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Wisconsin roundup: Saudi consulate hires PI in UW-Stout student death; Walker poised to lead GOP governors; 14 more state news stories

HOUSTON -- A private investigator hired by a Saudi Arabian consulate is working with local police to find out who killed UW-Stout student Hussain Alnahdi and why.

KSTP-TV in the Twin Cities said during the weekend that the Saudi Consulate in Houston hired the investigator, and any findings will be reported to local officials. UW-Stout Police, Menomonie Police, and Dunn County are still looking for clues on the person who assaulted the 24-year-old Alnahdi around the time the bars closed Oct. 30 at a Halloween bash in Menomonie's tavern district. He died one day later.

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As GOP governors' chair, Walker focuses on statehouse gains

MADISON -- Wisconsin's Scott Walker will be elected Wednesday as the new chairman of the Republican Governors Association, and he admits a tough challenge in boosting GOP leadership around the country.

Thirty-three of the 50 states will have Republican governors next year, the most since the 1920s -- and two states will have gubernatorial contests in 2017, with 36 others in 2018. Walker says the futures of GOP statehouse leaders will hinge greatly on the policies adopted by President Elect Donald Trump and his fellow Republican majorities in both houses of Congress.

Walker says that if GOP policies work, the party's governors will be in a "great" position in two years -- and if not, the job of reelecting those Republicans will be "much more difficult." Walker will move up from the vice chairman's post in the national GOP governor's group -- and he still must decide whether to seek his own re-election in Wisconsin in 2018, when he completes his second four year term.

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Gas prices continue to drop

Wisconsin gas prices continue to drop slowly toward the two dollar per gallon mark, with some already there.

According to TwincitiesGasPrices.com, motorists were filling up for $1.92 a gallon on Sunday in Houlton. Prices were sub-$2 throughout the east metro on Monday, including Woodbury, Stillwater and Lake Elmo, Minn.

The automotive group AAA says Monday morning the Wisconsin average is $2.036 for regular unleaded -- down almost one penny from Sunday and almost 18 cents cheaper than one month ago. Prices are dropping below $2 at many stations around the state -- but the AAA says Milwaukee has the only regional prices below two dollars, at one-97-point-eight.

The Eau Claire region is the state's highest at $2.12. GasBuddy.com says the price drops are a national trend, and AAA says Wisconsin prices are about 13 cents below the U.S. average.

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Feingold's political future uncertain

MIDDLETON -- Russ Feingold's political future is uncertain after he lost his bid to win back the U.S. Senate seat he held for 18 years.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says the 63-year-old Middleton Democrat raised some eyebrows when he told younger supporters on Election Night it would be up to them to heal the political wounds and bring people together. And since his loss, Feingold thanked supporters and said, "Never stop fighting."

Feingold has also been a state lawmaker, a visiting professor, and a U.S. envoy in Africa before embarking on nearly a two-year campaign to try and unseat the man who defeated him for the U.S. Senate post in 2010, Republican Ron Johnson. Johnson was re-elected to a second six year term this week.

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Kenosha's Priebus named White House chief of staff

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- Wisconsin Republicans say Kenosha native Reince Priebus will do a great job as the new White House chief of staff.

President Elect Donald Trump named the Republican National Committee chairman on Sunday to what some call the world's second most important job. Gov. Scott Walker called the 44-year-old Priebus "our fellow cheesehead" who will be an "outstanding chief of staff" -- and state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says he's known Priebus as a "forward" thinker since their days with the UW-Whitewater College Republicans.

GOP consultant Stephan Thompson calls Priebus a "tireless worker" who has resurrected the Republican Party and delivered what Thompson called "historic results." Democratic strategist and former Obama staffer Joe Zepecki says he wishes Priebus luck -- but he'll have a hard job serving a president who has never been in the military or held an elective office.

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Dems look to win back rural vote; GOP urged to keep reforming

MADISON -- At least two leading Wisconsin Democrats say their party must win back voters outside Madison and Milwaukee, by being clearer on how they'd improve the economy.

U.S. House Democrat Mark Pocan of Madison says his party failed to spell out its economic vision to middle class voters. That's after Donald Trump became the first Republican to carry Wisconsin for president since 1984, and the GOP got its largest majorities in decades in the state Legislature.

Former state Senate Democrat Tim Cullen of Janesville, who's considering a run for governor in 2018, tells the Wisconsin State Journal that rural voters believe Democrats only care about public employees in the bigger cities -- and the only way to change that, in Cullen's words, "is to go up there and listen." Republicans, meanwhile, say they're giving voters what they want -- and former Tommy Thompson aide Bill McCoshen says his party must keep solving problems to keep their majorities in the future.

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Man killed in crash near Green Bay

LEDGEVIEW -- Brown County sheriff's deputies continue to investigate the death of a Green Bay area man in a one-car crash.

