A long-time campaign finance watchdog has taken a step towards a possible run for governor.
Mike McCabe announced Monday morning that he has formed a campaign committee to run for governor. The move means McCabe, who says he will make an official decision on whether to run after Labor Day, can begin raising money for a possible candidacy.
While he has long described himself as an independent, McCabe formed his committee to run as a Democrat – which he says is rooted in the realities of running for statewide office. “I’m not a member of any political party and haven’t been,” he said. “But for a candidate like me, there’s no easier ideal path.”
McCabe did run for the state Assembly in 1998 as a Democrat, but lost in the primary.
McCabe contends that running as an independent would make it harder for anyone to challenge the status quo, if Republican Governor Scott Walker runs for re-election as expected. “We’ve seen it countless times…you end up being see as a wasted vote, you split the change vote, and the status quo continues and then you get blamed,” McCabe says. “This campaign is about breaking the mold and shaking up the system, but also challenging the Democratic Party to change…that will be a big part of this campaign.”
McCabe previously served as the head of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, before he left the campaign finance watchdog and started speaking out on his own about government reform. Given his history on the issue, McCabe says he will work hard to avoid being a hypocrite by taking large donations. Candidates for governor in Wisconsin can accept individual contributions of up $20,000, but McCabe says he’s not going to accept anything higher than $200. “This is going to have to be people powered and crowd-funded…that’s the only way that I can do this.”
State Republican Party officials wasted little time in attacking McCabe, who spokesman Alec Zimmerman described as a “phony.”
“McCabe has posed for years as a reformer while in reality taking money from dark-money heavyweights and secretly practicing the sort of partisan politics he condemns,” Zimmerman said in a statement. “While Governor Walker has reformed our state, Mike McCabe would do nothing but mislead Wisconsinites and take our state backwards.”
The only announced Democratic candidates so far are businessman Andy Gronik and Barneveld native Bob Harlow, although several others are still considering a run. Governor Walker plans to officially make a decision on seeking a third term after work on the state budget is complete.