Political News

Democratic former senator weighs run for Wisconsin governor

Posted March 9

— A retired Wisconsin state senator who was one of the 14 Democrats who fled to Illinois in an attempt to block Gov. Scott Walker's anti-union legislation said Thursday he's on track for a run to challenge the incumbent Republican.

Tim Cullen, of Janesville, has been traveling the state for months with the intent of running for governor in 2018. He has been the most public about his desire to run against Walker, although several other Democrats are also considering it.

Cullen, 73, told The Associated Press on Thursday "I don't know" of any reason that would stop him from getting into the race at this point. Cullen said he was working on lining up the logistics of a campaign, including launching a website and hiring staff, so he could announce it sometime before the end of April.

His comments drew derision from Walker's campaign spokesman Joe Fadness.

"Headquarters in Rockford?" he asked in a message on Twitter.

Cullen, along with 13 other Democrats, went to Rockford, just across the border from Wisconsin in Illinois, in an ultimately vain attempt to stop a vote in 2011 on Walker's proposal effectively ending collective bargaining for most public workers. Cullen and others remained in Illinois for three weeks before Republicans passed the bill, known as Act 10.

Cullen has been outspoken about the need of Democrats to do a better job reaching out to rural Wisconsin residents who helped fuel Republican victories in the November election. Those rural voters, along with a lack of enthusiasm from urban Democrats, were vital to President Donald Trump being the first Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan in 1984 to carry Wisconsin.

Cullen retired after one term in the state Senate in 2015. He was previously in the Senate between 1975 and 1987. Cullen was head of the state Department of Health and Family Services under Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson for one year, leaving in 1988 to be an executive for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wisconsin.

Cullen has toured the state with former Republican Sen. Dale Schultz to speak about the need for more bipartisanship to solve the state's problems. That moderate approach could be a liability for him in a Democratic primary for governor, when turnout among more partisan party stalwarts is high.

A number of other Democrats are also considering a run, but no one has officially announced. They include state U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, of La Crosse, Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, of Alma, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, state Rep. Dana Wachs, of Eau Claire, and Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ.

Kind last month refused to rule out a possible run. Walker, in a fundraising email sent Tuesday, singled out Kind as a possible candidate, calling him a "liberal Washington insider."

Walker hasn't officially announced his plans to run again, but he's raising money and making all the moves necessary to launch his bid for a third term sometime this summer.

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Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sbauerAP and find more of his work at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/scott-bauer

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