

Making a career of a profession is not always a bad thing. Who would you rather have?

* A new pilot flying the plane you're on -- or someone like "Sully" Sullenberger?
* A new doctor doing surgery on you -- or an experience, board-certified surgeon?
* A newly minted MBA managing your retirement monies -- or Warren Buffet?

Of course sometimes being a career politician means you don't shite from shinola about valuable private sector skills. The words "Walker" and "jobs" come to mind.

bpafree
bpafree

Says democracy is at risk, but ran away from it in 2011?

Mr Mellow
Mr Mellow

That the best you got? The Wisconsin legislature eventually passed Act 10, and a budget, and state government did not furlough any employees or shutdown any services.

You sure you want to bring the Fab 14 up while obstructionist House Republicans have the federal government shut down, and are threatening to wreck our nation's economy and credit rating? Makes leaving the state for a few weeks look like a very small thing.

witness2012
witness2012

Exactly, Mr. Mellow. The Democratic senators were forced to deny quorum as the only way to delay a radical bill that was being rushed through the legislature.

They did it so that the people of the state would have time to actually read what was in it before it was voted into law. When someone deliberately "drops a bomb", it calls for drastic measures.

They were heroes for doing that.

Wis_BlogRider
Wis_BlogRider

Serious question for all the scholars that post on these sites-With Democracy on life support in Wisconsin, what's next for the people of Wisconsin?

Nav
Nav

The people of Wisconsin stand at the crossroads. They can decide they want more of what the Republicans have given them (go backward and see Democracy totally murdered by the Republicans in Wisconsin )OR they can chart a new beginning by electing a Democratic Governor and legislature what will bring back sanity in the State Government and move us forward.

can ANYONR remember our state THIS divided under a Democratic Governor. THAT just does not happen!

correctthinking
correctthinking

Yes, under Tony Earl and 2 terms of "Diamond" Jim Doyle.

correctthinking
correctthinking

Someone a million times better than Jauch!!

correctthinking
correctthinking

Democracy is not on life support, its alive and well and doing better every day. Remove the parasites that show up in the People's House every day at noon to spew their hate, which will do them no good, as they are nothing to begin with, just brain-dead Berkeley burn-out walk behinders who could not collectively come up with a clue let alone a thought of substance.

Mr Mellow
Mr Mellow

Seek immediate medical attention. You're suffering an overdose of Right Wing rant.
Recovery is possible, but you'll have to refrain from all hate spewing media.

witness2012
witness2012

ct, is your comment an example of a "thought of substance"?

RichardSRussell
RichardSRussell

We knew back in college at Eau Claire that Bob was gonna be one of the good ones, and he's one of the few we can point to and say he never disappointed us.

Best wishes for a happy and less stressful life, Bob. You've more than earned it.

bookman21
bookman21

Who can blame him for not wanting to be associated with the Wisconsin Legislature?

lute
lute

A good man and a good senator. It's sad and jarring that his parting message is that our democracy is on life support. How far our state has fallen!

concerned_citizen
concerned_citizen

Wisconsin is open for business
not for democracy.

WI will miss people like Senator Jauch. Thank you.

Hello gerrymandered voting districts!
Hello voter suppression!
Hello massive amounts of money added to WI elections from out-of-state billionaires like the Koch brothers and their "grass tops" organizations.
Hello increased polarization in WI!

So sad.

correctthinking
correctthinking

Hello not caving to the union thugs
Hello not running away to Illinois
Hello to erasing a $3.8 billion debt
Hello to Voter ID so those who are eligible to vote can
Hello to a budget surplus
Hello to more jobs for regular citizens and not state employees
Hello to holding the line on property taxes
Hello to holding the line on corporate taxes so business will come here, and not run away
Hello to holding the line on handouts to school districts
Hello to a GOP majority in both houses and the east wing for years to come
Hello to a Wisconsin that is open for business
Hello to a Wisconsin that will lead the nation and show the morons in DC how government is done right.
Hello to free speech
Hello Wisconsin!

MrNatural
MrNatural

Democracy in this state is at risk'

Uhm, that ship has sailed.

graefental
graefental

Senator Jauch's departure is symptomatic of the decline and fall of our democracy. I wish him well.

correctthinking
correctthinking

His departure should have been 25 years ago, he is the absolute worst Senator this state has seen since Lena Taylor. Finally, he gets it, after eating from the public trough for 30 years, he finally steps away so true work for the people under conservative guidance will be realized.

Mr Mellow
Mr Mellow

My vote for worst ever would be Senator Glen Grothman (R-Looney Tunes). In his 20 years at the "public trough" he has spewed forth a mindboggling series of regressive bills and outrageous quotes in support of them. Examples:

* On repealing Wisconsin's Equal Pay Act, "Money is more important for men."

* After voting against a bill to prohibit smoking in bars, and introducing a bill that would allow it in hotel rooms, "Everybody knows you're not supposed to smoke."

Glen is also the guy who -- despite the Cryptosporidium outbreak in 1993 that killed at least 104 people in Milwaukee -- sponsored a bill removing the requirement that cities must disinfect the water in their municipal water systems.

witness2012
witness2012

I don't know MM. I think I'd give the worst senator award to Scott Fitzgerald who has completely eliminated any minority party input and used every strategy at his disposal to 'game the system' for Republican control, regardless of the wishes of the public.

Do you remember when the one public hearing was held in Madison on the proposed mine in the Penokees- Senator Jauch's district? It was scheduled on short notice on the day that Senator Jauch's daughter was getting married in Hawaii, a day when Senator Jauch could not be in Madison and one which he had advised Senator leadership wll in advance that he would be absent.

That was not an accident. You know what? Even on his daughter's wedding day in a different time zone, Bob Jauch still found time to call in and ask questions of mining executives.

His dedication to his district and constituents is and has been remarkable.

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