Share story

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Democratic candidates for governor who want to speak at the state party convention on June 1 face a deadline this week to prove they have collected enough signatures to get on the primary ballot.

As many as 10 candidates — maybe more — could meet the threshold to speak at the meeting and appear on the Aug. 14 ballot. The primary winner will advance to face Republican Gov. Scott Walker in November.

The Wisconsin Democratic Party is forcing candidates to show by Friday that they have collected the required 2,000 signatures before they can be allotted a speaking slot at the meeting of hundreds of activists from across the state.

The party requires candidates to show have the signatures a week before they are due with the state Elections Commission, because that deadline is the same day as the start of the convention — June 1.

The convention in Oshkosh gives candidates, most of whom are running statewide for the first time, a chance to introduce themselves to Democratic voters and try to break out from the crowded primary field.

Only one Democratic candidate — former state party director Matt Flynn — has turned in his nomination papers with the Elections Commission. But others contacted Monday said they had either crossed the threshold or were confident they would meet the deadline.

There are about half a dozen less well-known candidates who are not expected to collect the needed signatures.

Here’s a look at the top candidates in the Democratic field:

— State Superintendent Tony Evers. He’s tried to position himself as the front-runner, given that he’s the only candidate to have won statewide — three times. But he has struggled to separate himself from the pack and has drawn criticism from Democrats for not engaging forcefully enough with Walker.

— Madison Mayor Paul Soglin. Soglin, 73, has been running what he calls a “Supper Club” campaign, which amounts to him exerting less effort on traditional campaigning, saying he will make his move later this summer closer to the primary vote.

— State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout. A farmer from Alma, Vinehout ran in the 2012 recall and got 4 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary. Her pro-gun voting record, which resulted in her getting an “A” grade from the National Rifle Association in 2010, and questions about whether she’s as strong on abortions rights as other candidates has raised concerns among some Democrats.

— State Rep. Dana Wachs. A trial attorney from Eau Claire, Wachs could tap his own personal wealth to help his candidacy. He’s run as an outspoken critic of the Foxconn project in southeast Wisconsin.

— Kelda Roys. A former state representative from Madison, the 38-year-old Roys made headlines with a campaign video showing her breastfeeding. Roys has been touting her support in Democratic straw polls while emphasizing her abortion rights credentials and collecting an endorsement from NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin, a group she led for four years.

— Mahlon Mitchell. The head of the state firefighters union, Mitchell has won support and financial backing from several labor unions, including AFL-CIO of Wisconsin. He would become the state’s first black governor if elected.

— Matt Flynn. A former state party chairman who ran for U.S. Senate in 1986 and Congress in 1988 and 2004, the 70-year-old Flynn has been dogged by questions about his legal defense of the Milwaukee Archdiocese against priest sexual abuse lawsuits. His strong fundraising early on, particularly with Milwaukee donors, took some Democrats by surprise.

— Andy Gronik. A political newcomer and Milwaukee businessman, Gronik has some personal wealth he can tap to stay competitive into the summer. He showed up at the Republican Party convention earlier this month, trying to cast himself as being unintimidated by Walker.

— Mike McCabe. The former director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, his work lambasting both Republicans and Democrats alike has alienated him with many Democrats, even as he puts forth a policy agenda that would appeal to Bernie Sanders-backing liberals.

— Josh Pade. A corporate attorney from Kenosha, he’s making his first run for office in Wisconsin. A spokeswoman for his campaign said Monday he was on track to have the required signatures.


Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at