New polling data on Walker, U.S. Senate race; many left undecided in Supreme Court race; Cruz, Sanders top poll in state; nine more state news stories
MILWAUKEE – Gov. Scott Walker's job approval rating has slowly risen during the past month. The latest Marquette Law School poll gives Walker 43 percent approval among 1,400 registered voters -- while 53 percent disapprove.
It was the first time in almost one year that the Republican governor received more than 40 percent support. It was around 50-50 until Walker spent lots of time outside the state last year while running for president.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin's November U.S. Senate race is tightening as Democrat Russ Feingold now leads Republican incumbent Ron Johnson 47-42 percent, after Johnson trailed by 12 points in the last Marquette poll in late February.
One of every five voters still undecided on Supreme Court race
MILWAUKEE -- With only five days until Election Day, almost one of every five Wisconsin voters remains undecided about the State Supreme Court race.
The new Marquette Law School poll released Wednesday gives Walker appointee Rebecca Bradley a 41-to-36 percent edge over Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg. More than one-third of likely voters say they do not know enough about either candidate to make a favorable or unfavorable opinion -- even though the two have engaged in several high-profile debates and controversies this month.
The poll shows that many voters will follow political party lines in choosing who's supposed to be a fair and independent jurist. The Marquette poll shows that 69 percent of Republican primary voters support Bradley -- and 64-percent of Democratic voters pick Kloppenburg.
Cruz, Sanders lead Wisconsin in Marquette poll
MILWAUKEE -- Wisconsin voters who supported Marco Rubio and Ben Carson are now getting behind Ted Cruz, and the Texas senator is the state's new GOP presidential leader in the latest Marquette Law School poll.
Forty-percent of likely Republican voters in Tuesday's primary now favor Cruz. Donald Trump is second at 30 percent with the same support as last month, but without attracting new voters following the withdrawals of Rubio and Carson from the GOP race. John Kasich is a distant third at 21 percent.
Meanwhile, Democrat Bernie Sanders has overtaken Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin, 49-45 percent, which is still within the poll's margin of error of 6 percent either way for likely Democratic voters.
Report: Trump's numbers don't add up
MILWAUKEE -- Donald Trump recited a laundry list of dismal numbers in Janesville Tuesday as he blamed Gov. Scott Walker for the state of Wisconsin's economy. But the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says some of the figures were either wrong or misleading.
Trump, the GOP presidential front-runner, said "books" listed Wisconsin's total debt at $45 billion -- but the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau says it's more like $14.1 billion by the end of 2015.
Trump also said the state had a $2.2 billion budget deficit by last summer, and he called that "terrible" -- but the Journal Sentinel says the state is not allowed by law to spend more than its revenues at the end of each two-year budget, and it slashed the deficit through things like cutting UW spending. Trump was close when he said the state had 800,000 food stamp recipients. It's actually 741,000.
Walker signs bill limiting school tax hikes to cover voucher losses
MADISON -- Wisconsin public schools will have new limits on tax increases to make up for the state aid they lose when their students transfer to private voucher schools.
Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill Wednesday limiting the tax hikes to the actual state aid lost in a voucher school transfer, instead of a larger amount of total state aid for each student that's enrolled.
Republicans originally wanted to cut off those tax hikes altogether, but they eventually agreed to a compromise. The bill was among 56 signed by the Republican Walker.
Others will ban drivers from using hand-held cell-phones in construction zones -- cut $7 million per year in incentives to buy energy-saving appliances -- and prohibit communities from passing laws that ban plastic grocery bags and force churches and the state Capitol to use artificial Christmas trees.
Trump campaign backtracks abortion punishment remark – twice
GREEN BAY -- Donald Trump's campaign backtracked twice after the GOP front-runner said in Green Bay that women who get abortions should be punished if the procedure is ever banned.
All four other White House candidates condemned the remark. Democrat Hillary Clinton calls it "horrific and telling," Democrat Bernie Sanders calls it "shameful," and Republicans Ted Cruz and John Kasich say Trump damaged the anti-abortion cause by not thinking the issue through.
