Harlow: From Punchline to Dem Nominee for Governor?

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin bristles at the notion that it is in disarray. But that denial comes at roughly the same time as news that one of their highest profile potential candidates to challenge Republican Governor Scott Walker in 2018 is taking a pass. Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said Tuesday he will not be running for governor in 2018. Most political observers, both left and right, felt Parisi was a lock to seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Walker. Instead, Parisi joins a growing list of names who will skip the 2018 governor’s race.

The last three names Democrats seem to be pinning their hopes on are Rep. Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire), a trial attorney; Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ, an unsuccessful 2014 attorney general candidate; and Andy Gronik, the founder and president of GroBiz, a company that advises businesses. The one name Democratic name that gets no mention is the one declared candidate: recent Stanford University physics graduate Bob Harlow. The Republican Party of Wisconsin treated Harlow’s campaign announcement as a joke.

But Harlow, on the road to a Fox Valley area campaign event, called into the Jerry Bader radio show (Harlow was listening) on March 30 to discuss his candidacy. Is it possible that the only Democrat who will step up to challenge Walker is a 25 year old candidate who lost a California congressional primary last year? If he is, Democrats will put up against Walker a young, untested candidate who can be fairly described as holding a far left ideology. From Ballotpedia:

1. Create 35,000 jobs through record investment in Wisconsin’s infrastructure
My first priority is job-creating infrastructure investments that position Wisconsin to be the economic powerhouse of America’s future. By bringing 1 GB internet to every home, building 200 mph high speed rail that connects our region, modernizing our highways to be safer and more efficient, and by making Wisconsin 30% renewable by 2030, we will create 35,000 good paying jobs and boost economic growth in Wisconsin for decades to come.
2. Just you and your doctor, period. A healthcare plan for Wisconsin.
My healthcare plan for Wisconsin provides full coverage for every Wisconsinite at a cost that is never more than 9% of your income. At the same time, it allows you to choose any doctor or specialist in the whole state of Wisconsin for each exam or procedure. It works like this.

  • You will never pay more than 9% of your income for healthcare.
  • You can choose any doctor or specialist in the whole state for each exam or procedure. No more expensive insurance companies telling you what you can and can’t do.
  • You pay the difference between the 33rd percentile of bids in your region and the bid you choose capped at 9% of your income. If you choose a bid that is less expensive than the 33rd percentile of bids, you pay nothing.
  • You do not have to pay anything out of pocket. Simply calculate how much you owe up to 9% of your income, and send a check to the State of Wisconsin.

3. Repeal Scott Walker’s legislation that banned unionized workplaces.
I am a steadfast supporter of unions. Unions give a strong political voice to Wisconsinites, protect our rights in the workplace, and help make sure that Wisconsinites get a fair deal for the work they do. That’s why the first thing I will do as Governor is repeal Scott Walker’s legislation that banned unionized workplaces.

4. Help Wisconsinites grow Wisconsinites grow Wisconsin ideas and research into successful businesses.
I want advances in medicine, biotech, energy, agriculture, and materials to grow into Wisconsin businesses that create good paying jobs and ship high value exports. I will help you grow your Wisconsin business by awarding competitive grants to small businesses in Wisconsin and creating startup incubators that are attached to our public colleges and universities. These resources will be provided on a competitive basis to Wisconsin small businesses in exchange for an ownership stake held by the people of Wisconsin.

5. Immediately restore the right of public employees to bargain collectively.
I support our teachers and public employees, and I will immediately restore the right of public employees to bargain collectively. I have so much respect for the talented Wisconsinites who work hard every day to make our state a better place to live and work. As Governor, I will work collaboratively with Wisconsin’s outstanding public employees to innovate on and improve every department of government.

6. Veto all new pipeline and mining proposals.
I love and respect our beautiful state and I know you do too. I also know that when we damage our natural wealth by building pipelines and strip mines, the state of Wisconsin seldom sees an uptick in jobs or any other economic benefit to justify doing so. That’s why I will veto all new pipeline and mining proposals.

