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Cullen out of governor's race before start

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
February 2, 2012
— "Things fall apart. The centre cannot hold," William Butler Yeats famously wrote.

Sen. Tim Cullen knows something of what the poet was feeling nearly a century ago.


Cullen is a self-styled centrist Democrat from Janesville who hoped to bring a fresh approach to the office of governor, something different than what he called Gov. Scott Walker's "my way or the highway" approach.


But Cullen had to admit defeat before he got started.


He faced reporters Wednesday at the Capitol and said it comes down to money, which apparently is lacking in the center of the political field.


Cullen said he does not believe he could raise the $1 million to $2 million he thinks would be needed to compete in the primary with some of the probable candidates who are better known, better organized and have more money than he could raise.


Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk is the only Democrat who has announced a run so far. Rep. David Obey and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett also are apparently considering runs.


Cullen said he expected others might enter the race as well. He said he has no preference among the possible candidates and would support his party's nominee. Everyone who has been mentioned so far "has good Wisconsin values," he said.


No one asked him to step aside, he said.


Cullen said he met with various unions who might have offered their organizations and dollars, but they did


not, and he didn't ask, he said.


"I had hoped there would be more union support for me than there was," Cullen said. "I had hoped more organizations would've come forward for me, but they didn't."


Cullen said some unions' reactions, particularly from the public-employee unions, "was sort of respectful indifference."


That leaves Cullen with a term as senator that runs through 2014. He said he plans to run again.


"I came to Madison as a centrist, and I discovered there was no center," Cullen said. "I will spend the rest of my time representing those who have no lobbyists themselves: the convenience store employee, the hairdresser, the factory worker with no union, the self-employed lawn care worker, the waitress who by Wisconsin law does not earn minimum wage."


He said he would also go back to his pledge when he ran for Senate in 2010, that he would seek to bring more civility and compromise to the Legislature.


"Many of the people in this building love this political war, but the majority of the people outside this building do not want the war, and they want us to work together," Cullen said.


Cullen said he expected the recall election would be "the most angry, partisan race in Wisconsin history."


Cullen said the winner probably will be unable to begin the process of reuniting the state. He said that's a job he would take on as a state senator. He said he and others should speak out to tone down the highest level of public anger he has seen in his adult life.


"Angry people do not solve problems," he said.


Cullen has gained notoriety for his efforts, notably with Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, to improve relations between the two parties in the Senate and to find common ground and compromise.


"We get a sense, as we go around the state together that the public really wants that," he said.


Cullen said if legislators got to know each other as human beings, it would not be so easy to attack each other.



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