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National Govt & Politics
Baldwin searches for right path to keep key Senate seat

Baldwin searches for right path to keep key Senate seat

Baldwin searches for right path to keep key Senate seat
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Scott Bauer, File
FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2018 file photo, Republican Senate candidate Leah Vukmir, standing, asks a question of Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin during a luncheon on in Madison, Wis. Vukmir is one of two Republicans running in the primary for a chance to take on Baldwin in the fall. (AP Photo/Scott Bauer, File)

Baldwin searches for right path to keep key Senate seat

Sen. Tammy Baldwin was back home in Wisconsin, talking about guns, health care and other issues before a politically minded luncheon crowd, when one of her Republican challengers rose to confront her.

Why, state Sen. Leah Vukmir wondered, had Baldwin voted against the GOP tax overhaul that cut taxes for the middle class?

Without a hint of irritation at the ambush, Baldwin quickly flipped the question, pointing out middle-class relief would be temporary and blaming the tax changes for a northeastern Wisconsin paper company laying off 600 workers. Those workers don't care about the tax cuts, Baldwin said.

"Their company has rewarded them by saying they are going to close that plant," she said.

The episode was an example of the Democrat's reputation as a soft-spoken but tough political pro — a persona she's banking on to help her win a second term in a race seen as key for control of the U.S. Senate.

Derided by conservatives as the embodiment of the oft-ridiculed "Madison liberal," Baldwin is ramping up a campaign that plays up her work on moderate and core Wisconsin issues. Her first TV ads last week touted her buy-America plan that President Donald Trump supports and her work with Republican Sen. John McCain on lowering drug costs.

But she's also squarely on board with signature Democratic issues such as stronger gun control, universal health care and continuing a program that allowed children of immigrants here illegally to remain.

For Baldwin to win, she'll need people like Bob Brockway to vote for her. A 77-year-old retired truck driver living in Montello, Wisconsin, who calls himself an independent, Brockway voted for Baldwin in 2012, went for Trump in 2016, and intends to vote for Baldwin again this year.

Brockway got to know Baldwin several years ago as he met with her in Washington and in Wisconsin, seeking help with a fight to save truckers' pensions from deep cuts.

"She's down-to-earth people," Brockway said of Baldwin. "She don't act like she's a senator, she acts like a normal person, comes in and talks to everybody, listens to everybody's problem, tries to solve their problem."

Republicans accuse Baldwin of shape-shifting to downplay her liberal bent. They say she's out of step with voters in a conservative-leaning state on such issues as opposing the GOP's tax cut, and in her support for universal health care.

"That's the dichotomy she's got to deal with," said Mark Morgan, executive director of the Wisconsin Republican Party.

Baldwin, 56, is the Senate's first openly gay member, but she's never made fighting for gay rights a central part of her platform.

She was born in Madison and graduated high school as valedictorian before heading east to Smith College. She returned home to Wisconsin and two years later, at 24, won her first election to the county board. In 1992 she was elected to the state Assembly, one of only a handful of openly gay candidates nationwide that year.

She doesn't talk much about that on the campaign trail. But she does like to tell the story of how her grandparents, who raised her, could not buy health insurance for her because of a condition similar to spinal meningitis. Baldwin got better, but she invokes her personal experience often when explaining her support for the Affordable Care Act and universal health care.

Initially criticized as slow to respond to a whistleblower complaint over opioid prescriptions at a home for military veterans in Wisconsin, Baldwin has diluted the attacks by working with the family of Jason Simcakoski, a Marine veteran who died of an overdose there in 2014. She sponsored legislation in his name that now requires VA employees prescribing opioids to be better trained and to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Money is already flowing against Baldwin. The Koch brothers and other conservative groups have spent more than twice as much against her than against all other Democratic Senate incumbents and candidates combined, $3.1 million to $1.4 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. One of her Republican challengers, Kevin Nicholson, has benefited from another $3.1 million spent on his behalf.

EMILY's List, the group that backs Democratic women who support abortion rights, is ready to push back. President Stephanie Schriock says the group is making Baldwin's re-election a top priority.

Baldwin has stockpiled money — $7 million at year's end — while Republicans are looking at a messy August primary between Vukmir, a longtime ally of Gov. Scott Walker, and Nicholson, a former Marine.