At the taping in Green Bay of a town hall interview, Trump told MSNBC's Chris Matthews women should get "some form of punishment" for abortions after any legal ban. Once the criticism came out, the Trump campaign said the issue is "unclear" and should be taken to the states -- and late Wednesday, Trump said doctors and not patients should be punished.
New Elizabeth-Kingia death raises state total to 18
MADISON -- One more Wisconsinite has died after getting the Elizabeth-Kingia bacterial infection, raising the state's death total to 18.
State health officials now report 56 confirmed cases, with four possible cases and two others under investigation. State and federal health experts have still not found the source of the infections, which started being reported last November among senior citizens with underlying health problems.
It's still not known whether the 18 deaths were caused by Elizabeth-Kingia, or the patients' other health issues like cancer and kidney disease. This is the largest known outbreak of Elizabeth-Kingia, and it remains confined to 13 counties in the southern half of Wisconsin.
Janesville woman gets prison in Texas sex-enticement case
DALLAS -- A Janesville woman has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for traveling to Dallas, Texas, to have sex with a 14-year-old boy she met while playing video games online.
Thirty-four year old Jennifer Dougherty received her prison term Wednesday in federal court in Dallas. That's after she pleaded guilty last December to traveling across state lines for child sex, and transporting a minor for sex.
Dougherty was arrested last September after the teen's parents reported him missing. Authorities say she later admitted having sex with the child at Dallas area hotels and at her Janesville home in southern Wisconsin.
Former cop gets 35 years for first 'suitcase' murder
KENOSHA -- Former West Allis police officer Steven Zelich has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for the first of the two "Suitcase Murders" he was accused of committing.
If he's alive after his prison term, the 54-year-old Zelich will be put under extended supervision for killing 19-year-old Jenny Gamez of Oregon in 2012 in Kenosha.
Zelich is also awaiting charges in Minnesota, where he's accused of killing Laura Simonson in 2013 in Rochester. His attorney says Zelich engaged in rough sex with both women, and the deaths were not intentional.
Zelich pleaded guilty to reduced charges in Kenosha County that include reckless homicide -- and he still faces two Walworth County charges of hiding corpses, after he allegedly dumped suitcases containing the bodies along a roadside near Lake Geneva.
Man dies after being pulled from river
MILWAUKEE -- One man died after he was rescued from the Milwaukee River Wednesday.
Divers were called to the scene just before 1 a.m. and pulled the man from the water. The man was rushed to a hospital where he died about one hour later.
Police say the victim in his 20s was by himself when he ventured into the river. He was found close to a bridge on Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Milwaukee. The victim's name and other details of the incident were not immediately released.
Former Portage County doctor pleads not guilty to sex-assault charges
PLOVER -- A former Plover doctor pleaded not guilty to charges he sexually assaulted a number of female patients.
Dr. Wilton Calderon is charged in Portage County with 10 counts of third- and fourth-degree sexual assault. He is free on bond and currently lives in Old Lyme, Connecticut.
The 45-year-old physician is accused of groping at least seven women during exams while working at the Ministry Medical Group's Plover clinic. Calderon waived his preliminary hearing Wednesday in Portage County Circuit Court. Prosecutors say Calderon could avoid additional charges by agreeing to resolve the case before trial, as more women have come forward.
Wisconsin court agrees with woman injured by hot air balloon
MADISON -- The Wisconsin Supreme Court agrees with a woman injured by a runaway hot air balloon who says the company providing rides at a charity event doesn't have blanket immunity under state law.
The high court returned the case Wednesday to circuit court for further proceedings. Patti Roberts was injured while standing in line to go up in the balloon tethered to two trees and a large truck in Beaver Dam. One of the lines snapped in strong winds and the balloon went toward the people in line. The basket hit Roberts, knocking her down.
She sued and lost in circuit court. An appeals court upheld the decision. The state Supreme Court, however, says the case goes beyond Wisconsin's recreational immunity statute and sent it back.