In this week's Isthmus, I suggested that the Democrats would be smart to make sure that there is a vigorous primary for the party's nomination of its 2014 gubernatorial candidate.
Since the op-ed was published, a number of people have asked me who's out there besides Mary Burke, who is being pushed by some party insiders to be the uncontested nominee. I like Mary, but for reasons you can read about in op-ed, I think the party is better off with an exciting contest for the nomination.
So, let's run through a quick list of possibilities for candidates to join Mary Burke in a run for the nomination.
Last time I did this, I inadvertently left out State Senator Kathleen Vinehout. Now I haven't.
Then there are the county executives. Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris said on Wisconsin Public Radio this morning that he might be a candidate, and his neighboring Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson is a very ambitious guy who might like to be governor. And then there's our own Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, who I think very highly of, as does a large majority of his constituents.
Wisconsin firefighters union leader Mahlon Mitchell impressed people as the party's lieutenant governor candidate in the recall election, and there's no question that he wants to run for the top spot. So, he should.
And what I'd really like to see is a full-throated, unapologetic, take it to 'em liberal candidate, so why not somebody like my old boss Spencer Black? I know that some liberal positions might not poll well, but weak polling on their issues didn’t stop ultra-conservative Republicans from talking about their far-right ideas. Because the Democrats too often try to hide liberals in a back room, their ideas never get an airing. How can the public ever accept ideas that never get debated in front of them?
And a Democratic primary doesn't have to be polarizing -- it can be inspiring. Party leaders should insist on a version of the Reagan doctrine: speak no evil of your fellow Democrats and concentrate on Walker. Having several candidates going around the state focused on the current administration would be a great plus.
So, that's just a quick, off the top of my head list of potential candidates. I'm sure there are good names that I've missed. The point is that, while a crowded field would be preferable, even just two viable candidates will do the trick to keep the Republican smear machine at bay for awhile and give the party faithful a chance to have a real choice.
Have a good weekend.