Spencer Coggs

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Spencer Coggs
Coggs spencer.jpg
Wisconsin State Senate District 6
Former officeholder
In office
2003 - January 3, 2013
Base salary$49,943/year
Per diem$88/day
Elections and appointments
Last electionNovember 4, 2008
First elected2003
Term limitsN/A
Prior offices
Assembly Member, Wisconsin State Assembly
1983 - 2003
AssociatesMilwaukee Area Technical College, 1975
Bachelor'sUniversity of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, 1976
Date of birth08/06/1949
Place of birthMilwaukee, WI
Office website
Campaign website
Spencer Coggs (b. August 6, 1949) is a former Democratic member of the Wisconsin State Senate. He represented District 6 from 2003 to 2013. He was also an Assemblyman on the Wisconsin State Assembly from 1982 to 2002.

Coggs' professional experiences include postal worker, industrial printer, and health officer with the City of Milwaukee.

Coggs earned an AA from Milwaukee Area Technical College and a B.S. from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. He is married and has two children.[1]

Family tradition

Spencer continued the family tradition of serving in elective office which has spanned generations. Issac Coggs, Spencer's uncle, was one of the first African Americans elected to the State Assembly in 1952 and served until 1963. Marcia P. Coggs, Spencer's aunt, served in the Assembly from 1977 to 1991. Spencer's cousin, Leon Young, currently serves as the 16th District representative in the Assembly while his other cousin Elizabeth Coggs was elected in 2010 to serve as Assemblyperson for the 10th District[2].

Both Issac and Marcia Coggs have had county buildings named after them in Milwaukee. The Milwaukee County Human Services Center is named after Marcia Coggs and the Community Health Connection Center is named in honor of Issac Coggs[3].

Committee assignments


In the 2011-2012 legislative session, Coggs served on these committees:


In the 2009-2010 legislative session, Coggs served on these committees:

Legislative walkout

Coggs 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.[4] The Democratic departure left the Senate one vote shy of a quorum. Reports confirmed the senators fled to a hotel in Rockford, Illinois.[5] State police were dispatched by Governor Scott Walker (R) to retrieve the senators, but were unable to cross state lines.[6] The 14 state senators who left the state are being described as the "Badger 14" or "Fab 14."[7][8]

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 payed for the trip themselves, and that no taxpayer money was spent.[9]

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.[10]
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."[11]

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."[12]

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."[11]

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.[13] 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 Erpenbaach.[14]

Meeting/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.[15] 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.[16]

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."[17]

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.[18]

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.[19]

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.[20]

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."[19] 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.[21][22] 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."[23]

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 6 Republican state senators and 3 Democratic state senators. Challenges were filed in all 9 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.



On November 4, 2008, Spencer Coggs won re-election to the Wisconsin State Senate, District 6. He ran unopposed.[24]

Spencer Coggs raised $17,727 for his campaign.[25]

Wisconsin State Senate, District 6 (2008)
Candidates Votes
Green check mark transparent.png Spencer Coggs (D) 60,606

Senator Coggs on the Employee Free Choice Act

Recent legislation sponsored or co-sponsored by Sen. Coggs includes:[26][27]

  • A resolution urging the U.S. Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act[28]
  • A bill to prohibit housing discrimination for victims of abuse or stalking[29]
  • A bill regarding gun regulation[30]

Campaign donors

Some of the top contributors to Sen. Coggs's 2008 campaign, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics:[31]

Wisconsin Education Association Council, Trevor L. Ahlberg, AT&T, Friends to Elect Bama Brown-Grice, Gary R. Goyke Financial, insurance, and real estate companies were his largest donor group, followed by labor-related associations.

In 2008, Coggs collected $17,727 in donations.

Listed below are the top four contributors to his campaign.[32]

Donor Amount
AT&T $1,000
Wisconsin Education Association Council $1,000
Friends to Elect Bama Brown-Grice $1,000
Trevor Ahlberg $1,000

External links

Suggest a link


  1. Project Vote Smart - Senator Coggs
  2. Milwaukee Courier, "Supervisor Elizabeth Coggs looking to run for Williams’ seat," May 28, 2010
  3. Milwaukee County, "Supervisor Marcia Coggs"
  4. Wisconsin.gov, ASSEMBLY BILL 11, accessed 17 Feb. 2011
  5. Green Bay Press Gazette, Wisconsin Democrats flee to Clock Tower Hotel in Rockford, Ill., to block anti-union bill, 17 Feb. 2011
  6. Bloomberg Businessweek, Senator: Missing Wis. lawmakers left the state, 17 Feb. 2011
  7. The Badger 14
  8. Fab 14 Facebook page
  9. WISN, "State Sen. Minority Leader Responds to Walker," February 22, 2010
  10. Christian Science Monitor, "Wisconsin governor to missing senators: Come back or I'll lay off 1,500," February 28, 2011
  11. 11.0 11.1 Wall Street Journal, "Pressure Mounts on Absent Democrats in Wisconsin, Indiana," March 3, 2011
  12. Wisconsin State Journal, "Senate orders arrest of missing Democrats," March 3, 2011
  13. My Fox Chicago, "Wisconsin GOP Slaps Missing Dems With $100 Daily Fines," March 2, 2011
  14. Talking Points Memo, "AWOL Wisconsin Dem Beats The System, Gets His Paycheck Mailed To Him," March 3, 2011
  15. New York Times, "Wisconsin Democrats Urge New Talks on Labor Bill," March 7, 2011
  16. CNN, "Wisconsin gov: Democratic senator's border meeting idea 'ridiculous'," March 7, 2011
  17. Talking Points Memo, "Wisconsin Dems Deny WSJ Report Of Imminent Return," March 6, 2011
  18. CNN, "E-mails: Wisconsin governor offers concessions on budget bill," March 8, 2011
  19. 19.0 19.1 Miami-Herald, "Wisconsin Republicans bypass Democrats on union bill," March 9, 2011
  20. Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, "Senate advances collective bargaining changes; Democrats to return after Assembly vote," March 9, 2011
  21. Wisconsin State Journal, "Judge strikes down Walker's collective bargaining law, case moves to state Supreme Court," May 26, 2011
  22. Wisconsin Reporter, "Judge: Collective bargaining bill violated open meetings law," May 26, 2011
  23. Shorewood Patch, "UPDATE: Unions Sue to Block Supreme Court's Reinstatement of Controversial Budget Repair Bill," June 14, 2011
  24. Wisconsin State Election Results, 2008
  25. Follow the Money 2008
  26. Legislation authored by Sen. Coggs
  27. Sen. Coggs on State Surge
  28. Bill 5
  29. Bill 204
  30. Bill 174
  31. Spencer Coggs 2008 campaign contributions
  32. 2008 contributors to Spencer Coggs
Political offices
Preceded by
Gary George
Wisconsin State Senate District 6
Succeeded by
Nikiya Harris (D)