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Charlie Sykes: Sykes Writes


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 My picks from the new Wisconsin Interest.



State Rep. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green): He could star in “Madison CSI.”

Another member of the CPA caucus, Marklein brings an impressive background as a “forensic accountant.” He’s the guy who tries to find out where the financial bodies are buried, an especially useful skill given the state of state finances after eight years of Jim Doyle.

A partner in the firm of Virchow Krause since 1984, Marklein, 56, has focused on white-collar-crime investigations and is a credentialed “certified fraud examiner.” As he points out, his background means he can read budgets, knows GAAP accounting and can understand deficits.

Like other members of the Class of 2010, Marklein says he ran because he saw the state “going in the wrong direction.” He’s committed to fixing the deficit, creating jobs and establishing a business-friendly climate in the state.

“He was one of the first of these self-realized candidates to come out after the stimulus bill passed,” says a conservative activist. “He’s very smart, ran an aggressive campaign, and won in very tough territory.”

A three-sport athlete in high school, Marklein worked his way through UW-Whitewater “to pay for his education and keep his student loans to a minimum,” and began working for Virchow Krause while still in school.

Says an outsider observer: “He’s an impressive guy on paper.... And you meet him, and he’s an accountant. He’s not going to light your world on fire. [But] he’s solid and smarter than most of the people in his caucus.”

Marklein “is the Energizer Bunny,” says a legislative insider. “He can outwork anybody in the Capitol.”

State Rep. Mike Kuglitsch (R-New Berlin): Quiet but effective, he will be a power in the GOP caucus.

Mike Kuglitsch decided to run for office because “I saw the way the state was headed, and I knew that I could no longer sit on the sidelines. I have spent my entire life in the private sector employing people and creating jobs.”

Kuglitsch, 51, takes the business climate very personally. He says his son Matt, who graduated from UW-Stout last year, “was forced to leave Wisconsin because he could not find employment.”

He calls it a travesty that the state’s “young, bright minds” are taking flight “to find greener pastures in our neighboring states.”

A business graduate of UW-Whitewater, Kuglitsch is the owner and operator of Kuglitsch’s Entertainment Center in New Berlin and was also part owner of a fitness and racquet club, which he later sold but continues to manage.

With Sen. Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac), Kuglitsch co-authored a bill to expand the capital gains tax exemption from 60% in 2012 to 100% by 2014.

A trade group representative describes Kuglitsch as “quiet but effective and respected immediately. He chooses his words wisely; he’s not out there in caucus trying to draw attention to himself.”

Another observer says Kuglitsch is “probably the most down-to-earth legislator of the bunch. At the end of the day, he will have a big effect on the caucus. He will be the guy when the door is closed who will be a rock.”

State Rep. Paul Farrow (R-Pewaukee): He was born to run and could go far.

Given that his mother is former Lt. Gov. Margaret Farrow and that he’s been active in campaigns since he was 13, Paul Farrow’s run for office seemed preordained by the family DNA.

His experience is already standing him in good stead. Farrow immediately endeared himself to his colleagues by hosting an ice-breaking hot-dog fry on the first day of the legislative session. “The freshmen love him,” says an insider. “The older guys respect him. He knows what to do already.”

The insider says flatly: “I think he can be governor someday. The way he handles people, he’s got that charisma.”

A former school board member and current member of Carroll College’s Presidential Advisory Board, Farrow owns a home-inspection firm. He stresses his private-sector experience and his fiscal conservatism, pledging to “put Wisconsin back on the track to fiscal sanity.”

Farrow is particularly critical of the Doyle-era raids of the transportation fund and plans to be active on education-reform issues. “I plan to ‘major’ in education,” he says, “and ‘minor’ in transportation.”

“He’s quiet, bright, personable, hardworking, and wants to accomplish the conservative agenda without pissing everyone off in the process,” explains one GOP activist. “He walked into the building, knowing the angles. He has the best personality right now inside that caucus. He’s open and comfortable in his own skin and certainly conservative.”

Adds a veteran observer: “He understands how to stick to conservative principles without grabbing the pitch fork and torch at every opportunity.”

WI editor Charles J. Sykes is the author of six books and hosts a daily radio show on AM620 WTMJ in Milwaukee.


The Veteran Freshmen.

Because we focused on political newcomers (with the exception of Sen. Tim Cullen), several promising freshmen were left off this list, most notably newly elected senators Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) and Rich Zipperer (R-Pewaukee). Both moved from the Assembly to the Senate and are expected to emerge as strong conservative leaders in the upper house.


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