As it becomes more likely state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers will enter the race for governor, one of the favorite talking points is that Evers has won a statewide election three times. Given the dearth of Democrats that can currently claim that distinction, it’s understandable that Evers’ victories would draw that kind of attention.
Eric Ostermeier, writing in the Smart Politics blog at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs and Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, even describes the potential race between Walker and Evers as “historic” since statewide office holders rarely face each other in Wisconsin elections.
Evers, who holds a non-partisan elected post, is expected to launch his campaign for the Democratic nomination in September.
While other Democrats have already filed for the race, such as State Senator Kathleen Vineout and businessman Andy Gronik, as a three-time statewide electoral winner (and by double-digits in each race) Evers would be expected to be the Democratic frontrunner.
Evers is looking to become the first Superintendent of Public Instruction to serve as governor of the Badger State out of the more than two-dozen men and woman to hold the position since the late 1840s.
If Evers wins the Democratic nomination to take on two-term incumbent Scott Walker, Wisconsin voters will be tasked with the unusual choice of deciding between two sitting statewide officials on the gubernatorial ballot for just the fourth time in state history.
Across the 74 Wisconsin gubernatorial elections conducted since 1848, there have been only three instances in which two sitting statewide officials squared off in a race for governor.
Evers’ candidacy may be historic in that sense, but Democrats may want to pause before embracing Evers just because he has won before. Evers’ election victories were in spring elections against underfunded opponents. The last two candidates Evers faced had issues of their own dragging them down, preventing anyone from treating their candidacies seriously.
Different electorate and weak opponents means Evers has never been really tested. As the Foxconn issue showed, Evers is going to have difficulties talking about issues outside of education, and even on education issues he’s a little shaky.
Finally, if winning a statewide race is what makes a Democratic candidate so attractive, how come no Democrats are talking about Secretary of State Doug La Follette running for governor?