Who cares who the Lt. Gov. is? | Wis.Community

Who cares who the Lt. Gov. is?

Who cares who the next lieutenant governor of Wisconsin will be?

The person who will care the most is the next governor of Wisconsin. 

Having a lieutenant governor who is really a partner, a trustworthy team player who will help push a policy and political agenda, and who will faithfully carry out duties delegated to him/her by the governor, could be invaluable to the next chief executive.

That's something Jim Doyle has had to do without for eight years.  Barbara Lawton made it clear from the day she won the nomination in 2002 that she was on her own team, not Doyle's.  It was her choice, but one that meant she was never a central player but sat on the sidelines and tried in vain to find something meaningful to do.  She has a coterie of liberal fans, the Capital Times chief among them.  But her eight-year contribution to the administration has been miniscule. 

Now we get to start over, and the job has attracted a flock of candidates in both parties, with Tueday's primary deciding who will be on the D and R tickets in November. 

The candidates for governor no doubt have their favorites, but they're being coy about it.  Tom Barrett, Scott Walker and Mark Neumann have been pretty hands-off in the LtGov primaries in their parties, watching the field compete for attention and votes.

I don't pretend to know anything about what's happening on the Republican side.  But there are five candidates, and four of them are men.  On that basis alone it would seem Rebecca Kleefish, a former TV news person married to a state rep, backed by talk radio and with a little of the Jessica McBride style of ditziness, has an advantage.    Among the men, State Rep. Brett Davis seems the favorite.  But what do I know?

The Democratic side is interesting, with four candidates.  I tend to dismiss James Schneider, an environmentalist and hails from Gotham, where he says he lives near the Bat Cave.   There is no sign that his campaign has caught fire, or is even smoldering.

That leaves two legislators, State Sen. Spencer Coggs and State Rep. Tom Nelson, and a would-be legislator, Henry Sanders, a small businessman who lost an Assembly primary on Madison's north side awhile back. 

They all want to work on jobs and economic development issues, they say, but in fact if elected will work on whatever the governor decides to let them do.

They've all tried to sell themselves as the candidate who can most help Tom Barrett win in November -- that they'll attract votes Barrett might not get otherwise.  Sanders says his private sector experience will appeal to independents.  Nelson says his Fox Valley base will help Barrett in that important region. 

Coggs makes the most outrageous claim -- that Barrett needs him to win his base voters in the Milwaukee area, since some Dems are unhappy with him over education issues and the recent flood, and that he can help Barrett win the minority vote. (Coggs and Sanders are both hoping to be the state's first African-American LtGov.)  If Barrett needs help to win in Miilwaukee, and if any Dem needs help with minority voters, we're really in trouble.  And the idea of "balancing" the ticket with a second Milwaukeean who disagrees with him on school reform issues may not be that appealing to Barrett or the voters.

Nelson's argument, that he's won a seat in a Republican district in the Fox Valley and can help Barrett there, is more compelling.  The majority leader in the Assembly, Nelson's giving up his seat to run. 

Coggs is in mid-term in the Senate and has a free ride.  The fact that he'll likely be back in the Senate in January has helped him win endorsements from WEAC and AFSCME, who appreciate his past support on issues.   He's raised enough money --- almost all from political action committees -- to do a modest television buy.

Sanders is banking on a grassroots campaign and endorsements he's collected from local officials and some prominent Dem office holders like Rep. Tammy Baldwin, for whom he once worked.  He spent his money to hire field organizers and send them out around the state in the last month.  But it is hard to do voter turnout effectively when the voters don't know who you are, and he has not mounted a paid media campaign. 

That's where Nelson has the edge. He's worked hard, traveled the state with a killer schedule, and has raised more money thanthe others, enough for a one-week TV buy which began Tuesday in every market in the state.  He's running two 15-second ads, one featuring him standing up for seniors and another reminding people of his lonely sit-in in the Assembly when the legislature was dilly-dallying on passing a state budget.

Nelson's piled up his own list of endorsements, including one from Rep. Dave Obey and another from Milwaukee's Shepherd Express this week, and has gotten more free media attention than the others.  He concedes no ground; he's even attended services at inner city churches in Milwaukee, in the heart of Coggs base.  He hit 26 county fairs, including at least one, pictured, where he crossed paths with Barrrett. He's the only one who's knocked on my door.

Does that mean Nelson will win?  Democratic primaries are notoriously unpredictable, but he's done all the right stuff and run a strong campaign.  I hope it pays off. He'd be good for the ticket, and a bright, capable hand in a Barrett administration.

In the final analysis, almost no one votes for governor in November based on who's in the number two spot on the ticket, although the LtGov candidate always claims to have been responsible for the winning margin.

Who ran for lieutenant governor with Mark Green in 2006? 

Don't know, do you? 

Neither do I.


September 9, 2010 - 11:17am