Kathleen Falk inserts gender into Democratic gubernatorial primary

From an email sent out by the campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Falk titled “Shattering glass” comes this passage:

As you know, the campaign we built together isn’t a campaign of political insiders or elected officials. I’m happy to have support of my colleagues, too, but this is a grassroots campaign of labor, of women, of environmentalists, of progressives, of community organizers.

My friend Tom Barrett has gone a different route and focused on winning the endorsements of many key elected officials across Wisconsin. These endorsements are based on one thing and one thing only — they believe he can win and I cannot.

These establishment politicians think that a woman from Dane County who is supported by progressive groups, the grassroots and labor cannot win.

As I’ve noted on this very blog, the Falk campaign’s assertion that hers isn’t a campaign of political insiders or elected officials is an absolute farce, given the number of seasoned political insiders who work for Falk’s campaign and the number of elected officials that have endorsed her campaign. However, putting aside the fact that Falk’s assertion that her campaign isn’t a campaign of political insiders is a sham, I take issue with Falk’s assertion that the “establishment politicians” think she can’t win the recall election against Republican Gov. Scott Walker because of her gender.

I have yet to see or hear a single elected official in Wisconsin make the case that Kathleen Falk cannot win a recall election against Scott Walker because she’s a woman, and I’m disappointed that Kathleen Falk and her campaign would pull out the “gender card” in an attempt to paint those who’ve been critical of her chances to win as being sexist. I’m among those who’ve been critical of Kathleen Falk’s chances in a recall election against Scott Walker, and my assessment of Falk’s chances against Walker have absolutely nothing to do with Falk’s gender and everything to do with Falk’s record as Dane County Executive, her statewide electoral history, and the inevitable (and too-easy) Republican attacks on Falk as a puppet of AFSCME and WEAC, based on their extremely early endorsements of Falk and the perception that she’s the hand-picked candidate of those unions.

It’s disappointing (not to mention cynical) that Kathleen Falk’s campaign would interject gender into the Democratic gubernatorial primary while asserting that sexism is the reason many doubt her electability, while in the process using gender and sexism to attack a fellow Democrat.


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33 thoughts on “Kathleen Falk inserts gender into Democratic gubernatorial primary

  1. Yeah, disappointing and cynical, kinda like Mayor Judas Barrett saying that he stands for union labor. I’d rather have Ms. Falk, as she was THERE for us when the fighting was ugly!

  2. I have to take exception with Tom Barrett’s embrace of that union busting, NAFTA enabling, privatizing, coporate sociopath from Chicago Rahm Immanuel. By your friends they shall know you.

  3. And this in the JS (online yesterday):

    “Falk said she was looking for support from female voters as well as the field offices of the Wisconsin for Falk group. . . .”

    I do think that Wisconsin, the last state to send a woman to Congress, and that only a dozen years ago, will not elect a woman as governor. That was evident again in 2010.

    But I also think that Falk is not electable for other reasons, especially her inexplicably abbreviated half-term in her last office, when she resigned and said that she was retiring from politics.

    Her Dem opponents have not raised that issue on her record, but Walker definitely would do so, and to the detriment of the recall — which we cannot risk, much as we need more women in high office in Wisconsin to catch up with most of the rest of the country and to make the most of the abilities of the majority of the population of Wisconsin.

    1. Wisconsin is NOT the last state to send a woman to Congress… there are several that haven’t… Alaska, Delaware, Iowa, Mississippi, North Dakota and Vermont.

      Women have been either elected or nominated to state-wide major offices since the mid 70′s….Falk has many faults, her gender is not one of them.


  4. Anyone who missed Kathleen Vinehout at 7:30 AM on Joy Cardin’s morning show, (WPR archives, I did not check to see if the link is up yet) do yourself a favor and listen to this woman. Intelligent, articulate, not fighting stupid battles and she had a state budget plan a year ago. NOT Madison, NOT Milwaukee, but as grass roots as is possible in this state.

