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Walker, Barrett square off in first debate

By   /   May 25, 2012  /   39 Comments

By Kirsten Adshead | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON — It was respectful and understated, perhaps even a bit dull.

Gov. Scott Walker and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett squared off in the first of two gubernatorial recall debates Friday night in Milwaukee, and it was anything but passionate. The candidates, both wearing light blue shirts, red ties and dark suits, politely fielded questions from panelists. But they didn’t break any new ground.

In fact, if you’ve seen the campaign ads the two candidates have been running for the past few months, but managed to miss Friday’s first gubernatorial debate, well, you didn’t miss much.

Sponsored by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, the first of the debates was broadcast live across the state and nationally on CSPAN.

Walker and Barrett will face each other again before voters go to the polls on June 5. On Thursday, they are scheduled to appear at Marquette University Law School’s hosted debate.

Both candidates kept to their talking points:

  • Barrett says Walker incited an “ideological civil war” through the changes to public employee collective bargaining, and has threatened Wisconsinites’ quality of life from cutting $1.6 billion from education and local government aid.
  • Walker says his reforms are working, that he and the GOP-led Legislature balanced the budget without increasing taxes, and Democrats are focusing on other issues, such as the John Doe investigation, to distract from his administration’s “it’s working” message.

Walker passed on his chance to ask Barrett one question.

But Barrett didn’t pass up the opportunity to ask if Walker would release more details about his out-of-state campaigning and fundraising.

Walker replied, “People have seen me all across the state,” working for their best interests.

Asked how he would bring unity the highly polarized state, Walker said it’s time to for Wisconsinites to work together, moving beyond the collective bargaining issue.

“Going back and rehashing the same debate we had last year, as my opponent wants to do, is not the way to move forward,” the governor said.

Walker began by reminding viewers that, when he took office, the state was in a tough spot — high unemployment and a budget shortfall, both of which he has been addressing with tough choices.

Barrett began by saying that the race is not a repeat of the 2010 gubernatorial race because the state can’t redo the damage Walker has inflicted.

But this race is, in essence, a retread of 2010, when Walker, then Milwaukee County executive, beat Barrett 52 percent to 46 percent.

Three months later, Walker introduced the systemic collective bargaining reforms that rallied Democrats and the union troops, ultimately setting the stage for the June 5 Walker-Barrett rematch.

Thus far, however, Barrett’s fortunes don’t seem to be changing much from two years ago.

Although Barrett’s campaign has been touting an internal poll this week they say puts the Milwaukee mayor in a dead heat with the governor, independent polls taken in the past few weeks have given Walker a slight, but distinct, lead of about 5 percent.

Perhaps the most comprehensive poll being conducted on Wisconsin politics at the moment, by Marquette Law School, put Walker up by 6 points in a poll of likely voters taken directly after the May 8 Democratic primary.

Marquette will release its next poll data Wednesday, a day before the school hosts its gubernatorial debate.

University of Wisconsin-Madison political scientist Barry Burden said it was surprising that Barrett didn’t get a bigger bounce in the polls from his overwhelming defeat of the other Democrats in the May party primary.

But Burden said it’s still possible for Barrett to pick up ground before the election.

“There’ll be two debates — and we’ve seen these two debates before, there weren’t exactly fireworks — but you can imagine something happening in those debates” to change the dynamics of the race, he said.

If Democrats can energize their base, they have a shot, but right now, he said, “the advantage is for Walker.”


  • Cj Olson

    The Mayor only ATTACKED, ATTACKED, ATTACKED and looked Sweaty, Petty, and Bitter. The Mayor can’t run on his record (like Obama) so it’s attack mode. Cheap shot!!!! The Governor is running on his record and presented the “Facts” unlike this opponent. Governor Walker is a Class Act.

  • Geezerman

    It’s done,,,,It’s over,,,,Walker wins by a technicnal knock out.As usual Barrett comes across as a complaining

    cry baby.His political record is as dismal as Obama’s.Barrett’s political life only proves he should not have had one.

