Democrats com­pet­ing for chance to chal­lenge Walker

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Scott Bauer

Wis­con­sin MADI­SON, Re­pub­li­can Gov. Scott Walker has been warn­ing for months about a “blue wave” com­ing this fall, but so many Democrats are ea­ger to ride it that it is a strug­gle for any dom­i­nant chal­lenger to emerge.

Eight Democrats are tak­ing on Walker as he seeks a third term, a sign of just how badly the party wants to de­throne one of the GOP’S most rec­og­niz­able gover­nors. Walker’s strong anti-union moves made him a de­mon to the left and cat­a­pulted him to the na­tional stage for a brief 2016 pres­i­den­tial run.

State schools chief Tony Evers, who has skir­mished with Walker on a num­ber of is­sues over the years, en­ters Tues­day’s pri­mary as the best-known Demo­crat. Though he leads in polls, many vot­ers are un­de­cided, and some chal­lengers are count­ing on a surge from younger vot­ers to help them top­ple the 66-year-old Evers.

“We’ve been ig­nored by out-of-touch politi­cians,” said Kelda Roys, a 39-yearold for­mer state law­maker who got no­ticed early in the cam­paign with a video that showed her breast­feed­ing her daugh­ter. Roys ar­gues she is the one to ap­peal to mil­len­ni­als, Gen Xers and sub­ur­ban mar­ried women.

The pri­mary will serve as a test of Demo­cratic en­thu­si­asm in a state that has long been as­so­ci­ated with lib­eral pol­i­tics but has been trend­ing red and nar­rowly voted for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in 2016. The large field of Demo­cratic chal­lengers to Walker is the lat­est ex­am­ple of the en­ergy in the party as it tries to re­gain ground, es­pe­cially in the up­per Mid­west.

Even though Wis­con­sin has trended red in re­cent years, Democrats are op­ti­mistic they will re-elect Demo­cratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Bald­win and de­feat Walker. And they’re count­ing on more than the usual bump the party out of power gets in a midterm elec­tion. Their blue wave talk be­gan in Jan­uary when they won a spe­cial leg­isla­tive race in a con­ser­va­tive district, con­tin­ued with a lib­eral can­di­date’s vic­tory in a statewide Supreme Court race in April and soared again with another spe­cial elec­tion vic­tory in con­ser­va­tive ter­ri­tory in June.

“For the first time since the dawn of the Scott Walker era, Democrats have rea­son for op­ti­mism that the po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment will fa­vor our nom­i­nee,” said Demo­cratic strate­gist Joe Zepecki. “The po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment na­tion­ally is mak­ing it very dif­fi­cult to run as a Re­pub­li­can right now.”

Walker has a great story to tell — Wis­con­sin’s un­em­ploy­ment is at record lows — but he must bat­tle against the na­tional tide that fa­vors Democrats, said Re­pub­li­can strate­gist Mark Graul.

Also on Tues­day, Re­pub­li­can vot­ers will pick be­tween two fer­vent Trump sup­port­ers to take on Bald­win. For­mer Ma­rine Kevin Ni­chol­son, run­ning as an out­sider, is run­ning against state Sen. Leah Vuk­mir, a 15year vet­eran of the Leg­is­la­ture who had the state GOP en­dorse­ment.

Trump has not en­dorsed in the Se­nate pri­mary, but the can­di­dates’ fealty to him has been a ma­jor point of con­tention in the race’s wan­ing days. Footage from 2016 show­ing Vuk­mir say­ing Trump is “of­fen­sive to ev­ery­one” got re­cy­cled two weeks be­fore the elec­tion, with Ni­chol­son say­ing it shows she won’t stand with him.

Both Vuk­mir and Ni­chol­son even­tu­ally backed Trump in the 2016 gen­eral elec­tion.

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