Down in the polls with the election just days away, gubernatorial candidate Matt Flynn went after fellow Democrats on Thursday, saying they have a “snowball’s chance in hell” of defeating Republican Gov. Scott Walker in November.
Flynn is one of eight Democrats running in the primary to be decided Tuesday. State Superintendent Tony Evers has a double-digit lead in the polls, meaning Flynn and the others would have to make up considerable ground in the race’s final days.
In a debate Wednesday night, Flynn called Evers “Republican lite” and told him Walker would “have you for lunch” in the general election. In an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Flynn broadened his attacks to former state Rep. Kelda Roys and state firefighter union leader Mahlon Mitchell, saying they couldn’t beat Walker either.
“Kelda Roys and Mahlon Mitchell don’t have the snowball’s chance in hell of being nominated or elected in this state,” said Flynn, a former state Democratic Party leader. “They’re not effective campaigns. They’re not going to win. No one believes they’re going to win. The only contrast to Evers is me. The major contrast is Matt Flynn against Scott Walker.”
Mitchell, who is the only black candidate, and Roys, one of two women running, have long argued they are the ones who provide the most stark contrast with Walker. Roys, 39, and Mitchell, 41, are also a generation younger than 70-year-old Flynn.
Flynn accused Mitchell and Roys of emphasizing the needs of their peers and social groups.
“Identity politics killed us in 2016,” Flynn said. “I’m opposed to identity politics and I’m opposed to victimology.”
Roys wouldn’t fire back on Flynn, but instead emphasized that to win the Democratic nominee must speak to issues that millennial and Generation X voters care about.
“I’m not really paying attention to the kind of negativity and nonsense that is happening,” she said.
Mitchell did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Evers’ spokeswoman Maggie Gau said Thursday that Democrats should be focused on beating Walker and “not taking cheap shots at other Democrats.”
“It’s sad to watch Matt Flynn’s downward spiral over the last several weeks,” she said.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin Republican Party spokesman Alec Zimmerman said Democrats would rather “tear each other down than offer any sort of vision for Wisconsin’s future.”
Evers, who was elected in the nonpartisan race for state schools chief three times, is running as a Democrat for the first time.
But Flynn said Thursday that Evers is “politically naive” and “fundamentally a Republican” because of his strong relationships with school boards across the state that Flynn said primarily consist of Republicans. He’s also criticized Evers for praising Walker’s most recent budget as being “kid friendly.”
Evers said in the debate that he praised it because Walker’s budget mostly mirrored the proposal Evers put forward.
“What you have is a genteel Republican who is probably fed up with the excesses of Trump and Walker but sails under a flag of convenience,” Flynn said of Evers.
Evers has long clashed with Walker, signing the petition to recall him from office in 2011 and marching with protesters at the Capitol. But in addition to praising his last budget, Evers has also worked with Walker on a number of education initiatives in the Legislature.
Flynn, who has lost four previous elections, has refused bipartisan calls for him to drop out of the race because of his legal work defending the Milwaukee Archdiocese against priest abuse allegations in the 1990s.
Other Democratic gubernatorial candidates on Tuesday’s ballot are political activist Mike McCabe, corporate lawyer Josh Pade, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin and Sen. Kathleen Vinehout.