  • Mary

    I agreee…..Barrett had a mean, nasty look on his face from the beginning of the debate. He came across the same way AND he never did answer any of the questions. As for badgering Gov Walker for details of the “John Doe” case…..DUH! Mayor Barrett is an attorney and knows that legally the issue cannot be talked about. Gov Walker is smart and cool headed enough not to fall for such a desparate attempt to “trap”. Secondly, the bold policies Gov Walker and the Republican legislature have passed IS a HUGE issue across this country. There are many states in debt because of public sector union contracts. Of course Gov Walker has been out of state talking about the issues whenever invited and he’s been on talk shows when invited too. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if other states so deeply in debt decided to follow Gov Walkers lead and got their states back onto a road of financial recovery for all their taxpayers!

    I continue to support Gov Walker. He’s good for WI. and great for the taxpayers pocket book.

  • The Democrats have nothing to run on other than WDS. Barrett is a horrible candidate with a lousy record in Milwaukee. His turning and talking at Walker when making some absurd accusation was really annoying…A little advice here, Tom…you aren’t cross-examining here. You are answering a question.

    “Isn’t it TRUE Governor Walker, that it was YOU in the kitchen with the lead pipe!?!?!?”

    He absolutely looked petty, but that is what the Democrat party in Wisconsin has been reduced to….pettiness. From running away to Illinois, to yelling “Shame! Shame!” to stalking the Governor to this debate performance, they’ve been like petulant children.

    I did not see the Governor attack Barrett (full disclosure…I did not see the entire debate), but he spoke to the questioner and answered the question with what he has done, not with an attack against Barrett’s (dismal) record.

  • Andy

    Ok – who drank the Kool-Aid Mary? Are you billionaire investor? Let’s not forget that he did nothing to improve your taxes or pocket book if you are part of the middle class. Unless you are a corporation, he didn’t help you. Also, don’t forget that Wisconsin is paying over $98 million dollars in interest on the bills that Walker and the Republican Party refused to deal with in order to balance the budget. That puts over $500 million in costs that will hit in the next budget cycle. There is also money owed to big businesses in the next budget cycle – regardless of if any jobs were created by their companies or not. If we relate this move to how families budget – we just deferred paying for our credit cards, mortgage, have charged grandma more for living in the house that she built, and have told our kids that their on their own.

    Meanwhile, Mr. Walker has raised taxes dramatically on teachers in this state. This bit alone should have allowed the state to save on costs, but what he did is then cut education by over $1.6 billion dollars. That billion with a B. Money that was in your local community. Money that was earned by educators who for the past 2 decades have lived under the QEO law which again, only targeted teachers.

    Our children are the future of this state. It is our intellectual property that we grow and we want to keep. When my own child wants to find anyway she can to get out of this state, there is a problem. Our state is still deep in financial doo doo, you’ve just bought into the lies. I suggest you check out some other information besides what is spoon fed to you. The information provided above is freely available from government sources.

    It is time to wake up people. Walker is scamming you for all you are worth. Oh one more thing, hunters out there, hope you like paying for access to land to hunt. Ask your friends in Texas…it isn’t pretty. Not at all.

    Go Tom!

  • catherine

    I couldn’t agree more with the above replies. Walker is doing his best for ALL the people of Wisconsin,

    not just the unions. Milwaukee would be a better place with better educated students and better

    employment if it weren’t for the unions sucking all of the money away from the children and into

    their pockets and those of their high-priced insurance company. They have ripped off this state for too long. Collective bargaining is collective arm-twisting and Walker is finally putting a stop to it.

    The majority of Wisconsinites voted for him the first time and will do so again in great numbers. FORWARD!

  • Daniel

    Barrett is a typical lying politician – which is all you need to know in terms of not voting for him. Walker is a leader and is actually working for the benefit of average working people rather than his own self-interest.

  • John Bauer

    I continue to support Scott Walker. Barrett has never told Wisconsin people what he is going to do for the state, What is he going to to about Jobs? What is going to do about Economy, Taxes. Not in the 2010 race and now. The only thing Barrett can do is attack, Attack. When you debate something you have to tell your side and what your plans are for the future of the state. Maybe even answer the question. Not you know my opponent did this and he did that. BLAH BLAH Blah out of Barretts mouth

  • Jim

    All I have to say is this: I am utterly disgusted, as a retired officer of the uniformed services, to see the very rights that I defended being abused to the degree that they are by the unions and their democrat lackeys – including the current commander-in-chief, Obama, over sour grapes. These people have spit in all veteran’s faces with their behavior, and it is time that we hold them accountable. I think we need to send a resounding message to the liberals by electing them ALL out of office. Of course, the question then becomes, would they be intelligent enough to get the message?

