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Tim Cullen

The field of potential Democratic challengers to Gov. Scott Walker narrowed by one on Wednesday with former state Sen. Tim Cullen's announcement that he will not run in 2018. 

The field of potential Democratic challengers to Gov. Scott Walker narrowed by one on Wednesday with former state Sen. Tim Cullen's announcement that he will not run in 2018. 

Cullen, 73, cited the challenge of fundraising as the biggest factor in his decision. He was one of the first potential challengers to publicly acknowledge serious consideration of a run.

The Janesville Democrat told reporters his desire to oust Walker got ahead of "the reality of putting together a statewide campaign." 

Cullen balked at the idea of spending three to four hours per day on the phone soliciting campaign donations, a practice he called "demeaning."

"I never had to do that in my state Senate races," Cullen said. 

He said he thought he would be able to raise $1-3 million, a far cry from the $36 million spent by Walker's campaign in 2014. Democratic candidate Mary Burke's campaign spent $17 million on that race, according to figures compiled by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

In his July 2015 campaign finance report, Cullen’s campaign account had a $0 balance. He donated the bulk of the money left in his account to charity when he retired from the Senate in 2014.

Cullen said he doesn't have a preferred candidate, but he will support whoever earns the nomination.

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind and state Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling have both ruled out gubernatorial bids.

Other potential Democratic candidates include Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout of Alma, state Rep. Dana Wachs of Eau Claire, Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ, businessmen Andy Gronik and Mark Bakken and attorney Matt Flynn.

The only declared Democratic candidate is 25-year-old Bob Harlow, a Wisconsin native who graduated from Stanford University in 2016. Harlow lost a Democratic congressional primary in California last year.

Cullen served in the state Senate from 1975 through 1987 and again from 2011 through 2014. He was Senate majority leader for several years in the 1980s and spent one year as head of the state Department of Health and Family Services under Thompson.

He briefly considered running in the 2012 recall election against Walker, but opted not to, again citing fundraising concerns. Cullen said he is done running for governor, but didn't rule out campaigning for another position, like a school board seat.

"We need to replace Gov. Walker, but I never felt, deep inside, that it had to be me," Cullen said.

Walker's approval rating is now 45 percent, according to a Marquette University Law School poll released last week. That's up slightly from the last poll, released in October 2016, when 42 percent of voters said they approved of Walker's job performance. Since September, Walker's approval rating has hovered in the low 40s.

The new numbers mark Walker's highest approval rating since just before he won re-election in November 2014. He went into that election with a 49 percent approval rating.

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Jessie Opoien covers state government and politics for the Capital Times. She joined the Cap Times in 2013 and has also covered Madison life, race relations, culture and music. She has also covered education and politics for the Oshkosh Northwestern.