Tim Cullen

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Tim Cullen
Timothy Cullen.jpg
Wisconsin State Senate, District 15
Former member
In office
2011 - 2015
Senate Majority Leader, Wisconsin State Senate
1981, 1983, 1985
Elections and appointments
Last electionNovember 2, 2010
First elected2010
Term limitsN/A
Prior offices
Senator, Wisconsin State Senate
1975 - 1987
Bachelor'sUniversity of Wisconsin-Whitewater, 1966
Date of birthFebruary 25, 1944
Place of birthJanesville, Wisconsin
Campaign website
Timothy F. Cullen is a former Democratic member of Wisconsin State Senate, representing District 15 from 2010 to 2015. He previously served in the chamber from 1974 to 1987. During his earlier tenure in the Senate, Cullen was the Senate Majority Leader in 1981, 1983 and 1985.

On September 6, 2013, Cullen announced that he would not seek re-election in the 2014 elections.[1]


Cullen graduated with a B.S. from the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater.

In between his terms in the Senate, Cullen served as the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health and Human Services from 1987 to 1988, and Vice President/Senior Vice President with Blue Cross/Blue Shield from 1988 to 2007. He also served on the Janesville City Council from 1970 to 1971.

Cullen served in the U.S. Army Reserve.[2]

Committee assignments


At the beginning of the 2013 legislative session, Cullen served on the following committees:

Wisconsin Committee Assignments, 2013
Insurance and Housing


At the beginning of the 2011 legislative session, Cullen served on the following committees:


Legislative walkout

Cullen and the 13 other Democratic senators participated in a legislative walkout on February 17, 2011, in opposition to Assembly Bill 11 - a Republican-sponsored bill aimed at limiting collective bargaining rights, compensation and fringe benefits of public employees.[3] The Democratic departure left the Senate one vote shy of a quorum. Reports confirmed the senators fled to a hotel in Rockford, Illinois.[4] State police were dispatched by Governor Scott Walker (R) to retrieve the senators, but were unable to cross state lines.[5] The 14 state senators who left the state were described as the "Badger 14" or "Fab 14."[6]

On February 22, speaking from the basement of an Illinois hotel, Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller provided the minority response to Gov. Scott Walker, saying, "The governor has the tools at his disposal to put this issue to an end. As soon as he is willing to take a compromise, we will go back to work in an instant." Miller stated that the legislators paid for the trip themselves, and that no taxpayer money was spent.[7]

Walker called on the Democratic senators to return to the state by March 1 in order to vote to restructure the state's debt. If they did not, he stated he may have to start cutting state jobs, saying:
"It’s not just a number, it’s not just a budget, it’s ultimately a real person with a real family, so I’m going to push that back as far as I can. We’ve got to have real numbers to balance the budget to avoid layoffs. My hope is those 14 state senators … realize that in the end, it’s much better off to avoid those cuts, it’s much better off to avoid the most dire consequences that will come if we don’t pass this bill."[8]
The Democratic senators said they would not return until the governor was willing to compromise on the budget-repair bill.

Democrats threatened with arrest

Republicans passed a unanimous resolution on March 3 finding the missing legislators in contempt and threatening them with arrest. It gave them until 4 p.m. to return or the sergeant-at-arms was ordered to take "any and all necessary steps, with or without force, and with or without the assistance of law enforcement, by warrant or other legal process, as he may deem necessary in order to bring that senator to the Senate chambers."[9]

The constitutionality of that resolution was unclear, however, as the Wisconsin Constitution only allows for the arrest of legislators while in session if they are suspected of committing a felony, treason, or breach of the peace. Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, said the resolution was an "unreasonable abuse of police power."[10]

Sen. Jon Erpenbach provided the Democratic response, stating, "All 14 of us remain in Illinois, very strong in our convictions. Issuing arrest warrants at 4 p.m. isn't going to solve the problem. This is a debate about protection of the middle class in Wisconsin; that is what the Republicans should be focusing on."[9]

