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Wisconsin roundup: Former GOP candidate gearing up to challenge Baldwin?; 9 more state news stories

MADISON — A big stock sale raises speculation that Republican Eric Hovde might pay for his own U.S. Senate campaign for a second time.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says the Madison investor has sold $14 million of stock in the technology firm of ePlus, for which Hovde has been a board member since 2006. Hovde has not said whether he'll try to seek the GOP nomination for the Senate seat held by Democrat Tammy Baldwin in 2012, but he's reported to be one of several who are interested.

Hovde placed second to Tommy Thompson in the 2012 GOP primary after putting up $5 million, and the Journal Sentinel says his stock sale could fund both a primary and a general election campaign. That could address concerns about Republicans not having enough money after the primary for their nominee, which is what happened in 2012 as Baldwin won without her own major primary challenger.


Wisconsin's Johnson 'would be troubled' if Trump taped Comey

WISCONSIN DELLS — Republicans wrapped up their state convention celebrating a 2016 year of victories and giving Gov. Scott Walker a lot of support as he talked about running for a third term.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson was keynote speaker and chairman of the weekend event in the Wisconsin Dells. Johnson told reporters he would be troubled if the president had actually taped a conversation with the FBI director. He also suggested the idea that Comey had taped the conversation, then said he was tired of discussing hypotheticals. Johnson says it's important that the Senate Intelligence Committee complete work on Russian interference with the 2016 election. The convention wrapped its three-day run Sunday.


Green gets bipartisan support, questionable future

WASHINGTON — Former Wisconsin Congressman Mark Green is getting high praise from lawmakers of both parties after being nominated as the next head of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

But questions are being raised about the agency's future, amid President Donald Trump's federal budget proposal to cut the agency's funding by 31 percent. The same cut would apply to the State Department, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson calling for a 26 percent cut and a study of moving the International Development agency into his group.

International Development is currently an independent agency that oversees help abroad by American citizens. Green — a former northeast Wisconsin House Republican, candidate for governor, and U.S. ambassador to Tanzania — is not commenting on the funding issue ahead of his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing.


Straw poll: GOP delegates prefer Leah Vukmir for U.S. Senate race

WISCONSIN DELLS — Wisconsin's most politically involved Republicans want state Sen. Leah Vukmir to run against U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin next year.

Vukmir, a Wauwatosa Republican, picked up almost half the votes in a straw poll at the party's state convention during the weekend in Wisconsin Dells. conducted the poll, and almost 300 delegates and others voted. State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald finished a distant second in the straw poll with 14 percent, followed by 2012 Senate candidate Eric Hovde of Madison at 12 percent.

Gov. Scott Walker told about 800 people at his party's convention that he's ready for a third term — but he's not expected to announce it until after the state budget is finished this summer.


Shipping season off to solid start at Duluth-Superior

DULUTH, Minn. — An early spring has led to a strong start to this year's shipping season at the Port of Duluth/Superior.

Maritime traffic is up 7 percent from this time in 2016, and the Port Authority's Adele Yorde says it's much better than "some of the ice laden starts" from previous years on Lake Superior. The port has handled almost 4 million tons of commodities since late March, when the first freighters of the season left Duluth/Superior — and international traffic entered the Great Lakes just three days later when the Soo Locks opened.

Yorde says the revitalization of taconite processing in the Iron Range has resulted in a 39 percent increase in shipments of that product, compared to the average for the previous five years. The Lake Carriers Association says almost 2 million tons of iron ore left the harbor last month alone.


Former police officer, Playboy hostess, convicted killer now near death

VANCOUVER — A friend says former Milwaukee police officer, Playboy hostess and convicted killer Laurie Bembenek is near death, living in hospice care in Vancouver, Washington.

Bembenek was known as "Bambi" when she earned notoriety in the 1980s. The 52-year-old has been suffering from liver and kidney failure due to Hepatitis-C. She was convicted of killing Christine Schultz, her husband's ex-wife, in 1982. Bembenek escaped from prison, ran away to Canada, was recaptured and later pleaded no contest to a reduced charge. She was given credit for time-served and released.


Wisconsin, nation to produce much less winter wheat

MADISON — Both Wisconsin and the nation expect a large decrease in winter wheat production this year.

The USDA says growers plan to make about 190,000 acres of winter wheat, 24 percent less than last year — and the state's total crop is expected to fall by 29 percent to 14.1 million bushels. Also, a record low national crop is projected for winter wheat. The USDA expects around one and one quarter billion bushels, 25 percent less than in 2016. The national winter wheat crop for grain is expected to be about 26 million acres, 15 percent less than one year ago, and a record low if the projection comes to pass.


Superior woman has settlement hearing set in Duluth death

DULUTH, Minn. — A woman from Superior is due back in court June 26 in the traffic death of a pedestrian in neighboring Duluth, Minnesota.

Forty-nine-year-old Theresa Katzmark waived her right to a hearing Friday in which she could have questioned if there's enough evidence to convict her in the death of 62-year-old Donna Estrem of Duluth last month. She pleaded not guilty to criminal vehicular homicide, and a judge scheduled a settlement conference for June 26th. Police said an SUV driven by Katzmark was driving erratically before she veered off a road — and Estrem was checking on the driver when she reportedly drove forward and pinned Estrem against an electrical box. Officials say Katzmark appeared impaired at the time.


Regional opioid centers treat 277 people

MADISON — Three regional opioid treatment programs that received grants under a 2014 state law treated close to 300 people last year.

The state Department of Health Services released information on the programs Friday. The three programs - Northeast Wisconsin Opioid Treatment Services, the HOPE Consortium and the NorthLakes Community Clinic - received a total of $2 million in state grants in 2016. Each program received $672,000. Together they treated 277 people. The majority of patients in each program were treated for opioids other than heroin.


Wisconsin's new Alice in Dairyland starts June 5

GREEN BAY — Wisconsin's next Alice in Dairyland says she'll carry on the position's legacy while supporting farmers, other agricultural workers, and their economies.

Crystal Siemers Peterman of Cleveland in Manitowoc County was crowned the state's 70th Alice during the weekend in Green Bay — and she'll begin her new post on June fifth. Siemers Peterman, a spring graduate of the University of Minnesota, grew up on a dairy farm — and she'll spend the next year speaking at numerous events and schools in Wisconsin as the state Agriculture Department's ambassador for the state's food products.