Despite big lead, Democratic rivals for governor question Tony Evers' status as frontrunner

Tony Evers

MEQUON -- State Schools Superintendent Tony Evers led all Democratic candidates for Wisconsin governor in the latest Marquette University Law School Poll, but his rivals question whether Evers is really the one to beat.

Seven of the candidates participated in a forum in front of hundreds of potential Democratic voters on Sunday, June 25, where they mostly agreed over a series of policy topics instead of attacking Evers. For the candidates, it was a chance to win support after the MU poll showed 34 percent of Democratic voters haven't decided who they'll choose.

Evers easily led the poll with 25 percent of the vote, with three of his next-closest rivals at 7 percent. Within two days of the results, candidates Andy Gronik and Dana Wachs dropped out of the race. But others said they plan to stay in the race through the Aug. 14 primary.


Matt Flynn

"I'm confident I can beat (Evers)," said Matt Flynn, a former Democratic Party of Wisconsin chairman who finished in a tie for second place. "I think some of the others may drop out, and that's fine to clear that field, but I'm taking him on."

Longtime activist Mike McCabe performed the best of any Democrat in a head-to-head matchup against Gov. Scott Walker, trailing the second-term governor 44-42 percent.

"I'm running strongest among the entire Democratic field. I'm within two percentage points of the governor and most voters don't even know me yet," McCabe said.

Mike McCabe

The seven candidates spoke from two crowded tables and passed microphones at Sunday's forum, organized by the liberal group Grassroots Northshore.

Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin President Mahlon Mitchell joked that he was "one of 20,000 candidates for governor, it seems."

After dropping out last week, Gronik endorsed former state Rep. Kelda Roys. Wachs threw his support behind Evers. Evers told FOX6 News he would "never" ask anybody to quit the race to clear the field for him.

"I believe that the size of the field has never been an issue for me because as you can see, I do have a sizable lead," said Evers.

Flynn, who pledges to launch television ads in July, criticized Evers in an interview with FOX6 over the state's multi-billion dollar deal with Foxconn Techology Group. The Taiwanese company stands to get an estimated $4.5 billion in public incentives if it follows through on plans to build a $10 billion plant in Mount Pleasant and hire 13,000 workers.

Evers opposes the deal but has questioned if it can be reversed, instead saying the state should put more stringent requirements on Foxconn.

"I’m the only candidate who says he’ll stop Foxconn which will destroy our state, destroy our budgets," Flynn said. "Tony Evers says you can’t stop it, let’s put solar tiles on the roof. That’s a major difference between us."

Evers said he's "ready to respond to any criticism" in the Democratic primary but plans to focus on Walker.

The Republican governor said it doesn't matter to him who he faces.

"Any one of those people are interchangeable," Walker said in an interview this weekend. "They're all moving further to the left, and they're all filled with rhetoric of anger and hatred. We need to counter that with optimism and organization."