The battle is about to begin

Finally, there is an actual candidate for governor not named Scott Walker.

James Wigderson reports:

Self-described “progressive businessman” Andy Gronik told the Associated Press that he will be entering the race for governor today. The mostly unknown Gronik will become the first relatively serious Democratic candidate to enter the race.

It’s a thin field of possible contenders that Gronik could be facing for the Democratic nomination: Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ, state Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma), Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, and state Superintendent for Public Instruction Tony Evers. Only Evers has won a statewide race, most recently getting easily re-elected in the Spring election against an underfunded and highly damaged challenger for a third term. Vinehout has registered as a candidate but has not officially declared.

If Gronik was hoping his announcement now would chase out other candidates, telling the Associated Press he would not be self-funding his campaign would not be the way to do it. “I think that self-funding political campaigns is wrong,” Gronik told the Associated Press. “I think it makes you your own special interest and that’s not where I’m coming from.”

Not only does “making you your own special interest” not make any sense, it just means the other Democrats have nothing to fear about being outspent by the unknown Gronik.

Before even entering the race, Gronik has had a rocky start. Gronik claimed the reason he did not sign the petition to recall Governor Scott Walker in 2012 is that nobody asked him to sign, despite the presence of recall petitions nearly everywhere and the availability to download a petition from the internet. Gronik also refused to tell the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Dan Bice where he stands on Act 10 and school choice after conducting a possibly questionable poll. (A Republican complaint about the poll was dismissed, according to the Associated Press.)

Then Gronik tried ducking a question from Bice over his association with a trial lawyer with ethics issues.

The unfavorable comparisons to the last failed Democratic challenger to Walker, Trek Bicycle family member Mary Burke, have already begun. The Associated Press reminded readers, “The last Democrat who ran for governor also came from the business world and had limited political experience. Mary Burke lost to Walker by nearly 6 points in 2014.”

Bice described Gronik as, “Think of him as Mary Burke 2.0, but with less public service experience.”

He’s a business person (That’s a plus +) and brings personal wealth (another plus +), although has pledged not to self-fund (That’s a minus -). The man lives in Fox Point, the ultra-toney north Milwaukee suburb (another minus -). Didn’t sign the recall papers (a minus – in the Dem primary) but says he voted to recall (unprovable).

Gronik is running as a Bernie Sanders businessman — if that isn’t a whopping contradiction! Raise the minimum wage, free college, no more school choice, and abortion abortion abortion. Christmas under the tree for Democratic primary voters. In the November election: lead shoes and a strait-jacket overcoat in the deep part of Lake Michigan.

Gronik’s cri de coeur, as he pledged to Associated Press, is to repeal and replace Act 10 by restoring collective bargaining to government workers.

If you’re a Democrat in Wisconsin, you have to say that. Although, come to think of it, Mary Burke never did. (What was that woman all about, anyway?) Then again, the poobahs of the party axed any 2014 primary challengers, like the national party attempted to do for Hillary.

“Repeal and Replace Act 10” is a winning message in the union halls (those that don’t have a For Sale sign out front). But in the general election? Didn’t we already have two referenda on that — the 2012 recall election and 2014?

(You want to nick and chip Walker for missing his goal of jobs created? That won’t work by election time next year because Wisconsin already is employing 230,288 more workers since January 2011. Compare that to the supposed Democratic valhalla of Minnesota, which “created” only 180,193 more jobs in the same time period.

(At 3.1% — the lowest since October 1999 — Wisconsin unemployment is functionally eliminated. Compare our 3.1% to 4.6% in Illinois and 3.7% in Minnesota.)

No, Scott Walker runs on Act 10. He rides it like a Texas roadhouse bronco. He compares Wisconsin to that Democrat(ic) burning dumpster of a state called Illinois.

There is a reason The Capital Times and our liberal-progressive-socialist acquaintances speak not the name “Illinois.” The entrenched Democratic establishment personified by Speaker Michael Madigan (since 1983 with one two-year hiatus) over-rode Gov. Rauner’s veto to hike taxes without any meaningful structural reforms. From MacIver: Illinois will tax personal income at 4.95% — up from 3.75% and the corporate income tax rate will rise to 7% from 5.25%.

Despite a 32% income tax hike, the budget package is devoid of any structural spending reforms to slow growth in the cost of government: No property tax reform. (Wisconsin property taxes, as percentage of income, are lowest since end of WWII.)

No real pension reform in Illinois, status quo on Medicaid, and come-and-get it collective bargaining.

About those government-employee pensions, Illinois faces a $130 billion unfunded mandate — part of $251 billion in total unfunded liabilities — an amount four times its entire annual budget!

Illinois taxpayers already have to pay for state workers’ generous benefits, including the highest salaries in the nation, heavily subsidized health care, free retiree health care for most workers and overly generous pension benefits. — Illinois Policy Institute.

Add $15 billion in unpaid bills. Moody’s Investors Service has indicated that even with the budget deal, Illinois is likely to become the nation’s first junk-rated state.

You want Illinois? Vote Gronik! Hellz bellz, even the Brewers are beating the Cubs!

