By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — Another wild week in Wisconsin politics, punctuated by big-name political visits, new numbers and charges and allegations.
In short, another week of recall campaigning as the Badger State edges closer to a historic election day on June 5.
Bobby pays a call
Jindal, the first Indian-American elected governor and a rising star in the Republican Party, fired up the faithful in Waukesha, telling the crowd of about 300 people that Walker has been a great leader for Wisconsin, and America.
“If you want a great example of a statesman, a true man of integrity, courage, conviction and principle, it is right here in Gov. Scott Walker,” he said.
In advance of Jindal’s arrival, Walker’s gubernatorial recall Democratic challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, hit the airwaves with a campaign ad calling on Louisiana’s governor, who has vowed to end corruption in his state, to demand Walker release emails involved in a Milwaukee County John Doe investigation.
The super-secret, albeit very public, probe has targeted former aides of Walker when he served as Milwaukee County executive before beating Barrett in the 2010 gubernatorial election.
“Gov. Jindal, ask Walker why he’s under investigation,” demands the ad, in which Barrett does not appear.
Barrett has made the John Doe investigation, which has not implicated the governor, a focus of his campaign to topple Walker.
Where are the big-gun Dems?
While Walker has welcomed national conservatives like Jindal and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Barrett’s campaign has been light on national Dem celebrities.
Wisconsin Democrats have complained about the lack of A-list party members campaigning in a recall election in which most polls show Barrett trailing Walker, if not on the higher end of the margin of error.
Politico, The Hill and others have noted the lack of star power on the Democrat’s side. And it certainly has been noticed at home.
“No kidding has Walker gotten to them too? Where’s Michael Moore, Susan (Sarandon) and that Monk guy? (Stephen) Colbert? Sure when we protest and make the national news they want their name out there looking like they are with us. Nice job. It is so disappointing.” wrote Colleen Burke of Madison on Wisconsin Reporter’s Facebook site.
University of Wisconsin-Madison political scientist Barry Burden posited that national Democrats have quietly begun to give up on the race or Barrett is playing the low-key card, that his support comes from the state while Walker parades a lineup of national politicians for his cause.
Walker keeps rolling in polling
On the numbers front, two new polls last week showed Walker continues to hold the lead.
A poll by libertarian Reason magazine showed Walker leading Barrett by 8 percentage points, 50 percent to 42 percent.
The Reason-Rupe poll, conducted May 14-18, surveyed a random sample of 708 Wisconsin adults on cell phones and landlines. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.7 percent.
On Wednesday, a poll released by St. Norbert College and Wisconsin Public Radio showed Walker outpacing Barrett among likely voters, 50 percent to 45 percent, within the poll’s 5 percent margin of error. The telephone survey of 406 respondents was conducted between May 17 and May 22.
Local elections officials around the state have been swamped with absentee ballot requests for the June 5 recall elections, which also includes a race for lieutenant governor and four state senate seats.
As of Friday afternoon, at least 113,558 absentee ballots had been issued. That compares to 68,000 in the May 8 recall primary elections.
On Monday, the first day elections officials were cleared to send out ballots, the city of Madison had issued 5,825 absentee ballots, 407 of those in-person, as of 2 p.m.
“Ever since January, we’ve been getting calls asking about the recall election, when could they get a ballot,” Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl . “Absentee requests have been coming in the entire year.”
Charges and allegations
While Barrett pounded Walker about the John Doe investigation, charges of perceived conflict of interest popped up in the case.
Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm released a tersely worded statement Monday in defense of David Budde, his chief investigator into a John Doe probe involving Walker’s former aides.
The district attorney responded to a Media Trackers report earlier in the day that Budde had a “Recall Walker” sign in the front yard of his home.
Media Trackers, a Milwaukee-area conservative watchdog organization, also reported Budde’s home has a pro-labor “blue fist” poster on the front door.
Chisholm said he spoke with his chief investigator and Budde confirmed that his wife, an employee with Milwaukee County, placed the recall sign in the front yard of the home about a week ago.
He did not mention anything about the blue fist.
“I do not regulate or control the constitutional freedoms of my employees’ families in their private lives,” Chisholm wrote in Budde’s defense. “They have the right, under state law, and in this case, county civil service rules, to express their political views as does any other citizen.”
Report: Act 10 saves taxpayers
While a lightning rod for controversy and recall, Wisconsin’s Act 10 has paid significant dividends to taxpayers, according to a new analysis by the Beacon Hill Institute for Public Policy Research, at Suffolk University in Boston.
Act 10, which curbed collective bargaining for most unionized public employees, in the whole has saved taxpayers more than $1 billion, according to The Economic Impacts of the Wisconsin Budget Repair Act. The study is slated for release this week by Beacon Hill Institute, a prominent free market think tank.
What the analysis found is that without the law, which in part requires covered public employees to contribute more to their benefits and holds wage increases to the rate of inflation, Badger State governments would have been forced to raise taxes or make deep job cuts to meet budget expenses.
As it was, Walker and the Republican-led Legislature pushed through reforms and reductions that filled a $3.6 billion budget shortfall, although organized labor asserts Republicans balanced the budget on the backs of public employees.
The Beacon Institute analysis argues the law may have been controversial, even divisive, but there’s no disputing its benefit to taxpayers.
“The cost-saving measures prevented painful tax increases that would have damaged the state’s private economy resulting in slower job and income growth,” said Paul Bachman, BHI director of research. “Moreover, the provisions avoided further painful layoffs of school teachers and other public employees.”