May 8 will be a historic day for Wisconsin voters – on that day they will choose between four Democratic candidates to face Gov. Scott Walker in the third ever gubernatorial recall election in the United States.
Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk is running for the Democratic nomination, along with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) and Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug LaFollette.
This is Falk’s second attempt at the governor’s office; she lost in a three-way primary to Jim Doyle in 2002. She also lost to J.B. Van Hollen in a bid to become Wisconsin Attorney General in 2006.
Falk spoke to ThirdCoast Digest via telephone from the campaign trail about her quest for the Democrat nomination to take on Walker.
Q1: Why are you running for governor?
“I love our state and we need to get Wisconsin back on track,” Falk said. “We need open, honest leaders; good schools, available health care when needed, good paying jobs, clean air and water to enjoy in our free time. These are the reasons I am running for governor.”
Falk points to her experience, skills and solutions as the factors voters should choose her over the other Democrat candidates.
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin Law School, Falk worked for 20 years as an environmental lawyer protecting people and their lands and waters. She followed that with a 14-year stint as the Dane County Executive.
“I balanced the county budget for 14 years by working with people, negotiating and finding solutions,” she said. “But it’s not enough to just undo Gov. Walker’s changes to state laws and policies. We need to move forward. The need for good paying jobs is paramount.”
Falk’s plan for job creation is to use three resources Wisconsin has that other states do not.
“Wisconsin is unique. First, we have the Great Lakes and the best group of freshwater scientists in the world. We need to expand on that by not only studying this resource but manufacturing the machinery for desalinization and other water industry functions.”
Falk’s second area for job growth is wood pulp industries. Wisconsin is the nation’s top producer of paper and has large amounts of byproducts from that industry. Falk wants to expand the bio-energy development with wood pulp, bringing with it good paying jobs in Northern Wisconsin where many corporate, county and national forests are located.
“Finally, we are a center of bio-technology and stem cell research,” Falk said. “We need to expand this industry and also focus on the manufacturing of the machinery and diagnostic equipment used in this field.”
“I am the only candidate who has a plan and vision. We need a governor who will roll up her sleeves and take advantage of the resources and long manufacturing history of the state.”
She said Gov. Walker’s plan for job growth has failed, with more job losses under his term than in any other state.
“Tax breaks to some and cuts to education do not create jobs.”
Q3: What is the most important issue facing Wisconsin during this recall season?
Falk said bringing the state together is the most important issue facing a new governor.
“Leaders need to listen to the people and find common ground and solutions,” she said. “People expect their leaders to find common ground.”
Falk said she has spent a lifetime bringing people together that have disparate viewpoints, and mentioned environmentalists and home builders as an example.
“I have been so successful bringing people together that I have been endorsed by both the Sierra Club and Meridian Home Builders, two groups that normally don’t see eye to eye.”
Q4: What is your opinion on the criticism you have received about your early union endorsements? Are you continuing to seek union endorsements and have you accepted any out-of-state funding for your campaign?
“I am the granddaughter of a Milwaukee bus driver and I will always stand up for working men and women,” Falk said.
In an odd twist, Barrett has picked up the endorsement of the Amalgamated Transit Union.
Falk continued to praise union workers, saying her life is better for what her grandfather and his union fought for, including fair wages, anti-discrimination policies and health benefits.
“I am proud of the union support I have received and it is not right that Walker is trying to end worker’s rights,” Falk added.
In addition to the more public endorsements of AFSCME, WEAC and Emily’s List, Falk also has the backing of Voces De la Frontera, the Young Progressives, the Sierra Club and the Women’s Campaign Fund.
Q5: What is the first thing Gov. Falk does on June 6th?
“I will visit Waukesha County,” Falk said. She admits it sounds surprising, venturing into the state’s most Republican County, but she has a reason for the visit.
“I grew up in Big Bend and Waukesha and attended UW-Waukesha for one and one-half years,” she said. “And Waukesha is the Republican stronghold and I think it is important that we start healing the divide that Walker created on day one. I want to reach out and I am eager to fulfill that healing quickly.”
The gubernatorial recall primary is Tuesday, May 8. Continue to visit ThirdCoast Digest for more 5Qs with the other Democrat candidates in the race.