    1. Spot on, Nonquixote. Of all the candidates, Vinehout is definitely the most energetic firebrand. She’s selling her plan as a challenge to the flawed assumptions about deregulation and starving the beast. Finally, a candidate who speaks directly to the decline and revaluation of the public sector. I haven’t seen the details, though. If her idea for reconciling the public and private sectors is more public-private hybrids, then I can’t support it. If she advances the notion that we have a revenue problem and not a spending problem, I’m moving closer to her side. Her stance on women’s issues gives me some pause, yet if she was Walker’s challenger, that stance could work in her favor.

      Reason being, (and I could be wrong about this) I suspect that whomever Walker’s opponent is, he will use the strategy Washington republicans have been using to defeat President Obama, and that is to push him farther and farther to the right. In so doing, their agenda, their values, and their talking points become the subject of discourse. It also alienates the base on the left and nudges a portion of “independent” “swing” voters closer to the right. Again, I could be wrong about that, Walker could go off on a completely different tack. My sense is that he won’t because that strategy worked remarkably well on Capitol Hill for the first half of Obama’s term. It’s a matter of compressing the tactic to fit the recall situation. I’m pretty certain the conservative think tanks backing him will figure a way. I don’t think conservatives will rescind that strategy; I believe that push will only become stronger in the near future, and it will encompass both state and federal policy and both state and federal elections.

      At any rate, if there is a hard rightward push and the recall discourse reverts to dominantly conservative agenda matters, Vinehout might be able to withstand it, but also turn it to her advantage more easily than either Falk or Barrett. I, for one, would like her to receive more attention and discussion.

      Again, I’m not putting that out there in solid terms – these are just my thoughts as I sort through the pros and cons of each candidate.

      1. While many may assume I’m “in the bag” for Tom Barrett, I’m actually pretty torn. While my head tells me Tom Barrett might be best positioned to win an election against Scott Walker, my heart tells me Kathleen Vinehout would make a great governor.

        She’s got passion, common sense, and empathy by the bucketful, and those are three qualities sorely needed from our next governor.

        1. The fact that you think that Vinehout would make a great governor makes me question your sanity.

  5. Guys, guys, guys. Don’t emulate the GOP and trash your available candidates.

    I’m for Falk because it is either her or Barrett. I don’t hate Barrett, but I know Falk better and besides – well – we could use more women in power! :p

    1. Hi Suzy, I agree with you that Falk is the MUCH better candidate for the unions. I am certainly no fan of Barrett and am very, very suspicious of his record with unions – I don’t think he is a friend at all – however I certainly don’t hate him. I guess I’d say don’t vote for Falk simply because she is a woman, vote for her because she has been a part of the union fight since day 1.

  6. When you’re going to the gender card, it means your ideas and your campaign isn’t good enough to carry the day. It also smacks of desperation over confidence. Stupid move from a candidate that has had more than 1 slip-up along the way.

    I also noticed that Falk called the recall effort ‘our movement’ today. What do you mean , ‘our’ Kathy? We are all on the same side in the recall movement, and behind anyone who wins on May 8. To try to latch on as the ‘recall’ candidate over the other candidates is very insulting to a lot of us who view this as an issue movement that goes much further than changing who is in charge. And it’s about a lot more than unions and symbolism.

    1. Actually, Jake, identifying sexism in the media is critical to ending sexism against women, especially women in politics (http://wmc.3cdn.net/d70ffb626bbc4b58d8_ecm6vgfl1.pdf). Kathleen Falk isn’t playing the gender card, she’s talking about palpable sexism in the media and blogosphere. In so doing, she’s doing the only thing that will end it.

  7. Wisconsin is NOT the last state to send a woman to Congress… there are several that haven’t… Alaska, Delaware, Iowa, Mississippi, North Dakota and Vermont.

