It is no secret that former U.S. Senator and champion of justice Russ Feingold is best qualified and best positioned to undo the harm future former governor Scott Walker has done to Wisconsin. It's no secret that the people of Wisconsin overwhelmingly want him to run in the recall election. And it's no secret that I personally hold him in an esteem nearly high enough to warrant an intervention. I will never get over him losing (to Ron Johnson! inconceivable!) in 2010, and not even replying to the most passionate plea I have ever set loose into the world in my open letter begging him, for the sake of all that is FORWARD, to heed our call. But, alas, he keeps saying no. And then, he said yes to Obama. So I begin, slowly and painfully, to accept that I will have to wait a little longer to vote for Russ again, and I begin, slowly and sweetly, to dream of President Feingold, who may or may not need at that time a speechwriter or something and might remember me fondly and...I digress.
So the elephant is in the room, and it is a donkey: if not Russ, who?
We've got some great choices. Former long-time Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and Fab 14 Senator Kathleen Vinehout have officially launched campaigns. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is supposedly going to do so, soon, as is Secretary of State Doug La Follette. Who knows who else might join the race? As we get to know these potential candidates, we're seeing all kinds of arguments for and against and around and between, but my friend and now two-time MoD guest-poster Ryan Wherley has once again put his own thoughts into an open letter that he first published on Daily Kos (where he blogs as WiscoWherls) and kindly allowed us to share here. Ryan likes Assembly Speaker Peter Barca, and for all the right reasons. He makes a compelling case. Check it out:
Dear Representative Barca,
Throughout the struggles Wisconsin has faced since last February when Scott Walker "dropped the bomb" on Wisconsin and the first chants of "RE-CALL WAL-KER!!!" echoed throughout the Capitol and thundered around the Square, we knew we had to find the right candidate to take back the Governor's office. From the very beginning, you were there. As Assembly Minority Leader in a Republican-dominated state house, you accepted the challenge of representing Wisconsin, your constituents and your fellow Representatives. You took on this challenge in spite of having to face the untenable reality that much of your caucus' legislation, arguments and suggestions would not be accepted, or even acknowledged. The extent to which that turned out to be true has been staggering. But yet, you never backed down.
Those of us who have participated in this great Wisconsin movement that sprang up last winter, have been looking for a candidate that we could rally behind; One who combines the spirit of an activist with a sharp political acumen; One who is willing to fight for not only us, but for ALL Wisconsinites. I wrote a while back that Wisconsin doesn't merely need a figure head or an opportunist to challenge Scott Walker, Wisconsin needs a fighter. You have embodied that fighter mentality. You understand that if we keep putting the ACTUAL TRUTH from the front lines of the Capitol out there, we can win. I just refuse to believe that nearly 50% of the state's electorate is so extreme as to support Scott Walker again. This is why we must be vigilant in getting the facts out there.
You have gone above and beyond the call of duty to be Walker's adversarial fact and mic check. You have taken to social media with aplomb, posting hundreds, if not thousands, of Facebook status updates, notes and links. You help keep the public informed and abreast of the latest goings on in Fitzwalkerstan and, refreshingly, even have the courage to ask for our feedback. What a noble concept that Walker could learn from, if he bothered to care about anyone other than his rubber-stamping cronies and his out-of-state corporate puppet-masters. You have taken to television, to radio, to Twitter and to Youtube to deliver your frequent addresses. You have attended small gatherings and forums across the state to converse with the citizens of Wisconsin and have actually listened to what they have to say. You even went so far as to take your desk outside of the Capitol to meet with your constituents when they were illegally locked outside by the Walker administration! You have taken part in protests and addressed the masses at countless rallies, firing up the crowds with your energy, ferocity, intellect and FORWARD-thinking message. A I have told you before, rallies just aren't the same without either yourself, Mahlon Mitchell or John Nichols taking the stage!
