Democratic candidates for governor

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate has hit an all-time low. Taxes have been cut by billions of dollars. College tuition has been frozen for years. Projected state budget deficits are almost half of what they were a decade ago.

Gov. Scott Walker has a list of reasons he says he should be re-elected to a third term. And over the past year he has traveled the state and spent millions on campaign ads to drive that message home.

But the eight Democrats running against him have their own list of reasons he shouldn’t be re-elected.

The Wisconsin State Journal asked each of them to lay out their best case against a third Walker term. The written answers — from Tony Evers, Matt Flynn, Mike McCabe, Mahlon Mitchell, Josh Pade, Kelda Roys, Paul Soglin and Kathleen Vinehout — include many arguments that will likely be featured in TV ads and other campaign spots in the run-up to the Aug. 14 primary.

Many of the criticisms were echoed by multiple candidates, while others were unique to individual candidates.

For example, Flynn, a former Democratic Party chairman, was the only one to mention Walker’s dismantling of the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board, which had been investigating Walker’s recall campaign, and his attempt to gut the state’s open records law in 2015.

Roys, a former state representative, brought up Walker’s anti-abortion position and his turning down of federal high-speed rail and broadband funding.

Vinehout, a state senator, pointed to looser environmental, labor and consumer protection laws benefiting businesses.

McCabe, a political activist, was the only one to mention that farms in Wisconsin have disappeared at a rate of more than one per day.

Evers, the state superintendent of schools, pointed out the abuse scandal at the Lincoln Hills youth prison.

But in several areas, you can expect to hear Democrats ganging up on Walker.

Democrats argue the case against a third Scott Walker term

The eight Democrats running for governor laid out several different arguments against the incumbent.

‘Crumbling roads’

Roads and infrastructure were brought up by almost all of the candidates (everyone mentioned it except Soglin, the mayor of Madison, who provided the shortest response).

Mitchell, president of the state firefighter union, noted a 2017 Transportation Development Association study that ranked Wisconsin’s roads 49th in the nation. McCabe said, “We can’t have a good economy and bad roads.”

Roys said, “Walker has allowed our infrastructure to fall apart during these last eight years, while dramatically increasing the share of our transportation budget that goes to pay for debt and borrowing.”

Walker has resisted increasing the state’s gas tax, instead opting to borrow and find efficiencies within the Department of Transportation.

‘Underfunding public education’

Six of the candidates mentioned education funding, a prominent issue in several Marquette Law School Polls about the top concerns among voters. Walker himself has tried to turn the issue to his favor by calling himself “the education governor.”

Roys criticized Walker’s historic cuts to public schools and said, “Many of our school districts are being forced to fund basic services through referenda due to lack of funding.” Evers noted that some schools are closing, though that’s also a reflection of declining rural enrollment.

The cuts came mostly in Walker’s first budget in response to a more than $3 billion budget deficit following the Great Recession. School districts were mostly able to offset the cuts by requiring teachers and other employees to pay more for health insurance and pension premiums.

Walker has noted that K-12 funding has increased as of his most recent budget to the highest dollar amount in state history, although that’s not adjusted for inflation.

‘Corporations first’

Five Democrats criticized Walker for his wealthy donor base and enacting policies that they said primarily benefit corporations.

A shuttered criminal investigation into Walker’s recall campaign found he helped raise millions of dollars for a tax-exempt group coordinating the recall effort, including from a lead industry magnate who stood to benefit from changes in Wisconsin’s liability laws. Walker has signed campaign finance laws that allow corporations to donate to political parties and fund so-called issue ads in coordination with campaigns.

“He has exposed himself as a mule for his party’s donor cartel,” Flynn said.

McCabe said “cronyism, corruption and legal bribery have been allowed to take root in our state,” while Vinehout said Walker’s “Open for Business” mantra has meant “billions of dollars have gone to corporate tax breaks and cash payments.”

‘Divide and conquer policies’

Shortly before Walker introduced his anti-union legislation later known as Act 10, which sparked weeks of massive demonstrations, the newly elected governor was recorded telling Beloit billionaire Diane Hendricks that the bill was part of a “divide and conquer” strategy.

Democrats pounced on the video when it surfaced a month before the 2012 recall election, but it didn’t prevent Walker from winning two elections since then. Still, half of the Democrats running this year mentioned “division” in their critique.

