News that Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle will not seek another term in 2010 makes him a lame duck until his successor take the oath. He will now have less influence over state spending and state policy than he had before the announcement.
Doyle could read polls like anyone. A liberal poll showed his approval rating at 43 percent. Another poll showed him at 34 percent, a Bush-like rating. Raising taxes to fix the current deficit angered taxpayers, the same-sex benefit registry angered some who voted to define marriage as between one man and one woman, and Wisconsin has lost 123,000 jobs in the past year. Doyle was not helped by the resignation of the Governor’s chief legal counsel, Chandra Miller Fienen, for not being licensed to practice law in Wisconsin.
At his remarks at Randall School, Doyle said he “intends” to serve out his term. When a public figure says he “intends” to do something, it means the exact opposite. Doyle would leave early for a Presidential appointment or to head a liberal interest group, letting Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton become Acting Governor.
There is irony here. Doyle became Governor in 2002 with less than 50 percent of the vote. Scott McCallum was never the choice of former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson for Lieutenant Governor but beat his top choice in a primary. Thompson never talked his brother Ed out of running in the 2002 General Election. Ed Thompson took enough votes from McCallum to elect Doyle. Acting Governor Martin Schreiber was defeated by Lee Sherman Dreyfus in 1978.
Among Democrats, Lawton will be hurt if other elected liberals declare. If Congressman Ron Kind runs, he has the General Election advantage of being a moderate and not being from Milwaukee or Madison. These traits do not help win the Democratic Primary Election, however. The Mark Green suit shows that Kind can not apply Congressional campaign funds to running for Wisconsin Governor.
Republican candidates jockeying for Governor are Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker and former Congressman Mark Neumann. I would guess another one or two moderate to conservative Republicans, such as State Senators Mike Ellis and Glen Grothman, will soon declare for Governor. Someone will mount a non-traditional campaign like Dreyfus or working at a job per day like former Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander.
Other members of the Assembly and State Senate will also announce that they will not seek another term. The announcement of Doyle not to seek another term as Wisconsin frees them to make a similar announcement but to help pick their successors.