7. Test drinking water annually and pass legislation that gives the governor power to immediately stop polluters if contamination is detected.
I will ensure that every Wisconsin resident has clean drinking water by implementing annual tests for heavy metals, petrol-chemicals, and dangerous bacteria for all Wisconsin wells and utilities and by passing legislation that grants the Governor power to immediately stop polluters if contamination is discovered.

8. Make sure every school in Wisconsin is funded at or above the national per-pupil average.
I believe that every Wisconsin kid deserves the opportunity to realize his or her full potential. That’s why I will make sure that every school in Wisconsin is funded at or above the national per-pupil average. I will also streamline each educational and career step by providing opportunities for middle, high school, and UW system students to pursue college classes, internships, and research within the framework of their curriculum. And, pass a law that ensures public money is only spent on public schools.

A Q&A Harlow did with the Stanford Daily during his congressional bid also provides some insight into his worldview:

TSD: Which specific presidencies do you see as successful?


BH: That would be from [Franklin D. Roosevelt] up through Carter. Reagan is when the country really started to go downhill. (It appears no follow-up question was asked to determine whether that answer means Harlow considers the Richard Nixon presidency successful).


TSD: What are some of the things you hope to do as Congressman?


BH: I would…stand by a 10 percent increase in the tax of Americans making more than $1 million a year in what would result in a highest marginal tax rate of 40 percent for that bracket. In the 1950s under Eisenhower, it was 91 percent. Another thing is to raise $1 billion to send 20,000 students to public colleges and universities with free tuition, room and board.(Democratic President John F. Kennedy championed lowering the 91% rate to which Harlow refers. Congress passed the Kennedy tax cut after his death, in February, 1964.)

So, is anybody taking Harlow’s candidacy seriously at this point? Jeff Simpson of the Cognitive Dissonance blog seems to be:



Ladies And Gentlemen; Your Next Governor – Bob Harlow

By Jeff Simpson

True leaders, identify a problem and then start working to fix it. Robert Harlow did just that. Bob is a well rounded lifetime Wisconsinite, who grew up in Barneveld.

In a time when no one else has stepped up to become the resistance, and challenge the far right wing control, Bob Harlow has.


Instead of recycling old all-stars, or waiting for some high priced, low result consultant to tell us who should run and how far to the right they should run, Bob Harlow has decided to take matters into his own hands, step up and work on becoming out next Governor.


I like the thought of that.
Joe Parisi, the Dane County Executive who said no thanks to a run, believes a Democratic candidate can compete with Walker. Perhaps. But to show how lightly Republicans are taking Harlow, consider this from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
There is still time for Democrats to field a candidate and Parisi said that he believed the right one could take on Walker and beat him. But Walker campaign adviser Joe Fadness said that the lack of a declared candidate showed the governor’s “strong record of defending Wisconsin’s working families.”

Harlow is, in fact, a declared candidate.

Meanwhile, as they search for a candidate not named Bob Harlow, Wisconsin Democrats brush off the notion that it is they are floundering and instead claim it is Republicans facing a dearth of quality candidates, to challenge U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin next year.

“This reeks of Wisconsin Republicans‘ need to distract from their clown car of disastrous candidates to run for U.S. Senate,”(Brandon) Weathersby said via email. “After Rep. Sean Duffy proved to be too scared to take on Sen. Tammy Baldwin, all the Republican Party is left with are three billionaires, two political opportunists, and one sore loser.”

Weathersby, of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, appears to be referring to a group of potential candidates for the Republican nomination for Senate: Eric Hovde, Dale Kooyenga, Kevin Nicholson, Nicole Schneider and Leah Vukmir. There are no billionaires in that group. Kooyenga and Vukmir are state lawmakers. Hovde and Schneider would be self-funding candidates and Nicholson is supported by Richard Uihlein, the founder of Uline company. Hovde apparently gets a double mention from Weathersby. “Sore loser” is likely a reference to Hovde’s 2012 run for Senate where he narrowly lost a four-way primary to Republican icon Tommy Thompson.

Weathersby can accurately say that no car, “clown” or otherwise, is currently filled with Democratic candidates for governor. Harlow is currently the sole occupant. Time will tell if he is behind the wheel and alone in the car on primary election day 2018.