Mahlon Mitchell has the buzz. Russ Feingold is the one for whom many delegates still yearn.
But fresh off their loss in Tuesday’s recall election, there is no heir apparent for Dem delegates to take up the party’s mantle in 2014 for another shot at Gov. Scott Walker.
This weekend’s convention featured several possible contenders who addressed the crowd, such as Mitchell, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, former U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind and Outagamie County Exec Tom Nelson. State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, who placed third in the Dem primary, was also seen working the crowd.
But Feingold, who retains his rock star status for many of the party faithful, wasn’t at this weekend’s convention, though his organization Progressives United organization had a table set up. He attended last year’s convention in Milwaukee, generating talk about another run for the U.S. Senate or the guv’s office, and held his traditional sloppy Joe’s hospitality suite.
Renee Shavers of Shorewood said she had hoped to catch him at convention this year to feel him out about a comeback, but understands why he wasn’t there considering his busy schedule. She also suspects it was a conscious decision to allow rising stars like Mitchell some room to grow and to make sure the attention would be on others like U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin as she runs for the U.S. Senate. She’s been impressed by one of the possible contenders.
“I love Mahlon,” she said. “He would be a fabulous candidate.”
Mitchell got one of the strongest receptions from the convention during his Friday night speech, and delegates continued to come up to him Saturday morning as he was on his way out the door to thank him for his campaign and sing his praises.
“I think we’re going to be seeing a lot of you,” one woman said as she spoke to Mitchell.
The head of the state’s firefighters union said he hasn’t decided what his future in politics will be, though he acknowledged being bitten by the political bug in this campaign and may run again.
Mitchell said he enjoyed 98 percent of the campaign. The 2 percent he didn’t enjoy wasn’t losing Tuesday. It was not coming through for all the people who volunteered for his campaign and worked to help him only to come up short.
“I’m still going to be in the fight for the middle class,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell got a nod from retiring U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl as the longtime lawmaker gave his farewell address to the convention.
“I hope to see him on the trail with as much enthusiasm,” Kohl said.
Nelson is seen by some Dem insiders as a future statewide candidate. He won a GOP-leaning Assembly seat and rose through the ranks to majority leader after Dems won control of the chamber in the 2008 elections. After an unsuccessful bid for lt. guv in 2010, Nelson won the Outagamie County exec’s office in 2011. Some believe he could help Dems cut into the GOP lean of the Fox Valley if he ran statewide.
Nelson, who would face re-election in 2015 to his county seat, said he hasn’t given any thought to such a run and loves the job he has.
He said any talk of him as a statewide candidate is likely due to the successes in Outagamie County such as providing strong services and having an electorate that appreciates the people that deliver them.
“I think we’ve got a great story to tell,” Nelson said.
Delegate Steve Herr of Kenosha said he would have liked to have seen U.S. Rep. Ron Kind run for guv this year, particularly since he wouldn’t have had to give up his House seat to do so. He also said he’d like Kind to make a run for guv in the future and if Feingold would get in, that would be great. But he doesn’t think the former U.S. senator wants to make another run for public office.
“Beyond that, I’m afraid the field is a little thin,” he said. “We don’t have many well-known names.”