Cullen Leaves Democratic Caucus


Janesville state Sen. Tim Cullen says he’s leaving the Senate Democratic Caucus and may become an Independent after party leadership denied him a chairmanship for any committees.

When Democrats returned to the Senate majority last week, Cullen was the only Democratic Senator not to be assigned a committee chairmanship by Senate Democratic Majority Leader Mark Miller. Cullen says Miller initially wanted to give him a chairmanship for a committee on Small Business and Tourism. Cullen wanted neither, saying that historically, those committees are insignificant in the Senate. To hear Cullen tell it, he pushed back and Miller told him that he would either take those committees or take no committees… which is what happened.

Cullen said he was baffled by Miller’s decision, given the slim majority Democrats control in the Senate and the need to keep everyone happy. “It’s so blatantly aimed at me. It’s so blatantly intended to send me a message that I’m not welcome and that he can treat me however he wants to and that somehow I’m supposed to just take it. If you know me, you would know I wouldn’t just take it.”

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Cullen said he considered it a sign of disrespect to his Janesville Senate District.

Sen. Miller did not talk to press but issued a statement saying he was disappointed in Sen. Cullen and the decision he made.

Cullen said he would decide soon whether to become an Independent. He said he would not become a Republican. Either way, he says his leaving the Democratic Caucus in the Senate gives him more freedom to vote how he chooses on bills that come to the Senate floor. His decision does not change which party is in the majority in the short term.

Cullen was one of the 14 Democratic Senators who left Wisconsin to delay a vote on Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining bill last year. He angered some Democrats when he sat down with the Walker administration to negotiate a compromise.