The move by Republicans came the day after they issued fines of $100 a day for not showing up at the Capitol, along with taking away parking spaces.[11] The week before Republicans also passed a rule suspending direct-deposit of paychecks. Sen. Erpenbach found a way around this by granting power of attorney to two of his aides, giving them power to, among other things, pick up his paycheck. In the end Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald mailed the check to Erpenbach.[12]

Meeting and possible compromises

On March 7, Democratic leader Sen. Mark Miller sent a letter to the governor and Senate majority leader asking for a meeting near the Wisconsin-Illinois border to restart talks on the collective bargaining issue.[13] Gov. Walker responded at a press conference, calling the letter "ridiculous," and saying that several meetings between the two sides have taken place, but that Miller has stood in the way of a compromise.[14]

Sen. Chris Larson said, "Dems will return when collective bargaining is off the table. That could be soon based on the growing public opposition to the bill and the recall efforts against Republicans."[15]

On March 8, the Governor's office released an email exchange dated March 6 between Eric Schutt, Walker's deputy chief of staff, and Democratic Senators Cullen and Jauch. The exchange discusses possible compromises on the bill, including allowing unions to bargain for wages beyond inflation rates, permitting collective-bargaining on certain economic issues, allowing public workers to collectively bargain workplace safety issues, and limiting collective bargaining agreements to 2 years or less.[16]

Republicans pass bill

Seal of Wisconsin.svg.png
2011 Wisconsin Senate Recalls

Senators Facing Recall
Robert CowlesAlberta DarlingSheila HarsdorfDave HansenJim HolperinRandy HopperDan KapankeLuther OlsenRobert Wirch

Other Recall Information
Recalls by YearRecall Law in WisconsinRecall laws in other statesRecalls in Wisconsin2011 Scott Walker Budget Repair BillProtests over Budget Repair BillWisconsin Government Accountability BoardRecall timelineElection Results

In a surprise maneuver, Senate Republicans on March 9 passed controversial reforms to the collective bargaining rights of public sector workers. In a process that took just over two hours, Republicans passed the bill by a vote of 18-1, with Sen. Dale Schultz (R) casting the only no vote.[17]

Republicans skirted the need for a quorum by removing the sections of the bill that had to do with appropriating funds. With these removed, the bill only needed to be passed by a simple majority -- rather than requiring a quorum of 20 senators. At 4 p.m. on March 9, a conference committee on the budget-repair bill was convened. Two hours later the committee met and advanced the new measure without debate. Immediately following that, the Senate met and passed the new version, also without debate. It was then sent to the Assembly.[18]

The only Democrat present at the meeting, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D), attempted to stop the proceedings, stating that the committee was in violation of the state's open meeting law. According to the law, most public bodies are required to give 24 hours notice before a meeting. The two hours notice that the committee provided led Barca to declare, "Mr. Chairman, this is a violation of law! This is not just a rule — this is the law."[17] Ignoring Barca, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) ordered the vote taken as shouts of protest rang from the galleries.

The bill was given a stay by Dane County Court Judge Maryann Sumi. On May 26, 2011, Sumi struck down the legislative actions leading to the bill eliminating public employee collective bargaining on the grounds that it violated the state's Open Meetings Law. The state Departments of Justice and Department of Administration appealed the decision to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.[19][20] On June 14, the Wisconsin Supreme Court overruled the district court decision, stating it "exceeded its jurisdiction, invaded the legislature’s constitutional powers...and erred in enjoining the publication and further implementation of the act."[21]

Recall campaigns

In the wake of events surrounding the bill, both Democratic and Republican senators were targeted by active recall campaigns. Recall sponsors filed signatures on petitions targeting six Republican state senators and three Democratic state senators. Challenges were filed in all nine of those campaigns, and the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board approved the six campaigns against Republicans at meetings on May 23 and May 31, and approved the three campaigns against Democrats on June 8. Democrats held onto the 30th District seat on July 19. Republicans lost two seats in the August 9 recalls, but held onto four. Two incumbent Democrats successfully retained their seats on August 16.

