By Kirsten Adshead | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — The stage is set, the players chosen. Let the all-out battle begin.
Gov. Scott Walker and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett are set for a rematch of the 2010 gubernatorial election, this time in the June 5 gubernatorial recall election.
The recall is the culmination of a fight that began 15 months ago, on Feb. 11, 2011, when Walker announced plans to limit the ability of unionized public employees to bargain collectively.
No strangers to the campaign trail, both men sounded a familiar tune in their victory speeches Tuesday night.
Barrett said he pledges to “end the ideological civil war” he believes Walker started in Wisconsin by pushing a strongly conservative agenda.
“I have lived in this state my entire life, and I have never seen the situation we have now where neighbors don’t talk to neighbors, co-workers can’t talk to co-workers, family members shy away from family members about politics because it gets too bitter,” Barrett said. “It does not have to be that way.”
Hear Barrett’s victory speech here
Walker said Wisconsin voters have a stark choice June 5, when Wisconsinites will decide whether to oust Walker halfway through his first term.
“Do we go backwards or do we go forwards?” said the governor.
Walker ran for governor pledging to create 250,000 jobs, but has seen Wisconsin lose 23,900 from March 2011 to March 2012.
Still, he said that, under his reforms, Wisconsin has turned a corner, citing a recent report in “Chief Executive” magazine that shows the country’s CEOs are liking the business climate here more and more.
“We’re just getting started,” he said.
Barrett bested three other Democrats, including union-backed former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, to win Tuesday’s Democratic primary with 57.47 percent of the vote, with nearly 94 percent of precincts reporting.
Although Walker had a token opponent in Capitol protester Arthur Kohl-Riggs, the governor won the GOP primary with 96 percent of the vote, according to a preliminary tally by the Associated Press.
Barrett over Falk
Falk’s endorsers included such major state public unions as the Wisconsin Education Association Council
teachers union, whose members were most affected by the controversial collective-bargaining changes Walker and the GOP-led Legislature pushed through last year.
Under Act 10, most public unions are limited to bargaining for cost-of-living salary increases, and workers are required to contribute more to their health-care costs and pension plans.
Barrett, though, had led Falk in opinion polls due, in part, to voters approving of Barrett’s plan to change the new collective-bargaining law over Falk’s pledge to hold the state’s budget hostage if Act 10 is not overturned.
In a Marquette Law School poll taken April 26-29 of 705 registered voters, only 37 percent of respondents agreed with Falk’s plan for the state budget, with 48 percent opposing it. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.
Barrett, instead, proposes holding a special session on collective bargaining, and 52 percent of those polled approved of that option.
“My feeling is … the unions were a bit premature in endorsing her,” University of Wisconsin-La Crosse political scientist Joe Heim said of Falk. “They endorsed her well before they even knew who the other candidates were going to be.”
The challenge for the Milwaukee
mayor, now, is to persuade Wisconsin it needs a do-over.
In 2010, Barrett lost to Walker, 46.48 percent to 52.25 percent, in their bid to replace outgoing Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle.
The recall election looks to be even closer.
According to the Marquette poll, for the June primary, Barrett leads Walker, 47 percent to 46 percent, among registered voters surveyed.
Walker, however, leads 48 percent to 47 percent, among those who identified themselves as likely voters.
That indicates a much tighter race now than in 2010, according to polling data
, which collects polling numbers.
Some political pundits are questioning whether, in the wake of a contentious primary, Democrats can unite to defeat Walker, considering they failed to do so two years ago.
Monday’s announcement that a planned “unity rally” scheduled for Wednesday, featuring the four Democratic gubernatorial candidates, was canceled only fueled rumors of internal discord among Democrats.
Heim said he believes Democrats and unions will unite under the shared goal of defeating Walker, “because that’s, frankly, about the only way they’re going to win.”
The other races
Voters on Tuesday also chose the candidates who will face off in June 5 recall elections, involving Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican state senators.
The Democratic candidates in the Senate races also beat the “fake” Democratic candidates the Republican Party of Wisconsin ran to force Democratic primaries.
- Lori Compas, of Fort Atkinson, will face Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, of Juneau.
- Former Rep. Kristen Dexter, of Eau Claire, will face Sen. Terry Moulton, of Chippewa Falls.
- Rep. Donna Seidel, of Wausau, will face Rep. Jerry Petrowski, of Marathon, who is running in place of Sen. Pam Galloway, who resigned.
- Former Sen. John Lehman, of Racine, will face face Sen. Van Wanggaard, also of Racine.