Patrick J. Lucey, left, at the National Press Club in 1980 after Independent presidential candidate John B. Anderson of Illinois, right, announced that Mr. Lucey would be his running mate. (AP)

Patrick Lucey, a Democrat and former Wisconsin governor who was the running mate of independent presidential candidate John B. Anderson in 1980, died May 10 at a senior living facility in Milwaukee. He was 96.

His son, Paul Lucey, confirmed the death. The cause was not reported.

Mr. Lucey was elected governor in 1970 and won reelection in 1974. He left during his second term to serve as then-President Jimmy Carter’s ambassador to Mexico.

In Wisconsin, Mr. Lucey pushed to merge the University of Wisconsin at Madison with the state college system, a fierce battle that created today’s system of 13 four-year state colleges.

Patrick Joseph Lucey was born March 21, 1918, in La Crosse, Wis. He worked as a grocery store manager and served in the Army during World War II before receiving a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1946.

He was elected to the state assembly in 1948 and became executive director and later chairman of the state Democratic Party. He also served a two-year term as lieutenant governor beginning in 1965.

Before Mr. Lucey was governor, University of Wisconsin campuses at Madison, Milwaukee, Green Bay and Parkside; 10 freshman-sophomore centers; and the extension system operated outside the chain of nine other state schools such as Platteville and Eau Claire. Each group had its own board of regents.

Mr. Lucey concluded that the arrangement was wasteful and called for a merger. But he faced stiff opposition from critics who said that combining the Madison campus with the other schools would draw money from the flagship campus and eat away at the university’s control of its own affairs.

Mr. Lucey successfully mustered the support to make the merger happen. In October 1971, the state Senate approved consolidation by one vote.

Carter tapped Mr. Lucey to serve as ambassador to Mexico in 1977, a year before Mr. Lucey’s second term as governor would have ended.

He left the ambassadorship in 1979 and publicly criticized Carter’s policy toward Mexico. Before the 1980 Democratic convention, he continued to rail against Carter and supported the candidacy of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who was unsuccessful in defeating Carter for the nomination.

Mr. Lucey then joined the independent ticket headed by Anderson, a Republican congressman from Illinois. Anderson and Lucey won more than 6 percent of the popular vote but failed to win any electoral votes. Republican Ronald Reagan won the election.

Mr. Lucey later worked as a political and business consultant and as a fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

His wife, the former Jean Vlasis, died in 2011. Survivors include three children and nine grandchildren.

— Staff and wire reports