Sen. Tim Cullen was out of Wisconsin politics for 24 years before rejoining the state Senate last year. Now he’s considering a run for governor.
Though Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s moves to end collective bargaining rights for public workers have divided the state in a way Cullen has never seen, the Janesville Democrat says he thinks Wisconsin is really a centrist state.
“(The center) is where I’ve been all of my political life,” Cullen said Thursday in an interview with the Tribune editorial board. “I might be more what Wisconsin wants.”
He’s certain recall efforts to gather the required 540,208 signatures by Jan. 17 will succeed.
Walker has credited his reforms with erasing the state’s deficit and giving municipalities and schools the ability to absorb reductions in state funding without raising taxes.
Cullen, who has worked with eight governors, took issue with Walker’s style of governance.
“I’ve never seen a governor come in and act the way this governor has,” he said. “The reason we’re in trouble is the way he’s gone about doing things — my way or the highway.”
It’s unclear who else might run should the recall succeed. Prominent Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Ron Kind of La Crosse, say they haven’t ruled out a run.
Cullen, 68, served in the Senate from 1974 to 1986 before heading the Wisconsin Department of Health and Social Services. He retired in 2007 as senior vice president of Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
He returned to politics in 2010 when Sen. Judith Robson decided not to run for re-election. He said he regretted it during his first month, when he was able to vote only yes or no to Republican bills without a chance to offer amendments. On Feb. 17, Cullen and the other 13 Senate Democrats fled to Illinois in an effort to slow Walker’s 144-page budget repair bill, which included the changes to collective bargaining.
Despite criticism for leaving the state, Cullen said it was the right decision.
“When all hell broke loose,” he said, “I was glad I was there.”