Thursday, June 09, 2005

Falk AG Speculation Dates Back to February

--From the Feb. 4 WisPolitics REPORT, a paid subscriber product ...


Republicans are frothing at the chance to take on what they view as a very vulnerable AG Peg Lautenschlager, but there are also Dem whisperings about a possible primary challenge in the Fond du Lac Democrat's future.

There is a fear among some Dems that Lautenschlager's DUI arrest makes her an easy pick-off for aggressive GOP candidates who are not going to be bashful about pointing out her foibles. Declared GOP candidate Paul Bucher has already brought it up in several interviews, and he told WisPolitics it would be a part of the campaign: "It's impossible not to talk about that issue ... it's not just the conviction. It's the whole process of she's driving a state car, refuses a blood test. The handling of the aftermath I thought might have been worse than the sin itself. Her refusal to accept responsibility, the excuses."

See the Bucher interview:

Plus, Lautenschlager has been an anemic fundraiser, and the race promises to be costly. Lautenschlager's campaign reported $36,182 cash on hand as of year's end, compared to Gundrum's $65,619 and Bucher's $15,455.

Dane County Exec Kathleen Falk is a favorite among the Dem Doyle dissident crowd, but she is a friend and supporter of Lautenschlager, which excludes her as long as the incumbent stays in the race. "But if Peg doesn't run, (Falk) will run with Peg's support," an insider says. One Dane County Dem adds if Falk ran, she'd win. Falk finished third in the Dem guv primary of 2002, behind eventual winner Doyle and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, but the former enviro attorney came out of the race generally well-liked by rank-and-file Dems. She also is unopposed in her Dane County race this spring.

"I can't imagine Falk would primary challenge Peg under any circumstances -- it's not her M.O.," said one Dem, a supporter of both Lautenschlager and Falk. Falk's spokeswoman Lesley Sillaman said: "(Falk) is on the ballot in April, and she is focused on her job as county executive."

Other names talked about by Dem insiders are DOA Secretary Marc Marotta and Corrections Secretary Matt Frank, but as one Dem insider put it, "neither man is stupid, so don't expect to see them in a primary." Plus, the insider observes, the Doyle team will have their hands full with the guv's re-election efforts and won't have the time or energy to mount an AG campaign.

"My guess is that anyone who has the muscle to truly get a legit primary candidate against Peg, who will have the resources and the ability to overcome what would be a really pissed off base, wouldn't move unless it's absolutely clear she can't win," said the Falk and Lautenschlager supporter. "For any Dem with a brain, getting the governor re-elected is the top priority and that's where the top talent is going to have laser-beam focus on -- not on some ill-advised primary gambit."

Meanwhile, Lautenschlager supporters signal the AG is in the race to stay, and her appearance at an Algoma HS event this week stressing the evils of drunken driving is a signal to some that she's finally about to face the issue head on. "Everyone on the planet knows about Peg's DUI, and no one can show it's made a real difference in voters' minds that Peg can't do her job,'' one Dem strategist said. "Ask the guy who gave the State of the Union if a DUI is a kill shot.''

But Lautenschlager's defensive response (admonishing a newspaper to "be careful who you label a criminal") had some wondering whether she's ready to deal on the campaign trail with continued questions about what it seems will be a lingering topic.

She rebounded quickly today with this response:

Comments attributed to me in today's Green Bay Press Gazette are no reflection on my acknowledgement of the serious mistake in judgment I made last year. I have taken great steps to make some good come out of that unfortunate event and attending last night's Victim Impact Panel was part of this important process. Victim Impact Panels have shown to reduce recidivism rates for drunk driving and I want to do all I can to make a positive impact in this area for Wisconsin. Driving drunk is dangerous and irresponsible. I have fully accepted responsibility for my actions and continue to work as hard as I can to make our streets and neighborhoods safe and secure for Wisconsin's families.


Other AG speculation:

--See an April 3 story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

--From the Wisconsin State Journal's Scott Milfred, the editorial page editor, in an April 24 column:

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk surely had her eye on Herb Kohl's U.S. Senate seat until Kohl indicated he'll seek re-election next year.

Now Falk may be contemplating a bid for attorney general -- even if incumbent Peg Lautenschlager wants to keep the job.

When I asked Falk recently if she might challenge Lautenschlager, she paused for a few moments. Then she carefully responded: "Wherever I go, people are encouraging me to run."

--See an April 28 blog entry at the Xoff Files, by Bill Christofferson with a link to a Capital Times story:

--See a May 14 Capital Times article: Falk rakes in another $15,000