Burke for governor! (?)

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports (boldface its):

With the help of a top Democratic Party official, Madison millionaire Mary Burke is meeting and talking with Democrats around the state about whether she should challenge Republican Gov. Scott Walker in next year’s election. …

Setting up the meetings and acting as her political adviser was Jacob Hajdu, political director of the state Democratic Party.  Last month, state Republicans filed a complaint over a poll testing the political viability of Burke, a former state commerce secretary and former Trek Bicycle Corp. executive. …

On July 17, Burke and Hajdu held court at Wilson’s Coffee & Tea, meeting face to face with state Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine), John Lehman (D-Racine) and Mayor John Dickert to discuss next year’s governor’s race. While at the coffee shop, Lehman introduced Burke to a local alderman and young GOP operative.

The operative, Sam Wahlen — a 20-year-old Marquette University student and Racine County Republican Party board member — said Burke was described as “running for governor,” with no qualifications.

“I was very surprised because I didn’t hear she announced,” Wahlen said in an interview this week.

Burke and Lehman disputed the student’s account. Burke emphasized that she has yet to make a decision.

First: When a party tries to clear the decks for one candidate, that doesn’t necessarily mean the candidate will win. The Democratic Party did the same for recall gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett. That didn’t work out, to say the least. In 2006, Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker dropped out to allow U.S. Rep. Mark Green (R–Green Bay) to run by himself against Gov. James Doyle. Not only did Green not win, but he was replaced in Congress by Rep. Steve Kagen, the D in “D–Appleton” standing for “dense.”

Second: When a party chooses a candidate based on his or her ability to self-finance his or her campaign, that says volumes about the state of the party. The Democratic names you’ve heard of — Barrett, Russ Feingold, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D–Alma), U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D–La Crosse) — have all declined to run for governor, at least so far. Burke’s running as a supposedly “self-financed” candidate means the Democratic Party doesn’t have to spend money (or as much money) on a race the Democrats are probably going to lose. And that’s despite the fact that there is no U.S. Senate race in 2014, which should give the Democrats more money to spend on all other races.

As for Burke herself: I heard her talk once. I don’t remember anything about the talk. A business person running as a Democrat would be a good thing for the state, but only if Burke espoused pro-business policies, such as cuts in taxes and regulation, instead of merely parroting the Democratic bible. It would be interesting to hear Burke’s take on economic development, given that she ran the Department of Commerce just before the state’s economy started to crater under the person who appointed her. That, however, will require taking positions beyond platitudes like “the state should help businesses.”

The Democratic president has suddenly decided the middle class isn’t doing well. That statement requires proposals on how to fix that, and that requires getting out of the usual Democratic claptrap of taking money from those with jobs and shifting it into the government to primarily benefit government employees. I eagerly await the Democratic reform proposals on, for instance, education beyond the phrase “give them more money.” Indeed (not that the Democratic Party ever takes my advice), the Democrats really need to get off the usual menu of abortion rights, teacher unions, the environment (that is, catering to the Earth First! types), public employees and unions. None of those groups represent or support the middle class.

It will be interesting to see if the Democrats run as something other than Not Scott Walker next year. When a majority of state residents, based on the most recent poll, think the state is going in the right direction, that suggests a need for a new playbook, to use a football metaphor. (Start, Mary, by firing your state party chair.) Recallarama blew through a lot of money, but resulted in no change in Madison — we still have a Republican governor, and both houses of the Legislature are still in GOP hands, which was the case after the November 2010 elections, and remained the case after the November 2012 elections. Democrats need to do something substantially different if they are going to earn the vote of the nonaligned voter in 2014.

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