  • Jeff

    Governor Walker did a great job.

    However, I wish he would talk about how happy the teachers (in the districts that used the tools in the budget repair bill) are now that the Unions are no longer extorting union dues from their checks. I wish he would talk about how many teachers are voluntarily paying their dues. I wish he would talk about how the taxpayers were forced to buy the teachers health insurance through the union insurance company at twice the cost and how much the districts are actually saving.

    After Walker is re-elected on June 5th, we need to contact our legislators and the Governor and demand they take action against WEAC and demand a return of all the money we over paid for the teachers health insurance in the past. That would certainly bankrupt them and we would never again in the future have to fear the return of that extortion of the taxpayers. All the dollars returned need to be returned to us in the form of property tax credits toward future property tax bills.

    Kepp up the great work Governor Walker!

  • Jeanette

    I can’t help but comment on the situation the residents of this country and the state of Wisconsin find ourselves in. On this weekend when we are remembering all the lives and sacrifices made by those who fought and died to preserve the rights of all,we are being called on to decide who we are going to elect to carry forth the fight to defend the Constitution. On the one hand we are battling the union thugs who invaded our state capitol, trashing the halls of our legislature and the grounds and streets of our state capitol and now ask us to elect for our Governor a man who was photographed participating in a mob scene at the capitol during the chaos. On the other hand we must choose between a man who hates our form of government and is working overtime to destroy our constitution and a man who has proven himself to be a patriot and has presented us with a blueprint to reverse the dangerous path the Obama administration has put our country on. This is the time for all good countrymen and countrywomen to take a stand and have the courage to look truth in the face and see what our future holds for us. I recently read a book written by David Remnick (who was an advocate of Obama early on, though I can’t imagine he can still be). The book was titled “Lenins’ Tomb” and cronicles the fall of the Communsts after the breakup of the USSR. This is what a totalitarian government looks like and this is what we see going on in this country right now. The union movement in this country, has been usurped by a socialistic agenda and their aim is to take control of our country by using our laws and constitution against us. Much like the Communists did in Russia. It became so clear to me as I read that book just what we must defend our country against. Starting right here in Wisconsin in this recall election. We must not fail to win this battle. If we do, it will be a long time before someone else will come forth with the courage and strength to make this bold of a move against such a formidable enemy as the thuggish unions. Scott Walker is brave and courageous patriot. He is a good, Godfearing man and deserves our respect and our thanks and our votes on June 5th.

  • Sherry

    Walker is a hero, he stood up to the union powers that have gotten a way with”legally” robbing the Wisconsin tax payer. What disturbs me is they will not stop, they have targeted Prosser, and others in the courts headed by liberal Judges bought and paid for by the Unions. When and how can this stop? It is time to look into the inner workings of the past Doyle Administration. I would love to play the game with them and file a law suit against the Democratic Party for trying to invalidate my vote and wasting millions of dollars to run these recalls. Unfortunately, the only way I would have enough money to do that would be to win the lottery.

  • David

    Such a clear picture when you see the 2 contrasted. Governor Walker is such a class act. Barrett has really lost my respect in recent months. I thought him to be a decent man, but his late stage antics are very immature. Once again, a majority of Wisconsinites will share my opinion when casting their vote on June 5.

  • John

    Barrett won this debate hands down. Walker sounded completely and – more importantly – guilty as charged for his ruthless attack on working people in Wisconsin.

  • dale coppens

    please know that when scott walker is indicted… you won’t have to worry about shooting yourself in the foot. All of you on disability, who are worried about religion, or guns and believing the false adds the bilionaire right are putting out. you will loose your benefits. you will get more minimum wage jobs. you will not have health care, you will be poorer while the rich get richer. good luck!! We were trying to help you get a fair shake as an American citizen. you support a criminal who will not release records. why don’t you just demand the release of the e-mails and then see how you feel about the way the Governor has done business with your tax dollars.

