Who do you know wants to run a state?
Publication: Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:2009 Oct 29; Section:Opinion; Page Number: 10A
Who do you know wants to run a state?
Who will Dems field for governor?
Does any Democrat want to run for governor? After all, it’s not a bad-paying job. Housing is included. You even get state benefits.
OK, there is a good chance that if you run you will lose. That may explain why congressman Ron Kind, once thought the future of the Democratic Party in this state, decided to tough it out in his district.
Gov. Jim Doyle doesn’t want the job anymore. He has done it long enough, accumulated enough headaches, wrecked the state economy, and raised taxes. Despite some twinges of regret about his decision the other week, somewhere a litigation law firm is waiting for him to fill a chair and rake in high-dollar clients.
Now Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton doesn’t want the job, either. She used my least favorite excuse, “very personal reasons.” But it is her excuse and she stuck to it again Tuesday in an interview with WIBA-AM in Madison.
Until as late as Saturday, Lawton was still enthusiastically campaigning for governor. What changed between last week and this week we may never know.
Some have speculated that President Obama asked Lawton to step aside so Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett would have a clear shot. Lawton denied this strongly. Also, longtime Democratic political consultant Bill Christofferson said in a comment on a liberal blog, “Barbara is not one to step aside for the good of the party. I would pity the person who suggested that to her.”
It can’t be the polls. The polls were the same as last week: dismal. So were her long-term fundraising prospects. The only difference politically was that she had gotten more endorsements. But she’s out all the same.
So, may I present the current front-runner for the Democratic nomination for governor? Jared Christiansen of Ellsworth is 18 years old, works at McDonald’s and once went to the National Geographic State Bee in Beaver Dam. He is also the only declared Democrat running for governor.
The only other top-tier candidate left is Barrett. However, so far he has not been able to make up his mind, largely due to “personal reasons.”
Barrett may have some very practical reasons for not running. He is still recovering from his injuries. Milwaukee candidates are not very popular outstate. He is going to have problems with the teachers unions with the proposed takeover of Milwaukee Public Schools.
On the other hand, the timing of events is conspiring to push Barrett into the race. On Tuesday, Doyle announced that he will be pushing a bill to allow the mayor to take over Milwaukee Public Schools. Next week, President Obama will be coming to Madison to tout his education agenda. It could be the perfect launching pad for a statewide campaign.
Because Wisconsin is a swing state, Obama would like to have a Democratic governor in Wisconsin when he runs for re-election in 2012. Obama is expected to push Barrett to run again.
However, Barrett’s family is said to be against running, and being Milwaukee mayor can be a lifetime job if Barrett wants to stay put. He might just tell the president, “no thanks.”
That leaves the second tier of candidates. Commerce Secretary Dick Leinenkugel is a name that sometimes gets mentioned. There are various Democratic members of the Legislature, none of whom are likely to do any better than former Sen. Chuck Chvala did in his run against former Gov. Tommy Thompson.
Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk did not rule out running when told of Lawton’s decision. However, Falk is now a two-time loser in statewide races, and she lost to the lightweight J.B. Van Hollen for attorney general during a Democratic wave in 2006. She is hardly the type that inspires confidence among the Democratic faithful.
But the Democrats need a candidate for governor. Somebody has to run. Maybe they’ll resort to picking names out of a hat.
In 2006, Waukesha Democrats advertised for candidates for public office. They may have to resort to running ads on a statewide level. Otherwise, young Jared Christiansen is going to be really busy next summer.
(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)