What’s next for the Democrats, as they look for a candidate to take on Governor Scott Walker? Graeme Zielinski, spokesman for the state Democratic Party, says state Senator Tim Cullen’s decision to not run is understandable. “His concerns about money are very real, given that whoever wins this nomination is going to have to face a huge cash disadvantage, going against a governor who’s going to places like Florida, Texas and New York to get corporate cash.” Cullen took a pass on running last week, citing indifferent support and the difficulty of raising money. “Senator Cullen was certainly a moderate who is recognized for his attempts to bring both sides together,” says Zielinski, adding that “the conversation loses something” with his departure.
State Republican Party spokesman Ben Sparks says Kathleen Falk, the Democrat’s only announced candidate thus far, has a “distinguished record” – and he doesn’t mean that as a compliment. “Falk is obviously the frontrunner here, and she has a distinguished career as a government lawyer, suing businesses,” he says. “And she’s repeatedly lost, multiple times, statewide.” State Senator Kathleen Vinehout is also apparently considering a recall run against the governor. “Voters still haven’t forgotten a year ago, when rather than getting to work balancing our budget, Vinehout was one of 14 Democratic state senators who abandoned their constituents for the sake of an Illinois vacation,” says Sparks.
If Sparks’ assessment of Falk’s frontrunner status is correct, are Democrats ready to rally behind the former Dane County Executive? “There are a lot of moving parts, and there are a lot of people whose voices are going to be heard in the process,” says Zielinski. “If it happens that Kathleen Falk ends up being the nominee, it will be because of the conversation, the open primary process.”
While Democrats point to the Walker campaign’s breathtaking success is raising money (Walker has brought in $12.1 million since the beginning of last year, with about $4.6 million of that raised during the most recent reporting period of December 11th to January 17th. Falk, by comparison, had just over $25,000 in the bank at the end of last year), the Republican’s Sparks hammers on the claim that the recall effort itself is largely union funded. “After this collective bargaining thing happened, they simply go a ton of union money and a ton of union support, and they went and began pushing what is essentially a baseless and completely partisan recall effort.”