  • SunnyJ

    My 19 yr old daughter watched the debate with me and was very conscious of Mayor Barrett’s attempt to diminish Gov Walker by repeatedly (seriously like 40 times) calling him Scott, instead of Gov Walker. She noted this as a debate technique, and once she mentioned it, it noticed it also. We observed that Gov Walker did not take the bait or respond in kind. She also pointed out to me that Barrett did not answer the questions that were asked on specifically what he would do or propose or have done differently…and that the reporters asking the questions did not follow up and note that he did not answer the question.

    One thing that bothered me, and I wish Gov Walker would address this, is that when Mr. Barrett repeatedly states that Gov Walker started a civil war and Gov Walker caused all of the ill feelings, and brought all the outside money into Wisconsin….I wish the Gov would remind him that he won the previous election and was performing his duty…the 100,000 that demonstrated CHOSE to have ill feelings, CHOSE to declare civil war, CHOSE to leave the legislature and CHOSE to disrupt their lives. He CHOSE to do his elected job and he did it. The expense of the recall and the civil war belong to the 100,000 in the street. All of the rest of us that voted for Gov Walker before and will again were home doing our jobs. Look around the sky has not fallen. The war would be over tomorrow if Mayor Barrett and those he represents were able to practice what they preach and admit they lost and be able to work with others. Instead, they get mad and take their ball and go home. They own the civil war, not Gov. Walker.

  • bea

    Hey — my question to you concerning the second paragraph:

    How exactly did Walker ONLY, and I quote, “…raise taxes dramatically on the teachers in this state”… ? this statement confuses me. IF ! you are referring to the simple fact that the teachers are being required to pay a slightly higher amt on their pension/insurance benefits, then let me clarif,y Andy, this is not a “tax”. This is receiving the same treatment the rest of us do at our civilian jobs!! Buck up — let them pay the little extra $$$$$ – and stop murmuring and grumbling!! I’m tired of listening to all this whining.

    The truth for most of us civilians: IF we did the kind of “work” some (definitely not all! ) teachers do, many of us would not have lasted in our jobs since we would be terminated and shown the door ! More than the fact that government sector employees are required to pay a little more for their over generous “benefits”, I like– no, love — the idea that a teacher must continue every year to show their “worth & value to our kids” in order to stay at their postions of teaching !! LET me tell you some truth as I see it now… the idea that there IS pressure on every local school to WEED OUT some of those whiners and flackers which call themselves “teachers”. I love the fact that a burned out “has-ben” (which can be in their 1st year of teaching or 25th year) can be cancelled from their position of employment JUST LIKE ME (if I ignore the common rules of my employment !

    And Andy — all these “teachers” are still putting their $$$$ into the local communities in the same way they always have !!! they aren’t destitute due to having to pay a little more towards their retirement and health!! They didn’t completely give up eating! and driving their cars! and clothing their children’s backs! maybe not going to the “nightclubs” , watching movies, or baseball / football games as often, but their chldren still have fun and eat just the same !! Just because these teachers have to pay an extra 20-30 bucks into their pool of generous benefits a month doesn’t mean that they aren’t putting $$$ into our economy!! We ALL have to tighten our belts!! WHY shouldn’t the government workers do the same thing ??? Come ON !! such dripple and such DRAMA from your lips !!!!!!

  • Todd


    You need to read more. An independent study has shown that EVEN AFTER Act 10, WI taxpayers STILL contribute more to WI teacher HC than the same teachers in each of MN, MI, IL and IA.

  • Todd

    Barret won????? Go back to your little “shame, shame, shame” fantasy world.

  • Todd

    Well said. I noticed the “Scott” and other personal attacks. Barrett came of as a very petty small man with no real plans, simply echoing the intellectual shallowness of his “shame, shame, shame” union thugs.

  • Ed

    I agree, and will support Gov Walker. I’m so thankful that he continues to do what is right in spite of the left wing wacko’s that keep attacking him because the didn’t get there way.

  • Ed

    Teachers Unions have been sinking the state for years and the tax payer had no one to represent them. Now they do, and as far as taking away for education, if everyone gives there share, the kids don’t lose a thing. You must be a teacher.

