The Top 10 of 2006
In 2006 Wisconsin saw major political changes, tragic school violence, continuing upheaval over the war in Iraq, advances in science, amazing feats of athleticism, and controversy over changes to the state's Constitution. Continuing a year-end tradition begun in 2003, Wisconsin Historical Society staff has identified history-making news stories of 2006 and selected the top 10 with a Wisconsin connection. Please join us in reflecting on the events and issues that made headlines in 2006. The links on the left will reveal our top 10 news stories of earlier years.
Top 10 Wisconsin
History-Making News Stories
- Midterm Elections Realign State Politics
Wisconsin voters shifted state political power, giving Democrats control of the state Senate, 18-15, and leaving Assembly Republicans with a slim 52-47 margin of control. Young voters, ages 18 to 29, may have made the difference, turning out in larger numbers than in any other state but Montana. Democratic Governor Jim Doyle was re-elected for a second term, and Senator Judy Robson was elected state Senate majority leader — the first female Democrat to hold the position.
- School Violence Rocks Two Wisconsin Communities
Fifteen-year-old Weston High School student Eric Hainstock shot and killed his school's principal, John Klang, in September 2006 in Cazenovia. The teen is charged in adult court with first-degree intentional homicide. Only a few days before, a school shooting was averted at Green Bay East High School when a student alerted the principal to the plot planned by two teens.
- Wisconsin Communities Vote to Bring Home the Troops
Residents in 24 of 32 communities approved referenda in April 2006 to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. Another 10 communities, including Milwaukee, voted in favor of troop withdrawal in November. At year's end, 3,000 U.S. soldiers had lost their lives since the war began in 2003 — 66 from Wisconsin.
- Controversial Issues Brought to the Electorate
Efforts to re-establish the death penalty after 153 years and to constitutionally define marriage were brought to the voters in November 2006. The death penalty referendum, a non-binding vote meant to advise the Legislature on future actions, passed. Voters also approved a constitutional ban on gay marriages and civil unions that defines marriage as being between one man and one woman.
- Stellar Year for University of Wisconsin-Madison Sports
Three UW teams won national championships during the 2005-2006 school year, a school record. Men's ice hockey won its sixth national championship, and the women's ice hockey team won its first ever national title — the first time that both titles have been won by the same school in the same year for Division 1 NCAA hockey (and featuring brother-sister pair Adam and Nikki Burish as players). UW women's lightweight crew won its third straight Intercollegiate Rowing Association title. The UW men placed second and the women fourth at the 2006 NCAA Division 1 National Cross Country Championships. The Badger football team had its first-ever 11-win regular season, tying a school record for wins in a season and helping to seal Big Ten Coach of the Year honors for rookie head coach Brett Bielema. And, on Monday, December 18, coach Bo Ryan's basketball Badgers made history after defeating then number-two ranked Pittsburgh, moving them up to fourth place in the Associated Press Top 25 poll and fifth in the USA Today-ESPN poll. Before that the team had never been ranked higher than sixth in the AP poll.
- Thousands March for Immigrant Rights
Thousands of residents marched and rallied in cities across Wisconsin, nearly 70,000 in Milwaukee alone, in the spring to push for immigration reform that would provide a pathway to citizenship. Marchers protested a bill by Wisconsin Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner that would tighten border security and make an illegal immigrant's presence in the country a felony.
- E. Coli Outbreak Kills One in Wisconsin
In September Wisconsin was hardest hit in an E. Coli outbreak linked to bagged spinach grown in California. The bacteria killed one Manitowoc woman and sickened at least 49 others.
- High Gas Prices Lead to Surge in Alternative Energy Initiatives
As gas prices soared to well above the $3-per-gallon mark, Wisconsin moved forward to develop new energy technologies, including ethanol and other biofuels. Governor Doyle launched Wisconsin's "Declaration of Energy Independence" intended to make Wisconsin a national leader in alternative energy research.
- Wisconsin Continues to Lead in Stem Cell Research
More than 80 researchers are exploring the potential of stem cells at UW-Madison and WiCell, the home of the National Stem Cell Bank. In January 2006, Wisconsin scientists announced that they had grown two new stem cell lines, and last spring the Wisconsin Institutes of Discovery received a $150 million public-private investment to advance stem cell research in Wisconsin.
- Brett Favre Returns for Another Season with the Packers, Sets New NFL Passing Record
Throughout the early months of 2006, Brett Favre's impending decision whether to return for another season as the Packers' oft-celebrated and sometimes maligned quarterback
kept Wisconsinites focused on their beloved "Pack." And, despite tough going that included multiple losses on the near-sacred turf of Lambeau Field, Packer fans continued to support their team. Then, on Sunday, December 17, in an ugly, but hard-fought 17-9 win over the Detroit Lions at Lambeau, Brett Favre made NFL history by surpassing Dan Marino's all time record for most completed passes.