Kelda Roys meeting with prospective voters

The Democratic candidates for governor say if nominated they plan to focus their campaigns on themselves — on what they will do for the state rather than on how Scott Walker has failed it.

Our Democratic endorsement for the August primary is based on which candidate stands the best chance of defeating Walker in November. 

There is little sunlight between the Democrats when it comes to political views and policy, but there are differences in how a face-to-face matchup against Walker would look.

One candidate clearly would do the best — and that candidate is Kelda Roys.

At 39, she has a range of experience that Walker, at 50, lacks — partly because he’s never held a job outside of politics.

She is a smart, charismatic, committed progressive who understands the challenges facing the middle class and has detailed plans on how to address them. Roys is a lawyer, former Assembly member, entrepreneur, businesswoman, mother and engaged community member with a history of volunteerism. 

She looks at issues and solutions in terms of how they will affect people, while Walker sees everything in terms of its effect on his donors and political career.

Roys displays the values, resolve and leadership to guide Wisconsin into a future where all citizens who work hard have a chance to succeed, regardless of their abilities to make large campaign contributions.


Kelda Roys at the podium

Roys, 39, has experience as a legislator, entrepreneur, businesswoman, mother and director of a non-profit. Scott Walker, 50, has worked half …


Roys will be a candidate unlike any other who’s taken on Walker. Much more than previous challengers, she appeals to women and young voters. She’s not shy about articulating her positions. She’s the unabashedly progressive candidate so many Wisconsin voters have wanted for so long.

Young people may play an outsized role in the outcome of this election. Enraged by gun violence, the cost of education, destruction of the environment and the emphasis of conservatives on outmoded social-war issues, they want to see their reality addressed by political leaders. Inspired by how school-shooting survivors in Parkland, Florida, shook things up, first-time voters stand ready to fight for a place at the table.

Religious conservatives traditionally determine the outcome of gubernatorial and midterm races in Wisconsin, but this year young people will give them a run for their money.

As we enter the final weeks of the primary, Roys’ campaign is on the ascendency. Influential progressive leaders and groups are lining up behind her — some publicly (see sidebar), others privately. 

Like several of the other Democratic candidates, she’s loaned money to her campaign but, unlike others, she’s managed her financial resources with the frugality Wisconsin voters want in a governor. She ended the most recent campaign finance reporting period with a 2-to-1 advantage in cash on hand, putting her in the best position to invest in television and other advertising between now and Aug. 14.

On July 27, she became the first Democrat in the running to air a TV ad.

We urge voters to seize on Roys’ momentum and help carry it into November. If progressive and moderate voters split their support among the eight-person Democratic field, no single candidate will emerge from the primary with enough force to take on Walker’s battery of wealthy special interests.


As Shakespeare once wrote, “ripeness is all.” In 2010, conditions were ripe for Walker, but this year belongs to Roys.

The smart money is on female candidates this election cycle, and a record number of them are running for offices at all levels of government. Women own 2018.

The midterms mark the first major election cycle since the women’s marches that arose worldwide following the election of Donald “grab-’em-by-the-pussy” Trump. Those events stoked the most active women’s movement since the bra-burning feminism of the 1960s. The movement continues to grow as assaults on women’s rights and equality continue unabated under the nation’s far-right Republican leadership.

Trump’s election was followed by the revelation of an epidemic of sexual harassment and assault in America. People were enraged when victims of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s epic lechery came forward. It wasn’t long before women from every sector of society followed suit, identifying aggressors, and the #MeToo movement was born.

Now, the profligate Trump is packing the courts with religious-right judges, including the U.S. Supreme Court. Women are becoming aware that the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized their right to choose whether to give birth may be overturned. For many, that’s added exigency to the election, because Wisconsin has a law on the books criminalizing abortion. If Roe is repealed, that antiquated state law would go into effect — and under the state’s current leadership, there’s little question about whether it would be implemented.

