Over the next month, Democratic candidates for governor will make their closing arguments to Wisconsin voters, working to set themselves apart from the rest of the field and earn a spot on the general election ballot. With eight candidates still vying for the nomination, voters have strong choices to defeat Gov. Scott Walker in November. However, if we want to be successful, Democrats must focus on Gov. Walker’s failures and show Wisconsin voters their vision for the state, rather than attacking each other. That’s why I was so glad to see the Democratic candidates all agreeing to clean campaigning.
Gov. Walker is an extremely vulnerable incumbent who has failed to live up to his most basic promises, including an unfilled pledge from 2010 that he would create 250,000 jobs by the end of his first term. The governor himself recognizes his vulnerabilities, which is likely one of the reasons why he sold out Wisconsin to Foxconn, signing into law $4.5 billion in tax breaks and giveaways that will take the state 25 years to recover — and that’s just the conservative estimate.
Gov. Walker has put a foreign corporation — one with a long record of worker and environmental abuses — before the state of Wisconsin. While our roads crumble and education system falters, the governor is focused on a nearly decade-old broken promise while lobbying for the praise of President Trump. And his disastrous leadership continues with his efforts to hollow out K-12 education funding. The perfect storm of Gov. Walker’s failures and the coming Democratic wave give us our best shot in years at winning the governorship, and for exactly this reason, Democrats must focus on the road ahead, not attacking each other.
I’m encouraged by the Democratic candidates agreeing to run clean campaigns. In a recent Wisconsin State Journal article, many of the candidates immediately agreed to a clean campaign pledge. Mahlon Mitchell and Tony Evers made a commitment to running clean campaigns by refusing to go negative. Josh Pade and Kelda Roys both signed on as well, agreeing to stay positive and focus on their visions for the state. Kathleen Vinehout and Mike McCabe both said they would keep their longstanding commitments of not going negative. And Matt Flynn said that he would not do any personal attacks, while Paul Soglin noted his history of running clean campaigns.
As someone who has run many campaigns, I understand the lure to go negative, the pressure from consultants and pollsters, and the desire to settle scores when you feel as though you’ve been wronged. However, Gov. Walker has set Wisconsin on the wrong path forward and we can’t change our state’s trajectory if we spend resources and time attacking each other.
Regardless which of Democratic candidate becomes the nominee, we will have a stronger candidate than Republicans going into the general election and we must ensure that individual is not weighed down by bruises and cuts from the primary election. We have our best shot of winning in November if every candidate focuses on Gov. Walker, while showing voters the positive vision their campaigns offer. The stakes are too high for cheap shots, personal attacks, and misguided campaign tactics. I commend the eight gubernatorial candidates for their strong statements on clean campaigning.
Mark Pocan, D-town of Vermont, represents Wisconsin's 2nd District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
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