MADISON, Wis. — Matt Flynn rejected calls Tuesday from two fellow Democrats to drop out of the race for governor because he worked as an attorney to defend the Archdiocese of Milwaukee against claims of sexual abuse by priests.
Flynn, the former state Democratic Party chairman, told The Associated Press by telephone that he was "pumped" about continuing his campaign and it was time to "move on." Flynn planned to launch his first television advertising in July.
"We're going to win this," he said. "I'm working very hard, harder than anybody."
Flynn is one of eight Democrats seeking the nomination in the Aug. 14 primary for a chance to take on Republican Gov. Scott Walker in November.
State Reps. Chris Taylor and Melissa Sargent, both of Madison, called for him to end his candidacy, saying that his past work for the archdiocese makes him unfit to run. They said documents showing Flynn's role in the priest abuse cases — which have been public for years — make clear that he could have done more to protect the public.
The lawmakers said that Flynn "participated in keeping parishes and the public in the dark about dozens of these pedophile priests, placing children at risk of being sexually abused."
Both the Women's March Wisconsin and the National Organization for Women in May called for Flynn to end his candidacy, leading Flynn to say critics of his past legal work can "jump in the lake."
Taylor and Sargent said that reaction demonstrates a lack of compassion and lack of understanding of the magnitude of the priest abuse scandal.
Flynn, 70, worked as the attorney for the archdiocese from 1989 to 2004. Flynn has said he worked hard to settle the priest abuse cases and treat victims with dignity and respect. He said he put in place safeguards before he stopped representing the archdiocese in 2004 to make sure no priest accused of wrongdoing can be shuffled to another church.
Flynn said those trying to force him out of the race want him out because they seem him as a threat to state Superintendent Tony Evers, who led the field in last week's Marquette University Law School poll. Evers had a double-digit lead over Flynn and the other Democratic candidates, but Flynn said his fundraising remains strong and the attacks show that he's seen as a threat.
Taylor and Sargent said at a news conference that no one had asked them to come forward against Flynn. They said they will not be endorsing any Democratic candidate in the primary.
The increasing pressure on Flynn to drop out comes after two other Democrats — Milwaukee businessman Andy Gronik and state Rep. Dana Wachs — ended their campaigns last week.
Republican Party spokesman Alec Zimmerman said it was clear from the start of the race that Flynn's role in the priest abuse scandal made him unfit for office and Democratic candidates for governor "should be ashamed of themselves for remaining silent."