Officials with Wisconsin political parties reacted Monday to Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton’s decision to drop out of the race for governor.
Lawton cited “very personal reasons” in deciding to withdraw from the race for governor. Could those reasons have been a lack of support from Governor Jim Doyle, and rumors that the White House has been pressuring Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to enter the race? “I don’t know that that’s it,” said State Democratic Party chairman, Mike Tate. “Whatever it is, it’s a personal and private decision. I don’t think it’s my place to speculate, on whether it was lack of support . . . that caused her to make this decision.”
But state Republican Party executive director Mark Jefferson thinks the timing of Lawton’s announcement is interesting. “It is a little bit interesting that this comes shortly after Governor Doyle really refused to give her a very high recommendation in her run for governor,” Jefferson said.
Last week, Doyle gave a lukewarm assessment of Lawton’s achievements as lieutenant governor, and Monday, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist reported that White House poll numbers indicate Barrett would beat either Republican candidate, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker or former Congressman Mark Neumann.
“It’s clear that she was not Governor Doyle’s first choice,” said the GOP’s Jefferson. “There’s going to be a lot of speculation that the Democrats are trying to clear the field for their chosen candidate, and that chosen candidate could very well be Tom Barrett.”
“We need to have a candidate for governor sooner rather than later,” acknowledeged the Democrat’s Tate. “I think Mayor Barrett would be a fantastic candidate for governor.” Barrett, meanwhile, said he’s still undecided about a run for governor. Appearing in Madison Monday at about the same time Lawton’s announcement broke, Barrett said he was surprised by the development. Still, he’s made no decision yet on whether he’ll seek the Democratic nomination in 2010. Barrett said it takes time to sort things out, but he understands that “time is of the essence” and he’ll be making a decision in the near future. With the election still a year away, Barrett said there’s still plenty of time to mount a very aggressive campaign if he decides to run.