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Minnesota man drowns attempting to swim St. Croix River; ‘Get-a-gun’ sheriff wins Milwaukee primary; 11 more state news briefs

Minnesota authorities have released the name of a man who drowned just before he could finish swimming across the St. Croix River and back.

Chisago County sheriff's deputies said the body of Devin Johnson, 28, of Harris, Minn., was pulled from the water Saturday night near Rush City on the Minnesota side.

Johnson swam across the St. Croix to the Wisconsin side and was heading back when he drowned close to where he started.

--Minnesota News Network


‘Get-a-gun’ sheriff wins Milwaukee primary

Milwaukee's controversial sheriff will most likely spend another four years in office.

David Clarke got 52% of the vote yesterday over Milwaukee police Lt. Chris Moews, with almost 115,000 votes cast. Clarke has no Republican challenger in November, and only independent Angela Walker is on the ballot.

Clarke attracted national attention when he said residents should not rely on law enforcement to ward off criminals, but they should learn how to use firearms to protect themselves. That brought in campaign money from the National Rifle Association.

The left-leaning Greater Wisconsin Committee and a group headed by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg later kicked in a total of almost $600,000 to defeat Clarke.

The NRA made a last-minute contribution of $30,000 to Clarke, who said the people spoke above the din of special interests and political parties. He said support from conservative talk radio also helped.

Despite his conservative views, Clarke runs with the predominant Democratic Party in Milwaukee. He was appointed as sheriff in 2002 and has been elected three times since.

Numerous primaries for sheriffs and other county offices were held throughout Wisconsin yesterday. In Portage County, Mike Lucas won the Democratic bid for sheriff. With no Republican running, Lucas is expected to replace John Charewitz, who's stepping down after 12 years in office. He endorsed Kevin Sorenson for the post, but Sorenson finished second in the voting.


Burke campaigns in Rhinelander; Walker kicks of Farm Tech Days

As voters were nominating her for governor, Mary Burke was in the Northwoods spelling out an agenda for northern Wisconsin.

She spent last night in Rhinelander, where she vowed not to change her campaign strategy after getting 83% of yesterday's Democratic primary vote over long-shot candidate Brett Hulsey.

The latest Marquette poll shows Burke in a dead heat with Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who was in central Wisconsin yesterday, kicking off the state's Farm Technology Days near Plover. Walker talked about the economic impact of agriculture, and how it's a way of life instead of just a job.

At Rhinelander, Burke sounded an alarm about people leaving northern Wisconsin. She said it's vital to keep more young folks in rural areas.

The former state commerce secretary and Trek Bicycle executive said it’s hard to support an aging population when the numbers of jobs fall. She noted a 5% drop in total jobs in northern Wisconsin from 2000 through 2012.

Burke also cited a need to reform education -- specifically the state aid formula which Burke says is hurting most rural schools, due to declining enrollments and the impact of vacation homes which make a school district appear wealthy on the surface.

--Ken Krall, WXPR-Rhinelander and Larry Lee, WSAU-Wausau


Nekoosa man sentenced for sending false tip to FBI

A central Wisconsin man will spend two years on federal probation for falsely telling the FBI that a friend was about to steal nuclear secrets and sell them.

Prosecutors said Travis Billman, 24, Nekoosa, was distraught after learning that his childhood friend Robert Ferkey was about to leave him and join the Navy. A few days later, officials said Billman sent what he thought would be an anonymous message to the FBI, saying Ferkey would steal nuclear secrets from the Navy and sell them online to the highest bidder.

The government said Billman knew it would never happen. A criminal complaint said Billman claimed to be sleepwalking when he posted the tip, but officials said he tried hiding the computer's IP address that generally goes out when data is sent.

He pleaded guilty in May. His defense lawyer said Billman has suffered depression and panic attacks after losing his father, a sister and a sister-in-law from 2008 through 2012, while his family's house was going into foreclosure.

--Raymond Neupert, WSAU, Wausau


State Fair has highest attendance in 45 years

The Wisconsin State Fair had its highest attendance since 1969. Fair officials said yesterday that almost 1,031,000 people walked through the turnstiles in West Allis between July 31 and last Sunday.

That's 1% more than last year, which was the first time in 44 years that the state fair attracted over one million customers.

Good entertainment, good exhibits and good weather are a fair's best friends, and the State Fair was blessed with generally dry and mild days for its 11-day run.

The final weekend attracted over 300,000 fair-goers.

