Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Candidates for Governor Hold Debate

But not on TV. And not every Democratic candidate. So who won?

By - Jun 19th, 2018 10:28 am
Kelda Roys. Photo from Kelda for Governor.

Kelda Roys. Photo from Kelda for Governor.

Has there every been a stranger Democratic primary for governor? With 10 candidates running, someone could win the primary with 15 percent of the vote. One measure of how wide open the race is: a guy named Josh Pade is running, though the Kenosha corporate attorney has no political experience, didn’t live in Wisconsin from 2007 to 2017 and just moved back to his home state a year ago. And he might not even finish last in the primary. 

There are so many candidates that the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association has basically washed its hands of the race. The WBA had initially announced it would hold a debate with only the top four finishers in the most recent Marquette University Law School poll who had also raised at least $250,000 in campaign dollars. The group decided that no more than four candidates would make sense in a one-hour show. But that decision soon provoked protests from some of the candidates, state Democratic Party Chairwoman Martha Laning, and even MU Poll Director Charles Franklin, who cautioned against using its results this way, given that the poll’s margin of error was larger than the tiny differences in ratings between most of the candidates.

And so the WBA decided it would hold no debate.

All of which was great news for state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, who is the obvious front runner in the race. The MU poll in March found that 18 percent of respondents favored him in the race, with longtime Madison Mayor Paul Soglin at 9 percent and the rest of the candidates at anywhere from 0 percent to 7 percent, in a poll with a margin of error of plus/minus 7 percent. 

“One of the things people were looking for is whether anyone would have the resources to compete with Evers’ head start,” says a Democratic consultant who is not involved with any of the campaigns. “I don’t see any evidence of that. So far, no one else can break through to get enough people.” 

Last night’s debate, held at Milwaukee Area Technical College, isn’t likely to change that situation because only half of the ten candidates in the race attended it, and the no-shows included Evers, who thus couldn’t be challenged by those who did attend, including Soglin, Matt Flynn, Mahlon Mitchell, Kelda Roys and Dana Wachs. 

Given that the debate was organized by the progressive group, Wisconsin Citizen Action, the views expressed tended to very liberal with rare exceptions, leaving little to distinguish the candidates‘ policies. Still, the debate did offer some clues to the strengths and weaknesses of these five candidates as potential adversaries to Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Who did the best? From bottom to top, I would rate them in this order: 

Matt Flynn: In his concluding speech, the Milwaukee attorney declared how proud he was to be endorsed by “Governor Tony Earl,” a Democrat who last served 32 years ago. Yes Flynn, now 70, has been around a long time, has run unsuccessfully for office numerous times, and came off as rather gray and dour. He is articulate and well-versed on the issues and none of the candidates was as powerful in addressing the folly of the $4.1 bill Foxonn subsidy, which he called a “crooked deal” that is unconstitutional. But he lacked warmth and an ability to really connect to the crowd. 

Paul Soglin: Now 73, Soglin is no fresh face either. He looked too informal in a bright yellow and black Hawaiian-style shirt, but was feisty and commanding on the podium. He was the only one willing to say he didn’t back free college tuition, saying public education would come first, and he repeatedly noted budget realities in his very specific answers. But his constant references to how Madison does things might alienate many state residents, who may see the city as an “alternative to reality,” as t-shirts there have declared it. Still, he left no doubt he would hold his own in a debate with Walker. 

Mahlon Mitchell: Actually, Mitchell was the weakest of the five speakers, but…. He’s a very good looking guy, will look great in ads, and came off as likable, funny and humane. Mitchell’s potential is enormous. His position as president of the state fire fighters union helped him gain the backing of the top labor unions which should give him access to more money, and as an African American he could increase turnout among black Milwaukee voters who might otherwise sit out the election. But on the issues the steely discipline of Walker could cut Mitchell to ribbons. 

Dana Wachs: The western Wisconsin assemblyman and lawyer got off the best line of the night, referring to how much better than Wisconsin the state of Minnesota is doing: “I don’t want to sound like Sarah Palin, but if you look west from Eau Claire you can see prosperity.” Wachs has a funny, folksy, Joe Lunchbucket style, and can be fiery and Biden-esque in his answers, but lacks gravitas. He called himself the kind of candidate who can get votes in northern Wisconsin. But can he appeal to Madison and Milwaukee? And is he smart and quick enough on his feet to best Walker in a debate? He left me with doubts.

