Politics & Government
1:00 am
Tue July 9, 2013

Campaigns Continue Despite Absence of Gubernatorial Candidates

Wisconsin’s political parties are spending the summer gearing up for the 2014 governor’s race.

The gubernatorial election isn't until November of 2014, yet both parties are mobilizing voters.

That’s despite the fact that the candidates remain a question mark.

State Republican Party Executive Director Joe Fadness expects Gov. Walker to run for reelection – although Walker has not made it official. In the meantime, the GOP is working to shore up support for the governor, including by doing something the party has not done in a decade. The GOP is holding get out the vote drives.

“Despite the recalls of last year and the presidential race, there are still a good number of people who have not voted and we as Republicans see that as a prime pickup opportunity. 800,000 people across the state are not currently registered to vote and many of them live in traditional conservative areas,” Fadness says.

Fadness says hundreds of volunteers are mobilizing and will soon fan out across the state. He says the GOP will cast a wide net, including in traditional Democratic strongholds such as black and Latino neighborhoods.

“We’re going to go after every vote in Wisconsin and will not leave anything on the table. As part of that we’re going to reach out to first time voters and students, sharing with them exactly what’s at stake next November and we’re also going to talk to people who haven’t voted recently, re-engaging them in the process and talking with them about the successes here in Wisconsin under Scott Walker and Republican leadership,” Fadness says.

Fadness says he anticipates the 2014 race to be competitive, so the GOP is not taking anything for granted. Democrats believe they have a chance to win back the office, after Walker’s first four-year term. So the state party has opened field offices, with volunteers manning phone lines, passing out lawn signs and knocking on doors.

However, it’s not clear who Democrats will be backing in the race. A couple big-name party members, such as former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold and Congressman Ron Kind have indicated they will not make a bid. Chairman Mike Tate says the party is intentionally holding its cards close to the vest, in part, because of the campaign it expects Walker to wage.

“He wins by running down his opponents and spending his millions of dollars trying to make whomever we put up there look like the bogeyman. I don’t see why we should give Scott Walker one more day necessary to run that sort of campaign negativity and division,” Tate says.

While he won’t name them, Tate says there are a number of strong potential Democratic candidates considering entering the race. Tate says the picture will become clear later this year or early in 2014.

“I know there are elected officials looking at it, I know there’s more than one individual in the private sector who have been extremely successful, who’ve created thousands of jobs and have watched in horror as Scott Walker has wreaked havoc on the Wisconsin economy,” Tate says.

One name that has drawn attention recently is Mary Burke, a Madison School Board member, who’s both a former business executive and former state Commerce Secretary. She has not said whether she plans to run, but Democrats included her name in an opinion poll of potential candidates. Burke reportedly has used her own money to finance past campaigns.

UW-La Crosse Political Science Professor Joe Heim says that could make her an attractive candidate. He mentions Ron Johnson, the business owner and political newcomer who won the U. S. Senate race in 2010.

“A lot of people think, well she’s not that well known, but you can get into a race like this relatively late and if you’re well funded, Ron Johnson proved you can in fact win an election. He had the advantage of course in a very Republican year of overcoming a normal incumbent advantage of Russ Feingold. Whether the Democrats can replicate that remains to be seen,” Heim says.

Heim predicts a costly campaign, expecting both sides to bombard the airwaves with campaign ads – ads that likely will multiply, after the candidates’ names are known.