    Women have been either elected or nominated to state-wide major offices since the mid 70’s….Falk has many faults, her gender is not one of them.

  8. Zach, I am beginning to think you seriously have something against her, though I am not sure what. Tom Barrett is still Tom Barrett. He’s lost how many races for governor? I for the life of me cannot figure out why people think of him as a savior who will be elected.

    I flat out told my union almost two years ago – I did not know for whom I would vote. I lied. I did not want to vote for him (but I did) and I am severely cranky that the Dem leadership thinks he is the best option. He’s a lousy mayor – no leadership and now we’re gonna be stuck.

    Seriously, we need to nurture better options. What’s wrong with a strong woman? Dane Co Exec, Public Intervenor – how much more in executive experience do you want?

    You can deny it all you want, but it really is looking like the only thing wrong with Kathy Falk is that she is not a man.

    1. MaryJean, my preference for Tom Barrett over Kathleen Falk has absolutely nothing to do with her gender and everything to do with the fact that I think he’s a stronger candidate for one simple reason: because Republicans would love nothing more than to hammer Kathleen Falk as nothing more than a tool of AFSCME and WEAC (thanks to the fact that they hand-picked her as their preferred candidate). That’s an attack that will have some legs with the independents who will ultimately decide this election, and the attack ad against Falk writes itself.

      If you’d like another reason why I won’t support Kathleen Falk, it has to do with her attacks on the other campaigns as being full of political insiders while trying to portray hers as some sort of grassroots campaign. As I’ve detailed before on Blogging Blue, Falk’s campaign is full of seasoned political insiders, so her attacks on other campaigns as being “full of political insiders” reeks of hypocrisy.

      As for your comments about Barrett having lost “how many races for governor,” remind me again how many races for governor – or any other statewide office – Kathleen Falk has won.

      To finish, I’ll just note that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with strong women, nor is there anything wrong with strong women in elected office. Anyone who’s read this blog (or who knows me) knows that I’m as supportive as anyone of getting strong women into office, and I write that as someone whose life has been defined in many ways by the strong women in my life.

    2. Milwaukean, I am a resident of the City of Milwaukee. I don’t dislike TB. He’s a nice guy and a good Congressman, but I’ve never been impressed with his skills as an executive.

      Zach, I can see your reasoning, but I am still disappointed that your reason for (possibly) supporting Barrett is really because the GOP will beat-up Falk. It’s not really a shining reason to vote for someone over another.

      1. Electability is a reason to vote for one candidate over another, and I simply don’t believe Kathleen Falk has a better chance of beating Scott Walker than Tom Barrett.

        As I noted above, I really like Sen. Vinehout, because I think she’s got a lot of qualities that I want in my governor, but ultimately I keep coming back to Barrett because I think he’s learned from the mistakes he made in 2010 and is ready to hand Walker his….well, you know.

        1. They aren’t real contenders at this point. I have read you criticisms of Falk and feel they are overblown and exaggerated. I think you are reading this race all wrong Zach. This is going to be a race with a 1% to 3% margin regardless of the Democratic candidate. This is an election where the partisan divisions are so ridiculously strong that the ground game is going to be critical and I think Falk has a better ground game with all of her union support than Barrett could muster. There are going to be plenty of teachers statewide and City of Milwaukee employees, as well as other AFSCME members like myself, who won’t get out and work for Barrett with his positions on school vouchers and his labor record. A labor record that includes no endorsements from any union that has ever had to negotiate with him as an executive. I think those people will hold their nose and vote for Barrett and will go out and bust their ass for Falk and the options in terms of money, organization and position really do come down to either Barret or Falk. The other candidates are in the same category as Ron Paul or Dennis Kucnich.

          1. With all due respect (and I do respect your opinion greatly) I think you’re misreading things. If Barrett does end up winning the Democratic nomination, AFSCME, WEAC, and all the other unions that endorsed Falk would be downright idiotic not to do their best to help elect Tom Barrett governor.

