Sheridan responds to attack ad from former Democratic colleague

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Jim Leute
Tuesday, August 5, 2014

JANESVILLE--Senate candidate Mike Sheridan is writing off as “sour grapes” an attack ad paid for by a fellow Democrat who still serves in the Wisconsin Assembly.

Paid for by “Citizens Against Payday Lenders. F. Kessler, Treasurer,” the ad focuses on payday loan legislation that passed the Assembly when Sheridan was its speaker.

Critics claimed Sheridan watered down the bill about the same time he was dating a lobbyist for the payday lending industry in early 2010.

Sheridan admitted the relationship but said the bill was the toughest he could get passed with the legislative makeup at the time.

Sheridan lost his Assembly re-election bid later in 2010.

He is running against Rep. Janis Ringhand and Austin Scieszinski in Tuesday's Democratic primary. The winner will advance to face Republican Brian Fitzgerald for the right to replace Sen. Tim Cullen, who is not seeking re-election.

Rep. Fred Kessler, D-Milwaukee, said he paid about $5,000 to place the radio ad in the Janesville market, including on radio stations WCLO and WJVL.

“I did pay for it all by myself, although I had several offers to offset the cost, but they all wanted to be anonymous,” Kessler said. “I don't like anonymous.”

Kessler said he had many issues with Sheridan.

Beyond the payday legislation, Kessler said he didn't like Sheridan's leadership on issues such as funding for voucher schools, placement of sexual offenders and redistricting.

“Mike was a terrible leader,” Kessler said, claiming that Sheridan several times did not follow through on the overwhelming wishes of his caucus.

Sheridan said Tuesday the radio ad is similar to a critical letter to the editor in the Gazette written by Jim Kreuser, Kenosha County executive and a former Assembly Democratic leader.

“It's sour grapes, and it's not any different than what Jim Kreuser did,” Sheridan said.

“Fred Kessler was a candidate for speaker, and Fred Kessler didn't have any support. He supported Jon Richards, and when his candidate didn't win, Kessler decided to challenge me at every turn.”

Sheridan said he met with Kessler in an effort to make amends, but it was a lost cause. Sheridan said he ultimately had to “marginalize” Kessler with less desirable committee assignments.

“When you're in a leadership position like I was, you're going to make decisions that some people aren't happy with,” Sheridan said. “His pet idea was redistricting, which we do every 10 years in Wisconsin, and I wasn't going to step outside that cycle just because he wanted to stack the deck.”

Kessler said Sheridan gave in to “self satisfaction over the principles that got him elected to office.”

The Milwaukee Democrat said he paid for the radio spots out of concern for the party's future.

He said Sheridan lost to Republican Joe Knilans in 2010 in the most Democratic district in the area.

“If Mike Sheridan is elected in the primary, we could lose this Senate seat,” Kessler said, noting that he has worked with Ringhand but is not endorsing either of the other two candidates.

“Either one of them would be fine.”

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