Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, is one of two Democrats to have announced a run against Gov. Scott Walker in a possible recall election. Cullen served as Senate Majority Leader in the 1980s and as former Gov. Tommy Thompson’s secretary of health and human services. He came out of retirement in 2010 to run for the Senate again.
The Badger Herald sat down with Cullen to discuss his gubernatorial aspirations.
The Badger Herald: Why did you file to run for governor?
Sen. Tim Cullen: It was very clear to me early that with the energy of 30,000 people out gathering signatures, there was going to be the signatures, there was going to be an election. So I looked at who was considering running and I thought, well, you know, why not me? Why don’t I have something to offer?
And so I decided to get in the race and see what happens … I haven’t been in politics all my life. I spent half of my life in the public sector and half in the private sector. So I thought I offered something different. I understand business. I understand government.
BH: How has the Senate changed since you last served as Majority Leader?
TC: Well, in just about every way except the chamber is still in the same place. What’s really happening in Wisconsin politics and in the state Senate is what I would call the collapse of the political center … The desire to work across the aisle in a bipartisan way is almost gone. That’s really kind of the biggest change.
BH: If you did receive the Democratic nomination and won a recall election, what would be your main goals as governor?
TC: I think the first thing I would try to do as governor is to reduce, as best I can, the level of anger and division that exists in this state. This governor has angrily divided the state in a way I’ve never seen in my adult lifetime, and I don’t think he can ever reunite the state.
I would get the focus back on jobs. I would get the focus back on respecting the University System, the students of the university, the public education system, the K-12 system, teachers.
We need to make it easier for people to vote, not more difficult. The flow of history is to expand the right of Americans have to vote. And now this governor has reversed that.
And we need to do something about tuition. We are now in something like the fifth consecutive year of five or more percent increase in tuition. For my part, I would support a law and sign a law as governor that caps tuition increases at two percent or the consumer price index.
BH: How would you work with a Republican Assembly and Senate to accomplish your goals?
TC. I have a willingness to work across the aisle … I try to work with [Republican legislators] when I can. We’re going to have disagreements. There’s a reason I’m a Democrat and they’re Republicans. But I have a reputation and it is sort of in my DNA to work with people to reach a compromise.