Friday, January 20, 2012

The Primary No One Talks About

As they say, it's the crazy season.

Politics is taking front and center in every level of the nation.

There are the Republican presidential primaries which have become more of a traveling circus which people pay attention to only to see what gaffe or scandal will break next or to ponder why the Republicans are hell bent on ensuring that President Obama sails in for a second term.

On a very local level, here in Milwaukee, there are some interesting contests on the county and city levels, with the most notable probably being Eyon Biddle giving up his seat as County Supervisor to take on the President of the City Council, Willie Hines.  (If you want to know why Biddle should win, just look at Hines' district and see what he has - or more importantly, hasn't - done for his constituents.)

But the one primary everyone in Wisconsin is focused on is the Democratic recall primary.  Who is going to take on Scott Walker?  Meh. Right now, the Dems could put up a rancid potato and it would win by at least 10 percent.

The early names that have announced or been bantered about are less than impressive and I would find it hard to through my most eager support behind any of them. Either they have too much baggage, aren't the ones that would fight hard for the people who have fought so hard to give them this chance, or just don't have the statewide name recognition, much less popularity, that they would need to hit the ground running.

I don't think that the final candidate has even mentioned running yet.  And if they're smart, they won't until the recall has been certified.  An example of why this would be so is Tom Barrett. Even though he's stated he was only thinking of it (but just sent out a press release today touting some endorsements for mayor), Team Walker reacted in a panic and has been attacking him daily for the past few weeks.  Why would anyone want to give them time to develop a smear campaign.

I expect (and hope like hell) that someone will announce in the upcoming weeks.  This person would have instant name recognition across the state, already be fairly popular and have a decent war chest already established.  Someone like Russ Feingold, for example.

But with everyone currently focused on the Democrats jockeying for position to be the next governor, there is something that one only hears about in echoes of whispered conversations.

And that something is whether there might be a Republican primary as well.

It is commonly assumed that Walker enjoys unanimous support, but that is far from the truth.  This has been evidenced by the many stories of Republicans and conservatives, like my father, signing the recall petitions.  And there has been stories of Walker and his allies cajoling, coercing and even threatening fellow Republicans when they showed signs of breaking ranks and not goose-stepping with his cadre.  And many Republicans still hold onto their irrational anger at Mark Neumann for daring to run against their Dear Leader in the last election.

It would not be hard to believe, given Walker's past behaviors, that his shows of force - traveling the country and kissing up to the big money special interest folks in Texas, New York and Kochland is as much for the benefit of his own party members as it is for the Democrats.

And let's face it, most politicians are opportunists. If they see a possible opening, they're going to take it.

And Walker is definitely vulnerable.  The most obvious sign of his vulnerability is the number of polls showing the strong support for the recall, directly due to his overreach and proving himself either unable or unwilling to do what is best for the state.  No one who is at all honest would deny that six straight months of job losses, which only started when Walker's policies began to have their predictable and predicted impact, is going to be very popular.

And Walker has already been stained, even if only slightly thus far, by the first major outbreak stemming from the John Doe investigation commonly known as Walkergate.  And the longer Walker stalls the recall, the greater the odds that the next big shoe will drop from Walkergate.  And the odds are that each consecutive shoe dropping will be more damaging to Walker and his tattered reputation.

There are many Republicans that wouldn't want to relinquish their values, but also find themselves unable to vote for Walker.  There's been speculation that one such person who would meet this bill is former State Senator Ted Kanavas. Kanavas is an ultra-conservative who already has had aspirations to be governor. Interestingly, Kanavas, who had been toying with running for US Senate, suddenly chose to take a pass on that race.  He could meet the Republicans desire for the wing nut type of conservatives they've been choosing lately, but without the obvious stench of corruption that Walker exudes.

Another name that has been discussed is State Senator Dale Schultz. He is a moderate Republican and this would be a move Republicans could very well decide to take in order to win back some of the Republicans and Independents that Walker has driven away.  He also has the added attraction to being one of the few Republicans in the state to not always follow marching orders and to stand up against Walker and his agenda from time to time.

It will  be interesting to see just how strong of a hold Walker has on the Republican party and how far he has to go to maintain that hold.

Personally, I hope he is able to fend off any challengers from his own side and delays the recall as long as he can.  He's the best tool the Democrats have in regaining control of at least the Senate and the governor's mansion.  And if he strings this out long enough, there might even me a turnover in the Assembly as well.


  1. One name that popped into my head the other night - and it is probably a crazy idea - is Fred Risser.

    Yes, he's 84 years old. And he hasn't really had to run for re-election in forever. But every time I've seen him on TV in the last year, he seems sharp as ever.

    He has the same perceived negatives (by some) of being from Dane County and being one of "the 14" who went to Illinois. But his age and stature would likely inoculate his from much 'attack' on those counts.

    Anyway, a name to throw out there that isn't one of the same five names everyone else mentions...

  2. Unfortunately, the Assembly will never be reclaimed. Even if the redistricting is tossed - which, from an objective standpoint, isn't likely to happen - there are still too many districts that lean conservative. While I would of course love for us to capture the mansion and the state senate, our hands would still be tied. My worry is that we would never be able to live up to expectations. One can't simply roll back the clock on collective bargaining, for instance. I wish Act 10 hadn't been passed, but it was, and the fact of the matter is that it is now part of the budget process for all of the school districts. Rolling it back would cost more, though we don't want to admit that, and that would put a huge strain on districts and that may actually anger people more. That won't happen, though, and so we're in a bad spot. My worry is that expectations will be so high and actual reforms so minimal that Obama will end up losing Wisconsin in the fall. We may have been better off if we had focused on taking the senate and setting Walker up as being ineffective for the rest of his term then putting ourselves in a position where we can't do anything other than disappoint our base.

  3. Chris:  I understand you're thinking of the fallout in other state legislative races (i.e. bad for the GOP) when you say of Dale Schultz: "Personally, I hope he is able to fend off any challengers from his own side and delays the recall as long as he can."

    But please! For our frayed nerves! Just get Walker out FAST, with the whole first batch of recalls, and then keep going on the rest! Don't prolong the process!

  4. My point was simply that the longer they delay things, the more assured the results will be.