Kelda Roys: Roys surprised me. I was not a fan of her famous breast feeding ad, but she is very good on the podium: smooth, articulate, well-versed on state policy, and hard-hitting without ever seeming strident. She skillfully drew on her blend of public (state legislator) and private sector (lawyer and small business owner) experience in framing her questions. Just 38, Roys feels almost like a new generation compared to the 51-year-old Walker, and in the year of the woman, she may have particular appeal. 

Roys has been very good at jumping on issues, rushing to meet with Racine county residents losing their homes to the Foxconn development and challenging Walker to refuse to send the state National Guard to the Mexican border until President stops separating children from their families. Roys has “caught fire with the most activist Democrats,” as the Democratic consultant notes, and has won five straight straw polls. Is that paying off in her support among voters statewide? The latest Marquette poll, to be released tomorrow, could provide an answer. 

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Categories: Murphy's Law, Politics

28 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Candidates for Governor Hold Debate”

  1. PMD says:

    A few months ago I opined that Walker is going to win again, and today I believe that is more true than it was earlier in the year.

  2. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Make sure that they all have their Marxists ID’s ready.

  3. Sam says:

    Soglin and Flynn (Bernie too) are old, old wonderfully accomplished acquaintances and should gracefully step aside for a new generation of leaders.

  4. WisSkeptic says:

    We shouldn’t need our Marxist IDs with our president being held by the balls by Putin. Besides, thanks to Facebook and Russian hackers, they know who we are already.

  5. Georgio says:

    I like Kelda – she has what it takes to take Walker out in November.

  6. Georgio says:

    It is an asset to have so many candidates reaching out across the state spreading the progressive message in highlighting Walker’s losing ways. WI needs to start winning again. Take Walker out in November.

  7. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Funny Georgio. Doyle/ Barrett are the two Dem leaders, most incompetent leaders in Wis. History. Socialists were much better. Walker and Tommy had to clean up after them.

  8. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    It is laughable to see Bruce and PMD claim Scott (52%) Walker is some kind if quick-thinking, skilled politician. He’s a script-reading BSer who doesnt have an original thought in his head. Look at how how he us mumbking about “I cant talk about a federal issue” when confronted about sending Wisconsin National Guard members to the Mexican border while half the state is flooded.

    If the Dem candidate can walk and chew gum, and also give a theme of “We are better than the garbage that Scott Walker has put onto this state”, they are likely to win in what is clearly a pro-Dem/anti-GOP year. The best bets to win big for Dems seem to be Roys, Wachs, and maybe Evers (although Tony’s a little too conventional for what is needed in 2018). Mandela Barnes will be Lt. Gov, so there’s your assistance with Milwaukee turnout (ironically, Barnes also hurts Mitchell’s chances foe a similar reason.

    And Scotty knows it even more than I do, which is why he’s been using so many of our tax dollars on these photo ops around the state, handing out WEDC money like candy (BEYOND the Fox-con), and hilariously trying to,claim he is “the education candidate.”

    Honestly, Walker’s best chance is that he is likely to have no bottom when it comes to dirty tactics and vote suppression, and that the state’s bought-off media never has had the guts to call out his crookedness and empty statements. But I doubt even that will be enough (and it would honestly be better for Scotty if he lost. He should know that toon but he fears having to get his first real job).

  9. Mary Kay Wagner says:

    Walker is really cleaned up. Milwaukee County is still reeling from his time as County Ex. The legacy expenses that Walker said he would clean up? Right, he added to the problem and got out before the proverbial sh*t hit the fan; making sure he and his cronies were able to cash in.

    Now Walker is doing the same thing to the state. Time to bring in an administration that cares about Wisconsin and not political purity.

  10. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Let us see how Mileuake county has beoem sine scott has left and teh Left has aken over;
    1. Milwuakee 8th most dangerou city.
    2. Milwaukee top ten worst manged.
    3. Milwaukee county govt is antioanl joke.
    4. MPS: National Disgrace: Arne Duncan
    5. Abandoned Homes
    6. Carjackings exploding
    7. Drug sales exploding as so have overdose deaths.
    8. Human /trafficking Exploding
    9. STD’s exploding
    10. Milwaukee Rods fakling aprt
    11. Corruption exploding
    12. taxes going up adding new taxes, wheel taxes, to keep the public employees voting right
    13. Youth Unemployment 57% and the left opposing new jobs: WalMart, New Berlin businessess seasonal, Foxconn
    14. Worst Poverty in country.
    15. Homelessness exploding.

    I rest my case.

