Yesterday, it was reported that former Wisconsin State Senator Tim Cullen of Janesville is going to seek the Democratic nomination for Governor of Wisconsin, with Cullen set to launch his gubernatorial bid sometime next month. If Cullen does enter the race, he will likely be the second candidate to run for governor as a Democrat; a former state legislative aide by the name of Bob Harlow is currently running for governor as a Democrat.
However, I strongly believe that neither Cullen nor Harlow can defeat one of the worst of the worst in the Republican Party, incumbent Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who is likely to run for a third four-year term.
Regarding Cullen, he is probably best known for briefly leaving the Wisconsin State Senate Democratic Caucus in 2012 for not getting a committee assignment that he wanted. That sounds like something that Donald Trump would do, and it tells me that Cullen has very poor leadership skills and is very self-centered. There’s also that part of the now-infamous “David Koch” prank call where Walker bragged to a guy who he incorrectly believed to be right-wing billionaire David Koch that Cullen was a “pragmatist” and praised Cullen. Any Democratic primary television advertisement attacking Cullen from the left practically writes itself.
Regarding Harlow, I have been notified by a California-based political source that Harlow ran for a U.S. House seat in California in 2016, and, during that campaign (which he failed to advance to the general election), Harlow and canvassers working for Harlow’s campaign openly hurled insults at voters by calling them “corporatists” because they told the Harlow campaign that they were going to vote for the incumbent, U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo. While Harlow was once an intern for former Republican Wisconsin State Senator Dale Schultz, Harlow is a lot more progressive than Schultz. The only Wisconsin-based political figure that I’m aware of who has praised Harlow since the launch of his gubernatorial campaign is Monona Grove School Board member and political blogger Jeff Simpson, who is known for saying what he thinks about the Democratic establishment in Wisconsin and telling it like it is (example here). However, Harlow has a proven track record of being incompetent at political campaigning, and it’s not like Wisconsin has any affinity for people from California moving to their state to run for public office. I fear and suspect that the Trump White House and/or foreign influencers (such as the Russian government, Wikileaks, and/or other foreign-based entities) may try to aid Harlow in his gubernatorial bid.
It’s important to note that, judging by the Twitter pages of some of the Democratic elected officials in Wisconsin, they do not appear to be circling the wagons around Cullen, in contrast to their reaction to Mary Burke’s entrance to the 2014 gubernatorial race in Wisconsin, where Burke had near-total support from Democratic state legislators from the outset of the campaign. This pretty much guarantees that at least one other candidate with considerable Democratic Party political connections in Wisconsin, political experience, and/or personal wealth is going to enter the gubernatorial race, which would mean a competitive primary between Cullen, Harlow, and at least one other candidate. If Mary Jo Walters could get somewhere around 45% or so of the vote against John Lehman in a primary for lieutenant governor, then it would not be out of the realm of possibility for Harlow to win the gubernatorial primary with a plurality. Harlow is completely unelectable in a general election, because the GOP would paint him as a carpetbagger from California if, by some chance, he won the Democratic nomination.
It has become increasingly clear to me that Wisconsin Democrats need a savior to step up to the plate to save the party from a potential trainwreck in the gubernatorial race next year. We know from past experience that Hillary Clinton/Jim Doyle-style neoliberalism is not going to win elections for Democrats in Wisconsin, and the Democratic primary electorate in Wisconsin is very left wing and absolutely distrusts the current Democratic establishment. Ron Kind is not a progressive by anyone’s imagination, so he’s no savior. Susan Happ is a proven loser, so she’s no savior. Kathleen Vinehout couldn’t win the Democratic nomination in the gubernatorial recall election, so yet another proven loser. I don’t know enough about Dana Wachs or Joe Parisi to tell you anything about either of those two.
The ideal political savior for Democrats in Wisconsin would be someone who is strongly progressive, and, therefore, ideologically similar to Harlow, but is considerably more politically skilled than Harlow. One might point to State Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) as a potential savior for Wisconsin Democrats, given her fearless, no-holds-barred style of progressive politics. However, if she runs statewide, it would probably be for attorney general, not for governor, although she’d be an absolutely awesome candidate for either office. Late last year, Wisconsin-based political blogger Chris Walker mentioned State Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) as a potential gubernatorial candidate, and, if she were to run for governor, I would endorse her campaign without hesitation. She is one of the most progressive state legislators in the entire country, and, having read some of her op-eds, she seems like someone who genuinely cares about…no pun intended…making her state great again. However, Sargent could probably get elected to the state assembly for two-year terms for the rest of her life if she wanted to, so I highly doubt that she’d run for statewide office, but she’s never publicly ruled out a gubernatorial bid to my knowledge. If, by some chance, she were to seek the Democratic nomination for Wisconsin’s highest office, Sargent would probably win over nearly all of the voters who would be open to voting for someone like Harlow, and she’d have a good chance of winning the nomination, provided that she were to run a true statewide campaign. I don’t know enough about people like Dave Hansen or JoCasta Zamarripa to tell you about whether or not they’re interested in a gubernatorial bid or give you an opinion about them.
Long story short, Wisconsin Democrats can do a lot better than Tim Cullen or Bob Harlow.