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Rock County elects Troy Knudson as new sheriff


Law-enforcement veteran Troy Knudson will replace Rock County Sheriff Robert Spoden in January.

Spoden is retiring after 12 years in the department’s top spot.

Voters on Tuesday chose Knudson, a Democrat, over another sheriff’s office administrator, Capt. Jude Maurer, who ran as a Republican.

Knudson said one of his first moves will be “to sit down with people and get on the same page and pointed in the right direction and then develop a strategy for the next four years.”

Knudson said two of his top goals are to improve rehabilitation services at the jail and to change the makeup of the sheriff’s office to make it better reflect the racial makeup of the county.

The office has no African-American deputy, although it does have some of Latino and Asian heritage.

At the jail, Knudson has talked about getting Rock County Human Services involved in increasing mental-health and drug-addiction treatment to inmates before they are released, so they’ll have a better chance of staying out of jail.

Maurer has called Knudson's ideas "worthy and noble" but cautioned that "the sheriff’s office must fight crime, and we cannot become an extension of human services.”

Knudson has talked about cross-training sheriff's office employees so they become more connected to the community, to other local law enforcement agencies and to the social-service system.

Knudson garnered 61 percent of the vote, compared with 39 percent for Maurer.

Knudson said he has a good relationship with Maurer and said he likely will sit down with his former opponent soon.

“We’ve both been on an interesting race together for the last several months, and I imagine we’ll have lots of things to talk about, and I think we’ll both be able to get back on track,” Knudson said.

Asked about the No. 2 person in the agency, Chief Deputy Barb Tillman, Knudson said he didn’t know if Tillman had made any decisions about her future, but he expects to see some turnover in personnel in the months ahead, and it will be a priority to “figure out how everything falls into place.”

Rumors flew during the campaign that Knudson would appoint Spoden his chief deputy, even though Knudson said repeatedly he wouldn’t do that.

Knudson has spent the past 30 years with the sheriff’s office, working in and overseeing most of the operation. He holds a master’s degree in criminal justice from Boston University and is an FBI National Academy graduate.

Knudson, 51, of rural Beloit, also serves on the Orfordville Parkview School Board.

Obituaries and death notices for Nov. 7, 2018

Joseph F. Cleaton

Charles “Tom” Coe

Derrick B. Eastman

Rolland Elmer “Rollie” Devlin

Leland “Lee” Ekleberry Jr.

April Guthrie

Michael D. Knipp

Patricia A. Otto

Cleo Barbara Quaerna

Eliga Roach Sr.

Patricia Mae Schroeder

Diane A. (Krusick) Stanik-Martin

Robert “Bob” H. Tomten

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GOP retains control of 1st Congressional District


Bryan Steil won election handily Tuesday against Democrat Randy Bryce and independent Ken Yorgan.

The win continues longtime Republican dominance of the 1st Congressional District.

Rep. Paul Ryan of Janesville, who supported Steil, retires in January after 20 years in the post.

With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Steil was ahead with 54.3 percent of the vote to Bryce’s 42.6 percent.

Steil is a 37-year-old attorney for Charter NEX Films, a plastics manufacturer in Milton. During the campaign he frequently touted his background in solving problems in private industry and as a University of Wisconsin System regent.

Steil stuck with his campaign themes when asked Tuesday night how he would work in a House of Representatives controlled by Democrats. That result was still in question when he spoke to The Gazette from his victory party in Burlington.

“I’m focused on how do we grow the economy here in southeast Wisconsin—how we prepare workers for the jobs of the future, so people get better jobs and higher-wage jobs,” he said.

Steil said his background in manufacturing would help him focus on getting results “no matter who is in power.”

Steil said improving the economy and the workforce is not a partisan issue.

“I’m less focused on the partisan aspect and more on how we get things done,” he said.

Steil is a supporter of President Donald Trump, telling The Gazette that Trump’s administration is “standing up for American workers.”

Steil also has praised the president’s trade deals and his moves to improve national security.

Steil has said his top priorities also include lowering the cost of health care. He has not detailed a plan for doing so.

Republicans have held the 1st District seat since 1995. The district’s boundaries were changed over the years to favor Republican candidates.

Democrats had hoped to flip the district by running Randy Bryce, an ironworker, union activist, Army veteran and cancer survivor.

Some thought Bryce could pull votes from the ranks of blue-collar voters who favored Donald Trump in 2016.

Steil raised $1.7 million as of Oct. 17, according to Federal Election Commission records. Bryce had raised $2.81 million.

Steil had the support of a super PAC aligned with Ryan, the Congressional Leadership Fund, which ran ads attacking Bryce for crimes committed years ago. Bryce also was faulted for failure to pay child support, a mistake he corrected while running for Congress.

Bryce defended himself, saying his failings showed he knows what it’s like to struggle, which he contrasted with Steil, whom Bryce called “a millionaire.”

Ryan’s political organization, Team Ryan, issued a statement Tuesday night, saying in part: “This race was very important to me. It’s the district that my family and I call home, and it’s the district that I have had the honor of representing in Congress for 20 years.

