Governor Scott Walker has a good idea. Really. He does. Read on.
After two of his appointments to fill judicial vacancies in Dane County went down in flames with voters, Walker has suggested that what he might do in the future is appoint a panel of retired judges to make the appointment on his behalf.
He went further to suggest that the person they chose would have to vow not to run for the seat. I think that last part probably goes too far. If Walker appoints a respected enough panel, a vow not to run shouldn't be necessary. That's because the taint of a Walker appointment in a county where feelings about the governor run so high would be washed away by a panel that was respected by local voters. So, a subsequent election could be just on the merits of the candidates without the Walker factor.
Look, I don't like the use of the Walker factor in these races. It brought down Judge Roger Allen a year ago, a good man who I worked with as an assistant city attorney. And this time around it brought down Rebecca St. John, who many attorneys that I respect told me was doing a very good job as an appointed judge.
I have to admit that I felt more strongly about the Walker factor when it hurt my friend Roger Allen than when it helped St. John's opponent Rhonda Lanford, who I had endorsed. And, in full disclosure, I did mention the Walker appointment once in an email to my supporters on behalf of Lanford, something I wish I hadn't done.
By the way, I can't help but point out the incredible chutzpah of long-time Dane County political operative Melissa Mulliken, who was St John's campaign manager. Mulliken was the very architect of the use of the Walker factor on behalf of her client Ellen Berz when she ran against Allen. Now, she's crying foul when the tactic she invented was used against her own candidate just a year later. Go figure.
Anyway, the idea of a panel of local respected judges making these interim appointments is so good that I think it should be established as the way things are done, not just here and under this governor, but in every county under every governor going forward.
I know. Hard to hear and weird to write, but in this case Scott Walker is right.