The Wisconsin Bakers Association also reported record cream puff sales of over 400,000.  Over 125,000 rode burlap down the fair's famous yellow Giant Slide.


Some school referendums pass, some fail

Wisconsin school referendums had mixed results.

Voters in the Oconto Falls School District said yes to borrowing $3.4 million for various projects, including an outdoor track, roof repairs more computer access, and more funding for teachers.

Seventy-one percent of Brown Deer school voters agreed to refinance almost $4 million of previous obligations.

A $4 million referendum was defeated in the Blackhawk Technical College district near Janesville, which would have exceed the state-mandated taxing limit to keep current programs going. That vote was 57% to 43% against.

In southwest Wisconsin, voters in the North Crawford School District voted 505-199 against a $1.3 million package that would have included a new school wellness center, classroom renovations and related equipment.

A referendum to exceed the state revenue caps was approved in Green Lake, while a similar one was rejected in Princeton.


Tornado-damaged school expected to be ready for start of classes

A school in Verona that was heavily damaged in a June 17 tornado will be fixed next Monday and will be ready for the start of fall classes on Sept. 2.

According to the district's Website, Country View Elementary in Verona is still getting its new roof installed along with flooring and a school playground. Furniture also needs to be moved back into the classrooms.

The wreckage from the tornado covered about 17,000 sq. ft. of school facilities. At last word, the damage estimate was $3 million to $4 million, and insurance was supposed to cover most of it. The final repair cost will be known in a couple months when construction invoices are sent and paid off.


Two men charged with beating, sexually assaulting homeless man

Two men have been charged with beating and sexually assaulting a homeless man in the Appleton area.

Anthony Gomez, 48, and Alexsander Mirkovich, 28, were jailed under $10,000 bonds after appearing in Outagamie County Circuit Court yesterday. Both are charged with first-degree sexual assault and substantial battery.

According to prosecutors, Gomez and Mirkovich attacked a man they met at the Fox Valley Warming Shelter. He suffered a broken nose and other facial injuries.

Mirkovich told police that he and Gomez were visiting from Florida. He denied hurting the victim. Online court records list Appleton addresses for both men.

Mirkovich is due back in court Aug. 22 for a preliminary hearing. Records for Gomez do not list an upcoming court date.



Incumbent legislators win their primaries

Three Wisconsin legislative incumbents survived primary challenges yesterday.

GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos had no problem defeating Bryn Biemeck 895 to 11% in their Racine County contest. Milwaukee Democrat JoCasta Zamarripa got 61% of the vote in her primary. And Milwaukee Representative Leon Young had 63% over his challenger.

A key state Senate race was virtually tied during the night. Democrats Ernie Wittwer and Pat Bomhack were just two votes apart in a southwest Wisconsin primary with 7,600 votes cast. Wittwer, a former Department of Transportation official, had a slight two-vote lead over ex-Russ Feingold aide Bomhack.

The eventual winner will face Assembly Republican Howard Marklein in November for a Senate post in a moderate Richland Center region where Dale Schultz is retiring. Democrats would need to gain that seat and one other this fall to take back control of the Senate and split legislative power with an Assembly that's expected to stay Republican.

Former Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan failed to make a political comeback, finishing third and last in a Democratic Senate primary. Assembly Democrat Janis Ringhand won that contest with 40% of the vote, giving her a chance to replace the retiring Tim Cullen.

Another Assembly Democrat, Janet Bewley of Ashland, easily won a three-way primary for the Senate seat given up by veteran Bob Jauch of Poplar.

Former Senate Republican Van Wanggaard of Racine has a chance to win his old job back after winning his primary with 71% of the vote.

Tiffany Koehler of Slinger failed to become the first African American woman ever to represent the G O P in the Legislature. She got 28% of the vote, losing to Bob Gannon in a three-way primary.


Governor declares ‘Purple Hearts Day’ to honor young stabbing victim

Gov. Scott Walker is honoring the 12-year-old victim of the Slender Man stabbings in Waukesha.

Walker has proclaimed today as "Purple Hearts for Healing Day." He has asked Wisconsinites to wear something purple, the girl's favorite color.

Thousands of people from throughout the world have sent purple hearts to the youngster. She continues to recover at home, and Walker wishes her the best for that.

The governor said he chose the 13th of the month for his proclamation because most members of her family were born on the 13th day of different months.

The unnamed victim was stabbed 19 times in late May, allegedly by two of her middle school classmates in apparent allegiance to the fictional online horror character Slender Man.