Officials say the 27-year-old driver was on a road in Ledgeview, near Green Bay, when his car veered into a ditch and struck a tree. The man died at the scene of the Sunday morning mishap. Deputies say he was not wearing a seat belt, and no one else was in the vehicle. The victim's name was not immediately released.

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Summerfest announces first 2017 headliners

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee's Summerfest has announced the first headliners for its 50th anniversary event.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers will play on the opening night of Summerfest June 28, and Pink will be present her first concert in three years in North America when she sings on the Milwaukee lakefront July 2. Tickets for both shows go on sale Friday. Summerfest calls itself the "World's Largest Music Festival" with more than 800 acts and 1,000 total performances in eleven days.

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Mural in Madison honors Otis Redding

MADISON -- A new mural in a Madison neighborhood honors singer Otis Redding, as the 50th anniversary of his death approaches.

Redding was 26 when his private plane crashed into Madison's Lake Monona during stormy conditions. His biggest hit, "Sittin' On the Dock of the Bay," came out after his death and still gets a lot of radio airplay throughout the country.

Madison artist Henrique Nardi put up the new mural along with artists Jackson Alves and Cyla Costs. It reads "Try a Little Tenderness," the title of a Redding song. The Capital Times says the project began on Oct. 31 after got approvals from the city, and help from Madison's Marquette Neighborhood Association to find a good location.

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Pilot injured in NW Wis. helicopter crash

TOWN OF BIRCHWOOD -- The Washburn County Sheriff's office reports the pilot of a helicopter was injured when his aircraft crashed at about 11 a.m. Saturday.

The pilot was the only person on the helicopter at the time and his name hasn't been released. He had just taken off from his home on Long Lake when the chopper went down in the town of Birchwood. Investigators say the helicopter hit a tree, then crashed on the owner's property. The NTSB is investigating the accident. The pilot was taken to Spooner Hospital for treatment, then was released.

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Youth basketball coach accused of rape

WISCONSIN DELLS -- A youth basketball coach from Minnesota is accused of raping a 19-year-old woman during a visit to Sauk County for a tournament last summer.

Thirty-two-year-old Isaac J. Thomas of St. Paul is charged with felony sexual assault of an unconscious victim for an alleged incident at the Bonanza Campground at Wisconsin Dells. A woman traveling with the group told Lake Delton police she was sleeping when she woke up to find Thomas in her bed, sexually assaulting her. The players Thomas coaches are 10 years old and younger. He is scheduled to make a court appearance next month.

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Eau Claire man asks court for his release

EAU CLAIRE -- A hearing for an Eau Claire man who killed his neighbor will be held in January.

James Olson is asking to be released from a Wisconsin mental institution. He admitted beating his neighbor to death with a crowbar four years ago. The court found him not guilty by mental disease or defeat in the murder of Paul Oberle outside Oberle's Eau Claire home.

Olson has requested release five times in the last three years. The judge ordered him to undergo a psychiatric examination to determine if his release would pose a substantial risk to the public safety.

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HBO releases trailer for Slender Man stabbing documentary

The trailer is out for HBO's upcoming documentary on the Slender Man stabbing in Waukesha.

"Beware the Slender Man" debuted at South by Southwest earlier this year and will air on HBO on Jan. 23. It features police interviews with suspects Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, who were both 12 when they allegedly stabbed classmate Payton Leutner 19 times in an attempt to sacrifice her to the fictional character, Slender Man. Both girls are charged as adults and are now 14.

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Fitzgerald remains Wisconsin Senate leader

MADISON -- Sen. Scott Fitzgerald will remain at the helm of the state Senate.

Republicans have expanded their majority in the chamber, helped by voters backing Donald Trump for President. He was the first Republican to win the state since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Fitzgerald called on Congress to not take "rash" action to abolish the Affordable Care Act, noting more than 20 million people have their health insurance as a result of President Obama's signature legislation.

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Schedule for Slender Man case moved back again

WAUKESHA -- A Waukesha County Circuit judge has set a schedule for the Slender Man stabbing case, meaning the trial won't start before next summer.

Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier have entered insanity pleas in their attack on a former friend. Two reports on their mental condition are due to the judge next month, to be followed by an evidentiary hearing where the girls' attorneys will try to have their statements to police suppressed. The attorneys have asked that the girls be tried separately.

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Woman convicted of killing husband 4 years ago

APPLETON -- An Outagamie County jury has found an Appleton woman guilty of killing her husband at a Grand Chute motel in February 2012.

Thirty-nine-year-old Mastella Jackson was convicted this week. Her husband, Derrick Whitlow, was stabbed to death. The Wisconsin Supreme Court had issued a ruling reinstating some of the physical evidence in the case against Jackson. A judge had suppressed some of her statements and some physical evidence which was found after she made them. The state court reversed that decision.

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