Well, time to make my endorsement for Governor and Lieutenant Governor in tomorrow's primaries. Neither of these picks should really surprise you.
Governor- Tom Barrett
Disclosure: I worked for Tom in Milwaukee for a couple of years and got to know how he handles things firsthand. He is even more honest, hard-working and caring on an everyday basis than you know him to be on the stump. The high level of competence that he demands and allows in his departments tells a lot about how much this cares for the business of good governance, and I've seen firsthand how he accepts conclusions that don't jibe with what he might want to hear, and adjusts policies to fit that reality (boy, wouldn't that be a major upgrade from Walker World, eh?) Instead of living in the insular, ideologically-driven world of Scott Walker, Tom believes in listening, thinking, and solving, and Barrett won't be using Wisconsin as a stepping stone to his next job. Coming back to Madison (where he went to school and served in the state Legislature for 10 years) is Tom's ultimate job, and he would give this state real leadership and results as a result instead of pathetic poses.
This guy has been handed some of the worst deals any Mayor of the state's largest city has been dealt, with major cuts in state shared revenue (and no way to make up for the cuts), the worst recession in the U.S. in 70 years, and dealing with the fallout of a dysfunctional MPS that he has no control over. And through all of these barriers (and Walker's brutal cuts in transit service), Milwaukee has revitalized huge parts of their downtown and other neighborhoods like the Third Ward, and has succeeded in attracting people to relocate back to the City, as Milwaukee stopped decades of declining population in the 2000s, and now has more people living there than it did when Barrett took over in 2004.
That result is especially remarkable when you consider Barrett has had to deal with Scott Walker screwing everything up above him for his entire tenure, first when Walker was County Executive from 2004-2011, and now for the last 16 months as governor, as Walker cut tens of millions of dollars to the city last year and didn't give Barrett any offsetting chance to make them up because Walker exempted police and fire fighters from Act 10's cuts for political reasons. Barrett correctly predicted that Act 10 was flawed due to this two-tier treatment of police and fire, and that's why a federal judge threw part of it out in March.
You think Barrett would bully through constitutionally flawed legislation without regard for outcomes like Walker has? Hell no, he'd be the exact opposite, being and laying out the options to all sides at the bargaining table, and reaching a conclusion that makes the best of a tough situation, like he did in 2009 when Barrett and the city's main public employee unions reached an agreement that exchanged a pay freeze with a promise of no layoffs of city workers, a promise Barrett kept through 2 difficult budget years. Unlike Scott Walker, Tom Barrett works to get things done right the first time, and would do it transparently, without having to take anyone's rights away.
Even though I'm a huge fan of Tom's and know how good of an executive he is when it comes to management and caring and understanding the issues, I also felt that his campaign in 2010 was uneven, and wasn't fierce enough to draw attention to the damage that the TeaBag agenda would cause. I worried that I would see a tepid, casual Barrett would be the one that would be running for governor, which would lead to a deflating general election campaign, and I was willing to look into voting for Kathleen Vinehout if I was seeing that out of Tom (Falk was out as soon as she worked out that backroom deal with the unions and came up with the stupid plan of vetoing the budget over collective bargaining rights, and La Follette is far too boring and unaccomplished for me to support in the primary).
That is not the Tom Barrett I've seen in 2012. Take a look at this meeting in Janesville from last week, and how Tom hits it all- the understanding of the issues, Scott Walker's dereliction of duty and complete failure on the jobs front, and the great story where Barrett relates about how his wife feels that Walker has devalued teaching and many of the other things our state holds dear. And it's all off the cuff without BS. Do you think Walker has a chance against a guy who's going to bring THIS out on the stump against him?
Note why Barrett says he will restore collective bargaining rights- because IT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO. He's not doing it because it's part of some deal to get political support in the primary or because it makes for a nice headline (I'm looking at you, Kathleen Falk), but because IT IS RIGHT. That's what's driven people like me out to the Capitol time and again the last 15 months, because we recognize that what Scott Walker and the Koch/WMC agenda setters have done is fundamentally wrong for Wisconsin. Walker's moves have been nothing more than a power-grab by a group taking advantage of a fluky 2010 election cycle, and has been done without regard for the condition Wisconsin is left in after Walker and his corporate backers leave town with their loot. Tom Barrett understands this element of the anger with Walker and can articluate it without empty platitudes or talking down to me like I'm a child, and that combined with his experience as an executive and belief in competence and rule of law in Wisconsin government sets him apart from the other candidates.
Given that Tom Barrett has kept Milwaukee afloat despite the brutal destruction of Walker, I have the full confidence has can do the same for the rest of the state (in fact, it'd probably be a whole lot easier given that a Governor has many more ways to deal with the economy and fiscal issues than a Mayor. In order to fix the huge amount of damage that Scott Walker has imposed on Wisconsin, we need a governor that will deal with the tough situation at hand, stop the decline, and restore this state back to health, reminding us of why it's such special place to live in. The candidate that can handle this tough order is Tom Barrett, and that's who I'm voting for tomorrow.
Lieutenant Governor, Mahlon Mitchell
Those who have been to rallies have seen Mitchell give his typical fiery speech. Mitchell is excellent at tying together Walker's anti-union moves with the larger Koch-ALEC agenda. While some of it may get a bit old after you've seen it 10-12 times (as I have), he's still a great guy to have on our side, and Mitchell can use the Lieutenant Governor's office as a sounding board and outreach for the Governor, instead of appearing at photo ops and embarrassing our state with airheaded bimbosity that Lt. Gov. Kleefisch does in the office today. Unlike Kleefisch, who seems to use the job as a good excuse to grab a second paycheck for her family, get some nice perks and allow some 262-area country clubbers to not have to use their Viagra for the day, Mitchell could actually do something productive with this job, and inspire some folks with an IQ over 80 in the process.
The contrast of Mitchell with Barrett's cool-hand experience makes for a great Dem ticket that can grab moderates (who like Barrett's steadiness and pracitcaility) and fire-breathing recallers (who like how Mitchell can tap into the rage and solidarity that so many of us feel against this outlaw regime). As I guy who appreciates and walks both sides of the ledger on this ticket, I can't wait to see them together for the next 4 weeks.
Lastly, make sure you take advantage of this opportunity and GET OUT TOMORROW AND VOTE if you haven't already. As I've pointed out in the past, elections are decided in no small part based on who shows up, and if we don't show up, the bad guys will take over our government and way of life from us. Don't let it happen tomorrow, and especially don't let it happen on June 5.