Baldwin's approval rating sat at just 37 percent in a Marquette University Law School poll released this week, with 39 percent disapproving, a sign her opponents said shows she's vulnerable.

But Democrats are optimistic after winning a special election in January for a state Senate seat that had been under Republican control for 17 years in a district Trump carried.

"Tammy has had a very successful career in getting elected to things that she wasn't supposed to get elected to," said U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, a Democrat who has known Baldwin since they served on the local county board together in the early 1990s.

Brockway, the retired truck driver, said he tells other Trump supporters to give Baldwin a chance.

"I just tell them to listen to her when she's speaking. She tells it from the heart," Brockway said. "She does what's right for people. ... Some of these people in Washington, they don't hear us."


Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP

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Fire medics pronounced him dead at the scene.  At one point, the dispatcher asks the officers if they also need medics.  “Negative,” an officer responds. “Neither one of us are hit, we’re okay. Suspect’s down.” The footage from the officers’ body cameras prior to the gunfire starts out quiet, as they make their way through the neighborhood, searching for the man suspected of vandalizing people’s vehicles. In the videos, the officers are seen asking a neighbor’s permission to search her backyard for the man.  As they search, the dogs heard in the original 911 call are much closer. The officers clear a shed before heading back onto the street.  A few moments later, the officers begin running toward the area where the deputy in the helicopter spotted Clark looking into the vehicle window next to his grandparents’ house.  “Show me your hands! Show me your hands! Stop!” one officer screams at Clark when he spots him. He runs after Clark, who is heading around the corner toward the patio. As the officer rounds the corner, he again screams, “Show me your hands!” and, “Gun!” before pushing his partner back. As both officers huddle at the corner, the same officer yells, “Show me your hands! Gun! Gun! Gun!”  They then both open fire. See the body camera footage from both officers, beginning when they first spot Clark, below. Warning: The images and language may be disturbing for some readers. Footage from the second officer’s body camera shows his hands holding his service weapon around the corner of the house as he and his partner unleash a barrage of bullets. It is not clear from the location of his body camera, which would be attached to his chest, if the second officer could see who he was shooting at.  The second officer’s body camera captured the fiery blasts from his partner’s gun as the gunshots rang out.  “Five seven, shots fired,” the first officer breathlessly tells the dispatcher. “Subject down.” Over the next few minutes, the officers continue ordering Clark to show them his hands, with no response. The second officer says that Clark was “still pointing” when he saw him prior to the shooting. They both spend a few moments quietly trying to catch their breath, during which time the officers determine that neither of them was shot. The officers agree to do a “tactical reload,” a maneuver in which law enforcement officers reload recently-fired weapons with fresh, full magazines to ensure they don’t run out of ammunition. The second officer estimated that he fired his weapon about five times, though his body camera footage shows more. Hahn has previously said that each officer fired 10 times.  The second officer’s body camera footage shows that additional police officers began to show up about that time, with one officer asking if the suspect had a gun.  “We haven’t secured it,” the second officer said. “We’re not moving in until we have more (backup).” The first officer is also heard saying, “(Clark’s) still down, he’s not moving. We can’t see the gun.” >> Read more trending news The officers tell their colleagues that Clark walked toward them with his hands out in front of him and that he held something that looked like a gun.  As the officers speak, their flashlights highlight Clark’s body, lying face-down on the patio. They continue to search from a distance for a gun. They also continue to try to get a response from Clark.  “Hey, can you hear us?” one officer yells.  “We need to know if you’re okay,” a female officer says. “We need to get you medics, but we can’t go over there to get you help unless we know you don’t have your weapon.” They continue trying to speak to the motionless Clark as sirens are heard in the background.  “Sir, can you move?” the female officer asks. “Can you hear us?” At least one officer keeps a gun trained on Clark the entire time and, for a few moments, the second of the first two officers on the scene suggests firing a non-lethal weapon at his body to ensure he isn’t faking unconsciousness, the footage shows. It does not appear that the officers did so. A few minutes later, the footage shows the officers finally approaching Clark’s body.  “Hey, if one of you guys want to go hands, cover him … oh, (expletive),” the second officer says as they get to Clark. The body camera shows the edge of something flat and light-colored peeking out from underneath his body. As they handcuff his limp hands behind his back and turn him over to start CPR, their flashlights show what the item is. It is the iPhone Clark was carrying.