ISO Wisconsin’s next governor
The prognosticators had a field day predicting that an open race for the state’s top job would open the floodgates and lead to a highly competitive Democratic primary and might even draw new blood for the Republican contest.
It’s still early but things haven’t exactly worked out that way so far.
Lieut. Gov. Barbara Lawton lost no time indicating her intention to run, which was no surprise since she had long indicated interest if Doyle decided against a third term.
But Congressman Ron Kind announced yesterday that he decided not to run so he could concentrate on getting health care reform passed and focus on his reelection.
Unsurprisingly, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk are also widely viewed as potential candidates since both ran unsuccessfully against then-Attorney General Jim Doyle in the Democratic primary of 2002.
Falk is not seen as positioning herself for a run, and Barrett is being coy.
His campaign chairman issued a statement in response to Kind’s announcement that Barrett “continues to discuss and consider a race for Governor with his family and supporters.”
Barrett’s statewide reputation appeared to soar following the beating he took when he attempted to intervene in a domestic altercation after a night at the state fair last month.
Some feel a Barrett run is inevitable. “He’s run before, and he’s ambitious,” said one local activist. “It’s hard to imagine him sitting out such an inviting opportunity.”
“I think he’s enjoying living in Milwaukee,” said another close observer of Milwaukee politics. “He was a Congressman. I think he likes being around to see his kids grow up.”
I’ll be surprised if Barrett decides to run. Milwaukee faces a variety of serious challenges, and a statewide race would inevitably be a distraction. Barrett will have to work hard to defend the austere budget he proposed Thursday and his effort to transfer control of Milwaukee’s schools to the mayor will be even more controversial if he decides to seek another office.
Wisconsin Democrats may need to adjust to the idea that Lawton may not face any serious opposition in the primary. New Republican candidates aren’t exactly pouring into the race either. It still appears to be a two-way contest between Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker and former Congressman Mark Neumann from Kenosha. Like Lawton, Walker has campaigned for years.
Elections for open governor seats usually attract national attention, especially in the years between presidential elections and especially in swing states like Wisconsin. That can be particularly true when candidates like Lawton, Walker and Neumann, haven’t done much to overwhelmingly qualify themselves for higher office.
So, there you have it. We will likely hear a great deal about these folks between now and next November in an attempt to convince voters to make a choice other than “None of the above.”
The rest of the nation may watch closely to see which way a swing state like Wisconsin goes as a bellwether of national trends.
Politics is a funny business, ain’t it?