“I’ve been doing this work for years. I’ve been an independent watchdog and worked for decades exposing the legal bribery of our elected officials,” says Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mike McCabe. “I’ve been working to get regular people a voice in the political system. This has been my life’s work.

“I’m running for governor for the same reason. This is about trying to get regular people a fair shake and to get them in the driver’s seat of our government,” McCabe adds. “If you look around, our country is in real trouble. Our state is in real trouble. I don’t recall a time in my lifetime when politics were this fouled up and when our country is at greater risk than what it is right now.”

Picture of the McCabe family farm in Curtiss, Wisconsin

McCabe grew up on a family dairy farm in Curtiss, Wisconsin, just west of Wausau in the middle part of northern Wisconsin. He’s returning there this morning to Derrico Farm to host a press conference at 11 a.m. where he will formally announce that he will be running for governor of the state of Wisconsin.

“That’s the family that bought our family’s farm from us. They’ve invited me back to the farm where I grew up to make the announcement,” McCabe tells Madison365. “For me, that’s very exciting. I really felt strongly to go back to the farm where I grew up and to make the announcement in Curtiss.”

A young Mike McCabe working on his family farm with his dad in Curtiss, Wisconsin

Are you going to have to do morning farm chores like in the olden days when you go back?

“Haha. I’m not sure if they are planning on putting me to work or not, but I would fit right in,” McCabe laughs. “I know the place really well.”

McCabe is a 1978 graduate of Owen-Withee High School and a 1982 graduate of the University of Wisconsin School of Journalism, which honored him with its Distinguished Service Award in 2015. He is the founder of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which digs in deep to expose the sources of political donations. For decades as an independent watchdog, McCabe shed light on the legal bribes and exposed what these transactions do to corrupt the government and to rob common people of their voice.

More recently, McCabe founded Blue Jeans Nation, a grassroots organization that is trying to transform state and national politics by striving towards a government that works for people rather than moneyed interests. Earlier this summer, McCabe filed paperwork with the Wisconsin Ethics Commission forming a committee called “Commoners for McCabe” and announced his intention to run for governor. His often-repeated slogan “principle over party” can be found at his campaign website. This morning on his childhood farm, McCabe will make it official.

“I think what sets me apart is when you look at the field of candidates that is taking shape – and they are all very accomplished people – they all have one thing in common: they all seem very comfortable operating within the political system as it currently functions,” McCabe says. “And they all seem to be at peace with the political culture as it is. And I’m not. I think we have to shake up the system and transform it.

“I don’t think the political culture as it is right now is tolerable. I think the political culture in Wisconsin has been poisoned and corrupted and we have a duty to change it,” he adds. “And I think that’s what sets me apart from the field more than anything else. I’m running to shake up and transform the political system so we can get our government working for all of us and not just the wealthy and well-connected few.”

McCabe doesn’t consider himself a member of either political party, but will be running as a Democrat because he feels like that’s what would give him the best chance of changing the political system. McCabe has been traveling the state quite a bit reaching out to people of small towns in every corner of Wisconsin.

“The issues might be different from place to place. If you go to Kewaunee County [in Eastern Wisconsin], they are up in arms about these huge industrial feedlots and they are scared to death about their water supply. You have people who turn on their water faucet and what comes out is brown and smells like cow manure,” McCabe says. “You go to western Wisconsin – some place like Trempealeau County or Buffalo County and they are concerned about sand mining. But, what I hear everywhere is that the people who are in charge of the Capitol aren’t working for them. The everyday folks in Wisconsin don’t believe that their voices are being heard and they don’t believe that their interests are being represented. They are really frustrated with both major parties. They are really alarmed at what is going on in their country and right here in our state. I think they desperately want a different kind of leadership and a new kind of politics.”

Mike McCabe gets ready to be interviewed by Madison365 Academy intern Teeaisia Hoye at the Villager Mall on Madison’s south side last summer.

McCabe says that a lot of people who would have never thought about running for office in the past have to step up and think about running now. “Our country and our state need that. Regular people are going to take matters into their own hands. I think that one of the things that really distinguishes me from the rest of the crowd is that they have experience that has taught them how the system works and how to work the system, the decades of experience that I have has shown me that the system doesn’t work for regular people and I understand what we need to do to get it to work for regular people. That’s why I’m running.”

McCabe says that he plans on passing on all of the big money in his run for governor, something that is unheard of in this day and age. In fact, he’s not accepting any single donation over $200.

“This campaign will have to be people-powered and crowd funded. I can’t in good conscience take the huge donations that the law allows candidates for governor to take,” McCabe says. “If you run for governor, you can take up to $20,000 from an individual donor and you can take $86,000 from a political action committee. But what all my work over these past several decades has taught me is that those donations amount to legal bribes. I can’t in good conscience take that money so I’m going to have to rely on a lot of people making much smaller donations and it will have to be crowd-funded.”

McCabe says that it will be key to tap into other forms of political currency. “People become so fixated on money in politics. I think people have forgotten that there are other forms of political capital,” he says. “Organized people and provocative ideas are forms of political capital. This campaign is going to have to offer provocative ideas and to rely on people power in addition to small donations from large numbers of people.”

On Wednesday, McCabe will be making campaign stops in small Wisconsin cities of Abbotsford, Edgar, and Wausau. Also on the schedule are stops in Green Bay, La Crosse, and the Wisconsin African American Women’s Center in Milwaukee. But it will all start at the 11 a.m. press conference today where McCabe will formally announce his gubernatorial run. Later on in the day at 5:30 p.m. there will be a barn party and a kick-off rally at the same location.

“There is such an urgency right now. Our country is really at risk. Common folk have got to be willing to step into the political arena and maybe do things that they never thought they would do before,” McCabe says. “This is no time for same old, same old.”