• WisPolitics

Friday, June 07, 2013

 3:30 PM 

Interview: Tate challenger says Dem grassroots yearning for attention

NOTE: This interview originally ran in the May 24, 2013 WisPolitics REPORT
Joe Kallas has heard the criticism before: how can a man who ran a losing congressional campaign on a $7,000 budget run the Democratic Party of Wisconsin?

His counter is simple: He still got 136,000 votes against an entrenched GOP incumbent with virtually no financial or institutional support.

“Now, I only got 20,000 less votes than other candidates like Jamie Wall in the 8th, (Pat) Kreitlow in the 7th, who had a million and a half dollars to spend,” said Kallas, a 63-year old retiree from Princeton who formerly worked as corrections employee. “So obviously, I did something right, and they’re ignoring me because, ‘Gee we spent all this money and our philosophy is the guy with the most money wins’ ... So they have to defend that.”

Kallas, who lost to U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, in the 2012 election by a wide margin, says that race and the gubernatorial recall are indicative of the way the Democratic Party of Wisconsin has failed the state’s grassroots movement. Kallas, who will challenge current chair Mike Tate at the state Democratic Convention next month, says Tate’s leadership has been a “top-down” model that is responsible for a series of electoral failures over his four-year tenure.

“I know people who have run for Congress, and the party gave them no support at all and in many cases they opposed them and these people don’t even belong to the party anymore,” said Kallas, who also challenged Petri in 2010 and ran for the Assembly in 1988. “That’s no way to build the party.”

Kallas also cites the failed recall of Gov. Scott Walker as one of Tate’s biggest failures as Dem chair, saying the party “should have never lost the recall” and that running Tom Barrett was a fatal mistake that “could have been prevented.” Kallas said Tate should have brought together all members from the party and made sure everyone had some “ownership” of the party and the recall effort.

With a 2014 race against Walker looming, Kallas said he feels the former county executive should be matched by another county executive. Kallas said he’d prefer either Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, a former top Assembly Democrat, or Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris. Nelson was first elected to his post in 2011, while Harris was recently elected to his third term in an unopposed election.

Read more and listen to the complete interview


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