Thursday, March 29, 2007

Kathleen Falk: Next Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair?

I ran into something rather interesting as I was perusing Democratic Underground last night:
Draino Thu Mar-29-07 10:36 PM
Kathleen Falk to run for DPW Chair?

Word on the Capitol Square is that Joe Wineke is out and Kathleen Falk has been anointed for DPW Chair. The Big Divider now wants to be a Uniter.

It's questionable whether a candidate who couldn't carry her own county in a statewide race is the best choice to lead the party. Nonetheless, if Jim Doyle has given his blessing, it would bode well for Falk's chances.

This might be a smart political move for Falk. She sorely needs to rehabilitate her image after tanking the AG's race in a year when nearly every race fell for Dems. Falk would have a statewide platform to boost her Dem credentials from and more importantly, accumulate prized contacts while fundraising for the party. Raising money is Falk's strong suit. Expect that to be one of the pillars of her campaign for chair if this comes to pass.
Without knowing who the source is I wouldn't normally give a rumor like this much credence, but I heard a slightly more elaborate version a day or two ago, so it's clearly making the rounds inside the party. Assuming, if only for the sake of entertainment, that's it's true, there are some interesting ramifications.

The first is that Joe Wineke isn't going to run for reelection. Kathleen would only be running for chair if she was Doyle's candidate, so her run would be coordinated with Joe's retirement. This would also indicate that Senator Lena Taylor, the current first vice-chair, won't be running again.

Draino points out some obvious benefits to Kathleen, but it's not clear to me that things would be that simple. There isn't much of a precedent for a sitting elected official also serving as DPW chair, so presumably Kathleen would step down as Dane County Executive. Due to her AG run she already has her ducks in a row in terms of succession on the County Board, so that transition should be relatively easy. But on the far end it might be more difficult. Serving in such an obviously partisan position as party chair might make it harder to appeal to swing voters in a later run for statewide office. It's certainly been done before, Herb Kohl ran successfully for US Senate after serving as party chair, but he took a fairly long break in between and he has more money than God.

There are some factors that could complicate Kathleen's run for chair. Since she hasn't been very active inside the party, she would likely be seen by many Dems, with some justification, as a carpetbagger. Kathleen would have to work very hard to convince party members that she wasn't using the chair simply as a stepping stone for higher office which, given her history, might be a rather tough sell.

There's also the matter of Peg Lautenschlager. Peg was, and is, far more popular inside the party than Kathleen, and a lot of Democrats are still steamed about the AG primary. Those Dems are unlikely to support Kathleen, but a bigger issue is that Kathleen earned a reputation as someone who divides, rather than unites, the Democratic party. That perception will be difficult to overcome.

But none of this matters if Kathleen is the only candidate for chair, and I haven't heard of anybody willing to risk Doyle's wrath by running against his chosen slate. But if a viable challenger does pop up, watch for a bait and switch routine just the like last time when Linda Honold ran as a popular incumbent, was reelected, then stepped down so Joe could take over. If Joe runs for chair and Kathleen for first vice chair you'll know what's coming...

CORRECTION: I made a mistake in the last paragraph. In 2005 Joe Wineke ran for chair and Linda Honold for first vice chair, not the other way around. Linda did step down shortly after being elected, and Lena Taylor was appointed to the position. Sorry it tool so long to fix this, but Blogger has been down.


Northwoods said...

Hmmmm....veeery interesting.

I've heard Mike Tate's name mentioned as Executive Director. With Tate as ED and Jason Stephany as Political Director, it looks like a dream team of former Falk campaign staffers is being assembled to run the state party.

Westy12 said...

It seems like the Democratic Party of Wisconsin would be better served having Peg Lautenschlager as Chair. Predictably, Falk has been lurking in the weeds for another run for statewide office. We need someone with more of political philosophy and core values that resonate with the deomcratic base, rather than just another hackneyed political figure shaking the money tree as hard as they can! Also, Mike Tate and Jason Stephany would undoubtedly serve the Doyle Machine well and be at Falk's disposal as they were in her failed attempt at becoming AG. Thanks for the post!

Ben Masel said...

As of a couple weeks back, Joe was seeking re-election. Horses mouth.

Russell Wallace said...

Joe might well be planning to run again, but even if he wasn't he probably would want people to think he was because it would significantly suppress opposition. Joe's a relatively popular incumbent, and very few people are interested in taking him on.

On the other hand, if it was known that Joe was stepping down and that Kathleen was Doyle's candidate, opposition would sprout like weeds. Guaranteed.

It's to Doyle's advantage that Joe appear to be the candidate whether he really is or not, so that's the way it will be. But a strong hint of Kathleen's intentions will be if she attends the CD conventions, the first of which is tomorrow. I'll let you know...

Northwoods said...

This topic is also getting fleshed out entertainingly at Democratic Underground:

Anonymous said...

"It's questionable whether a candidate who couldn't carry her own county in a statewide race is the best choice to lead the party"

And your homeboy Howard "Screamin'" Dean could lead the national party?

Anonymous said...

One issue that may impact Wineke's decision to run for DPW chair is his state pension.

State pensions can be calculated a couple ways, but typically a formula is used based on years of service and the highest three years of earnings. So, it makes sense that Joe would like to get 3 big years under his belt while Doyle's still in office. It would seem difficult to hold the DPW Chairmanship and have a state job at the same time.

So it may well be that Joe is seeking reelection, but he also has a big incentive to take a job in the Doyle adminstration sometime in the next 8 months.

Anonymous said...

Russell Wallace: bench warmer.

He keeps it warm by pooping his pants.

lindsey lee said...

Dear "Anonymous",

Russel is obviously not sitting on the sidelines. Instead, he ran for and won a position on the Dane Dem Executive Board and the 2nd CD Board. Further proof that Russel is willing to get off "the bench" and compete "in the arena" is the fact that he has the courage to attach his name to his opinions. He is not cowering behind the home team bleachers like you "anonymous."

While we are on the topic of your writing of juvenile tripe while hiding behind the mask of being "anonymous,"...while I understand that you feel protected from your identity being found out, I would hope that you would find it difficult to reconcile yourself with the fact that you hold your personal dignity so cheap. But, alas, that is a discussion that you need to have with yourself and possibly your shrink.


JM said...

Tate hasn't stepped off the bus yet? Damn!

Left of Center - Connie Smalley said...

Russell - As you know I attended the 1st CD convention on March 31st manning a volunteer table for John Edwards. Kathleen was not there. Joe Wineke told the delegates that the rumor that he wasn't running again was false and that he was running again. Just passing on the information for what's it worth.

Anonymous said...

Hi Russell!