Just got back from the Dem forum at the Madison Concourse. The place was packed beyond capacity and the Dane Dems should have been smart enough to hold it at somewhere like the Wisconsin Union Theatre or the Orpheum or somewhere bigger, but it shows the intensity and interest that's still out there. I highly recommend checking one out if you get a chance.
Quick thoughts on the candidates:
Tom Barrett- If this Tom Barrett had run in 2010, he'd be governor today and we wouldn't have this mess. He rightfully attacked Walker on Scotty's inability to not get things done because Walker would rather pose and be ideological instead of getting results. He's gonna be coming out swinging if he's the nominee and he clearly backed collective bargaining rights being restored with the smart political move of calling a special session. He had a great personal story about how his wife got laid off in MPS cutbacks due to Walker's budget, and how it hurt to see how the teaching profession was being attacked by WisGOP and their allies.
Quick disclosure on Barrett: I worked for Tom in a past life, and I really like the guy as someone to work for, but this edge and forceful approach on Walker is something that he generally did not show either as Mayor or as a candidate for Guv, and it probably cost him in 2010. I think this primary is making him a better candidate, and it makes you think that the Dems dropped the ball by shoving people out of Barrett's way in 2010, because it didn't toughen him up and didn't allow him to be introduced to enough Wisconsinites before the election.
Kathleen Vinehout: It is hard not to like her. She's firey, she's very wonky at times (as evidenced by her excellent blog work at Uppity Wisconsin.), and is awesome at getting down into the details of how government works and how to make it better. I can see why she has a passionate following (the Vinehout supporters are pretty evident at most of these forums, they're the ones in orange enthusiastically giving you stuff on her), and I would love to see her mop the floor with Walker in a debate.
She also seems to legitimately have fun at these kinds of things, laughing along at others' points, and when she gets going, she is hard to slow down. Don't be surprised if she does well on election night, and if we had instant runoff voting, I'd bet she'd finish second on everyone's ballot if they didn't vote for her.
Doug La Follette: An old-school politician who has excellent ideals on good government and working together. It's a lot of things that we have lost in the last 25 years in this state in clean government, and is his very understated kind of way, La Follette has core beliefs in the Wisconsin Way that are endearing. Not exactly the most photogenic guy in the world, but I can see him being a real asset on the stump with people who know the Walker Way of pay-to-play isn't proper, and it's clear that everyone respects him. Can't see him winning (or even finishing 3rd), but his real boost will come in May and late June when he helps the winner.
Kathleen Falk: Another disclaimer, I generally don't like her, as I've always found her kinda scheming and somewhat self-absorbed. However, the competence and results she had when Dane County Executive are indisputable. And when she concentrates on those items, and how we can restore Wisconsin, she's very good. She can even loosen up and be somewhat personable in the right circumstances (she was greeting some people on the way in and it didn't come off as fake or forced, very unlike the stone-faced ice queen she's often portrayed as), and in quite a few times, I could see why people could get behind her.
But then they had the inevitable question on "How would you restore collective bargaining if you didn't have an all-Dem Legislature?" And Falk blew it even more than she did when she announced the stupid union-suckup pledge to veto the budget if it did not include collective bargaining rights. Falk explained that the GOP-led Legislature wouldn't take up collective bargaining after she was elected anyway, so it wasn't worth it to try. This reasoning was dumb because it is 1. Defeatist (it assumes it won't work) and 2. Doesn't put pressure on the GOP to make a statement before the November elections. Especially if Walker gets blasted out by 8-10 points (very possible if things are run right), you know every GOP will be running scared, and you know it'll be a Dem Senate with 18-20 votes in it.
The second part of Falk's answer on the veto pledge was equally non-sensical. She says that the Legislature has to pass a budget by law and that it allows her to neogtiate from a position of strength by saying what she will do and will not accept. Actually, saying what you will do is often a sign of weakness in negotiation, especially when Teabaggers in the Legislature could just sit on their hands and do nothing, which keeps the disastrous Walker budget in power, AND keeps bargaining rights from happening. Don't doubt that it could be the GOP strategy in that scenario, and a Governor Falk would catch some of the blame for "not compromising" (not my thoughts, but the "both sides" media would certainly portray it that way) and focusing on one issue instead of the whole budget.
Barrett (and to an extent Vinehout) got the answer right- You call a special session for July, and you put the pressure on the GOP to allow bargaining rights. You know there's a lot of first-term GOP Assembly members that'll be feeling the footsteps of the public, especially if Walker gets his ass kicked on June 5, and maybe Jeff Fitzgerald will try to hold up a bill through the GOP primary in late August, but after he gets blown out in that (and he will), a whole lot GOP legislators might be willing to tell Little Fitz to fuck himself instead of fucking them over in the next election. If nothing else, going special session would be a great political move coming right around the time a lot of schools and municipalities will be discussing budgets, and if the GOP continues to bow to ALEC instead of Wisconsinites, they'll be a minority party in this state for quite a while, redistricting or no redistricting.
I'm not making an endorsement, at least not yet (though I can think you can tell who I like and who I won't vote for). But it was also very telling that Dane County Dem chair Mike Basford made a call for all supporters to come together after the primary on May 8 to defeat Walker, and he was met with a rousing ovation from the crowd. We may disagree on our candidates, but unlike what Sly, the AFSCME people and the Journal-Senintel are trying to portray, there is no major split going on in the Dem party (just a few loudmouths), and we will unite behind whoever wins this primary. And any of these 4 will be a major improvement over what we have now.