Wisconsinites support a woman’s right to choose, even though Republicans have closed Planned Parenthood clinics and enacted increasingly limited restrictions on choice. A Marquette University Law School Poll earlier this summer found 63 percent of people in the state support that right in either all or most cases — a number that’s remained near constant since 2012. 

While support for choice has remained constant, opposition has fallen from 45 percent in 2012 to 29 percent today.


Roys has been the most upfront candidate on choice. She’s said that if Wisconsin’s law criminalizing abortion does return, she would use her power as governor to pardon anyone convicted under it.

Roys, who worked for four years as executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin, is at sharp odds with Walker on the issue. After promising during his 2014 campaign to honor a woman’s right to choose, Walker, after his re-election, proceeded to implement some of the strongest abortion restrictions in the nation. He’s continued to whittle away at choice and women’s health programs ever since. 

While Walker’s past challengers have let him dodge women’s issues, Roys will not. She’ll make him answer for his repeal of the Equal Pay Act. She’ll demand to know why he’s refused to eliminate sale’s taxes on women’s health products, such as tampons. Such items are not even included among those on Walker’s vaunted Aug. 5 sales tax holiday, a silly concept of no consequence conceived as a blatant attempt to buy votes.

None of the Democratic candidates can raise more than pennies on Walker’s dollars. He already has $5.5 million on hand for his gubernatorial campaign. He’s raised more than $100 million for his gubernatorial races, and that doesn’t include the tens of millions that third-party groups representing corporate interests have spent on his behalf.

Strong backing from women’s groups and youthful volunteers will help to offset Democrats’ fundraising disadvantage. Roys’ nomination would also dovetail with the efforts of groups that are on board for Tammy Baldwin’s re-election campaign. Having two women at the top of the ticket would create both tactical and emotional synergy. The chance to elect Wisconsin’s first woman governor and re-elect its first female senator presents an exciting opportunity to make history in the “forward” state that’s been moving backward since 2011. 

Mandela Barnes, one of Roys’ former Democratic Assembly colleagues, is running for lieutenant governor — a nomination he’s likely to win. Barnes is both young and African-American, which ratchets up the history-making prospects of the Democratic ticket and should increase critical turnout among black and Latino voters.

Roys checks all the right boxes for progressives when it comes to her policy agenda. But she’s already demonstrated a commitment to the issues and causes that matter to us. She’s walked the walk.

Wisconsin progressives are lucky to have a candidate like Roys at this moment in time. She’s intelligent, articulate, poised and forceful. Among all the Democrats running, she presents the most striking and positive alternative to Walker. 

But first, she must win the Aug. 14 Democratic primary. We urge you to make that happen.

About Kelda Roys

About Kelda Roys

Kelda Roys, 39, was born in Marshfield and grew up outside Medford, a town of about 4,000 residents in north central Wisconsin. There, she learned about the challenges in small-town and rural Wisconsin, many of which have grown worse under Scott Walker. 

Under Walker, rural areas of the state face declining populations, chronic poverty due to the lack of family-paying jobs, underfunded schools and youth programs, poor roads and infrastructure, inadequate if any internet coverage, and barriers  to accessible,  affordable quality health care, particularly for women. 

These issues top Roys’ agenda.

Roys has a strong and wide-ranging background. In 2004, she received a J.D. magna cum laude from UW-Madison Law School. She served as executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin for four years before being elected to the General Assembly, where she represented a district that includes Madison.

Roys was a state lawmaker 2008–13. Her accomplishments in the Legislature include helping expand Badgercare to 80,000 Wisconsinites unable to acquire insurance.

Most recently, Roys has found success as an entrepreneur and a businesswoman. She founded and developed a high-tech real estate company that grew quickly to establish a presence in 41 of the state’s 72 counties. 

Roys is the mother of four children. She’s given generously to the community by lending time and expertise to civic organizations. She’s served on boards for Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Women’s Council, ACLU of Wisconsin, Madison Repertory Theater, Dane County Democratic Party, Wisconsin Public Interest Law Foundation and the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Legal Services Committee.



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