Total Recall: Falk wins Dane County Democrats mostly agreeable straw poll
Post by Christie Taylor on 4/12/2012 10:00am
After a night of debate in front of a standing-room only crowd of mostly 40 and older Dane County Democrats, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk appeared to be the favorite after a straw poll landed her in first place with 118 votes, or 46 percent of the night’s total.
While the event was open to the public, only registered members of the Democratic party could vote in the straw poll, for a final count of about 250.
Ballots were cast before and during the forum, which included all four Democratic candidates (zombie Democratic candidate Gladys Huber was not there). Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett nabbed second place, with 93 votes, state senator Kathleen Vinehout had 46, and Secretary of State Doug La Follette earned two. Despite the unequal division of votes, crowd members had plenty of enthusiasm for the latter two, with several shouts of “thank you” erupting for La Follette’s decision to delay publishing Act 10, and many of the loudest rounds of applause reserved for Vinehout.
For much of the night there was little hint of competition in the room, and the candidates could often be seen nodding or smiling in agreement with each other. All four, for example, supported undoing Walker’s Act 21, which makes it easier for the governor to create administrative rules that have the same power as legislatively-enacted law. All four supported restoring education funding, too, with Vinehout and Falk citing it as a means to create the jobs they said Scott Walker had failed to deliver in a year when Wisconsin instead underperformed by far--though on the jobs question, Barrett and La Follette also favored creating certainty and healing the sharp partisan divide.
The only major point of diversion was on the question of how best to restore collective bargaining if the Assembly remains Republican-dominated: There, Barrett said he would call a special legislative session to take up the issue, and predicted that stubborn Assembly Republicans “would not be so brave” after successful recalls this year. Falk stuck to her prior commitment to vetoing any budget that did not restore bargaining rights.
“If not, all this effort to restore collective bargaining won’t happen because Republicans won’t convene for a special session or won’t act on a standalone bill,” she said.
But Barrett warned against the idea of using the 2013 budget to undo the damage of the 2011 version, noting that if a new budget isn’t passed the state would remain stuck with Walker’s. Vinehout said she’d take a less direct approach, starting by changing the dialogue from one demonizing public workers to one that highlights what they can do to solve the state’s problems. And then, she said, she’d like to see a stand-alone bill, the likes of which she and other Senate Democrats have already written. La Follette, meanwhile, said restoring bargaining would be “impossible” without progressive Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature, but also that he’d be able to support such elections from the governor’s seat.
The candidates’ themes diverged sharply in their closing statements as well. Barrett stuck firmly to the need to defeat Scott Walker, and said he was the best possible candidate. “We have to have our strongest runner for the final leg of this marathon and I am the runner,” he said. Vinehout, in contrast, said she would be the “fresh start” leader the state needed to repair the damage of Walker’s term. “In this job, if it’s done well, it means digging deep into what’s wrong and focusing on solutions,” she said. “It’s about public service.”
La Follette, too, talked about his leadership style, citing his history as “a maverick, a bit like Bill Proxmire,” and said he would be free of connections to any special interests but those of the state as a whole. Finally, Falk highlighted the support and many endorsements from unions and organizations she’d received since she declared her candidacy in January. “I’ve earned the endorsement of every single organization that’s endorsed on the Democratic side,” she said. Falk's supporters include the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, Clean Wisconsin, and EMILY's List, but she's not the only one with major endorsements: Barrett has received the support of former U.S. Rep. David Obey, former Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton, U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, and several members of the Wisconsin State Legislature, including Sen. Jon Erpenbach.
Also at the meeting, Dane County Democratic Party Chair Mike Basford highlighted several statistics: that more than 800,000 voters who voted in 2008 didn’t vote in 2010, for example, and that Walker’s margin of victory was only just over 100,000 votes.
“If just a small fraction of that first number had gotten out and voted, Scott Walker would still be Milwaukee County Executive, Russ Feingold would still be U.S. Senator, we’d probably be doing something very different this evening,” Basford said. In other words, he said, Democrats only needed to inspire a small fraction of those voters to stand a chance of winning.
“We have to teach people that every election matters,” he said. “Because if you don’t vote, you get Scott Walker.”
Christie Taylor (@ctaylsaurus) covers science, environment, and, depending on the season, state politics for dane101. She verbs a lot of nouns, including rollerskates, radio, and Kurt Vonnegut. A Madison native, she's not sure she'll ever quite manage to leave Wisconsin, and that's just fine by her. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.