U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, has accused Republican Gov. Scott Walker of “budgetary and fiscal malpractice” in rejecting addition federal money for health care for Wisconsin’s poor.
The Walker decision means higher costs for businesses, higher state taxpayer costs, and it will leave many vulnerable citizens “without any coverage,” Kind said in a brief statement.
The statement is sure to spur speculation that Kind, who has been in the Congress since 1997, could be a Democratic opponent against Walker in 2014. Kind was mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate in the 2012 recall election, but he opted not to make that race.
Walker is being touted as a possibility on the Republican national ticket in 2016. He has been giving speeches across the country to conservative groups. Walker has refused to promise whether he would serve out a second four-year term as governor if re-elected in 2014.
Wisconsin remains sharply divided politically, according to the latest Marquette University Law School poll. The poll numbers have improved slightly for both Walker and President Barack Obama, perhaps a reflection of an improved economy.
The tipping point of political influence in the state may be among the 11 percent who said they voted both for Walker in the recall election and for Obama for a second term in the White House. The Marquette poll showed there are very few citizens without an opinion of Walker and his performance.
Speculation about a 2014 challenge by Kind comes in part from the lack of other potential Democratic candidates. Some might suggest that the gubernatorial candidate would come from the state Senate.
That would allow Republicans to renew their criticism of the senators who went to Illinois to slow down the rush to enact the GOP bill gutting public-employee unionism in Wisconsin. Republicans would be quick to charge the senators had abandoned their responsibility.
Walker would like the election spotlight on that topic rather than on issues such as the number of new jobs in Wisconsin (he pledged to create 250,000 in his first four years in office, the muddle at his new economic development corporation or the focus on private, rather than public, elementary and secondary education.
There is a contrast between Walker and Kind in another area. Walker dropped out of Marquette University without an undergraduate degree. Kind has a bachelor’s degree from Harvard, a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and a law degree from the University of Minnesota.
But Walker will have far more campaign money than whoever is the Democratic candidate next year. Deep-pocketed conservatives across the country poured millions of dollars into the recall election last year. His union-busting has made him a hero on the right.
Running against Walker would be a courageous act for Kind. The congressional boundaries created by Republicans in the wake of the 2010 census created three very Democratic districts, including Kind’s in western Wisconsin, and five strong Republican districts. He can be in the House of Representatives for a very long time.
It was the first time in a half-century that one political party had totally controlled the development of boundary lines for congressional and legislative districts. It will give Republicans a strong edge in legislative elections for a decade.
That gerrymandering has made the governor’s chair the only real opportunity for Democrats to have a role in the state Capitol.