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Week in Review: Total recall in WI a 'wild rumpus' indeed

By   /   May 11, 2012  /   No Comments

By Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON — When Maurice Sendak wrote, “And now,” cried Max, “let the wild rumpus start!” he wasn’t referencing Wisconsin recall elections.

The analogy, though, is unexpectedly apropos.

The beloved “Where the Wild Things Are” author died Tuesday — coincidentally, the day Wisconsin kicked off a “wild rumpus” of its own.

Wisconsinites took to the polls Tuesday to decide which candidates will compete in the June 5 recalls involving Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican state senators.

Although the results surprised no one, the primary started a month of wall-to-wall electioneering so complete that May’s motto could be “all recall, all the time.”

The candidates

In a rematch of the 2010 gubernatorial race, Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett will face Walker in the recall election.

Technically, Tuesday’s primary election hasn’t been certified, and the results could change.

But, according to unofficial results, Barrett bested his nearest competitor in the Democratic primary, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, 58 percent to 34 percent.

Most of the state’s unions backed Falk in the Democratic gubernatorial recall primary.

But a day later, the union-backed We Are Wisconsin political action committee held a “unity march,” during which union leadership said they are committed to helping Barrett win.

“We are going to end the divisions in this state, divisions that look to blame somebody for Wisconsin’s problems instead of looking for real solutions,” said Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s main teachers union. “We are going to stand together, and we are going to support Tom Barrett in this election.”

Unofficial results indicate Kleefisch will face Democrat Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin union, in the lieutenant governor race.

In the four districts where GOP senators also are facing recall elections:

The politicking

With just four weeks between the primary and general recall elections, Barrett and Walker wasted no time in trying to wrangle support for their campaigns.

If there’s one thing on which Barrett and Walker agree, it’s that they definitely plan to move Wisconsin forward.”

“Barrett’s path of taking Wisconsin back to the days of billion-dollar deficits, double-digit tax increases and record job loss, we are confident that voters will choose to stand with Governor Walker and move Wisconsin forward,” the governor said Tuesday in a statement.

“We need a governor who will end the civil war and put Wisconsin first,” Barrett said in his election-night statement. “It’s time to fix Wisconsin and move our state forward.”

On Wednesday, they debated debating.

Barrett requested four debates; Walker agreed to two.

Both campaigns launched new ads as well — in what the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which tracks political spending, says already is the most expensive race in Wisconsin history.

The video

In January 2011, Walker told Beloit billionaire Diane Hendricks that he would use the collective bargaining legislation to “divide and conquer” unions, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

The video by documentary filmmaker Brad Lichtenstein, released Thursday to the Journal-Sentinel, shows Walker responding to Hendricks’ question about whether he could make Wisconsin a “completely red state, and work on these unions, and become a right-to-work state.”

Lichtenstein has worked for Democratic campaigns and contributed to Barrett’s 2010 campaign, according to the Journal-Sentinel. But he told the newspaper he shows both political sides in his work.

In the video, Walker goes on to say what he has said publicly since proposing the collective bargaining changes, that the changes are necessary to help local governments address state budget cuts.

“If we have collective bargaining agreements in place, there’s no way not only the state but local governments can balance things out. … That opens the door once we do that. That’s your bigger problem right there,” the governor said.

He goes on to talk about curbing liability lawsuits and government regulations.

The recalls of 2011 and 2011 have been driven by anger over the changes Walker and the Republican-led Legislature pushed through last year, limiting collective bargaining to cost-of-living salary increases for most unionized public workers.

Recent polls, however, have indicated that job creation is the main issue on which voters will decide which candidates to support in the recalls.