    Go Scott

  • Motor247

    NOWHERE is “fair” mentioned in our Constitution… You sniveling leftist Unionistas need to go and bang your drums in Cuba, you may find fainess there. Gov. Walker will Not be indicted, he will be the Governor of the State of Wisconsin. You can always move south to the Worker’s Paradise of Illinois! Their programs are working wonders.

  • Mary

    Andy……where are YOU getting your info?!!! Wherever it’s from YOU are the one being scammed!

    I’m not a billionaire investor… just middle class. Teachers weren’t singled out to pay higher taxes…what a ridiculous statement! They do have to pay more toward their retirement and health care just like I do and thousands of other Wisconsinites.

    If the public school teachers in this state are doing such a great job of teaching why can’t many of their students look at a clock and tell what time it is, spell a word correctly, and put a complete sentence together?!! But they all sure know about that mean, ruthless Gov Scott Walker don’t they! Garbage in garbage out. Furthermore, why is it that every year the school districts need more and more taxpayer money to educate students when the end remains so dismal. Seems “it’s about the students” should read “its’ about the teachers and their benefits”…….I’m not convinced there is real concern for the students by many of the public school teachers. At least now the “bad teachers” can be weeded out.

    Gov Walker has this state on the right path to fiscal responsibility. We all need to pitch in to prevent this state from becomming another Illinois, California, or New York.

    Go Gov Walker!!

  • Hilly

    Take another toke, John. Barrett is about to be a 2 time LOSER! 🙂

  • jacob white

    Quote: “We were trying to help you get a fair shake as an American citizen.”

    When public employees can retire at age 45 with a pension of a 65 year old man, it’s not a fair shake. It’s robbing the next generation through legalized theft.

  • You horses (expletive deleted) Walker got rid of the deficit and lowered taxes unlike you Democrats who want to raise taxes and fees like Jim Doyle loved to do. The billionaire you dont like is creating new jobs, somehting Barret hasnt been doing.The previous commenter said and is right about all the lies Dems are using to defeat Walker. Wake up to the real world dude.

  • He (Walker) is going to be indicted for movig our State forward. Apparently not your state might I add.

  • Right on Mary I see you are observant.

  • Governor Walker doent have to attack Barret, he give the issues the taxpayers wanna hear and do. Besides the debate only had so much time Scott wouldnt have been able to get the truth about Barret in.

  • Another thing Catherine it isnt published that we the taxpayers are paying $16million for this ridiculous election Democrats like to spend our money and they did with this too.

  • I see you havent been observing the goings on in our state Johnnie


    The releasing of all of the historic documentation about our dear leader is working well for him. Oh yeah, he hasn’t released them! Anyway the media doesn’t really care what is really filling that suit! Vetting…we don’t need no stinking vetting! You will see what’s in it after you vote for it…!

    Hey, if it works in DC why not in Madison, too?

    Just shut up and vote!


    Maybe you shold have turned up the sound and taken off your extremely dark sunglasses when you watched…

  • RM

    @Dale Coppens

    Have you ever thought that perhaps the reason Walker hasn’t released any of the emails and documents, is because since there is a John Doe Investigation (which is supposed to be secret, but your friends, such as Chism, can’t seem to keep quiet about it), and he legally can’t release that information? So once again Barrett is lying in a campaign add, since he should know Walker can’t release that info. And since Chism is a Democrat, and the lead investigator has a blue fist and recall walker sings in his windows and yard, don’t you think if there was something to nail Walker with, they would release it? Only a week to go until the elections. When will they release it? Or maybe there’s nothing. Or do you just like to play guilt by association? Just because Walker new them, or they worked for him, he’s guilty? Yet, you think Obama and Doyle had/have no responsibility for anything their people do?

    How can you even say you’re giving people a fair shake. The Democrats are such liars. How is forcing all the jobs out of the state with high taxes good for the working man. Harley almost left because of Doyle. Miller, MW airlines, the list goes on and on. How many companies can flee under one administration? And what has Barrett done differently to keep the working man working? Nothing. He has no plan. Just bitching. Just like Obama. He had/has no plan. Just bitching. Which is why he’s the first president to not pass a budget. Even with 2 years of Democrat control. He didn’t get one single vote from even a democrat with his last budget. No plan. That’s how you think things will get fixed? No plans? Just bitching.

