Could Scott Walker be so lucky?

Tens of thousands laid historic siege to the State Capitol a year ago to protest his public employee collective bargaining restrictions. That anger has now been channeled into 1 million signatures for the unprecedented recall of a Wisconsin governor.

So much for the sound and fury. Where are the candidates? Anyone? Democrats have a seemingly deep bench, but three weeks after dumping the petitions on the Government Accountability Board, only one for-sure candidate is suited up for play.

Almost every other A-list Democrat has bailed out. Tim Cullen doesn’t want it; Russ Feingold won’t take it; Dave Obey says Herb Kohl should do it and Herb ain’t talking. (Hey, how ‘bout them Bucks!)

The only candidate to announce against Scott Walker is Kathleen Falk, the former Dane County executive, professional environmentalist, and serial candidate for statewide office. If the government employee unions have their way, she will be the only candidate.

Dan Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Marty Beil of the State Employees Union and Mary Bell and Dan Burkhalter, leaders of the state teachers union, traveled to Milwaukee to tell Mayor Tom Barrett, point blank, to back the hell out. That is how democracy works in organized labor.

As the hordes occupying the State Capitol a year ago might have chanted, as they banged on plastic buckets, “Whose democracy? The union bosses’ democracy!”

The mild-mannered mayor (who gave the impression he really didn’t want to run the first time two years ago) strayed from the one true union path by employing Walker’s Act 10 “tools” to balance his budget – requiring city employees to chip in for their generous defined benefits pensions and comprehensive health plans. Barrett wanted to go even further than Walker or the law allows to include police and require firefighters.

Match that apostasy against The Kathleen’s subservience to organized labor.

Falk was already in her last days as county executive in January 2011, having announced her resignation in mid-term. The new governor was sending strong signals that the revenue available to share with local governments would be greatly reduced but that he would give local officials maximum flexibility on employee compensation.

Didn’t matter. Falk couldn’t wait to shower Dane County’s 3,000 employees with a sweetheart of a contract. Falk required no pension co-payments. Instead, she granted annual 3% pay increases for the last two years of a three-year contract. Three years! (Obama’s federal workers – with fewer collective bargaining rights than Wisconsin public employees – are getting zero pay increases for a third straight year.)

Her successor, former State Rep. Joe Parisi, is a standard-issue Madison liberal. Even so, he was forced to engineer a $1.9 million give-back from Dane County’s unions just last month. It was either that or massive layoffs and service reductions.

That is why “The Kathleen” is the unions’ choice. By going all in for Falk, organized labor is signaling that there will be no compromise, no middle ground, no healing.

Scott Walker wrestled a $3.6 billion budget deficit to the ground without accounting tricks, one-time federal aid, shutting down government, wrecking its bond rating (unlike Illinois), or raising taxes in the midst of an economic recession.

Like he said in his State of the State, “We thought more about the next generation than the next elections. Isn’t that what you elected us for?”

Wisconsin voters may have buyer’s remorse, but do they want to trade the current model for whatever is behind Door Number Three?

No wonder the governor gave an insouciant wink as he finished his State of the State address last month. His opponents haven’t got game.

Little love for The Kathleen in Dane County

Dane County liberals have never forgiven Falk for taking on Peg Lautenschlager in the Democratic primary for attorney general in 2006. In an informal poll of candidates conducted by the hyper-progressive Capital Times website, The Kathleen barely registers with 2%. (She’s tied with “someone else.”) Avowed non-candidate Russ Feingold registers at 25%, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett at 18. Everyone else is an also-ran. The poll winner: Scott Walker at 50% or so.

Signatures don’t vote

A million recall petition signatures does NOT translate into a million votes. I know from circulating nominating petitions for my own political campaigns and others. People will sign because they are polite and because you approached them. Getting them out of their homes on election day and getting them to vote your way are different matters.

Gov. Falk

Every voter should ask how much Walker’s Democratic challengers will raise their taxes. In Falk’s case, the answer is 8%. That is how much her last budget raised property taxes. Walker, meanwhile, kept property tax bills statewide to within three-tenths of a percent, the smallest increase since 1996.

Falk as governor would go all-in for commuter rail. Iron would not be mined in Iron County. Bicycle lanes would trump highways. School reform would be a dead letter. Government unions would resume the incestuous circle of rewarding favored politicians with campaign cash originally taxed from the citizens in the form of higher union goodies.

Game on!

One school of thought – mine – is that Walker should declare that the 1 million recall signatures are sufficient as submitted – there aren’t that many Mickey Mouses and A. Hitlers in Wisconsin. A few, but not the 400,000 it would take to invalidate the process. Hold the election sooner, rather than later.

Walker had an 11-to-1 advantage in fundraising over the Democrats in the last five-week reporting period. It’s the equivalent of the no-huddle offense. Why let the opposition catch up?

The Chicago Way

The environmental Kathleen may be greener than Kermit the Frog, but she’s not raw. No politician in Wisconsin has sharper elbows. Kathleen Falk very well may be Barack Obama’s chosen one. Remember how the President cleared the gubernatorial primary field for the lackluster Tom Barrett two years ago? David Axelrod's former Chicago consulting firm, AKPD Message and Media, is working for Falk, reports Melissa Harris’ Chicago Confidential in the Chicago Tribune.

Chicago-style politics are also behind the Democrats’ recall campaign. Harris writes:

“Ann Liston and Eric Adelstein are hardened Chicago Democratic consultants … advising the Wisconsin Democratic Party and Senate Democrats on their communications strategy, which involves running focus groups and authoring talking points.”

Game over?

There’s a Facebook page dedicated to Operation: Write in Scott Walker in Democrat primary. In a three- or more-way race, the guy could get a plurality. Could he be the nominee of both parties?

Hari Trevidi for governor!

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