Democratic challenger Tony Evers had a 5 point lead over Gov. Scott Walker in a poll of likely voters released earlier this week, but a state political expert advises to not count out the Republican incumbent yet.
Bill McCoshen noted Walker has won three elections — two regular and one recall — since 2010 and has plenty of campaign resources.
“But if the election were tomorrow, the governor would be Tony Evers,” McCoshen said to about 60 business and community leaders gathered Friday morning in Eau Claire.
McCoshen, who served as state commerce secretary and chief of staff during Gov. Tommy Thompson’s administration and now runs a political consulting firm in Madison, provided his insights on the Nov. 6 election at a breakfast presentation sponsored by the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce.
But with all of the poll data, he often tempered his comments with the potential for surprises to pop up during the campaigns that could swing momentum.
McCoshen referred to comments Evers made Thursday about raising gas and income taxes as “an unforced error” that the Walker campaign will likely capitalize on.
However, McCoshen also said Walker has been dogged by negative public perception on a couple of big issues for Wisconsin.
“There are three issues hurting Scott Walker right now: Foxconn, Foxconn and roads,” McCoshen said.
There is sentiment the state will spend too much in public incentives to draw the Taiwan-based technology company here, McCoshen said, while Walker hasn’t campaigned well on the benefits of it in private investment in Wisconsin and contracts for local companies.
And while Walker has put more money into road work, McCoshen said it’s still believed to be $1 billion short of what the state needs.
Chris Humbach-Boyle, an Eau Claire school board member who attended McCoshen’s presentation, contended that education also is an important topic for November’s election. In addition to Evers being state superintendent of public schools, Humbach-Boyle noted Walker’s campaign has touted his last budget’s contributions to education.
With many decisions affecting public school funding — namely the expansion of private school vouchers — made through state budgets instead of independent legislation, Humbach-Boyle said now is a ripe time to discuss those issues.
“Many decisions made about public schools weren’t debated,” she said.
Among the other fall election insights McCoshen shared was the large lead U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., has over Republican challenger Leah Vukmir. And McCoshen said despite more voter enthusiasm by Democrats than Republicans, it’s unlikely the majority in the state Legislature will change, especially in the Assembly where the GOP has a larger majority.
McCoshen also shared advice with the Eau Claire attendees on how to get local projects considered at the Capitol in Madison.
“Position yourself to be as nonpartisan as possible,” he said.
As the party in power will swing through the years, McCoshen said it’s best that local initiatives present data and show wide-ranging community support to get money from the state budget.
Haymarket Concepts, the partnership behind the Pablo Center at the Confluence, had hired McCoshen to help secure $15 million in state funds needed for the $60 million arts center, which opens today in downtown Eau Claire.
He remarked that the local contributions, a referendum, resolutions of support and backing from area legislators were vital to securing the state funding.
Another big Eau Claire project — a $256 million science and health sciences building at UW-Eau Claire — will need a similar showing of public support, McCoshen said. The UW System Board of Regents did vote in favor of the project in August, but he said that’s just the first step toward actually making it into an upcoming state budget — regardless of which political party is in charge.
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