    Does part of your “help for the little man” include the hundreds of billions of tax payer dollars that Obama has given to these green energy companies that go bankrupt? Does it include the Doyle Madison to Milwaukee rail line that would have cost us billions, then 14 million per year to operate? That employed 400 people, and will cost over $100 for a ticket?

    This whole recall is a sham — it should be about the issue with which he is being recalled for — the collective bargaining issue. (actually, it should ONLY be used for misuse of power, and corruption, not because a politician did something that some people don’t agree with). And your candidate, Barrett, used that very policy to save Milwaukee 40 million dollars. And he didn’t fully implement it. Teachers are being NOT fired, because schools can afford to pay them. Some, in fact, are hiring teachers.

    You think your side is always right, and their not. In fact, what pisses most of us conservatives off, is your smug attitude that you’re righteous in your beliefs and what you do, but in fact you’re not. You’re just another political ideal, and a misguided one at that. You’re party crushes the spirit, because you’ve been telling people for so long, “you can’t do it on your own, you need the government to help you.” for so long it’s almost crushed the spirit of our country. It’s a poison that won’t stop until everyone is a brainless twat suckling of the government’s teet.

  • Wisconsinite

    Barrett lost so badly that I almost feel sorry for him. He’s always had the reputation of being the “nice guy” and someone who would be a great neighbor. He looked like Nixon in the Kennedy debate – sweaty, mean, repetitive, and panicked. I also noticed that he called the Governor Scott, while the Governor was polite enough to call him Mayor. These things do not go unnoticed. This lack of respect will come back to haunt him. Everyone on the “right” side of this – go vote! Early/absentee voting or on June 5th will work. The other side is getting lots of people out there already. This will come down to who is more motivated. Please, let it be the good people of the state of Wisconsin who understand that the hard decisions that Governor Walker made were in the best interest of ALL of the people of the state of Wisconsin. It’s about time.

  • RM

    @ Andy

    WHO left us with that debt?!? Blame Walker for this that and the other, but who left us with that deficit of 14 million in our budget? DOYLE!!!! Why would you want to elect more of the same? And you expect Walker to fix Doyle’s problem in less than a year (when the recalls started)? Yet Obama has now had almost 4 years, and you allow him to continue to blame the “previous administration.”

    Then your argument goes down hill from there, and start using the recall talking points about our poor teachers, and our poor children not getting an education, and blah, blah, blah. Crap. Teachers are NOT paying more in taxes (taxes are not broken down by occupation, unless you’re military, where you pay less). Those teachers who are now paying more for health care under Walker are FORTUNATE, because the schools who didn’t use Act 10 (MPS) are LAYING OFF teachers, so they don’t have to worry about paying in, now do they?

    PS — I AM middle class, and Walker saved me $700 in property taxes this year.

  • Paul

    There’s an old saying, The people who say it can’t be done, should stop bothering the person who is doing it!

    We finally have a Govenor who is looking out for the good of the whole, rather then one who is just trying to line his pockets. We have a great oppertunity here to show the Country that it’s time to ween the snibbling sucklings off the tax payers teat. The udder has long since gone dry, and now listen to the bawling of the sucklings that can no longer get all their sustenance from the udder. Well welcome to the forageing buissness world!

    There is still plenty of econnomic feed out there. It’s just time for the sucklings to fend for themselves. Over 49 % of the citizens in WI. either earn, or supplement thier income off the government ie.. taxes. When it gets to 50%, like our “Friendly Illinois Buddies”, WI. is done. Free, and cheap stuff is always fun, it just can’t be sustained or doesn’t last long.

    To all my public sevice union employee bretheren out there. We should be celebrating the long time we got away with it, not complaining that we need more. Collective bargining was just that, a bargin. It was never a “Right”.

    The free pursuit of happiness, is a right. The guaruntee of happiness is not. If you want fair and equal, try Cuba, or China. Most people there are equally treated, and fairly miserable.

    The only people that will turely be thrown from the saddle, is your union bosses that gleened our dues for years, and now will be kicked from the teat! The rest of us will be just fine.

    “The Fun Falls Through and the Rent Comes Due, Somewhere Along the Line”. I think there’s a song in there some where.

    I Stand With Walker!

  • Laura

    Thanks Dale. I wholeheartedly agree.