Eau Claire attorney Dana Wachs has suspended his run for Wisconsin governor while Kathleen Vinehout of Alma said she’s “in the race to stay.”
Wachs, 60, announced Friday morning he is suspending his campaign, effective immediately, and endorsing fellow Democrat Tony Evers, the state’s superintendent of public instruction.
“I have spent my life dedicated to serving my neighbors, friends and the people of the great state of Wisconsin,” Wachs said in a statement. “That commitment led me to run for governor, and it is the same commitment that now requires I stand aside.”
Wachs, who in the spring announced he was not running for re-election to the 91st District Assembly to focus on his gubernatorial campaign, didn’t return calls Friday for further comments.
On Wednesday, a Marquette University Law School poll indicated that Evers led a 10-way Democratic race with 25 percent of the vote. Wachs had 2 percent of the vote.
Vinehout, D-Alma, received 5 percent in the poll.
“I am in the race to stay,” Vinehout said in a statement Friday afternoon. “I am energized and motivated by the volunteers helping me and what I hear from folks across the state.”
Vinehout added that “undecided” voters are now leading, and she has 53 days until the primary to sway them to select her.
Wachs was the second Democrat in two days to drop out of the race. On Thursday, Milwaukee businessman Andy Gronik dropped out a day after the Marquette poll showed he had 4 percent of the vote. With Wachs and Gronik dropping out, eight candidates remain for the Democratic primary fighting it out for the chance to face Gov. Scott Walker in the November general election.
“Now is the time for unity,” Wachs wrote. “Now is the time to fight for Wisconsin’s future. That is why I’m proud to endorse Tony Evers for governor. He is a good man and a tireless advocate for our schools, workers, and families.”
Wachs continued: “The Republicans are eager to see the Democratic candidates tear each other apart in a nine-way primary. I will not give them that satisfaction.”
However, Gronik on Friday endorsed Kelda Roys, one of Evers’ remaining challengers for the party nomination.
JR Ross, editor for WisPolitics.com, said he wasn’t surprised with the pair of dropouts.
“They help self-finance their campaigns,” Ross said. “You have to decide at some point if you want to keep writing those checks. If you aren’t getting traction, do you keep spending money? And, how do you catch up?”
Ross said the latest Marquette poll mirrors other polls, both internal from candidates and public, that have been conducted in the past six months.
“They all showed a similar theme of Evers out front and no one within 10 points,” Ross said. “His name recognition helped drive those polls.”
Martha Laning, Democratic Party of Wisconsin chairwoman, praised Wachs on Friday.
“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,” Laning said in a statement.
Evers thanked Wachs for the endorsement, saying Wachs “ran a good, clean campaign, and I’m honored to have his support in this race.”
Wachs said it was a difficult decision, and he thanked his family and campaign team for their work.
“Their support inspired me and challenged me over the last year of this campaign,” Wachs said.
Lisa Herrmann, chairwoman of the 3rd Congressional District Democratic Party, praised Wachs, saying he is a good leader.
“Dana is a really nice guy. He has the best interests of people at heart,” Herrmann said. “I wasn’t sure it was the right time for he seemed all in. I didn’t think he’d give up his Assembly seat if he wasn’t seeing this through.”
Herrmann said she wasn’t sure why Wachs made the decision now, wondering if there were other factors besides the Marquette poll.
Wachs was elected to the state Assembly in 2012. It is unclear what is next for Wachs.
“He has a lot to offer the state, and I hope he goes on to do good things,” Herrmann said. “I suspect we haven’t heard the last of him.”