Wisconsin Democrats Face Divisive Primary in Advance of Fight Against Walker
Somewhere in Wisconsin, Scott Walker is smiling.
The embattled Republican governor, whose law curbing collective bargaining for public employees has aroused anger from coast to coast on the left, officially received word on Friday that he will face a recall election this summer. He also learned that on the other side, a nasty Democratic primary that threatens to shred party unity in advance of the general election is brewing. On one side is a Madison-area labor-backed woman. On the other, a man who has friends in high places, including former White House chief of staff and current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the man Walker defeated by six points in a 2010 open race, announced that he would enter the race for governor. Just four days shy of his own mayoral election, Barrett on Friday reminded voters of his 2010 run, vowing a renewed fight against the polarizing first-term governor.
"In the end, Russ Feingold and I both fell short in a Tea Party wave. But we can all take pride that we took the fight to Scott Walker, and the past 15 months have shown why that fight is so important," he said in a statement.
But to get a second chance with Walker, Barrett will first have to survive a May 8 primary. Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk is also running in the Democratic race. She's favored by organized labor and the left, while Barrett is no friend of the union community. Expected to get the almost all labor money, Falk will have a well-stocked war chest and a liberal Madison area base behind her. Like Barrett, Falk has run for governor before. In 2002, she finished third to Jim Doyle in a three-way primary. Barrett finished second.
"I welcome Tom to this important race. I have been working side by side with citizens around our state for over a year fighting hard against Gov. Walker's extreme agenda. I have a plan to reverse the damage that Gov. Walker has done - by bringing back openness, transparency, and accountability to government," Falk said in response to Barrett's decision to run. "It's a battle to invest in education, repeal billions in tax giveaways to corporations, protect women's health care and restore integrity to state government. Wisconsin needs to come together and we need jobs, and I am eager to heal our state and move us forward."
While Falk has her labor allies, Barrett boasts high-profile support of his own in a network that extends beyond the borders of the badger state. Emanuel appeared at a fundraiser for Barrett this week (though he has not endorsed him in the recall election). And Barrett made his own appearance at a fundraiser for the Obama Victory Fund featuring Vice President Joe Biden.