Wisconsin Governor McCabe (copy)

Mike McCabe, former executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, is running for governor as a Democrat.

Andy Manis

The leader of a nonprofit group that encourages people to challenge the political establishment has filed paperwork to set up a run for governor — as a Democrat.

Mike McCabe filed paperwork with state election officials Monday to establish a campaign committee.

The move allows him to begin raising money. McCabe told the Associated Press he expects to announce he’ll run as a Democrat in September. He had been considering running as an independent.

McCabe leads the nonpartisan group Blue Jean Nation, which promotes itself as working to promote change in government.

Milwaukee businessman Andy Gronik announced earlier this month he will run for governor as a Democrat. A number of other Democrats, including state schools Superintendent Tony Evers, are pondering a run.

Other potential candidates include Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma; Reps. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire, and Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh; Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ; Madison mayor Paul Soglin; and former Democratic Party chairman Matt Flynn. Political unknowns Bob Harlow, of Barneveld, and Ramona Whiteaker, of Stoughton, join Gronik as the other formally declared Democratic gubernatorial candidates.

Rick Adamski, a farmer from Shawano County, is the treasurer of Commoners for Mike McCabe.

Before launching Blue Jean Nation, McCabe was executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which monitors campaign contributions. He was with the group from 2000 to 2015.

McCabe had also worked for the Madison School District, the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance and three Republican senators. He ran for Assembly in 1998 as a Democrat, but lost in the primary.

His book “Blue Jeans in High Places” is about the influence of money in politics, and he has toured the state to promote it.

He had said he was considering the run in response to a letter from 190 Wisconsin residents, including Adamski, urging him to do so.

Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, has indicated he will announce a run for a third term after the state budget process wraps up. The budget for 2017-19 was due July 1.

A state Republican Party spokesman called McCabe a “phony.”

“Phony Mike McCabe has posed for years as a reformer while in reality taking money from dark-money heavyweights and secretly practicing the sort of partisan politics he condemns,” said GOP spokesman Alec Zimmerman, citing the democracy campaign’s receipt of funding from the Open Society Institute for a project on state Supreme Court elections. “While Governor Walker has reformed our state, Mike McCabe would do nothing but mislead Wisconsinites and take our state backwards.”

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