“While Bryan will chart his own course in Washington, I’m glad that voters have given him the chance to fight for the values we share.

Questions remain about the future of Ryan, 48, who has run for vice president and served as speaker of the House of Representatives.

Dems gain in House but GOP retains Senate


The Democrats picked up at least 23 House seats Tuesday and appeared on track to retake control of the chamber, a victory that could put a check on President Donald Trump’s agenda over the next two years and lead to a multitude of investigations into his business dealings and administration.

As the one of the most volatile midterm elections in U.S. history wound down, the Democrats pulled closer to the 218 seats needed for a majority. A Democratic majority would break the Republicans’ eight-year hold on the House that began with the tea party revolt of 2010.

While the Republican Party maintained control of the Senate, a win for the Democrats in the House would end the GOP monopoly on power in Washington and open a new era of divided government.

“Tomorrow will be a new day in America,” Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said at a victory party in Washington.

The Democrats needed a net gain of 23 seats to take back the House.

Democratic candidates flipped seats in several suburban districts outside of Washington, Philadelphia, Miami, Chicago and Denver that were considered prime targets for turnover because they were won by Hillary Clinton in 2016. They also made inroads into Trump country as Democrats tried to win back white working-class voters.

Midterm elections are typically difficult for the party in power, and GOP incumbents were on the defensive in many races across the country.

The Democrats benefited from extraordinary voter enthusiasm, robust fundraising and unusually fresh candidates. More women than ever were running, along with veterans and minorities, many of them motivated by alarm over Trump’s rise.

The campaign unfolded against a backdrop of nasty rhetoric and angry debates on immigration, health care and the role of Congress in overseeing the president.

To stem Republican losses, Trump sprinted through mostly white regions of the country, interjecting dark and foreboding warnings about what Democratic power would mean for the nation.

The debate was dominated not by the GOP’s $1.5 trillion tax cuts but by Trump’s dire prediction of “invasion” from the migrant caravan and what he called the “radical” agenda of speaker-in-waiting Pelosi.

GOP Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana predicted his party would retain a slim majority, saying on election eve: “In the end, we hold the House because of the strong economy.”

Health care and immigration were high on voters’ minds as they cast ballots, according to a wide-ranging survey of the American electorate conducted by AP. AP VoteCast also showed a majority of voters considered Trump a factor in their votes.

For Democrats, the road to the majority ran through the two dozen suburban districts Clinton won and through swaths of Trump country in the Rust Belt and heartland where voters backed the president two years ago. Women and independent voters were expected to play a major role in the outcome.

In the suburbs outside the nation’s capital, Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock—among the most endangered GOP incumbents, branded Barbara “Trumpstock” by Democrats—lost to Jennifer Wexton, a prosecutor and state legislator.

In the Miami area, former Clinton administration Cabinet member Donna Shalala won an open seat, while GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo lost his bid for a third term in another district.

Pennsylvania looked particularly daunting for Republicans after court-imposed redistricting and a rash of retirements put several seats in play. Democratic favorite Conor Lamb, who stunned Washington by winning a special election in the state, beat Republican Rep. Keith Rothfus in a new district. At least three other red districts flipped to blue.

In Kansas, Democrat Sharice Davids beat a GOP incumbent to become the first Native American and gay woman elected to the House.

But in Kentucky, one of the top Democratic recruits, retired Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath, lost her bid to oust to three-term Rep. Andy Barr.

Outside Richmond, Virginia, one-time tea party favorite Rep. Dave Brat lost to Democrat Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA operative motivated to run for office after the GOP vote to gut the Affordable Care Act. Like other Democrats across the country, Spanberger emphasized protecting people with pre-existing conditions from being denied coverage or charged more by insurers.

In a suburban battleground in Atlanta, Republican Rep. Karen Handel won a costly special election earlier this cycle but faced an upstart challenge from Lucy McBath, whose 17-year-old son was shot and killed at a gas station.

The GOP’s hold on the majority was complicated by an unusually large number of retirements and persistent infighting between conservatives and centrists, with much of the conflict centered on the question of allegiance to Trump.

Republicans had expected the GOP tax plan would be the cornerstone of their election agenda this year, but it became a potential liability in key states along the East and West coasts where residents could face higher tax bills because of limits on property and sales tax deductions.

The tax law has been particularly problematic for Republicans in New Jersey, where four of five GOP-held seats were being seriously contested. Democrat Mikie Sherrill, a former Navy pilot and federal prosecutor, was favored for a suburban Newark seat.

The GOP campaign committee distanced itself from eight-term Rep. Steve King of Iowa after racial remarks, and his seat was unexpectedly contested in the final week of the campaign.

In California, four GOP seats in the one-time Republican stronghold of Orange County were in play, along with three other seats to the north beyond Los Angeles and into the Central Valley.

“We always knew these races are going to be close,” said Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, co-chair of House Democrats’ recruitment efforts. “It’s just a very robust class of candidates that really reflects who we are as a country.”