Temporary departure from Democratic caucus

On July 24, 2012, one week after Democrats gained the majority in the state Senate, Cullen quit the Democratic caucus after newly named Majority Leader Mark Miller did not give him chairmanship on a committee with clout. Cullen, who had been offered chair of the Committee on Small Business Development and Tourism called it "an insult to my district" and said he might leave the party altogether to become an independent.[22]

Cullen said the move was "intended to send me a message that I am not welcome and that he can treat me however he wants to and that somehow I am supposed to take it."[23]

Three days later Cullen rejoined the caucus, receiving the chairmanship of two new committees and a leadership position on two others. At a news conference he stated, "I thank Sen. Miller for sticking with this and resolving it. I'm very pleased with these committee assignments. They fit with all the big issues I'm up here to work on."[24][24]



See also: Scott Walker recall, Wisconsin (2012)

Cullen ran for Wisconsin Governor in the recall election against incumbent Gov. Scott Walker.

Cullen said of his candidacy, "I think I would be a very serious opponent for Gov. Walker to have to face, because of my record, my career, my view of how government how to operate (sic) around here."[25]

However, on February 1, 2012, Cullen said he was withdrawing from the race, citing fundraising issues and the negative nature of the recall.[26]


See also: Wisconsin State Senate elections, 2010

Cullen was unopposed in the primary election on September 14, 2010. He defeated his opponent in the November 2 general election, Republican Rick Richard. [27][28]

Wisconsin State Senate, District 15 (2010) General Election

During the campaign, he limited contributions to $250 per person. [29]

Candidates Votes Percent
Green check mark transparent.png Tim Cullen (D) 31,918 58.98%
Rick Richard (R) 22,181 40.99%
Wisconsin Senate, District 15 Democratic Primary (2010)
Candidates Votes Percent
Green check mark transparent.png Tim Cullen (D) 6,034 99.95%

Campaign donors

Comprehensive donor information for Cullen is available dating back to 2010. Based on available campaign finance records, Cullen raised a total of $95,534 during that time period. This information was last updated on June 4, 2013.[30]

Tim Cullen's Campaign Contribution History
Year Office Result Contributions
2012 Wisconsin State Senate, District 15 Not up for election $22,578
2010 Wisconsin State Senate, District 15 Won $72,956
Grand Total Raised $95,534


Cullen was not up for election to the Wisconsin State Senate in 2012. During that election cycle, Cullen raised a total of $22,578.
Wisconsin State Senate 2012 election - Campaign Contributions
Top contributors to Tim Cullen's campaign in 2012
Ryan, Donald$1,000
Action Cmte For Rural Electrification$1,000
Mcdonald, Patrick$500
Geiser, Thomas$500
Nickols, Stephen$500
Total Raised in 2012$22,578
Source:Follow the Money


Cullen won election to the Wisconsin State Senate in 2010. During that election cycle, Cullen raised a total of $72,956.


Cullen and his wife have two children and four stepchildren.


See also: State legislative scorecards and State legislative scorecards in Wisconsin

Legislative scorecards are used to evaluate elected public officials based on voting record. Some scorecards are created by political advocacy groups with a focus on specific issues, while others are developed by newspapers and are broad in scope. Scorecards are meant to be used as a tool for voters to have a quick picture of whether their views align with a particular legislator's record.

Because scorecards can be specific to particular issues or general to a state’s legislative term, for example, each report should be considered on its own merits. Each entity that publishes these reports uses different methodologies and definitions for the terms used.

An overview for scorecards in all 50 states can be found on this page. To contribute to the list of Wisconsin scorecards, email suggestions to scorecards@ballotpedia.org.

Please see our writing guidelines if you would like to add results from an individual scorecard to this legislator's profile.


In 2014, the Wisconsin State Legislature was in session from January 14 through June 4.

Legislators are scored on their stances on voting, money in politics and democracy reform legislation.
Legislators are scored on "how well [their votes] represented the priorities of the MMAC."
Legislators are scored on whether they voted for or against NPCW's position.
Legislators are scored on whether they voted for or against the Wisconsin AFL-CIO's position.
Legislators are scored on their stances on conservation issues.
Legislators are scored on their votes on legislation WMC deemed as "most important issues for the business community."
Legislators are scored on their votes on legislation that "impact Wisconsin's law enforcement community."
Legislators are scored on their votes on environmental bills.


