Is the Falk campaign in trouble?

Is Kathleen Falk’s gubernatorial campaign in trouble?

At one point in the race Falk was thought to be the frontrunner (and inevitable nominee) in the Democratic gubernatorial recall primary, but since Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett’s entry into the race, Falk’s campaign seems to have started spinning its wheels. Yesterday I noted the Falk campaign’s futile attempt to pass the Falk campaign off as a true “grassroots” campaign (while employing a bevy of seasoned political insiders from in-state and out-of-state, no less), and a recent Public Policy Polling poll released this week shows Mayor Barrett with a 14-point lead (38% to 24%) over Falk in the Democratic primary.

Compounding Falk’s bad news for the week, Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore and Democratic State Sen. Lena Taylor have both endorsed Barrett’s gubernatorial campaign, with Sen. Taylor saying, “”During the historic protests last year, Wisconsin men and women made their voices heard against Walker’s radical agenda. The Wisconsin 14 stood up to his assault on our values. And Tom Barrett will continue this fight as our next governor. He will defeat Scott Walker, end the ideological civil war and get Wisconsin moving forward.”

As if that news wasn’t bad enough, the week started with Mayor Barrett’s gubernatorial campaign announcing current Madison Mayor Paul Soglin and former mayors Dave Cieslewicz, Sue Bauman, Joe Sensenbrenner and Joel Skornicka all announced their support for Barrett in the June 5th gubernatorial election. Considering Madison is in many ways the heart of Dane County, I’m more than a little surprised that the current Mayor of Madison and his four predecessors would all endorse Tom Barrett over Kathleen Falk.


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46 thoughts on “Is the Falk campaign in trouble?

  1. There is no love lost between Kathleen Falk and Paul SOglin so that was not real surprising, however he had many of his supporters ask him not to do it. He mistakenly thinks only Tom Barrett can win. Its funny he would endorse Barrett because while Barrett was salivating over using the Governors “tools” in screwing labor, Soglin went a different route.

    Mayor Dave is surprising since Falk helped Mayor Dave become Mayor, but after he compared the good union members of our state to Hoffa and the Kochs who cares?

    Kathleen Falk just needs to overcome the group of people who hink only a white male can win and she will be fine.

  2. Jeff,

    I don’t think it’s just people thinking only a white male can win (although there probably are some of those). She’s got to overcome the Dane county stigma and the “union candidate” label (this could still turn off independents). It also doesn’t help that she’s not a natural campaigner. It seems pretty clear to me it is going to be Falk or Barrett as the nominee, but I’m still undecided who I will vote for and I know a lot of people who feel the same way.

    I have to say some of the negative comments about Barrett by Falk supporters (like Sly) do turn me off to her even though I know she has no control over that. I haven’t seen any negative comments from Barrett supporters towards Falk, but maybe I’m just not paying close enough attention. In any case, I’d be interested to see where each candidate’s support is coming from.

    1. When did it become poison to accept the support of the working people who teach children, guard prisons and build houses? Stop buying into the Republican meme that unions are bad. We need to stop encouraging this incredibly asinine idea that unions are the same as the Koch brothers.

      As for Barrett not attacking Falk, every time one of his proxies say he is the only “electable” candidate it is the same thing as a union member saying Falk is the only “pro-worker” candidate. It is just a back handed way of attacking the other candidate. Just because it is marginaly more subtle doesn’t make it not an attack on the credibility of Falk.

      Finally, what Dane county stigma? Far more state wide elected officials come out of Dane than Milwaukee counties. People think Madison is “weird” but they think Milwaukee is dirty, dangerous and poor. The negative associations are much stronger with Milwaukee than Dane

  3. I would say that Mayor dave’s recent blog post(that he has since removed) was way worse than anything that any Falk Supporters have had to say.

