MADISON, Wis. — The second Democrat in as many days dropped out of the race for governor on Friday, as state Rep. Dana Wachs called for unity and endorsed front-runner Tony Evers on his way out.
Wachs, from Eau Claire, ended his candidacy a day after Milwaukee businessman Andy Gronik dropped out. The moves came after a Wednesday Marquette University Law School poll showed Evers with a double-digit lead over the now-shrinking Democratic field.
The other remaining eight Democratic candidates rushed to assure their supporters Friday that they weren't going anyplace — at least for now.
The primary is Aug. 14, with the winner advancing to take on Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Minutes before Wachs' announcement, Walker focused his attention on Evers in a series of tweets about education. Evers is the state superintendent, a statewide position he's been elected to three times since 2009.
Evers is the only statewide elected official in the Democratic field, something that sets him apart from the others. His strong showing in the Marquette poll, coupled with Wachs and Gronik dropping out, further solidified his standing as the front-runner.
Evers' campaign spokeswoman Maggie Gau said after the poll's release and shrinkage of the field from 10 to eight candidates "we've seen a surge in donors and statewide support."
"Now is the time for unity," Wachs said in a statement. "Now is the time to fight for Wisconsin's future. That is why I'm proud to endorse Tony Evers for governor."
Wachs said Republicans were eager to see Democrats "tear each other apart in a nine-way primary. I will not give them that satisfaction."
Evers, in thanking Wachs for his support, noted that Wachs had focused his campaign on criticizing the $10 billion Foxconn Technology Group project that Walker backed and could put taxpayers on the hook for $4.5 billion in incentives.
Walker and President Donald Trump plan to hold a ceremonial groundbreaking for the project, which could employ up to 13,000 people, on Thursday in Mount Pleasant.
Wisconsin Republican Party spokesman Alec Zimmerman said it didn't matter who remained in the race to face Walker.
"No matter who drops out or stays in, Democrat candidates for governor remain locked in a dangerous race to the left that's littered with failed policies and flawed records," he said.
Other Democrats still in the race are Madison Mayor Paul Soglin; state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, of Alma; former state Rep. Kelda Roys, of Madison; state firefighter union leader Mahlon Mitchell; political activist Mike McCabe; and corporate attorney Josh Pade.
The following is a statement from Martha Laning, chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, on news that Rep. Dana Wachs has ended his campaign for governor:
“I want to extend my sincerest thanks to Dana for being a true advocate for our Wisconsin values during his run for governor and during his years of service in the state legislature. In November, Wisconsin voters will have the opportunity to elect a Democratic governor who shares their priorities, and we’re glad Dana will be by our side as we make that vision a reality.”