A Portage man has taken a leave of absence from his job as a guard at the Columbia Correctional Institution to seek the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor in the coming recall election.
Dale Paul said he intends to run in the recall election against Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.
There are, as of Monday, three other likely Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor: Mahlon Mitchell of Fitchburg, president of the Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin; Ira Robins, a Milwaukee private investigator and Bruce Berman, a contract driver from Marinette.
If a primary is necessary — as appears likely for Democrats — the recall primary election will be held May 8. The general recall election will be June 5.
Paul said he spent two years on the Portage Common Council in the 1990s, and unsuccessfully ran in 1990 for the 42nd District Assembly Seat as an independent.
He said he’s seeking the state’s second-highest office because he wants to replace the current partisan divisiveness in state government with consensus.
“I’m really disgruntled with what happened in the last year in Wisconsin,” he said. “There is no room for debate on anything. It’s all or nothing
for Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.”
That’s why, on Friday, Paul took a leave of absence from the CCI guard post he held for about 30 years — a job from which he retired in March 2011 out of concern for the possible effects of Walker’s budget repair bill on state employees. He returned to work a few months later, however, mainly out of boredom, he said.
As a retiree returning to work, he said, he drew both a salary and his retirement benefits, but received no health insurance coverage as part of his employment. One other CCI employee works there under similar circumstances, he said.
Because a state employee may not run for state office, Paul took a leave of absence, he said.
Paul said it wasn’t just Walker’s proposals to limit collective bargaining rights for public employees that concerned him.
Walker’s proposals also included cuts in Medicaid and limiting eligibility for the state’s BadgerCare health insurance. Those proposals, he said, were presented to the Legislature with little opportunity for Democrats to study them, let alone debate them.
Paul said he thinks that not all Republicans are “lock-step” with Walker’s proposals, but few dare to risk openly questioning them.
“Hopefully,” he said, “I can talk to people on both sides of the aisle and bring them to a consensus,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.”
According to the Wisconsin Blue Book — the definitive guide to state government — the lieutenant governor is “the state’s second-ranking executive officer, a position comparable to that of the vice president of the United States.”
If a governor dies, resigns or is removed from office, the lieutenant governor serves the balance of the governor’s unexpired term. In Wisconsin, this happened most recently in 2001, when Gov. Tommy Thompson resigned to become secretary of health and human services under President George W. Bush. Lt. Gov. Scott McCallum then became governor.
The Wisconsin lieutenant governor used to be the president of the state Senate, and could cast a deciding vote in case of a tie. That has not been the case, however, since Wisconsin voters in 1979 ratified a constitutional amendment enabling the Senate to choose its own presiding officer from among its members, beginning in 1981.
Although the lieutenant governor has no designated legislative powers, Paul said he thinks a lieutenant governor can be a liaison between the governor and the people, and also be a connection for businesses that are considering locating in Wisconsin.
If Dale Paul of Portage wins the Democratic recall primary for lieutenant governor, he won’t become anybody’s running mate.
Special elections, including recalls, have different rules than those that govern Wisconsin’s regular gubernatorial elections, said Reid Magney, spokesman for the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, which oversees state elections.
A regular gubernatorial election — like the November 2010 election that put Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch in office — has the candidates for governor and lieutenant governor running as same-party running mates, once the primary determines the nominee for each office.
For the yet-to-be-scheduled recall, however, the candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run independently of each other. That means it’s possible — as it wouldn’t be in a regular election — that the voters could elect a governor of one party and a lieutenant governor of the other.
Walker and Kleefisch became running mates as a result of the September 2010 primary, when Walker beat challengers Mark Neumann and Scott Paterick, and Kleefisch won over Republican challengers Brett Davis, Dave Ross, Robert Gerald Lorge and Nick Voegeli.
There are no running mates in recall elections, Magney said. For recalls, he said, Wisconsin voters choose the governor and lieutenant governor independently.