    Sure she has to overcome the Dane County “stigma”, of course the righties version of Dane County and the reality of Dane County are two different things. In reality the Dane County Stigma is one of the best places to live in the country, world class educational institute, great public schools, one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country…..

    As for the “union candidate” whoever wins will be labeled with that, in an election about labor rights that seems ok to me,

  4. The Democratic Party establishment has never forgiven Kathleen Falk for challenging Peg Lautenschlager in the AG primary (even though Laugenschlager had destroyed her own career through her misuse of a state vehicle and her attempts to bully the officer who arrested her for drunk driving). That, more than perceived electability, has cost her the endorsements of many elected officials.

    1. Jill that is true and it sometimes gets overlooked now, but people should know that she did not come to that conclusion alone. There were plenty of ‘party insiders” who pushed Kathleen Falk to make that decision to run against Peg. I hope none of them have turned on her now.

      1. I’m so confused about how this Peg thing is re-emerging. I mean, if people thought Peg had a chance to get reelected as AG after that drunk driving video, wouldn’t that thought be smashed by her not winning a school board race because of that drunk driving video? People need to get over that, if not because they were wrong, because it’s necessary to beat Walker.

  5. Zach,

    I think whomever the people nominate in the Democratic primary will defeat Scott Walker.

    As for polls, pre-primary, pre-recall polls are useless. We are in uncharted waters in this unprecedented attack on Wisconsin families by Scott Walker and the resulting recall. Check in mid-May when we have the general election campaign in full bloom, ignoring anything the GOP Wisconsin Policy Research Institute puts out.

    What will win this election is the same phenomenon that saw these corrupt politicians get recalled in the first place—10,000s of grassroots volunteers, many of whom have never done anything political outside of voting. The four candidates, all of whom are worthy, are almost beside the point.

    As for Kathleen Falk, I think you greatly underestimate her as a candidate. She will out-work anyone in this election. Believe it.

    As for the Democratic Party establishment; fuck the Democratic Party establishment: Think grassroots and families.

  6. Joel Skornicka? Is he back in Madison? He was absolutely the most incompetent Mayor in my lifetime. I held a job with the city that required me to be present for every minute of every Board of Estimates hearing –I still have nightmares– in which the city budget is gone over line by line before being passed on to the City Council. Skornicka was completely out of his depth. He couldn’t even find items in the budget without the help of an aide who was at his elbow the entire time. It was as though he hadn’t even read it. Paul Soglin, by comparison, knew every line in the budget backwards and forwards, which is one of the reasons he was such an effective Mayor.

    Skornicka was so lost in the process that on several occasions he actually cast votes against his own motions before his aide managed to drag his arm down, whispering “No no no, you’re in favor of this!” As the discussion dragged on over one especially boring item I watched mesmerized as the Mayor dug a finger into his nose and after much probing, pull out a big one and flicked it away. It was like watching a National Lampoon movie. This most excellent moment may still be archived somewhere in the video vaults of the City Channel.

    Skornicka, like Mayor Dave, was a Satrap of the largest real estate developer in Madison, the University of Wisconsin. Like Dave, his transition team and staff were filled with University carpetbaggers on leave from the magic kingdom of “Sifting and Winnowing”. In both administrations the TIF money flowed like honey for connected real estate developers. God help us if he is angling for a job in the Barrett administration.

    What ever Skornicka is for, I’m against it.

  7. I am a danemoderate county moderate. I am also pro union and hate Walkers agenda. I can say with certainty that I will never vote for Kathleen Faulk. If she is nominated I will abstain from voting in the recall. I know several other people who are opposed to walker but will vote for him over Faulk. I have heard that conservatives are making a quiet push to have their people vote for her in the primary b/c she will not win. Moderate independant voters are MUCH more likely to vote for Barrett.

  8. Of course its in trouble. She is a tax, spend and borrow radical progressive. She needs to retire in Florida and stay away from the taxpayer checkbook.

