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Two Assembly members being elected Tuesday; state's farmland values keeping pace; more Wisconsin news

Voters will elect two new members to the Wisconsin Assembly Tuesday, as well as finalists for a third seat.

General elections are being in the 69th Assembly District in the Marshfield area, and the 21st District in the south Milwaukee suburbs.

Three candidates hope to replace Republican Majority Leader Scott Suder of Abbotsford, who resigned in early September and wound up taking a lobbying post. Businessman Bob Kulp of Stratford won a four-way GOP primary a month ago. Now, he's facing Democrat Ken Slezak of Neillsville, and independent Tim Swiggum -- a former Democrat and ex-mayor of Owen.

In the Milwaukee area, Republican school choice advocate Jessie Rodriguez will face Democratic United Way fund-raiser Elizabeth Coppola. Rodriguez won a five-way primary in October. Tuesday's winner replaces Republican Mark Honadel, who quit two months ago to return to the private sector.

Also Tuesday, a GOP primary is being held for the 82nd District Assembly seat vacated by suburban Milwaukee Republican Jeff Stone. The four candidates are attorneys Stephanie Myers of Greendale and Steven Becker of Franklin -- Franklin Alderman Ken Skowronski -- and Shari Hanneman, who co-founded the Citizens for a Safe Wisconsin. That winner will face Democrat John Hermes in a general election on Dec. 17th.

Regardless of Tuesday's outcomes, it will hardly put a dent in the Assembly's Republican majority, which is now 57-to-39.

Wisconsin farmland values keep pace with neighbors

Wisconsin kept up with the rest of the Midwest, as the values of most good-quality farmland increased between July-and-September. However, the upward trend is not expected to continue. Twenty-one percent of bankers surveyed by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago expect farmland values to drop in the final quarter of the year. The other 75-percent expect those prices to hold steady. For now, however, Wisconsin's looking good. The Federal Reserve Bank said the values of good agricultural land jumped by five-percent in the last quarter in both Wisconsin and Michigan. Indiana had a two-percent increase, and Illinois one-percent. Iowa reported one-percent drop during the third quarter of the year. For the 12 months ending October first, Wisconsin had the region's fourth largest increase in values for good farmland, at 14-percent. Indiana had the biggest annual jump at 17-percent followed by Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Bankers also reported better agricultural credit conditions for both the last year and the last year.

Meanwhile, some Wisconsin farmers might wait for the ground to freeze before they can finish their corn harvest.

As of Sunday, about 74 percent of the state's corn for grain had been brought in. That's up 12 percent from a week ago, but still five percent behind the average for the past five years.

Many crop reporters say that some corn is still too wet to harvest -- and those farmers might have to wait for the ground to freeze to complete the job.

The soybean harvest is doing better. Ninety-three percent of the Wisconsin beans are in but that's still five percent below the average for the past five years.

Revisions expected to Common Core standards

MADISON -- Wisconsin lawmakers are nearly ready to unveil their proposed changes in the Common Core educational standards.

The Assembly's special committee on the subject was to discuss its final report Tuesday afternoon. A similar panel in the Senate could do the same later in the week.

Wisconsin was among 45 states adopting the Common Core standards three years ago, with little fanfare.

Supporters praise Common Core as a more demanding curriculum for Wisconsin students. Opponents say it hinders local school systems from making curriculum choices. Lawmakers heard testimony on Common Core recently in Madison, Eau Claire, Wausau, and Fond du Lac.

Young 'Whoopers' bound for warmer climes

A dozen whooping cranes are well on their way to Florida, as part of the 13th annual migration effort to re-introduce the endangered bird in the Eastern U.S.

The group left a wildlife area in Green Lake County on Oct. 2. They're being guided by ultra-light pilot from the Operation Migration program.

Meanwhile, eight other baby cranes that were destined for Florida have not veered far from a separate departure point at the Horicon Marsh at last word.

The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership said one of the Horicon babies died recently -- and the rest of the birds were still in the region as of late last week. Those cranes were supposed to be guided by older cranes that have made the trip to Florida in the past. Meanwhile, the Operation Migration group is about to go through Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia before reaching its winter destination at the Saint Mark's National Wildlife Refuge on Florida's Gulf Coast.

The partnership says the migration project has resulted in 110 cranes living in the wild. About 600 total cranes exist today, almost 450 in the wild.

Columnist claims Burke getting heat from fellow Democrats

The Trek Bicycle company keeps pedaling its way into the Wisconsin governor's race, to the apparent disadvantage of its former executive Mary Burke as she tries to set up to defeat Governor Scott Walker.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Dan Bice wrote Tuesday morning that Burke is under at least some criticism within her own Democratic party, after a Labor Department ruling last week which said up to 20 former Trek employees are eligible for federal aid. That's because they lost their jobs when Trek relied more on bikes produced in China.

