The question NOBODY is talking about may be the most critical: It seems obvious there will be enough signatures to require Scott Walker to defend his title in a recall election, but who will be running against him? If the Democratic Party offers a real dud, all the work and hopes that have been poured into collecting over 545,000 signatures could be a complete waste.
California has a better recall system: Once a recall election is scheduled, voters get two questions: (1) Should the incumbent be recalled? (2) If a majority vote to recall, who should succeed the incumbent? In 2003, a majority of voters chose to recall Gov. Gray Davis. Then everybody, both those for and against recall, got to vote on his successor — all on the same day. As we all know, Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected.
Under current Wisconsin law, the only recall election will be Scott Walker and Rebecca Kleefish vs. ________ and __________. Filling in the blank is a critical step. Republican Scott Brown took a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts in 2009 because Democrats picked a candidate who didn’t feel like campaigning, and didn’t think she needed to. The wrong Democrat could hand the whole deal back to Scott Walker.
Running Tom Barrett would be a real disaster. Barrett’s candidacy in 2010 was a major reason Scott Walker got into the governor’s chair in the first place. The Democratic leadership wanted someone with “name recognition.” Yes, Barrett was well known — as an old politician. Walker, although himself a ruthless politician of some years experience, was able to come on as the fresh young face. Barrett didn’t really want the job anyway, and it showed throughout the campaign. Barrett was ready to serve out another term or two as mayor of Milwaukee and then gracefully retire.
Hopefully the Democratic leadership of the 2009-2010 legislature, who all lost their seats in November 2010, are sufficiently chastened not to offer themselves. They are also a good part of the reason Republicans swept the 2010 statewide elections. Spineless cretins holding their fingers in the air to see which way the wind is blowing did not impress voters. They wouldn’t make a good contrast to all the reasons voters want Scott Walker out either.
Tom Nelson, who ran alongside Barrett for lieutenant governor, offers the youthful challenge many voters thought they were getting in Scott Walker, but he has settled into the job of Outagamie County Executive.
Kathleen Falk would offer the values and priorities that voters seem to be seeking as they sign recall petitions. She may still be wounded from the battle in 2006 for attorney general, when incumbent Gov. James Doyle distanced himself from her campaign, and she narrowly lost. Of course, being shunned by Doyle and Walker could make a candidate look really good this year. Neither is popular. She would need a better campaign staff than whoever designed her pathetically ineffective TV commercials in 2006. But she would make a really good governor, and offer recall voters a clear contrast to Scott Walker.
Maybe there will be a Democratic primary before the recall elections. In the 2011 legislative recall elections, several Republicans submitted papers for Democratic primaries just to drag out the time. But if there is no clear candidate with the confidence of most voters, ready to oppose Walker in a recall, a primary might be a good thing. At least, it would improve chances of getting a candidate on the ballot who has the confidence of voters.
That’s what primaries are for. Recalling Scott Walker is too important to leave the choice of a challenger up to a few party insiders.