Your have shown your mettle by leading the Assembly Democrats with enthusiasm and conviction. I will never forget when you stepped into the Assembly chambers on February 18th, 2011 and passionately railed on the Republicans for their shameless attempts to ram the Budget Repair Bill through the Assembly minutes before the Democratic Caucus had even been told to arrive at the session. With your help, the public was able to provide on-going testimony for nearly a week inside of the Capitol, keeping the People's House open and allowing the world to delve further into the extremist nature of the bill. For many, their support for you stems from how extremely well you represented for the state's Democratic leadership when the heroic WI 14 moved their offices down to Illinois. This leadership and dogged determination was never more evident than when you defiantly stood your ground and called out Sen. Scott Fitzgerald as the Republicans hastily, illegally and infamously called that emergency committee into action to bust Wisconsin's public unions in the dark of night on March 9th, 2011. I was maybe ten feet outside of the committee room as you stood up on the behalf of the tens of thousands in and around the Capitol that night, and signaled that we would not fall prey to the Republican shenanigans. The image of you holding up a copy of the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law and fighting for our rights as citizens is one of the most iconic of the Uprising.
Most importantly, Peter, you possess great integrity and are worthy of respect from all sides. That is something our state desperately needs...especially after the onslaught of shady tactics, abominable legislation, corruption and shameless spoils system that the Wisconsin government has endured during the reign of Scott Walker. I have had the pleasure of getting to know you and I always enjoy our opportunities to converse. I have been able to voice concerns with you and know that you not only took them to heart, but looked into what could be done. I can only imagine how many other people have taken comfort in knowing that, in you, they have an elected representative who is willing to interact with them and not just hear, but LISTEN TO their questions and opinions. One day back in November, I came home from work and discovered that you had sent me a message on Facebook. Much to my surprise, you informed me that you had told a receptive group of individuals taking part in Occupy Whitewater of my ambitious personal goal of collecting 500 signatures to Recall Walker. I had merely brought that up to you in passing, not thinking you would actually use my own words to motivate your audience! I was floored...what a cool thing to do and not something any ordinary politician would go out of their way to do, let alone TELL someone about!
From day one of this fight, you have realized that the truth is our ally. Your persistence in taking control of the issues and messages by consistently hammering away at Walker's lies, deceit and chicanery, by any means necessary, has been critical to our movement's growth. In doing so, you have assuredly given up countless hours of sleep and your free time, to repeatedly CRUSH Walker, the Fitzgeralds, Robin Vos, Alberta Darling and company. But, by so publicly and succinctly calling them out on their lies, you have shown that through the truth, the citizens of Wisconsin DO have an alternative. You have presented a voice of reason for so many of your fellow citizens who want a fair and Progressive Wisconsin back, through your advocacy of wind energy initiatives, support for women's rights and constant push for Wisconsin to return to a state of clean and open governance. You are a Badger through and through. The passion and love you show for your state and its citizens, and the pain it causes you to see what has happened to them, comes out in everything you put before the public.
If you run for Governor, I know that we wouldn't just have to get behind you, but could stand BESIDE you, in this fight. This is apparent for all Wisconsin citizens to see, not just this bleeding-heart Madison liberal. You have inspired many and I am confident there are thousands of grassroots activists and groups around our great state that are ready to bust their asses to help get you elected. You are truly our best hope to pull Wisconsin out of the darkness that has befallen it under the Draconian agenda and appalling arrogance of Scott Walker. When you spoke this past Wednesday at the protest over the repeal of the Equal Pay Enforcement Act, I assure you that the emphatic chants of "Run, Peter, Run!!" which broke out afterwards were not only spontaneous, but from the heart of this Wisconsin movement. When you take the stage and speak, the people listen. After all, you truly are one of us. For the past thirteen months, you have stood in Solidarity with us. Now, it's our turn to stand in Solidarity with YOU. Please, Representative Barca...heed our call. I am proud to call you my friend, and I would be HONORED to call you my Governor.
Wisconsin could use a little honor again, don't you think? That's what Ryan Wherley thinks. What about you?
Ryan and his friend Angie Aker with Representative Peter Barca. If Ryan can make the leap from "Rusty for Governor" to "Petey for Governor," maybe we can, too.
I haven't decided yet who I like best, next to Russ, and I'll always like Russ best. If he enters this race, I would be thrilled into action like never before. But I'll tell you this: whomever emerges as the people's candidate (from the primary, if there is one, or from the public vetting we're seeing now) will be the next governor of Wisconsin. And I will do all I can to see to that happen, so help me Russ. (Ok. I have no willpower at all. Once more, for good measure, just in case: So, help me, Russ!)
In which Representative Barca calls out Republicans for violating the Open Meetings Law.
March 2, 2011: Peter Barca holds office hours on the Capitol Lawn to
accommodate constituents locked out of the building. Happy anniversary to that!