This is an interesting read (emphasis added).

Winnebago County functions as a microcosm of the state, narrowly divided with the potential to swing between elections. In the 2012 recall election, 56% of Winnebago voters picked Walker. Yet, Obama carried the county with 51% of the vote later that year.

That’s a seven-point swing from June to November — those mythical Walker/Obama voters do exist! And they live in the general vicinity of Oshkosh! And Mark Harris found a way to get them to elect him.

I also like the way Harris can competently tear apart Walker’s policies, such as in this statement, in which he examines the inequities of the latest round of tax cuts.

Finally, it doesn’t hurt that Harris doesn’t have any connections to Madison. I know both U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold and former Gov. Jim Doyle all won statewide office while connected to our city, but Walker and company made Act 10 into a Madison vs. “real Wisconsin” fight. Burke’s seat on the Madison school board gives Walker the opportunity to talk about how his “reforms” made tax cuts possible, while Harris would be able to talk about the pain felt by local governments throughout the state.

Despite Harris’ strengths, I’m not saying that it was necessarily a mistake for the Democratic Party to go with Burke as its candidate.

It is not uncommon for a state party to pick its preferred candidate long before a primary, even though it is rather enjoyable to poke fun at Dem chair Mike Tate’s handling of the issue. Last Monday morning, former Republican state Rep. Roger Roth announced he was running for state Senate. Walker and state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald both made statements endorsing Roth that same day.

There are also several areas where Burke is a stronger candidate than Harris. She has private-sector experience, worked extensively with the Boys and Girls Club, and is a woman in a state with a government that has gotten less friendly to women over the last three-and-a-half years.

Burke’s positions on things like raising the minimum wage show a candidate who is more aligned with progressives than Harris would have been. Harris’ moderate nature could have easily turned his campaign into a Tom Barrett redux.

The results in November will show if the state Dems made a good choice going with Burke over Harris. No matter the outcome, it will provide ample discussion for Wisconsin’s political armchair quarterbacks.

If Harris underperforms and Burke does well, it will be a redemption for Tate, whose record of winning elections that don’t feature Obama at the top of the ticket is abysmal. If Burke loses and Harris outperforms her in the 6th District, particularly if the 2014 Walker/Harris voters make up a similar percentage as 2012 Walker/Obama voters, it may signal it’s time for new Democratic Party leadership.

While I know there are many who believe Mike Tate has done a bang-up job of leading the Democratic Party of Wisconsin during his tenure as Chairman, I know equally as many who feel that now more than ever the Democratic Party of Wisconsin has adopted a “we know what’s best for liberal/Democratic voters in Wisconsin” attitude that has benefited the established political class in Wisconsin at the expense of the grassroots activists and “average people” whose votes will be vital if Democrats are going to seize back control of the Legislature and the governor’s office.

4 Responses to What Mark Harris’ run for Congress could say about Wisconsin’s Dem Party leadership

  1. Joe Kallas says:

    Mark Harris should be running for Governor. He is by far more qualified than Mary Burke. Running a business is nothing like running state government. Harris has the executive experience and would have made Walker look like a rookie during the campaign. However, Mike Tate asked him to stand down and he did. Mark is sort of thrust into the Congressional race with Petri’s sudden retirement. Mark always said he wouldn’t run against Petri.To me the Congressional race is much tougher than a race for Governor would have been. I have no doubt Mark would have defeated Walker. If both Harris and Burke win,which I hope they do, Tate will look like a genius. If they both loose, Tate will say it’s not his fault and stay on as Chairman of the party. It’s pretty much a win-win situation for Mike Tate and potentially a loose-loose situation for the rest of the Democrats.

    • Joe, you’re right about Tate taking credit if things go well and deflecting blame if they go badly, because I’ve heard much the same things come from the mouths of DPW insiders in defense of Tate’s largely lackluster term as DPW Chair.

  2. AJ says:

    Everything the DPW does seems to be all about the donor class. I fail to see why DPW’s “Stay the Course” plan is a good idea. Unless the Republicans really blow it, the Democratic Party is doing nothing to win on their own merits. If we want to try to win an election based on the projected electorate we are going to lose every time except in a Presidential Year.

    The Democratic Party needs to start taking a stand on issues that the interest groups are not. This includes all the people we have locked up in the state of Wisconsin. The real cost of our incarceration rate means average incomes are lower, unemployment is higher, the rate of low income one parent households is higher, and ultimately our current incarceration policy does not make society safer.

    The DPW should rent out the Bradly Center and bring in speakers like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to talk about the injustice of our justice system. If we mobilize new voters that is how we are going to win and get better policy moving forward.

    • nonquixote says:

      Middle-class “membership,” is presently more appropriately defined as an individual making over $150K /year. The working poor, the rest of us and the disenfranchised is where Democrats need to focus and actually represent this “class,” nationally and in the state. I am sick and tired of hearing how the Democrats are looking out for and going to continue to support the middle-class.

      ICYMI Jeff Simpson is on to the truth about the, “stay the course,” agenda.

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