Of Soglin (a native of Chicago, which won’t help him either), the man who beat him and then lost to him, Dave Cieslewicz, notes:

No matter the topic, Soglin speaks with the air of absolute authority. When it comes to self-confidence, the man is positively Trumpian.

But when a guy presents himself as the smartest person in the room he better actually know what he’s talking about. So, if Soglin is serious about running for governor, he’s going to have to step up his game.

The mayor made a sloppy and serious mistake when he claimed that Madison accounts for two-thirds of all the state’s private sector job creation since Gov. Scott Walker took office. Specifically, he said that 40,000 of 60,000 jobs were created here.

The independent and respected organization PolitiFact had this to say about the mayor’s claim: “The actual net increase in jobs in Wisconsin, comparing April 2011 versus May 2017, is much higher: 209,900. And the Madison area accounted for less than half of the increase. We rate Soglin’s statement False.”

There’s no reason to think that Soglin was being intentionally misleading. He just got his facts wrong and if it were a minor point it would be a small error.

But in this case Soglin was wrong about what appears to be the centerpiece of his argument: Vote for me because I’ve created jobs in Madison and I can do it for the rest of the state.

Of course, Soglin can retool. He can still make the case that Madison has created more jobs per capita than other places, but the Walker campaign now can seize on his stumble out of the gate, which was made with the cameras rolling, whenever it wants.

And there’s a deeper problem. Even if Soglin had gotten his facts right, the argument that the rest of the state can be Madison is a big stretch and — to most of the rest of the state — kind of abhorrent. Trust me on this, most of Wisconsin does not want to be us.

The assertion, implicit in the mayor’s argument, that Madison’s economy would be what it is even without the university and state government is just not plausible. Even if you discount the actual direct impact of the stable and relatively well-compensated employment base at those two institutions, there are powerful intangible factors that can’t be dismissed. What’s the value of 5,000 bright and motivated young people coming to our community each year to be UW freshmen? What’s the impact when some of them stay after graduation to work here, start businesses or just be part of a well-educated workforce?

And let’s not forget that Epic is in Dane County only because its founder was at the UW. Of course, don’t think Walker will fail to mention that Epic is not even headquartered in Madison, but in Verona.

But beyond the weakness of Soglin’s argument on the merits — even if he had his facts straight — there’s the cultural issue. The argument, “I’m from Madison and I’m here to help you,” is just not likely to play outside of these 77 square miles.

In this case, being mayor of the state’s second largest city is not an asset to be touted but a liability to be overcome. It’s not that it can’t be done, but a person would need to start with a strong dose of Midwestern humility. The argument wouldn’t start with, “Look what we’ve done in Madison,” but rather more like, “Thank you for sending your tax dollars and your brightest kids to us.”

About Vinehout, Blogging Blue (like Cieslewicz, no conservative) writes:

Well before State Senator Kathleen Vinehout announced the formation of an exploratory committee to consider running for governor of Wisconsin, her most ardent fans, (Dane County liberals in particular, it seems), have been seen commenting frequently on social media that Vinehout is the perfect candidate to take on Scott Walker. Why? Two reasons are commonly cited. 1. Because she’s from outside of the Madison/Milwaukee blue bubble. 2. Because she knows how to win in rural, republican leaning Wisconsin. The first reason is obviously true, but there’s no evidence to support the second.

Vinehout’s Senate district, the 31st, has been held by a democrat for 38 of the last 42 years. If the 31st senate district is “republican leaning” then both the GOP as well as district voters seem unaware of it.

Democrat Thomas Harnisch represented the 31st from 1975-1983. Harnisch was one of the people who helped establish the Robert M La Follette School of Public Affairs at UW Madison.

Democrat Rod Moen held the seat from 1983 until 2002 when he was narrowly defeated, ( roughly 550 votes ), by Eau Claire firefighter Ron Brown, who successfully tied Moen to the caucus scandal and former Democratic Senate Majority leader Chuck Chvala.

Vinehout won the seat back in 2006, the first of two major consecutive Democratic Party wave elections, and has held it since. Without a doubt Vinehout’s most notable electoral accomplishment is having held onto her seat during the 2010 Tea Party shellacking that took down so many other democrats statewide, but the victory comes with a caveat. Her opponent, Ed Thompson, younger brother of former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, announced two months before the 2010 election that he had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and had only six months to live. Vinehout went on to defeat Thompson by 440 votes.

Is Vinehout a great policy wonk? Without a doubt. She has a PhD and taught Health Services Administration and Women’s Studies for a decade at the University of Illinois at Springfield. Does she live outside of the Madison/Milwaukee blue bubble? You bet. She lives on a farm in western Wisconsin. Does she know how to win in rural, red, republican leaning Wisconsin? We don’t know. Her supporters claim she does, and Vinehout seems content to let that myth flourish, but there’s no evidence to support it.

Vinehout, by the way, believes that too much use of tax credits has hampered state government, which in turn has dampened the Wisconsin economy (despite near-record low unemployment). That’s an interesting perspective that you’d expect socialists to have.

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