  9. I’m not a huge fan of Tom, but it’s truly about statewide electability. Kathleen is a great person, however she will get destroyed in places like the Fox Valley, LaCrosse, Eau Claire and the North for being a “Madison Liberal.” Is she from Madison – no – does she hunt and fish – yes – but the bottom line is that they are going to repeat, repeat, repeat the Madison Liberal think in their commercials and unfortunately people will believe it. Barret’s not perfect – but he’ll at least stop the maddness until we can catch our breath for a few years and elect a better candidate.

  10. What I, as a progressive, rural Wisconsinite, seek is State economic development partnerships with small business to create pilot projects, tailored to local strengths, to begin building a decentralized, alternative, sustainable energy industry; state single payer health care; a new school funding formula; and campaign finance reform; and an immediate switch to a bipartisan redistricting system, for starters. The only candidates mentioning these things ( and then only in part) are the two Kathleens, and the conventional wisdom doesn’t even mention Ms. Vinehout. Mr. Barrett may make a competent governor, but he has already stated he will not work too hard to undo the Walker attack on the working people of this state (and in fact used the “tools” Walker provided his city), will not look for single payer health care to come from the State level, and will not come out to see us, and discuss our visions for the future of rural WI (I invited him personally along with the other candidates who did come visit).

    I wish no melodrama of Democrats eating their own, but a frank discussion of real issues before the pundits and party pros pick their winners is the least the grassroots request and expect, after our hard work to beat all expectations in the recall effort.

    Ms. Vinehout has stated on public TV that this is a most unconventional election. I’ll add that the 18,000 Democratic Party Members in WI, and the smaller subset of real activists who carry that card, are dwarfed in numbers by the thousands of grass root independent, leaning dem, and moderate Republicans who have gone beyond any previous effort to jump through the hoops, in bad weather, to break all projections and records to make this dream (that the party leaders did not even originally want to pursue) of standing up to, and replacing tyranny become a historical fact. We owe them no less than a most unconventional campaign, where the citizens of all stripes get to hear the answers to their questions, and then make up their own minds. If we fail to make this a transparent, and joyous success, we will lose them forever. And to those at the national level that said they would support working people of this country wherever the line was drawn against them, where were you last winter? Should we follow your advice now?


  11. Re the Democratic establishment and Falk: Falk was Jim Doyle’s candidate to purge Peg Lautenschlager because she was too independent.
    Tom Barrett is the strongest candidate. I’ll back any Democrat June 5, we must beat Walker, that’s the bottom line.

  12. Well, the “they’re trying to mow us down” email isn’t going to help Falk, I’ll tell you that. Between that and some veiled attempts at playing the gender card in the last week, it’s the act of a candidate who knows she losing her grip on her chance of winning.

    If Falk would just stay positive and concentrate on her quality track record of competent governance as Dane County Exec and strong environmental record, she’d be a serious candidate. But then she goes and cuts backroom deals with the unions (and they were), and tries to tear down other candidates, and it reminds other why they had misgivings about her.

    I’m worried she might self-destruct if she stays 10-points down in the next week, and I’ll say it right now- I wouldn’t be shocked if Vinehout finishes ahead of her when this is done. Falk’s only chance to win is to do what she seems to be unwilling to do- run hard against Scott Walker and showcase her intelligence and capable track record in Dane County.

    1. Jake, that’s a spot-on assessment of things.

      I’ve also started hearing rumors Falk’s campaign might start laying folks off at the end of the week.

  13. Jake I am normally on the same page but disagree completely on this. I think that focusing on women’s issues, especially the way that the republicans have hammered on women’s rights is not a losing strategy.

  14. Jeff- Focusing on women’s issues is indeed a winner given the disgraceful act that the GOP has pulled. But Falk and her campaign are acting in undertones of “We should elect a woman like me because of the War on Women.” She basically said as much at the candidate forum I was at last week.

