Citing “very personal” reasons, Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton today announced that she’s withdrawing from the race for governor. Lawton’s decision comes less than a week after Governor Jim Doyle delivered a less than enthusiastic assessment of Lawton’s accomplishments during the last eight years, and leaves their Democratic Party without a candidate.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who has said that he is considering a run for governor, was in Madison today for a press conference with Doyle on an unrelated matter. Barrett indicated that he is still considering his options, and will advance the timetable for reaching a decision, but did not specify when that might be.
Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Mike Tate said he was “very surprised” by Lawton’s decision. “Lieutenant Governor Lawton had been very enthusiastic about running for governor, but she’s indicated that it’s a very private and personal decision, and I think we should respect that.”
“It is a little bit interesting that this comes shortly after Governor Doyle really refused to give her a very high recommendation,” noted Mark Jefferson, Executive Director of the state Republican Party. “We hear stories . . . about how Governor Doyle and the White House have been trying to get Mayor Barrett to run for governor.”
“Clearly I think we need to have a candidate for governor sooner rather than later,” said Tate. “Personally, I think Mayor Barrett would be a fantastic candidate.” Tate added that there are other Democrats interesting in entering the race, but that he was “reluctant to speculate on other candidates.”
The Republicans have two candidates who are relatively well known: Milwaukee County Executive Scott Wallker and former congressman Mark Neumann. If Barrett steps forward to run, but no other Democrats choose to do so, the GOP’s Jefferson sees that working to their disadvantage, with more attention focused on the primary contest between Neumann and Barrett. Tate says he still expects to have a Democratic primary.