Trek spokeswoman Marina Marich said the company believes the government is wrong, but the firm won't challenge the ruling. Bice says some labor officials and liberal activists have yet to get behind Burke. She still owns a share of her family-owned company in Waterloo, and she's been touting the nearly 1,000 jobs that her firm created in Wisconsin.

Her campaign downplayed Trek's out-sourcing, and highlighted Burke's previously-stated support for U.S. trade policies that support American manufacturers. Burke is now facing some of the same criticism that Democrats have heaped on Republicans who became embroiled in the out-sourcing debate in recent years.

The State GOP did not comment on the ruling against Trek Bicycle. Bice quoted a recent Facebook debate in which state Democratic Party official Jeff Christensen defended Trek. He blamed current trade policies for Trek's out-sourcing, and Trek is the only known bicycle firm that has any U.S.production.

Ex-firefighter gets 19 years for setting fires

A former firefighter from northeast Wisconsin has been given a total of 19 years in prison, for starting a half-dozen blazes since 2009.

Drew Christenson, 29, was given four additional years Monday, on the top of the 10-year federal sentence and five-year state term he got last week.

A judge in Oconto County gave Christensen terms of 17-and-19 years for burning down a mobile home and a garage -- but they were made concurrent to each other, and concurrent to the other two sentences. Christensen must also spend a total of 14 years under extended supervision once he gets out.

Besides the garage and mobile home, Christensen burned down the Klondike Community Church in Oconto County, two taverns, and the home of a woman who wanted to collect insurance money from the arson.

Jessica Miller will be sentenced in January for that crime, along with another man. Christensen used to be a firefighter in Brazeau, an Oconto County town of 1,400 people, about 50 miles northwest of Green Bay.

He has blamed his arsons on pent-up aggression after he broke up with his fiancée, and his brother died in a traffic crash five years ago.

New tourism campaign aims to help needy too

MADISON -- For the third year in a row, Wisconsin tourism is working to make thousands of needy people a little warmer outside this winter.

State Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett has unveiled the "Big Bundle-Up" campaign. Folks can donate new or gently-used hats, scarfs, mittens, and boots.

You might wonder why tourist agencies are involved in this. It's because a large private tourist outfit in Lower Michigan got into a media battle with Wisconsin three years ago, over which place looked more like a mitten. They eventually turned their good-natured badgering into a charitable campaign which started with mitten donations and expanded from there.

Last year, Wisconsin donated 17,000 winter items to charities in all 72 counties. Klett says tourism is all about customer service, so it's only natural that it be involved in a campaign like this.

People can donate winter apparel to about 70 locations at state Welcome Centers, tourist information offices, businesses, and other facilities through Jan. 3rd. A complete list can be found at

UW-SP student's death may have been overdose

STEVENS POINT -- Police now say a UW Stevens Point student who died over the weekend may have overdosed on drugs -- but they won't know for sure for at least a couple more weeks.

Toxicology test results are pending for 22-year-old Jordan Peterson, a senior biology major from Markesan. He died over the weekend at his house near the Stevens Point campus. His roommate found Peterson's body late Sunday, after he returned from a weekend away.

Pedestrian killed by semi- ID's as Sheboygan man

A pedestrian killed by a semi-truck near Abbotsford over the weekend has been identified as 29-year-old Brandon Sargent of Sheboygan.

Marathon County sheriff's deputies said Sargent was walking eastbound on the Highway 29 expressway near Highway 13 when he was struck around 4 a.m. Saturday. He died at a Marshfield hospital later the same day.

The truck driver was not cited.

Sheriff's officials say they're still trying to determine what caused the accident.

Spit-in-sandwich incident nets man prison term

A Wisconsin man will spend 29 months in a Michigan prison, for spitting into a snack-wrap and serving it to a police officer while working at McDonald's.

Dalton Ursulean, 24, of Niagara struck a deal with prosecutors, in which he pleaded no contest to a felony charge of placing harmful objects in food.

During Monday's sentencing, it was disclosed that Ursulean had tested positive for Hepatitis-"C," and a Veteran's Administration officer who received the snack wrap did not get the disease after eating the infected meal last August.

As part of the plea bargain, the prosecution asked that Ursulean serve his time in a county jail instead of a full-fledged state prison. The defense attorney wanted Ursulean go free, after spending 347 days in jail while his case was winding through the courts.

District Judge Mary Barglind of Iron Mountain said the defendant needs prison time. She said his previous convictions -- three felonies and six misdemeanors -- showed he could not be rehabilitated in a county lock-up.

Ursulean apologized, saying he wants to "actually do right."