The Democratic primary for lieutenant governor pits a veteran state lawmaker and former teacher against a frequent protester who was active in the 2011 occupation of the Capitol.
State Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine, taught public school for 20 years before he won his first Assembly race in 1996 and his first Senate race a decade later. He says that former Democratic Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton told him what he might expect if he wins this race.
“The one thing she said really stuck with me — she said it’s just a great opportunity for public service, whether it's working on projects that you have a particular interest in that the governor assigns you to, or whether it is providing a presence for the executive branch of the government where the governor can't go,” said Lehman.
Lehman said he's now running for lieutenant governor because he thinks he could be a good second-in-command for Mary Burke, should she be elected. He noted that he's been endorsed by several unions and the state Democratic Party.
“I think that people recognize the experience that I have,” said Lehman.
Another Democratic candidate vying for the position is frequent protester Mary Jo Walters. She says she identifies with groups who are underrepresented in state government: the unemployed and mothers who stay home with their kids.
She said she'd like to work with Mary Burke to help those people.
“I actually think Mary Burke is very kind, and I think that although she's economically above my class level, I think she is aware and could possibly work with us as we try to make social change,” said Walters.
During the 2011 occupation of the state Capitol, Walters set up an unofficial, around-the-clock child care center in a wing of the building. If elected, she says she'd do the same in the lieutenant governor's office, and that constituents could visit any time.
“The door would be completely open,” she said, “I might even have coffee.”
The lieutenant governor has a small staff and hardly any official duties, but the office is first in order of succession if a governor leaves office or dies before the end of a term.