Bad Democrat: Call it now – It’s got to be Obey
After weeks of silence, the Wisconsin Democratic Party and United Wisconsin finally announced on December 15 that they had gathered more than half a million signatures in the effort to recall newly-minted Governor of the Year, Scott Walker. At the same time, they raised their goal to 720,000, while some activists within the party are urging a goal of one million.
They’ve got 21 days to do it, and while the million-mark might be a little high, it’s fairly certain that at least two recall elections – against Walker and Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch – will proceed. (Note: Signature-gathering for four state Senate races is also progressing, with the campaign to oust Racine’s Van Wanggaard reporting it has reached its goal.)
It’s time to talk turkey in the light of day. Who will run against Scott Walker? More importantly, who can win?
Last week, leaders of two unions – the powerful WEAC teachers union the WSEU state employees union – met with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to discourage him from a recall run, though it now appears they acted alone, according to MJS watchdog Dan Bice.
Barrett, who appears to be well-positioned to sweep the next Milwaukee mayoral race, might be keeping his options open in his famously non-committal style. In fact, during a recent press conference with Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, the two were surpassingly nonchalant about the current recall efforts, implying they had yet to even sign petitions, let alone concern themselves with it directly.
[This, as an aside, has an odd ring to it. Abele wrested Walker’s County Exec seat from Walker's designated GOP successor, Jeff Stone, and Barrett lost to Walker in the 2010 governor’s race. To boot, both their respective budgets and their ability to set policy have been substantially altered in the new Madison world order, and not favorably. The very idea that either of them is disinterested in the fate of the recall election is absurd. I predict they will work behind the scenes with money, advisors and influence. There’s no other possible scenario. Unless, of course, Barrett can’t resist the call one more time.]
Back to the unions. They want Kathleen Falk, claiming she polls best statewide based on a recent 602-person, three-day phone survey from a liberal research institute. The Anzalone Liszt Research memo states that Falk “gains the support of key target groups including independents, women and seniors.” She’s also proven herself a good Democrat over the years and has the unions’ seal of approval.
But this race won’t be won along conventional vote-gathering lines. Walker took the governor’s mansion one year ago because he had the support of conservatives, and few of them have changed their minds about whether he should be there, according to a recent survey by non-partisan think tank Public Policy Polling (PPP).
With all due respect to Ms. Falk, there’s not a snowball’s chance that she will swing red voters. Same goes for Barrett, should he decide to blush and run. Only one of the other potential contenders, frankly, has what it will take to succeed in this most historic of races.
That man is former Congress member David Obey.
I know, he’s far from perfect. In 2009 he was accused of getting into a shoving match over an earmark with California legislator Maxine Waters. Watchdog website ThatsMyCongress.com gives him only a 32 Progressive Action score. In addition, the PPP survey has Obey and Falk almost dead even, with Barrett and He Who Will Not Run ahead of both of them. So where’s the science behind my assertion that David Obey should be the Chosen One?
Admittedly, there isn’t much empirical data to support my belief so far, but there is this: the sometimes cranky but typically transparent Obey worked an underrated miracle for 42 years. He was an unapologetic Democrat elected 21 times in a row by a majority Republican constituency in the 7th Congressional district. In fact, his seat had been previously held by Democrats for only four of the prior 96 years since its creation.
Obey is one of the longest-serving members of Congress in U.S. history, and was either ranking Democrat or Chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee for 17 years. He’s kind of a big deal, and would likely attract both support and out-of-state money from sources Falk could not tap.
In a recent Op-Ed piece for Madison’s Cap Times, Ed Garvey (who has laid permanent claim to channeling Bob La Follette) made some interesting points about the benefits of an open primary, namely real transparency and the potential downside to a candidate seemingly sponsored by either Mike Tate or the unions. Then again, he also suggested we organize a statewide meeting to organize this primary… Moving on.
Republicans are showing signs of discontent with Walker’s lack of progress in attracting jobs to the state, but that doesn’t change the fact that a thin majority of Wisconsites still believe he should serve his full term. To unseat him and change the way every American looks at the electoral process, Democrats must mount a candidate who can be effective in rebuilding broken relationships and once again move the state forward. And they must do it soon.