After Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton's surprise Oct. 26 announcement that she was withdrawing from the 2010 governor's race, the obvious reaction was, ""Why?"" Lawton was the first and only Democratic candidate announced against several Republican candidates. She has nearly eight years of experience as Wisconsin's first female lieutenant governor. It had seemed like Lawton had been gearing up for this moment for years now.
Whereas it seems to be in vogue today to play the ""will they or won't they"" game with voters as if they are in some flirtatious Dunder-Mifflin romance, the only question with Lawton seemed to be whether Gov. Jim Doyle would step aside and let her throw her hat into the ring. It thus came as no surprise when she announced she would be running for governor the day Doyle realized he was too unpopular to get another term––er, we mean decided that he would step aside and let in some new blood. So it understandably came as a shock when Lawton released an announcement, including the statement, ""For very personal reasons, I will not pursue the Democratic nomination for governor in 2010.""
When most politicians step down for ""personal reasons"" or to ""spend more time with the family,"" many take that to mean the person was fired or pressured to step down, and many hold the theory that the Obama administration and Doyle did so with Lawton. However, it is completely unclear as to why Lawton decided to stop running. There can be considerable speculation as to why Lawton dropped out, but is there any value to such extrapolation?
In this case, there is no reason to know more than the fact that Lawton is out. Supporters may be disappointed, but that does not require intensive probing of Lawton and her personal life. Although this decision affects the political world and the state of Wisconsin, we must give Lawton the benefit of the doubt and not probe into her personal reasons for dropping out. Particularly unnecessary are the abhorrent comments of Green Bay radio personality Jerry Bader, who made completely baseless claims that Lawton's departure was due to marital issues.
It is significant to the gubernatorial race that the Democrats do not have a single candidate for the primary, but Lawton's announcement hardly affects the Democrats' chances in 2010. The primary is not until Sept. 14, 2010, and there is still plenty of time for prospective candidates, most notably Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, to announce.
It seems unlikely that Lawton will disappear from state politics completely. In her online statement, she said, ""I look forward to providing active leadership to shape smart decisions for Wisconsin in the 14 months that remain in my term in office."" Lawton has been heavily involved in Democratic politics and women's issues for years, and she is not likely to stop. But as of now, her personal motivations for her most recent decision are of little importance to anybody but her and her family. Let's keep it that way.