The Washington Times - July 25, 2012, 05:27PM

A Democratic Wisconsin state senator has left the party, adding tension to a divided chamber that Democrats just recaptured last month.

State Sen. Tim Cullen announced Tuesday that he is leaving the party to become an independent after Democratic leaders chose not to appoint him as chairman of either the Senate’s education or health committees.


Mr. Cullen, who served in the Senate from 1975 to 1987 and regained his seat last year, told the Milwaukee State Journal that he believes Democrats snubbed him because of his moderate politics.

“This is not an accident,” he said, adding that he turned down the chairmanship of what he considered a less prestigious committee. “I was not accidentally overlooked.”

Democrats had earned a 17-16 majority on June 5 by winning one of the four recall elections held to reconsider Republican incumbents.

Democrats have won back three seats in recall elections over the past two years after resisting budget decisions made by Republican Gov. Scott Walker and GOP majorities in the Senate and Assembly.

Mr. Cullen’s party switch leaves Democrats and Republicans with 16 seats each, although Republican Sen. Rich Zipperer plans to resign next month for a position on Mr. Walker’s staff.

The Senate is not scheduled to meet again until Jan. 7, and its makeup could change greatly before then as 16 of its 33 seats will be up for grabs in November’s general election.