Vol. 5    No. 20
October 7, 2010

The Capital City Hues
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Jonathan Gramling
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Contributing Writers
Rita Adair, Ike Anyanike, Paul
Barrows, Alfonso Zepeda
Capistran, Theola Carter, Fabu,
Andrew Gramling, Lang Kenneth
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  Before I get started on this issue’s column, I just have to extend a hearty congratulations to Howard
Landsman, Leotha Stanley and Madison’s Mary Lou Williams Centennial Coordinating Committee for pulling
of a nationally significant Mary Lou Williams Fall Festival Weekend that involved scholarly recognition of
Williams’ importance to the history of jazz and performances of Williams’ works that were an exclamation
point to Williams’ genius.
    On Saturday, October 2, on the Capitol Theater stage, Fabu, Madison’s Poet Laureate, got the chance to
read some of her original poetry about Mary Lou Williams as members of the Mary Lou Williams Collective
performed softly in the background. It had to have been the high point of Fabu’s performing career. I have
never seen her smile so deeply.
    It was an exhausting weekend, but what things of excellence aren’t exhausting? I spoke with Father
Peter O’Brien who was Mary Lou Williams’ friend and manager during the later stages of her career and is
now the executive director of the Mary Lou Williams Foundation. He told me that to his knowledge, there
has never been a four-day recognition weekend of Mary Lou’s contributions. All of the scholars and
performers were impressed with the blend of scholarship and performance and felt that it was a model that
other groups should emulate. Everyone was on a natural high by the end of the weekend. We should be
proud that little, old Madison stepped up anddid something of national import in recognition of Mary Lou
Williams. I know I am proud.
***
    Things have been pretty busy here in Madison politically over the past week. Yesterday morning, I drove
on John Nolen Drive on my way to the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center. I noticed that there sure were a lot of
police cars lining the route. In my sleepy state, I was wondering if there was a massive speed trap
going on. And then I realized that the route was heavily guarded because a few minutes later, Vice
President Joe Biden arrived at Monona Terrace for a $250 per plate (at minimum) fundraising breakfast.
    This came on the heels of President Barack Obama’s appearance at a massive get-out-the-vote rally on
Library Mall, the first time a sitting president has visited the University of Wisconsin since President Harry
Truman did over 60 years ago. But before President Obama came to the rally — and after his visit with the
LaFollette football team and cheerleaders — there was a private meeting at the Concourse Hotel where
President Obama met with individuals who donated plenty for the opportunity to meet the president in
a more intimate setting. And of course this is the second time that President Obama has visited Wisconsin
during the fall campaign. He had previously headlined a fundraiser for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett who is
the Democratic candidate for Governor, fighting an uphill battle against Milwaukee County Executive Scott
Walker.
    All of this political attention underscores the importance that Wisconsin plays as a swing state on the
national scene. Remember how many times Barack Obama and other candidates came to Wisconsin during
the 2008 election? It is because the Democrats and Republicans need to win Wisconsin in order to win the
national election. And even though the 2010 election is not a presidential election year, what happens
in Wisconsin will once more impact the national political scene.
    For the past eight years, Democrat James Doyle has been governor of the state of Wisconsin. He has
been down way low in the polls — as many incumbents are during the tremendously challenging times —
and as the standard bearer for the Democratic Party, Tom Barrett is trailing as well. Wisconsin’s two U.S.
Senate seats have been Democratic for well over a decade. Well U.S. Senator Russ Feingold is facing stiff
competition from Republican candidate Ron Johnson. Eventhough Feingold is a “non-establishment”
senator and Johnson is new to the political scene, Johnson leads Feingold in the polls by a few percentage
points.
    And Democrats could lose 1-2 Wisconsin congressional seats including the one being vacated by
retiring U.S. Representative David Obey. There is much at stake in this election. We are abattleground state.
We will have more to say about this in our next issue.
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                  Campaign Battleground