In an article in Sunday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Greg Borowski discusses next year's election for Milwaukee County Executive. From the headline on, it seems that the MSJ is laying the ground work for their favorite boy, Scott Walker.
The headline "Walker foes are hesitant to join race" makes one think that the list of potential rivals are afraid to throw their hats in the ring. Throughout the article, Mr. Borowski emphasizes the advantages Walker would have in the upcoming election, including campaign money, political base and past election counts. He even cites a lot of statistics to back up his claims.
Unfortunately, there is also a lot that he leaves out. The first thing he misses is the fact that this is still mid-August. Most people are still trying to enjoy what is left of the summer, taking that last vacation getaway before the school year begins. They are not going to focus on politics. Even for those that do focus on politics, there is the presidential elections with the seemingly weekly debates on one side or the other going at each other and showing how they aren't like Bush. Except for political junkies (like bloggers), I would suppose that most people aren't paying a lot of attention to that race, much less a local race.
Secondly, buried in the article like an afterthought, Mr. Borowski reports that Walker himself hasn't even formally announced that he is going to run. Why worry about what potential opponents might do, if the incumbent hasn't even committed to the run (much less the job if he should happen to win re-election). It should be noted that even though no one has declared themselves a definite candidate, more people are continuing to add their names to the "considering a run" group, such as today's announcement by County Board Supervisor John Weishan, Jr.
A third issue that Mr. Borowski skims over is the political climate of the first two elections. The special election in 2002 was run because Tom Ament was recalled after the pension scandal was finally blown wide open. The next election was held only two years later. Due to the continuing outrage as the reality of the cost of pension was still sinking in (most of the County employees to benefit from the pension started to retire that year) and David Reimer's less than effective campaign, Walker was able to sail to a fairly easy victory.
Even though the current pension scandal has restored some of the outrage seen in the last two elections, a certain amount of the outrage is directed at Walker, who had promised to clean up the pension, but failed to even pay it any attention as he was preparing for his gubernatorial campaign.
Mr. Borowski also makes the statement that any opponent to Walker would be able to pick up the support of many groups and interests such as "labor unions, mass transit advocates, parks supporters, members of the County Board". He then stated that these groups weren't enough to stop Walker in the last election. What he fails to mention is that outside of the Parks People, there wasn't really any organized opposition. Walker kept the dire financial situation hidden until after the election. The mass transit advocates grumbled, but did little to organize.
It wasn't until these groups did join forces and created groups like the Coalition for the Public Good, that there was serious resistance to Walker's agenda. The CPG didn't form until last year, well after the last election. The CPG was enough of a force to make Walker take notice and rescind some of his more draconian budget cuts. It also got the attention of a lot of County Board members that corrected Walker's misguided and insufficient budget last year.
Mr. Borowski also belies his own point about Walker's war chest being larger than any potential opponents by mentioning that Riemer, who did not announce until October 2003 was able to raise about $500, 000. Same with the political base issue. Riemer, who only announce his candidacy six months before the election, and doesn't have the most electric personality, even though he is a very intelligent person, was able to sway over 100,000 voters.
Walker does have a distinct advantage in the next election, if he chooses to run again (even though he promised he wasn't going to), as most incumbents do. He does still have a significant base, the power of squawk radio backing him, and the popular one-plank tax freeze pledge. But given that we are talking about an election for county executive, it would not take long for any opponent or opponents to get their message out in the six or seven months leading up to an election. They obviously would not need to reach as many people, cover as much geography, or raise as much money as a state or national race would require.
Walker also has some distinct disadvantages in this race. These would include the ballooning county deficit, the people's growing displeasure at the increasingly poor condition and level of services that the county is providing, the latest pension scandal, and Walker's obvious aspirations for a higher position (thus neglecting the one he currently has).
In other words, it is really too early to call this race. The MSJ should relax and go out to enjoy the summer with the rest of the people. There will be more than enough time to do the politicking after Labor Day.