One of the concerns coming out of the Republican state convention over the weekend is that too many candidates will be getting into the race for the US Senate against Tammy Baldwin next year. Party officials are worried that a multi-candidate race would be too contentious and too expensive--leaving the winner weaker against Baldwin in the general election.
Democrats on the other hand, have the exact opposite problem--as no one seems to want to run for governor against Scott Walker next year. A laundry list of high profile Dems have already said they had no interest in running--even some that had talked big about upsetting the Governor before that announcement (like Dane County Executive Joe Parisi--who said he could easily beat Walker--and then decided not to even enter the race). Perhaps that was why Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson pulled off his press conference ambush of Walker a few weeks ago. He wanted to see how many talking heads might say "Hey, that Tom Nelson in Appleton should run for governor!"
One Democrat that never seems to be mentioned for governor is Russ Feingold. Here's a guy that has won three statewide elections--granted he has now lost two in a row, but both were in Republican wave elections. As soon as anyone bring up Feingold for governor those who no him immediately say "Russ has no interest in being governor".
It makes you wonder why Feingold would never run. Being governor would allow him to directly influence how Wisconsin regulates health insurance in the post Affordable Care Act era. He could push for campaign finance laws here--which has always been his pet cause. And he could develop budgets that "meet the needs of the people"--which he always complained never happened in Washington. Let's be honest, being governor has a lot more direct impact on people and the system than being a Senator ever could.
But lack of interest from Feingold--and all other members of Wisconsin's Congressional delegation shows the big difference between the Executive and Legislative branches of government. When you are Governor or President, you are expected to actually get things done. Those in Congress or the Legislature can go entire decades without introducing a single bill--or ever getting a measure approved--and can still claim they are "doing their jobs". Paul Ryan is speaker of the House and just one bill of his has ever made it into law.
Why run for a position that would actually carry some accountability for all of your campaign rhetoric? It's much easier to sit on a committee and produce sound bites criticizing those in the Executive branch. Or to introduce measures you know have no chance of passing--just so you can tell your supporters "I'm fighting for you!" And it's much easier to blend in with the crowd when you are one of 100 or one of 435. Do nothing Senators and Congressmen get re-elected. Do nothing Governors do not.