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Dana Wachs

Rep. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire

State Rep. Dana Wachs announced on Monday his plans to challenge Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in 2018.

The Eau Claire attorney says he'll be an "advocate for regular folks" in Madison. 

Wachs, who will turn 60 this month, has served for five years in the state Assembly, and for 30 as a lawyer. He also spent three years on the Eau Claire City Council. 

"I think what Madison has forgotten is how to listen to people. I think Madison's forgotten how to give voice to regular folks," Wachs said in an interview. "Quite frankly the way I see it, the only voices we hear these days are wealthy special interests. Scott Walker's been the champion for those folks."

As a laywer, Wachs said, he has spent his career representing people against "powerful and wealthy" interests like large corporations and insurance companies. 

In the Legislature, he sits on the Assembly committees on colleges and universities, constitution and ethics, judiciary, transportation and law revision. Democrats have been in the minority since before he joined the Legislature. 

Wachs named the economy as the most significant arena in need of change. Low wages and student loan debt in particular need to be addressed, he said.

Collective bargaining rights should also be restored, Wachs said. Under Walker and the Republican-led Legislature, Wisconsin has effectively eliminated collective bargaining rights for most public employees and outlawed agreements that require private-sector employees to pay union fees.

Although he didn't officially launch his candidacy until Monday, Wachs has been a target for state Republicans for weeks. The Republican Party of Wisconsin sent mailers going after Wachs last month, and launched a digital ad campaign against him following his announcement — both going after Wachs's career as a trial attorney.

"While Governor Walker has been reforming the system for hard-working Wisconsin families, liberal trial attorney Dana Wachs has been exploiting the system," said RPW spokesman Alec Zimmerman. "Wisconsinites can’t afford to let Wachs take advantage of them like he does everything else."

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Wachs said he's proud of his profession and won't run away from it. His experience as a lawyer has taught him to "deal with people in good faith," he said.

Wachs merged his firm with another last month, combining to form Gingras, Cates and Wachs. He said he will be "campaigning constantly" from now until the election.

Wachs is married with three adult children — and a dog, Artie, who has already been featured in campaign fundraising emails. He enjoys hunting and fishing.

He joins Milwaukee businessman Andy Gronik and political newcomer Bob Harlow in the field of declared Democratic candidates. 

According to his most recent campaign finance report documenting activity in the first half of the year, Wachs had $13,497 on hand after raising $41,190 and spending $44,187. He has loaned himself $36,000.

Other potential Democratic candidates include Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, Milwaukee attorney Matt Flynn, political activist Mike McCabe, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin and former state Rep. Brett Hulsey.

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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.