In 2012, the Wisconsin State Legislature was in session from January 10 through March 16.

Legislators are scored on "how well [their votes] represented the priorities of the MMAC."
Legislators are scored on whether they voted for or against the Wisconsin AFL-CIO's position.
Legislators are scored on their stances on conservation issues.
Legislators are scored on their votes on legislation WMC deemed as "most important issues for the business community."
Legislators are scored on their votes on legislation that "impact Wisconsin's law enforcement community."
Legislators are scored on their votes on environmental bills.

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External links

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  1. Wisconsin State Journal, "Tim Cullen to retire from state Senate," September 6, 2013
  2. Project Vote Smart.org, "Senator Tim Cullen biography," May 27, 2011
  3. Wisconsin.gov, "ASSEMBLY BILL 11," accessed February 17, 2011
  4. Green Bay Press Gazette, "Wisconsin Democrats flee to Clock Tower Hotel in Rockford, Ill., to block anti-union bill," February 17, 2011
  5. Bloomberg Businessweek, "Senator: Missing Wis. lawmakers left the state," February 17, 2011
  6. Facebook, "Fab 14," accessed May 5, 2014
  7. WISN, "State Sen. Minority Leader Responds to Walker," February 22, 2010
  8. Christian Science Monitor, "Wisconsin governor to missing senators: Come back or I'll lay off 1,500," February 28, 2011
  9. 9.0 9.1 Wall Street Journal, "Pressure Mounts on Absent Democrats in Wisconsin, Indiana," March 3, 2011
  10. Wisconsin State Journal, "Senate orders arrest of missing Democrats," March 3, 2011
  11. My Fox Chicago, "Wisconsin GOP Slaps Missing Dems With $100 Daily Fines," March 2, 2011 (dead link)
  12. Talking Points Memo, "AWOL Wisconsin Dem Beats The System, Gets His Paycheck Mailed To Him," March 3, 2011
  13. New York Times, "Wisconsin Democrats Urge New Talks on Labor Bill," March 7, 2011
  14. CNN, "Wisconsin gov: Democratic senator's border meeting idea 'ridiculous'," March 7, 2011
  15. Talking Points Memo, "Wisconsin Dems Deny WSJ Report Of Imminent Return," March 6, 2011
  16. CNN, "E-mails: Wisconsin governor offers concessions on budget bill," March 8, 2011
  17. 17.0 17.1 Miami-Herald, "Wisconsin Republicans bypass Democrats on union bill," March 9, 2011 (dead link)
  18. Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, "Senate advances collective bargaining changes; Democrats to return after Assembly vote," March 9, 2011
  19. Wisconsin State Journal, "Judge strikes down Walker's collective bargaining law, case moves to state Supreme Court," May 26, 2011
  20. Wisconsin Reporter, "Judge: Collective bargaining bill violated open meetings law," May 26, 2011
  21. Shorewood Patch, "UPDATE: Unions Sue to Block Supreme Court's Reinstatement of Controversial Budget Repair Bill," June 14, 2011
  22. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Cullen quits Senate Democratic caucus," July 24, 2012
  23. NBC 15, "Sen. Cullen Leaves Democratic Caucus," July 24, 2012
  24. 24.0 24.1 Wisconsin State Journal, "Cullen rejoins Democratic caucus after getting committee chairmanships," July 27, 2012
  25. Wisconsin State Journal, "On Politics: Sen. Cullen mulls a recall run against Gov. Walker," December 2, 2011
  26. The Cap Times, "Capitol Report: Sen. Cullen says he won't run for governor," February 1, 2012
  27. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Official 2010 Primary election results," accessed April 25, 2014
  28. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Official 2010 General election results," accessed April 25, 2014
  29. [Personal Interview 1/12/11]
  30. followthemoney.org, "Cullen, Tim," accessed June 4, 2013
Political offices
Preceded by
Judy Robson (D)
Wisconsin State Senate District 15
Succeeded by
Janis Ringhand (D)