Next move in gubernatorial bid
When U.S. Rep. Ron Kind announced he wouldn’t be running for the open governor’s seat, it got me thinking, “Who would win among the likeliest candidates?”
The fight cards have yet to be finalized, but the likely candidates are Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker and businessman and former Congressman Mark Neumann for the GOP, and Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett for the Democrats.
In this first installment, let’s assume Walker and Barrett will face-off in November 2010.
A major tactic used in statewide campaigns in Wisconsin has been to highlight a candidate’s ties to Milwaukee. Having lived “out state” for more than a decade, I’ve witnessed the disdain of rural and small-market voters for Milwaukee, punishing candidates with even the smallest ties to the region. However, Barrett and Walker both have the Milwaukee connection, so that point is moot in this race.
Point two: Democrats typically carry Milwaukee and Dane counties, with the remainder of the state leaning toward moderates or conservatives. Since both Barrett and Walker have strong constituencies in Milwaukee County, I predict they will split the vote, with the city going Democrat and the suburbs voting Republican. Dane is a Democratic lock; there is no hope for them, so a point for Barrett.
But, 2010 is shaping up to be a Republican year. President Obama and Congress’ health care bills, Wall Street bailouts and Cash for Clunkers debacles have lead to plunging Democratic popularity among all voting sectors, but especially among moderates and independents. Add the typical backlash against the incumbent party during mid-term elections, and you have a point for Walker.
The biggest issue hurting Barrett is taxes. Walker was swept into the county executive’s office on a wave of voter disgust over the pension scandal and ever-increasing property taxes. Since his election in 2002, he has submitted county budgets that hold spending to the prior year’s level. (The fact that the spending level continues to grow each year is due to county board’s overrides of his cost containment measures, according to Walker).
Walker will campaign heavily on his record of cutting taxes, holding spending and the levy flat, the mismanagement of the state, the privatization of county services and collaborative efforts between all levels of government. These points will resonate with voters out state, where taxpayer groups have a strong foothold and collaboration is practiced daily in order to provide services.
While Barrett is trying to do something about the sorry state of the Milwaukee Public Schools and Milwaukee’s crime rate, which dropped in recent months to reduce the state’s overall crime rate, what will hurt him more is what happened today. His announcement that the 2010 proposed Milwaukee budget will see a property tax hike of 4.4 percent and cut the number of firefighters on each ladder truck will not be appreciated by already overburdened taxpayers and voters.
Barrett’s budget dilemma gives Walker fresh meat to go after Barrett and appeals to those who are sick and tired of increased government spending when families are forced to cut their own spending.
Finally, both candidates have name recognition throughout the state, each having run in gubernatorial primaries before. Walker has been campaigning for governor since 2006 and Barrett has seen increased publicity since he took a beating from a street thug in defense of a grandmother and baby. This point is a draw in the race.
When finally tallying up, Walker comes out on top, with the benefit of out state voters typically leaning right, 2010 shaping up to being a GOP year, and his solid tax cutting, reform credentials tipping the scales away from Barrett.
Maybe Barrett will sit this fight out. His chances with local street thugs seem to have better odds.