Two Wisconsin giants of legislative public service have announced plans not to seek re-election, and they will be sorely missed. David Obey is retiring after 40 years of service in the US House of Representatives, and Spencer Black is leaving after 25 years in the Wisconsin Assembly. Both are classic Wisconsin progressives, and both will leave a legacy of toughness and courage, and a record of being on the right side of every important issue.
From E.J. Dionne's tribute to Obey in the Washington Post:
...the 71-year-old Obey made no secret of the fact that he's weary. "There's got to be more to life than explaining Senate procedures to angry constituents or begging Blue Dogs to do what they ought to do by rote."
Here is a goodbye that Obey earned the right to offer: "If you're a good politician, you're used up in causes you believe in, and if you're used up, you step aside." And so he has.
I worked with Spencer Black extensively over the years on a number of matters. His tireless work on behalf of Wisconsin's natural environment has had a lasting impact on the quality of our water and air, and his continued presence in the Assembly has helped keep the forces of exploitation and greed in check. He was the key sponsor of the 1992 Cable Television Subscriber Bill of Rights, which I helped write and negotiate, so I've had first-hand experience watching Rep. Black balance the needs of industry and consumers.
Back then, Black had a young staffer named Dave Something Nobody Could Spell or Pronounce, who learned a lot about practical politics working for Spencer. Dave Cieslewicz's tribute today to that other Dave could also apply as well to Spencer Black:
- Barry Orton