Evers said Walker’s “divide and conquer policies” are the worst thing he has done for the state. Pade, a corporate lawyer, said the worst thing Walker has done is create a “divide culture” in a state that is known for being progressive and bipartisan.

Mitchell said if given a chance to ask Walker one question in a debate, he would ask: “You once said your goal was to ‘divide and conquer’ and after nearly eight years of being in office, do you feel you’ve been successful?”

‘Stagnant wages’

Half of the candidates mentioned wages as a key issue. Mitchell said “wages are stagnant” and Flynn said under Walker wages have been “suppressed.”

Vinehout said, “Wisconsin trails other states in wages, in start-ups, in recovering from the last recession.”

Since Walker took office, the state has added jobs at a slower rate than the rest of the country, but average wages have grown faster than the national average, according to the latest annual figures from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. The average private-sector wage was $47,212, up from $39,556 in 2010. Adjusted for inflation that’s a 6 percent increase.

The state has kept its minimum wage at the national rate of $7.25, while more than half of the other states now have a higher minimum wage.

‘Health care costs skyrocketing’

Health care is another topic that public polling has found is on many voters’ minds, and half of the gubernatorial candidates criticized Walker’s handling of the issue.

Roys pointed to Walker’s decision to turn down the expansion of Badgercare under the Affordable Care Act, saying if he had accepted the funding 79,000 more people would be insured, about 10,000 health care jobs would have been created and the state would have saved $1 billion.

Earlier this year Walker successfully applied for a federal waiver for a $200 million reinsurance program designed to reduce premiums in the Obamacare marketplace.

‘Presidential ambitions’

Half the Democrats also knocked Walker for running for president in 2015. He began exploring the possibility soon after his last election and at one point led in some polls but dropped out in September 2015.

During the short-lived campaign, Walker’s job approval rating in the Marquette poll plummeted below 40 percent but has since rebounded.

“How do you expect the people of Wisconsin to trust you again when you keep putting the wishes of your donors and your presidential ambitions above them?” Flynn said he would ask Walker on a debate stage.

Soglin said Walker’s “presidential ambition was more important than our families and schoolchildren.”

Walker campaign responds

In response to the criticisms, Walker campaign spokesman Austin Altenburg said the Democrats are making a “desperate attempt to win over primary voters” and “taking increasingly radical positions.”

“In stark contrast, Scott Walker is focused on delivering real results for Wisconsinites,” Altenburg said. “With historic actual-dollar investments in education, a plan to lower health care premiums, and skills training to develop our workforce, we’re keeping Wisconsin working for generations to come.”

The campaign also referred comment to Republican Party of Wisconsin spokesman Alec Zimmerman, who said, “There’s no end in sight to the lengths far-left Democrats will run to oppose Scott Walker’s reforms.”

“From failing to protect children in our schools and places of worship, to their plans that would release violent criminals back onto our streets, these candidates have adopted reckless policies that are dangerous to Wisconsin families,” Zimmerman said.

Takeaways: Here are the Democratic candidates’ chief critiques of Scott Walker

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(10) comments

B Butterfield

Tony Evers will turn Wisconsin teachers into political pinatas all over again, since his whole campaign boils down to a single message: "I'm going to tax you citizens more to pay those teachers more!" As a teacher, I don't want to go through that again. Evers is an uninspiring bureaucrat, a bland top-down administrator. He may poll well due to name recognition, but he won't inspire enough people to vote. McCabe is the only one whose independent background as a watchdog in Madison for common folks, and whose message of common folks banding together to fight corruption, combine to inspire the type of passion needed to get enough people off their butts to actually vote. Listen to the man speak. He's not just a candidate, he's leading a people-powered movement. We should have learned our lesson by now that Wisconsinites will not elect bland, centrist, establishment Democrats, especially ones running against the very thing that made Walker famous. Let's not do this again!

B Butterfield

Walker bragged that he would divide and conquer Wisconsin, and did so three times against establishment Democrats. Trump then won in Wisconsin against the biggest establishment Democrat of all time. McCabe is the only candidate who's not an establishment Democrat and who doesn't stand for any of the minor tribal divisions that Walker's been able to exploit and conquer. As an independent who, like Bernie Sanders, fought corruption and inequality his whole adult life, his brand of progressive populism stands the best chance of beating Walker/Trump's right-wing pseudo populism. Please vote for him in the August 14th primary.