      2. Hi, Mary Jean. I’m also a resident of the city of Milwaukee and am very pleased with Tom Barrett as mayor — in part because I live in a neighborhood with many city workers who know best how well the city government is running, and they also are very pleased and voting for Barrett again.

        Of course, my shining reason to vote in the recall, and to vote for Barrett, is to beat Walker AND to bring back the Wisconsin that we knew, with decency as well as good government. Tom has the legislative experience that Falk lacks — Vinehout has it, too, but voted with Republicans on my rights — and Tom has the decency that Falk sadly is lacking in this campaign. I voted for her in past but cannot do so again for that reason.

  9. Sorry, I typed too fast on the way out the door. I meant type that Wisconsin was one of the last states to send a woman to Congress — but your lists above are incorrect, too; only four states have not sent a woman to Congress — and two of those four states have had women governors.

    Until Tammy Baldwin, on the very eve of this millennium, we were (according to the Center on Women in American Politics) the only state that never had elected a woman to Congress or as governor or lieutenant governor. Gwen Moore and Barb Lawton’s elections made us look a little better. . . . But the statement “since the ’70s” is a bit misleading, since it was followed by decades of no women elected statewide here.

    But still, no women Senators from Wisconsin as well as no women governors in Wisconsin.

    All that said: Yes, I certainly agree that gender is not a “fault” for Falk — or for any woman.

  10. The reason Ms Falk will not win is the same reason the most qualifyed was not selected by the Democratic party in 2008, the Democrats do not support women. Mrs CLinton was head and shoulders ahread of Obama as far as being ready to be president but once Barry joined the race the party leaders turned their back on Hillary. Same with Ms Falk, she was the popular peoples choice but once Barrett announced he was running the party leadership tossed her aside.

  11. For those of you who can’t imagine it, here’s one script the GOP will run against Barrett; “The Dems just want a do-over because they couldn’t win in 2010. This election is just about Barrett whining that he lost to Walker once before.” Frankly, it kinda looks like that too. Barrett is not the best candidate we have. Any one of the other three would make a stronger Governor. And now Barrett is promising to push the taconite mine through.

  12. A democrat playing a card that involves race, gender, religion, or ethnic background? That never happens

  13. My choices with voting have nothing to do with sexism. I’m going to be voting for Kathleen Vinehout after all.

  14. I believe that was the point John is making, The people will support women but the leadership just toss them aside.

  15. Zach, I am sure that the leaders of WEAC and AFSCME will absolutely send out the message that Barrett is better than Walker. They know that it is true, obviously not a high bar but true. The issue remains though that all the effort they put into keeping him out of the race was for a reason. The early endorsement of Falk didnt come from Madison it came from Milwaukee because they knew their members lacked the enthusiasm and energy to work for Barrett. Those conditions havent changed and arent likely to change. I know I have made it clear like so many others that I would vote for anyone over Walker but I wont be putting in money or putting up a yard sign for Barrett ever again. Anyone backed by Rahm, who cant get even one of his unions to endorse him and who supports voucher schools will never get my support at that level

  16. You made this up: “the Falk campaign’s assertion that hers isn’t a campaign of political insiders or elected officials”

    They didn’t say that. They emphasize their campaign’s strengths: it’s a coalition of the grassroots forces: labor, environmental, women and educators. You made up that strawman quote. Yeesh

    Their statement does not mean what you say it means. And she’s a woman and she gets to say she is a woman. Like being a woman is some unfair advantage in politics.

    THere’s a lot of this: Make up a rule, cry foul, whine. It’s boring.

    1. Erroneous, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere.

      Seriously Andy….go take a look at the screen capture at the bottom of the post I just linked you to and you’ll see that the Falk campaign wrote, ““Ours isn’t a campaign of political insiders or elected officials.”

      So yes, the Falk campaign did say that….they said it very unambiguously. Anything else you’d like me to debunk for you?

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