Twelve-year-old Morgan Geyser has been found mentally incompetent to stand trial, and she's getting psychological treatment for at least the next year. Twelve-year-old Anissa Weier faces a preliminary hearing next month on an adult felony charge of attempted homicide.


Sixth District congressional candidate hasn’t conceded yet

A few hours after Glenn Grothman was declared the winner of the Sixth District U.S. House primary, a more complete tally of the Sheboygan County votes made the race much tighter.

With 99% of the district's ballots counted, Grothman -- a state Senate Republican from Campbellsport -- had only a 215-vote lead over fellow Senator Joe Leibham with 46,000.

Leibham refused to accept the AP's declaration of a Grothman victory, saying too many wards in his home county of Sheboygan went uncounted. His camp issued a statement around 2:30 a.m. that Leibham will wait to pass judgment on the results until they're final.

Assembly Republican Duey Strobel finished third in the four-way primary with 26% after the real estate developer spent $700,000 of his own money on the race. Oshkosh retiree Tom Danow was a distant fourth.

Grothman had not commented on the overnight development. Earlier, he said the voters wanted "bold, conservative reforms."

The Republican winner faces Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris in November for the House seat given by up by 36-year GOP veteran Tom Petri of Fond du Lac.

Four other Wisconsin congressional seats had primaries, and those incumbents were never in jeopardy.

Milwaukee House Democrat Gwen Moore got 71%of the vote over ex-state Senator and convicted felon Gary George. Moore will now face Republican Dan Sebring, who won his primary with 80% of the vote.

Janesville Republican Paul Ryan got 94% against Madison protester Jeremy Ryan. The House budget chair will face Kenosha Democrat Rob Zerban in November for the second time in a row. Zerban beat out the Sikh Temple's Amar Kaleka 78% to 22%.

Incumbent Wausau Republican Sean Duffy easily won a primary challenge from Don Raihala. Duffy will face Ashland City Council member Kelly Westlund in November.  She won her primary with 78% of the vote.

In western Wisconsin, Tony Kurtz got 57% in a three-way GOP primary for the right to face veteran Democrat Ron Kind in November.


Happ wins right to oppose Schimel for attorney general job

Wisconsin voters have chosen Susan Happ to run against Waukesha prosecutor Brad Schimel for state attorney general.

Happ, the Jefferson County district attorney, received 52% of over 275,000 votes in a three-way Democratic primary yesterday. Milwaukee state Representative Jon Richards finished a distant second at 33%. Dane County DA Ismael Ozanne was third with 15%. November's winner replaces Republican JB Van Hollen, who's stepping down after eight years as the state's "top cop."

Happ says the primary results show Wisconsin wants a "different kind of attorney general." She said people are sick of divisiveness and partisan politics.

Schimel, who has almost four times the campaign money as Happ, says voters would have a clear choice, and he'll highlight his 24 years of what he calls "an aggressive frontline prosecutor."

In other state contests, five of every six Democratic voters chose Mary Burke to run for governor against Scott Walker. Assembly Democrat Brett Hulsey lost with 17%of the vote.

Racine Senator John Lehman will be Burke's running mate with a ten-point victory over Mary Jo Walters for lieutenant governor. Assembly Republican Garey Bies got only one of every three votes against Julian Bradley for secretary of state. Bradley will run against three-decade incumbent Doug La Follette for a job that's been dramatically scaled back by lawmakers in recent years. The same can be said for state treasurer, where Republican Matt Adamczyk and Democrat David Sartori won their primaries.


Report: African Americans six times more likely to face marijuana charges

A new report shows a lack of equality in enforcing laws against marijuana possession in Wisconsin, and black men come up on the short end.

The Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service says African Americans are six times as likely as whites to be charged with marijuana possession. It's the fourth-highest disparity rate in the nation behind neighbors Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa.

The news service also cited ACLU figures showing that 4.7 blacks are arrested for every white in Milwaukee County, where about 70% of the state's African Americans live. That was as of 2013.

The report says marijuana convictions are a big reason why Wisconsin leads the nation in racial disparity in its prison system. A UW-Milwaukee study shows that Wisconsin's black incarceration rate of 12.8% is 3% higher than Oklahoma, which has the second-highest disparity.

Assembly Democrat Melissa Sargent of Madison says the state needs to "rethink how our criminal justice system looks at marijuana." She introduced a bill in January to legalize the drug, citing a high expense for law enforcement.

The governor's office says legalization is not a top priority.