Roys pointed to Walker’s decision to turn down the expansion of Badgercare under the Affordable Care Act, saying if he had accepted the funding 79,000 more people would be insured, about 10,000 health care jobs would have been created and the state would have saved $1 billion.
Earlier this year Walker successfully applied for a federal waiver for a $200 million reinsurance program designed to reduce premiums in the Obamacare marketplace." Turned down a billion $$$ that was made up mostly of federal taxes Wisconsinites had already paid in, and settled for a waiver for 20% of that. Then brags about how terrific a thing he did for Wisconsin's health insurance owner. This is what he did folks. But vote for him again. Forget what he did years ago with Act 10, the education cuts, etc., and vote for him based on those little fish he has thrown Wisconsinites since the gubanetorial campaign began. If it happened more than 18 months ago, clear it out of your mind.


CMSM Syndrome. Walker will win again because after removing or prohibiting things that were or would have been very good for Wisconsin, like that federal money that could have helped thousands of Wisconsinites have better health insurance. Like making a small increase in our g as tax, which most people probably wouldn't even notice, to finance repairs to infrastructure, trying to borrow the money instead. Political observers can go on and on with mistakes made by Walker, but those people with Closed Mind and Short Memory Syndrome will vote him back into office.

Grand Dad's Bluff

He jumped the shark when he declared himself the education governor......


Yes, please vote Scott Walker OUT of office and vote for Democrats up and down the ballot in Wisconsin and states across the country. Democrats are working hard to stop and solve outrageous wealth inequality in our country, shocking destruction of our planet and ecosystems, racial injustice, the lack of Constitutional equal rights for women, the lack of proper funding and resources for our public schools, the lack of common sense laws on gun safety, the corruption of our White House and government agencies (the executive branch) by President Trump and Vladimir Putin's Russian cohorts who are being protected by many Republicans, placement of undemocratic candidates on the Supreme Court who want to give power to special interests over the people, etc. It's time a reckoning came to the Republican party, its candidates and also the Koch Brothers who corrupt our government from behind the scenes with their ALEC organization. They have ALL been undermining the lives and well-being of the American people in countless ways. We the People have had more than ENOUGH and are finding ways to take our power back. Use your freedom to vote, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom to live on an inhabitable planet where and while you still have them. Also work hard to protect the integrity of our elections which are our most important possession in a representative democracy and have already been severely compromised in ways we know and may never know. We are in an emergency situation as far as our climate and democracy. This is NOT a drill.


Ms. Dean's comments are pretty serious and intense. They're also correct. A story in today's news said "in a recent rally speech President Trump bragged about his prowess in defeating the Republicans who oppose him, saying at an Ohio rally that he "destroys" the careers of GOP politicians who dare defy him." In other words, freedom of thought and speech are not allowed in today's Republican party. Trump literally said that. Walker isn't that bad, but he slashed the state's education budget and bragged about the huge tax savings, ignoring the fact that local school district citizens were now having to take on tax increases themselves to keep their school districts going. Very few school districts saved any money with those cuts. Leah Mirvuk or whatever her name is says in one of her commercials: "I helped Gov. Walker bust the union leaders." Good. We don't want any line employees make any money that the unions help them get. 'Nuff said. Read this article and Ms. Dean's comments again.


Excellent postings by the "staff" and spot on.
It has been revealed that "policy decisions most closely correspond to the political leanings of the wealthiest people in the population and not so much to other people".
Walker"s more infamous utterances, after first being elected were the: "divide and conquer" to Diane Hendricks, and "I"m gonna drop a bomb on Wisconsin",regarding ACT 10.
Yet some folks around the state were taken aback with 150,000 protesters in Madison.
Walker is often referred to as the worst Governor in the United States of America.,by states around the country.
They are also spot on.

union conservative

I have supported him through everything but I also support term limits for ALL govt. his term is up in my book.


Truthfully, anyone of these candidates would be a huge benefit for the state of Wisconsin and it's citizens. Walker has kowtowed to his wealthy business owner base - most of them living no where near the state of Wisconsin. I travel around the state and listen to what people say - on both sides and I am convinced it will be the rich or the lazy who put him back in office. Most people I talk to have no idea that he is one of the 'ring-leaders' of ALEC - which cranks out legislation used in all the states to benefit the wealthy and big corporations only. I'd bet most of the Tribune readers haven't a clue what ALEC is. It's time the Tribune does an in-depth, draw back the curtain on ALEC. We, the citizens of Wisconsin can't afford to have Walker winking and nodding his way through our state another term. He has been shameless in the way he has damaged our once great state.

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