Democratic state Sen. Tim Cullen bowed out of the governor's race Wednesday, saying he can't raise the money to compete with better-known opponents and he has no desire to participate in what he said was going to be a "political war."
His departure leaves former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk as the only announced Democratic candidate to take on Republican Gov. Scott Walker if a recall election is ordered. A number of other high-profile Democrats, including Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and former U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, are considering running.
Petitions seeking to force a recall election against Walker are in the process of being verified. The recall was largely motivated over anger related to Walker's proposal that effectively ended nearly all collective bargaining rights for most public workers.
Cullen was among 14 Democratic state senators who fled to Illinois for three weeks in a failed attempt to stop the bill from passing.
Cullen, a moderate who once served a top position in Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson's administration, said he wants to try to bring the two parties together. But he said a recall election against Walker would be a "non-stop political war."
"The person who comes out of that race is going to be in a terrible position to bring this state together," the 67-year-old Cullen said. "I came to Madison as a centrist and I discovered there was no center."
Cullen also faced a nearly insurmountable financial disadvantaged. He had raised just over $11,000 last year while Walker raised more than $12 million.
Cullen said no one asked him not to run and he would endorse whoever emerged from the Democratic primary.
"The only person talking me out of the race was myself," he said.
Republican Party spokesman Ben Sparks said that Cullen's dropping out wasn't a surprise and that no matter who the candidate is Walker will prevail.
Falk issued a statement saying Cullen has a "long record of principled service to the people of Wisconsin" and she looks forward to working with him.
Cullen previously served in the Senate from 1974 to 1986 before he left to become secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services under Thompson. He later worked for nearly 20 years as an insurance company executive before winning election to the Senate again in 2010.
Cullen said he intends to seek another term in 2014.