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Top Democrats aren't stepping forward to challenge Gov. Walker in 2018

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The 2018 election for Governor may be more than 18 months away, but at least five potential challengers to Gov. Scott Walker (R) have already said they're out.

"I think the right person with the right message can beat Governor Walker," Dane County Executive Joe Parisi told 27 News Friday, but he had already announced on Monday he won't be running.

Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI-3), Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse), and former Sen. Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) have also withdrawn their names from consideration.

Republican Campaign Consultant Chris Lato said he believes those politicians don't want to waste their time challenging Gov. Walker.

"He's about as close as you can get to unbeatable at this point," said Lato.

While Governor Walker stopped short of saying that, he did express to 27 News that most Democrats are likely acknowledging the state is headed in the right direction.

"We're in the top 10 states in terms of the percentage of employment, we're in the top 10 states in terms of ACT scores, we're in the top 10 states in terms of high school graduation," said Gov. Walker. "Like I said, I've never been more optimistic about the state."

While the eventual Democratic nominee is likely going to be someone with little name recognition right now, one liberal pundit said that should not be seen as a weakness.

Scot Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now, believes there is more than enough time for Democratic candidates to establish their political identities.

Ross also believes Gov. Walker has one major obstacle the Democrats don't - President Donald Trump.

"Being on the ballot at a time when you're going to have meals on wheels canceled, libraries, after-school programs (canceled), whatever they're doing on healthcare - I mean, the Republican agenda is in turmoil," said Ross. "That's where I think Scott Walker's going to have a real challenge."

Both Ross and Parisi point out that many people thought then three-term U.S. Senator Russ Feingold (D) was unbeatable at this same point in 2009.

In November 2010, Feingold lost to Republican Ron Johnson, who few people had ever heard of 18 months earlier.

"Stronger people have been taken down," said Parisi. "If you look at any of the national literature that takes a look at the races, you know, this is rated as close to a tossup. So, the right person with the right message can do this."

The only candidate to declare as a Democrat to this point is political newcomer Robert Harlow of Barneveld.

Some Democrats thought to still be considering a run are State Representatives Dana Wachs (Eau Claire) and Gordon Hintz (Oshkosh), Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ and Milwaukee entrepreneur Andy Gronik.

Parisi, Lato and Ross are all featured guests on Capital City Sunday this weekend at 9:00 a.m. on WKOW 27.

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