kathleen falk loses file photo

Former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk acknowledges her supporters at an election night party at The Edgewater hotel on the night of the Democratic primary election for governor. Falk was defeated by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who will face Gov. Scott Walker in a recall election June 5.

MIKE DEVRIES – The Capital Times

After Kathleen Falk's stinging loss in last week's Democratic gubernatorial primary, it's difficult to imagine her running for statewide office again, some political observers said.

But the former Dane County executive and longtime public intervenor at the state Department of Justice may not be done with public life.

"She was sincerely dedicated to public service, but politics is often about luck and timing. And she was never quite in the magic moment," said Mordecai Lee, UW-Milwaukee political science professor.

Falk campaign spokesman Scot Ross said Falk was focused on helping Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker and would not be available for an interview about her post-election plans.

Barrett defeated Falk by 24 percentage points in last Tuesday's primary, and by 31 points in Falk's home base of Dane County. But on Wednesday, she joined the other defeated candidates to pledge a united effort "to make sure that we recall Scott Walker in 28 days."

Madison attorney Linda Balisle agreed that her longtime friend's focus is now on recalling Walker.

"Beyond that it's a lot of speculation," Balisle said. "If Barrett got elected she'd make a fabulous DNR secretary. But on the other hand she's a great administrator."

Before being elected Dane County executive, a job she held from 1997 to 2011, Falk served as an assistant attorney general and public intervenor from 1983 to 1997.

"I think everyone would have confidence in her" at DNR, said State Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison.

State Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, a former member of the Dane County Board while Falk was executive, said he spoke to a lot of Falk fans last week while he was out gathering nomination papers to run for re-election.

"Of the hundreds of doors I've done, everybody I talked to loved Kathleen," Hulsey said. "But they just thought Barrett had the better chance of beating Walker."

As for another campaign, that remains to be seen.

"She had a long history as a Dane County executive to which she can point to with pride. But she had an odd ending," said Charles Franklin, a political science professor at Marquette. "I don't see how she can come back from a race like this."

Topf Wells, Falk's former chief of staff in Dane County, said he is confident she will find an important role, whether it is in the public, private or nonprofit sector.

"I see her as someone who tries to do something for the right reason and is always pushing herself to try new things," Wells said. "Whatever she does, I would expect she would be trying to innovate and push the envelope."

Contact Mary Spicuzza at mspicuzza@madison.com or 608-252-6122; contact Matthew DeFour at mdefour@madison.com or 608-252-6144.

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