Wisconsin Democrats’ Gubernatorial Prospects Most Un-Kind

Former State Senator, Tim Cullen, who represented Janesville from 1975-1987 and again in 2011-2015, is close to announcing a run. Mr. Cullen and his caucus fled the State Capitol in 2011 to deny Senate Republicans a quorum on Act 10, then promising to run for Governor if a recall was launched, then abandoning that effort, citing “stronger candidates”. Mr Cullen retired after that, blaming the hyper-partisan nature of the chamber. Now, he’s back, and this isn’t a healthy sign for the state Democratic Party.

Some initially wanted State Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, but after she almost lost her own seat last year, she was out of the picture.

Others rallied around the hope that U.S. Congressman Ron Kind would run (they always seem to think he’s going to), but he told the Associated Press today he will not.

So, for now, they’ve got a candidate who left the legislature because he felt the parties had become too partisan and he couldn’t get anything done.

It’s become less partisan since 2015?

If the political environment really sours for Scott Walker and the Republicans in Wisconsin, Cullen could have a chance at unseating him. But Governor Walker has been underwater in approval twice before major elections, and has won said elections by at least 5% margins. U.S. Senator Ron Johnson trailed former Senator Russ Feingold for nearly the entire 2016 cycle, and beat him comfortably. My Republican and Democratic sources in Madison had been anticipating a Republican loss of several legislative seats last August. Instead, the Republicans enlarged their State Senate and State House majorities. They came within 62 votes of ousting Shilling. Earlier this year, not one liberal justice bothered to challenge incumbent Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler.

Long a battleground between conservatives and progressives, for now, Wisconsin seems to have tipped a bit to the right. Progressives have an upcoming DPI election to rally around and build some excitement, but will need more than that to challenge the Governor they hate with the heat of a thousand suns. Mr. Cullen has a lot of work cut out for him.