By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican Gov. Scott Walker joined the growing bipartisan call Wednesday for Democratic candidate Matt Flynn to drop out of the race for governor because of his past legal work defending the Milwaukee Archdiocese against priest abuse lawsuits.
Flynn remained defiant.
Walker, in a tweet, said Flynn’s “actions disqualify him from serving.” He called for the other seven Democratic candidates to join with him in agreement. One of the seven — little-known political newcomer Josh Pade — did call on Flynn to drop out. The other six either didn’t respond or refused to ask Flynn to get out.
But Pade, an attorney making his first run for office, said he was standing with the victims of sexual assault.
“Matt Flynn’s vehement defense of his actions show a complete disrespect and disregard for victims and their families,” Pade said.
Other Democrats were much more measured, while frontrunner Tony Evers was still critical.
“This particular case is very serious and today Governor Walker has finally joined me in speaking out about it,” Evers said. “I trust the voters of Wisconsin to elect a governor who will treat all people with respect and dignity.”
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said in a statement, “It would be self-serving for me to call upon a primary opponent to drop out of the race. I will leave that to others.”
Flynn has repeatedly defended his work for the archdiocese and his more recent explanations of the extent of his meetings with priests.
“I have been saying all along that the Republicans are behind this smear campaign,” he said in a statement Wednesday. “They don’t want Scott Walker to run against me, because I will eviscerate him on the debate stage. They are used to having milquetoast, bland Democratic candidates; not a Navy veteran and excellent attorney with a spotless ethical record.”
Others who have called for Flynn to drop out of the race over this issue include Democratic state Reps. Melissa Sargent and Chris Taylor, both of Madison; Women’s March Wisconsin; the Wisconsin chapter of the National Organization for Women; survivors of childhood priest abuse; the Wisconsin Republican Party; and longtime Milwaukee priest Domenic Roscioli.
Flynn, 70, is the former chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party. He was the archdiocese’s attorney from 1989 to 2004, during the height of the priest abuse scandal.
He said Republicans have stood up for the Koch brothers, Vladimir Putin and the Russians and for the tax break package for Foxconn Technology Group, the largest incentive in Wisconsin history.
“It is time Wisconsinites have someone aggressively standing up for them,” Flynn said. “Voters will decide this primary, not party elites from either side.”
Flynn this week released an email of support from former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland. A group of 23 attorneys has also come forward to defend Flynn, saying he was doing his job representing the archdiocese and should not be condemned “for serving well the American justice system.”