According to this report by Dan Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, last month members of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s Administrative Committee (30 of whom are Democratic party insiders) voted to endorse state Sen. John Lehman, a Racine Democrat, for lieutenant governor,despite the fact that Madison activist Mary Jo Walters had also registered to run for lieutenant governor.
That might not seem like a big deal, except for one minor problem: Article VIII of constitution of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin makes it clear that the state organization cannot endorse candidates in contested partisan primaries unless there are “unusual circumstances.”
ARTICLE VIII – Endorsements of Candidates in Primary Elections
The state organization, congressional district organizations, county organizations, the College Democrats of Wisconsin, the youth caucus, and all other subdivisions at any level of the state organization are prohibited from endorsing or supporting any candidate in a Democratic presidential preference election or any partisan primary election which will determine the candidate of the Democratic Party for the ensuing election to office unless the county or local Democratic group or congressional district recommends a certain candidate (or candidates) be endorsed or supported due to unusual circumstances and these circumstances be submitted in writing to the state Administrative Committee in a timely manner for approval of an endorsement and support of a specific candidate (or candidates) for a specific reason and the Administrative Committee approves said recommendation by a two thirds majority.
.At the time of Bice’s report, Mary Jo Walters had registered to run, but here candidacy was not official until she actually submitted enough signatures to get her name on the ballot. However, as of the latest report from the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB), Walters had in fact submitted enough signatures to get her name on the ballot as a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.
Reached for comment on what the “unusual circumstances” were that led to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s endorsement of John Lehman for lieutenant governor despite the presence of another Democrat on the ballot, here’s what DPW spokesperson Melissa Baldauff said (emphasis added).
The administrative committee, which is comprised of 40 locally elected activists all over the state, fielded requests from multiple congressional districts to make an endorsement in the Lt. Gov.’s race once it became clear there was only one serious candidate. These requests are based on feedback and suggestions from Party members and grassroots activists alike. With virtually no debate whatsoever, the committee voted unanimously to make an endorsement and we support their vote.
So with “virtually no debate whatsoever,” the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s Administrative Committee chose to endorse the establishment Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor for no other reason than the fact that the Democratic establishment in Wisconsin felt he was the only “serious candidate.” I’m not entirely sure that the DPW determining a candidate is the only “serious candidate” qualifies as an “unusual circumstance” as outlined by the DPW’s constitution, because I’m inclined to believe it’s more of an “unusual circumstance” for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin to pick and choose which candidates to endorse based on its own evaluation of whether or not those candidates are “serious.”
The decision by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin establishment to endorse John Lehman reeks of party bosses making decisions, and it’s one reason I’m less than enamored with Wisconsin’s Democratic Party establishment.