    And the bigger point is that if her campaign was in great shape, she wouldn’t be trying to play the gender card. Besides, I’ll put the record of all the other candidates with Falk’s on women’s issues, as I think they all will look good on women’s issues (Vinehout’s the only one even close to questionable, and she’s smart enough to do the right thing as a governor).

  15. I personally think alot of the Barrett is the only one who can win is pure sexism. People think that a woman cant win a statewide office but I think that is wrong thinking. She proved that when she ran for AG a few years ago.

    Yes they will all be better than what we have but I think she is extra strong on this issue.

    I disagree with you on the unions endorsements being backdoor deals, but I do agree that she should run on her record here in Dane County

    1. I try to not speak for anyone but myself, but I don’t think it’s sexism at all, I think it’s charisma. I’m really not that familiar with her, but I’ve heard from a few here & elsewhere that she’s much more moderate & pragmatic fiscally than she’s often portrayed, so I watched her on Goucha last weekend. She really doesn’t come across well – I just don’t like listening to her. I try to be conscientious about getting the message not the delivery, but I think her delivery will turn a lot of people off.

      As far as the message – the biggie for me was that Goucha asked her the tough question about the veto pledge – specifically that vetoing an entire budget which could be very good otherwise would allow the Walker budget to be extended further. She really had no answer for that – to some extent, seemed caught off guard. Ultimately she sort of said that it would be a great thing because it would mean the Senate & Assembly would need to work together to get it passed. Huh?

      If you want a candidate to beat Walker, I just don’t know that she’s your best bet.

      For whatever it’s worth.

    2. I think it is sexism also and have thought so since Falk announced. I don’t care that much who wins, anyone will be better, but I feel people are just assuming that Barrett is the only one who can win and I am wondering, “Really? Why is that?”

    3. I think it’s sexism, too. Saying Kathleen can’t win when she’s had more people vote for her than Tom has had vote for him is not logical, and it can only be attributed to sexism. It’s pretty sad to see in a community that likes to think of itself as progressive, but when you see things about Kathleen’s looks, or criticisms about her “aggressiveness,” or “ambition,” which are good things for guys, but criticism for women, you know it’s sexism.

  16. I don’t buy the argument that a woman can’t win statewide (Peg Kautenschlager sure won 10 years ago), and I don’t think the Barrett “electability” argument is based on sexism. In fact, I think any of these 4 could/would win statewide with a strong campaign.

    The bigger problem with Falk and her supporters is this pattern of complaining and excuse-making, working out deals behind the scenes (which whether true or not, that perception exists and Falk does little to stop it), spreading innuendo about Barrett on union rights and Vinehout on women’s issues (and yes, we know it was the Falk people that led those charges), and the fact that she went along with Jim Doyle’s plan to push Peg Lautenschlager out of the way in 2006.

    It’s not sexism and it’s not “insider talk.” it’s the way Falk and her campaign does things that rubs people the wrong way, and it obscures her very strong record and capable background. You can deny that, but that perception is out there, and unless Falk stops playing into those perceptions, she’s going to lose on May 8, and not by a little.

    And don’t get the wrong impression here. If Falk wins the nomination, I’m all in for her taking Walker out, and I sure as hell hope you and the others on here feel the same way about any candidate who wins this primary.

  17. I haven’t seen Barrett in a forum yet but so far I am not impressed with Falk. It isn’t sexism and it doesn’t have anything to do with Dane County. I think Barrett makes a strong case for the budget being the wrong place to rectify the collective bargaining issue and quite frankly, Vinehout did much better than Falk at the Stoughton Forum. I’m still watching and learning so I can vote for the one I think can be most effective. As long as we stick together, Barrett, Falk or Vinehout can beat Walker.

    If we start directing all of this anger at the Democrats in the primaries, it is going to carry over to the general election. There is no perfect candidate and there will be no perfect governor. Let’s just get rid of Walker and then stay engaged so things continue to get better.

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