    Scott has gotten employment at the highest in our histroy.

  11. WCD, when we fix education will you please go back and complete yours?

  12. Georgio says:

    WSC AKA Walker aide with a secret router is a wee bit sensitive and a really bad speller..

  13. Georgio says:

    WCD AKA Walker aide with secret router has a very short memory. Let’s start with O’Donnell Park shall we. Does that ring a bell? Hmmm?

  14. Georgio says:

    WCD : Odd I didn’t mention Barrett or Doyle – so tell me Walker puppet – how did you arrive at your absurd and irrelevant comment about them.

  15. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    sory cannt typ.
    Walker is mypupet.

  16. Troll says:

    McCabe’ s holy spirit was there. He breast fed all the little Dems for free. His spirit conjured up all their hopes and dreams and then promised a pot of gold in every bicycle.

  17. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    Georgio- You must be new here. We all ignore and/or mock WCD, aka Bob Dohnal. He’s a senile old racist from the suburbs who constantly rambles foolishness and hasn’t had an original thought for about 10 years.

    What is noteworthy is that Ron Johnson and Leah Vukmir and Brad Schimel actually show up at this fool’s house and like being associated with him. Speaks volumes, doesn’t it?

  18. dragonkat motorsports says:

    if I still lived in Wisconsin, my vote would’ve be for Paul Soglin, the city of Madison and Dane County is the fastest growing area in the state and it’s said that by 2020 Madison ( 611,000 ) will pass Milwaukee ( 790,000 ) has the state’s largest city and county

  19. Adam says:

    @ dragonkat

    I don’t know where you got your numbers. It would be a long time at current rates before Madison (255K) or Dane County (536K) surpassed Milwaukee (595K) or MKE County (951K) population wise. (2017 estimates)

  20. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Jake must really feel bad that someone so stupid has beaten pants of the Left along with Trump the last 8 years.

  21. Dragonkat says:


    You are very confused, walker didn’t beat the left, we let him win!

    For years unlike your Ill counterparts WI dems have been setting on the sidelines and haven’t been trying to beat Walker, until now.

    What WI dems need to learn is politics is a 12-month/365days game and not a seasonal one….there is no off-season!

  22. Adam says:


    I have to ask the obvious question. Who has actually been winning the last 8 years? Other than rich people and GOP politicians I am having difficulty seeing long term good for anyone else. The environment- heck no. Clean goverment advocates absolutley not. Working class folks and people with young or school age children- nope. Old cantankerous blowhards?- they seem to think so.

  23. Adam says:

    By the way, the aluminum for you ornery boot strap pickin-upin blowhards boats just went up 210%. Enjoy the sticker shock when you go buy your next toy! Karma is a bitch. LMAO.

  24. Troll says:

    Adam, Jeff besos is worth over $100 billion. No one complains so long as he is a Democrat. Harvey Weinstein would still be violating women if Hillary. Was president but now the left cares about victims

  25. PMD says:

    The left exposed Weinstein so yes they care about victims. The right embraces pedophiles and supports children in cages.

  26. WCD: Can’t type? That’s your excuse this week? You wonder why you attract do much ridicule here and other sites where you comment? It isn’t totally the company line you constantly regurgitate. It’s the poor spelling, awful punctuation, unruly capitalization, incomplete sentences and mismatched subject/predicate tense in your posts. It makes you look like a buffoon. Maybe you should have the co-writer who shared credit on your MJS letter to the editor proof read your stuff before you hit submit.

  27. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    We are not doing term papers here just ripping apart the stupidity of the Left, their failures in Milwaukee, Mad City and the US. Trump and Walker have fixed these things.
    We do not parrot talking points, we set them for the Conservatives.
    “Proof in the Pudding”. People and the people that they support, on this site cannot run anything. They are nothing but apologists for the inept leaders of the Left: Barrett, Doyle, Evers; Wis disasters.
    Look at their records.
    The next Dem. governor candidate: Evers. He has helped increase excess spending on the Educrats tenfold since 1970 for far fewer kids and, scores are down, MPS “National Disgrace” and 12 other districts where they cannot even teach kids to read. All they know is multiculturalism.

  28. MKE Kid says:

    WCD: If you write correct English, people might not laugh at your ridiculous comments. I have email pan pals in England, Germany, and China who write English more coherently than you do. And yet you criticize public education.
    Even though you’re an old fart whose brain is dehydrated, at least try. You just make yourself and your ilk look really bad and poorly educated otherwise.

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