About WEAC and Kathleen Falk


I am not endorsing any candidate for Governor of Wisconsin right now because I think it’s still too early.

Would you listen to me anyway?

I could enjoy delusions of grandeur but I’m not a heavy hitter like Wisconsin’s union for education staff, WEAC. I have about 4,100 followers on twitter. WEAC has over 98,000 dues-paying members, many of whom will stand out in the snow with a recall Walker petition if you ask them to. WEAC has asked them to stand in the snow, to march, and to donate to recalls and members have gladly gained solidarity and triumph doing so. Now WEAC is asking these people to adopt the candidate of its choice for governor without giving the rank and file an opportunity to vote on the matter. It doesn’t seem to be going over so well.

From Dan Bice of Milwaukee J. Sentinel, “Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk has won the endorsement of one of the state’s most powerful labor unions.” (Zach at Blogging Blue heard Mary Bell say WEAC “recommended” not “endorse” at a press conference). There’s always more to any of these decisions than the surface shows. For example, what significance is it that Wisconsin’s Dem Party Chair Mike Tate used to work for Kathleen Falk? But the generically accepted determining factor is Falk said she would veto a state budget over collective bargaining rights if necessary.

“I have said that I will veto a budget bill if it does not have collective bargaining,” Falk said. “The way you undo (Walker’s) damage is the same vehicle by which he did the damage.”

From what I’m reading, it’s not as if the other Dems interviewed by union leaders [4 candidates in all I hear] were adverse to reversing Walker’s agenda. It’s just that they weren’t going to agree to hold the state’s cash flow hostage to do it– an action that Kathleen Vinehout called “brinksmanship”.

On the good side, the union and their chosen candidate are making their intentions transparent [unlike, for example, 81 GOP legislators who last year signed a secrecy pact to keep details about redistricting secret from you and I while charging the Wisconsin taxpayer $400,000]. On the good side, the needs of working people are being put at the top of the agenda not at the bottom or to the side as we saw in the veiled language advocating for “the middle class” in the recalls of last summer.

On the bad side I’m seeing a strong rejection of WEAC’s decision and Falk.

And there are the polls:
“Tom Barrett would be the top choice of Wisconsin Democrats to take on Scott Walker,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “If he doesn’t run they’d prefer David Obey. Kathleen Falk is not at the top of voters’ lists.”

See the footnotes for why I hope Milwaukee’s mayor Tom Barrett stays out of the race.

PPP Jan 17th poll

Cue the Kenny Rogers, please:

Going in early to organize the army. Looks like the army is no longer taking orders.

The players supporting Kathleen Falk can count on the drip, drip, drip of information about the John Doe investigation circling Scott Walker to create a darker cloud over the man every day as more and more local newspapers and TV stations broadcast juicy details. They believe that while in one TV ad viewers will hear “It’s working”, in the next ad they’ll hear, “And at 5 learn about the latest Scott Walker aide to be charged with a felony.” Hell, they might hear “learn about the criminal charge against Scott Walker”.

Still, Walker will have the air wave ads. A labor-friendly contender would need to completely dominate the ground game. According to Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, from 1999 to 2010 the ratio of business to labor union contributions for all candidates statewide and in legislative districts was $12 to $1. Walker’s adversary needs the army of 30,000 recall volunteers to stand behind him or her. I’m guessing that WEAC has a good idea of how many teachers are in that army and it’s high.

I have met a lot of current and former teachers who were recall petition volunteers on my stops in Jefferson, Watertown, Wausau, Madison, Sun Prairie, and parts North.

But the negative response online to WEAC’s endorsement was immediate and virulent. Of the many comments from WEAC’s facebook page:
“Your three posts tonight endorsing Kathleen Falk do not make me believe this is a good candidate. Member for 17 years. I am so disappointed.”

“I just received an email from WEAC: “WEAC members recommend Kathleen Falk for governor.” I have yet to speak to one of these members.”

“Ummmm….shouldn’t the members get a say on this since we are all a part of this UNION?? Very disappointed….AGAIN…..”

“Ms. Falk has a great deal of work to do in order to convince me she is the champion we seek. I am very upset that no input was asked from the locals before an official endorsement was given.”

From twitter:
“Conservative @BrownDeerRepub
Walker vs Falk would be a 9 point win at least. Can’t wait. At this point I want Barrett to give up”

“Sleepy Eye @sleepyeye11
They don’t know who’s running yet MT @swell:WEAC backs Falk? No, no no please NO. jsonline.com/blogs/news/138… #wiunion”

A lesser reason to go early.

Walker has signaled that he wants to get the recall done earlier rather than later.* The less time the recall verification takes, the less time the Dems have to organize and raise money. You can look at whatever G.A.B. says and their current policies to give you a sign of what’s to come however the G.A.B is controlled by Walker through the power of the rules committee and Act 21. G.A.B.’s Kevin Kennedy has hinted at June at the earliest. Frankly, he doesn’t know when the election will be and I don’t either.

“What part of “lost two statewide elections” do they not understand?” – twitter

Many – this blogger included – don’t see Falk as a strong statewide candidate. She lost a statewide race in 2002 she ran for Governor and lost. In 2006 she ran for Attorney General and lost. She’ll have to deal with wearing a scarlet “D” for “Dane County liberal” (well, more fittingly it should be a deep cobalt blue)

Odd thing is, Falk has a better chance of winning a state race than a Dane County one due to shoddy treatment of Peg Laughtenschlager in a previous campaign and Peg’s later meteoric rise in standing after doing legal work to open the Capitol building. I heard through the grapevine that when Falk visited the Solidarity Sing Along in the rotunda she got a tepid smattering of applause. For the record, any visiting Dem14 senator gets sustained, raucous applause.

