Potential Democratic opponents scared off by Walker’s big money

WiG and AP reports

Retired Wisconsin state Sen. Tim Cullen, of Janesville, has decided not to run against Scott Walker for governor in 2018. He said that he couldn’t compete against Walker’s easy access to big money.

In mid-March, Cullen, 73, told The Associated Press, “I don’t know” of any reason that would stop him from getting into the race. Cullen said he was working on lining up the logistics of a campaign, including launching a website and hiring staff, so he could announce his campaign sometime before the end of April.

But before that month began, he bowed out.

“There’s a huge challenge in raising the campaign dollars even to be remotely competitive with the millions and millions of out-of-state dollars that will flood Wisconsin to keep Gov. Walker in power,” Cullen told reporters.

Cullen had been traveling the state for months with the intention of running in 2018. He’d been the most public in his desire to run against Walker, although several other Democrats are also considering it.

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 to carry Wisconsin since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Cullen said whoever runs would ideally have money of their own to contribute to the race. He noted that former Democratic challenger Mary Burke, who lost to Walker in 2014, raised $12 million and used $5 million of her own money. He said raising even $12 million would have been an “enormous task” for him — and Walker still would have enough money to outspend him several times over.

State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout of Alma, state Rep. Dana Wachs of Eau Claire, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, and Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ have been discussed as possible Democratic candidates. None of them have said, however, whether  they plan to run.

Milwaukee businessman Andy Gronik has said that he plans to decide whether to run in the near future.

In addition to Cullen, other possible contenders have recently removed themselves from consideration. Those include U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, Madison tech executive Mark Bakken, and former Green Bay Packer Mark Tauscher. The only Democratic candidate who has declared a run is 25-year-old Bob Harlow, who has never held political office and only recently returned to Wisconsin.

Cullen said he feels strongly that someone needs to replace Walker.

Walker is raising money for a third term, but has said he won’t officially announce his decision until this summer.

He mounted a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2015, but flamed out early, in part due to massive expenditures.

At the time Walker dropped out, he was spending $90,000 a day. The campaign ended with a debt of $1.2 million.

[Editor’s Note: Democrat Andy Gronik  is considering a run for governor. The original version of this story stated that he’d decided not to run.]