With budget battle complete, political parties prepare for 2014

MADISON (WITI) -- After months of debate, the Wisconsin budget passed the Assembly and Senate last week, and now waits for Gov. Scott Walker's signature. As Gov. Walker mulls over what, if any, budget items to veto, the Democratic and Republican parties are shifting their focus to the next election.

It's a year-and-a-half until Gov. Walker stands for reelection, but now that the budget battle is over, the groundwork for 2014 is being laid right now.

The Republican Party opened four new field offices around the state, including one in the traditional swing district of Racine County.

"We now have a total of eight new offices open across the state -- with more than a year-and-a-half to go before the election," GOP Executive Director Joe Fadness said.

Fadness says in the past, Republicans have poked fun at the idea of "community organizing," but electoral results show that it works.

"School Choice really will make a difference to students across the state," 17-year-old Adam Kouhel said.

Volunteers are helping to identify key issues that will likely drive voter turnout. They're starting a new "precinct program" that encourages neighbors to talk to neighbors. This, along with the tradition of phone banks and voter registration drives.

"We realize we have to do the heavy lifting now, start organizing now, that victories don't happen just days before an election, but really there's a lot of work that goes into it, cultivating volunteers," Fadness said.

Meanwhile, state Democrats are still seething after the bruising budget battle. They say they plan to hold multiple events in all 72 counties over the next year-and-a-half -- saying if they can't convince their Republican counterparts in the Legislature, they can take the party's message directly to voters.

"We as Wisconsin Democrats are going to make sure every Wisconsin family knows what Republicans have done. We're taking our message to every corner of this state because that's where we can really affect hearts and minds," Rep. Andy Jorgensen (D - Fort Atkinson) said.

"It`s really putting a face on the ground an early as we can, earlier than ever before," Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate said.

Tate says the party began opening field offices in January.

"We don`t have the Koch brothers, and corporate chieftains funding our operations.  We believe our message resonates better," Tate said.

In Waukesha, GOP volunteers that span the generations are preparing to defend Scott Walker in 2014.

"In this day and age in Wisconsin politics, it really is a 365-day-a-year thing which is why these offices are so important," Fadness said.

The organizing is important, but at the end of the day, the voters vote for a candidate.

In the coming months, we're likely to see some names emerge on the Democratic side of the aisle. Both Russ Feingold and Tom Barrett have said they won't run, leaving an open field.