What about the other candidates? How can they return collective bargaining rights?

So the other Dem candidates that unions interviewed would not vow to publicly stoop to the level of Scott Walker by inserting policy in the budget [which I’ve heard has happened repeatedly whether you’re looking at a Dem or GOP Governor]. And by “policy” I mean collective bargaining rights. Which then makes one ask, how would these dignified legislators proceed in reversing Walker’s agenda?

If you’ve watched any session of Wisconsin’s Assembly at all in the past year, you’ve seen Dems parade a list of amendments in front of an unbending wall of obstinance from the other side of the aisle. Bills in the Assembly are voted in lockstep, by the GOP. Time and time again bloggers have pointed out to you that ALEC writes bills that so-called “author” GOP legislators haven’t even read. The GOP Assembly is predicted to maintain its majority this year. At the moment there are 59 GOP, 39 Dem, and 1 Independent among them.

I think it is possible to change the character of the Assembly with a LOT of elbow grease. The aspiration to overturn the Assembly would come from the dreaming, passionate, driven grassroots who made the recalls happen and who are committed to straight forward democracy. (My personal opinion is that we need to do it, all your consultants be damned.)

Other options I think of (and please comment on whatever schemes you have that I miss) are manipulating statutes through the rules committee and changing the character of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The first option is authoritarian the second is another uphill fight with unsure outcome. Changing the court could come through a recall of Gableman and subsequent election and then a challenge to WI Act 10 again.

It is a wild card race and this actually works in favor of any Dem contender. In that PPP poll I cite earlier, I noticed this: “There’s a great deal of interest in the potential primary beyond the Democratic base. We find that 30% of likely voters for it are independents and 11% are even Republicans.” We have been hearing about a remarkable number of Republicans who have signed the recall petition against Walker. They are in the recall army. A good number of those petitioners will ultimately vote, and they won’t vote for Walker. They will be ready for something completely different.

*Election Timing Footnote:
I address this next thing to get it out of the way: There is a sliver of a chance that Walker removes all veneer of democracy, bares his fangs, and forces the recall to coincide with April 3rd (the presidential primary date in Wisconsin). This would be done under the guise of saving money (last estimate on the recall cost was $9 million) and with the power of Act 21 but it would backfire with the public. If we saw that come to pass we’d have no doubt the entire election was rigged.

Tom Barrett: While he has name recognition and — let’s put any policy disagreements aside — I believe he is a man of good character. But his lack of savvy – to not be ready to answer the question, “Did you sign Scott Walker’s recall petition?” To not understand that he had to not only have signed it but to do it with a brass band in tow and surrounded by the press – just put aside what you think of the answer and note that he was not ready for it, he did not latch onto the power of it, and he has no clue how relevant it is to the current climate. This is a continuation of what I saw from him in his failed 2010 campaign against Walker and made me feel he would lose all over again.

Falk’s staff: David Axelrod’s (chief strategist and media advisor for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign) former consulting firm, AKPD Message and Media and One Wisconsin Now’s Scot Ross are working on the campaign. Meagan Mahaffey,formerly Executive Director of United Wisconsin, is Falk’s campaign manager. Rumor has it that Teresa Vilmain is working as a Falk strategist while Rory McCarron is her “New Media Director”. More on her staff is here.


  6 comments for “About WEAC and Kathleen Falk

  1. February 10, 2012 at 7:08 am


    Could you comment on Falk’s policies some more? I see a lot of vitriol for Falk but I haven’t seen anyone substantively comment on whether or not they agree with her policies. It’s more about the Lautenschlager affair and her electability. But barring those factors, she is sympathetic to labor, right? What about her other positions?

    – A

    • February 10, 2012 at 3:19 pm

      OK. I’ll try to either do that myself or locate a good piece by somebody else.

      • February 11, 2012 at 10:57 pm

        Thanks! I appreciate it.

  2. Gomez
    February 9, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    I know what bothers me. It’s Falk has sold herself. The price doesn’t matter and the cause doesn’t matter she still has sold herself. Not much different than Walker. Are the Unions more qualified to set the legislative agenda than are the Koch brothers? She’s not getting my vote

  3. AlphaLiberal
    February 9, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    Are you sure that staff made this decision? What do you base that on? Because WEAC says the decision was made by their relevant membership committees.

    It’s appalling to see so many attacks from people pretending to support unions on a union for using it’s own decision-making process to decide for themselves what political action they will take. It’s bullshit, frankly, and is more about the choice of candidates. Or sour grapes over Peg “Hic” Lautenschlager.


    • February 9, 2012 at 7:29 pm

      I can tell you’re mad but I wrote that pretty much as I saw it. I didn’t mean it to be “an attack”. If I ever write an attack you’ll know it because it’ll hit you like a sack of hammers. I appreciate that the press release says “The announcement is the result of a democratic selection process conducted by teachers and support staff representing educators across the state.” But this is not explaining to me why I saw a lot of WEAC members reacting in an upset way. Also, a number of people think WEAC is just stark raving mad for endorsing this early. I thought I at least did the service of explaining why an early decision is worthy–that WEAC is getting the army to commit. Or it’s trying to. Good luck. I don’t think the heavy-handed approach is going to work. Maybe try to sell it instead.

Comments are closed.