Tony Evers pulled off one of the Democratic Party’s biggest feats of 2018: ousting liberal villain Scott Walker after earlier attempts to take out the Wisconsin governor fell short.
But having one of their own atop the critical 2020 battleground isn’t turning out to be the boon that Democrats hoped or expected.
Evers, a longtime school administrator who’s prone to peppering his speech with “by golly” and “holy mackerel” — and who voters chose in part for his no-drama approach to politics — has been thrust into a cauldron of racial tension and violence. It’s an awkward fit for the subdued 68-year-old, and the reviews of his response to the turmoil in Kenosha — among other facets of his job performance — aren’t encouraging.
Evers is drawing heat from some in his own party for not moving quickly enough to tamp down rioting in Kenosha. Like Walker before him, Evers is facing a nascent effort to recall him from office. He’s been steamrolled by Republicans who dominate the legislature and have repeatedly blocked his initiatives, including police reform.
And while Evers is still above water in polls, his approval rating slid 6 points after his handling of the Kenosha unrest.
Democrats say it’s obviously better to have Evers at the helm than Walker heading into November — if nothing else, to protect against what they said would have been an assault on voting access if Republicans controlled both legislative chambers and the governorship.
But interviews with more than two dozen activists, strategists, local officials and voters surfaced serious concern that in such a pivotal year, in such a pivotal state, Evers is diminishing what should be a significant advantage for the party. Rather than act as an attack dog or savvy politico who helps amplify Joe Biden’s message to combat President Donald Trump, they say, Evers instead has allowed Republicans to cast him as weak and ineffective.
That is because Evers is weak and ineffective.