With only six weeks to go before one of the nation’s most historic state elections, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is in a strong position among Democratic candidates hoping to knock Governor Scott Walker from office. But first he has to win the primary.
On May 8, Barrett faces former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, WI Secretary of State Douglas LaFollette and State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) in a four-way primary. The winner takes the Republican candidate on June 5. Walker also faces a primary challenge against Arthur Kohl-Riggs.
Barrett has run for governor twice before. In 1992, he lost in the Democrat primary to Gov. Jim Doyle and lost in 2010 to Walker himself.
This time around, Barrett says he knows he has a real chance at winning, citing the Republicans’ pegging him as the front-runner even before he announced his candidacy on March 30.
“All the negative ads are aimed at me,” Barrett said. “The Republicans don’t want me to be the candidate. I am by far the strongest, and the party needs its strongest.”
ThirdCoast Digest sat down with Barrett as he began the final week of the primary campaign for our time-tested Five Questions.
Barrett says is he running because “we need to focus on creating jobs in Wisconsin rather than on an ideological civil war.
“It was telling that the day after the Super Bowl in 2011, the governor said he was going to ‘Drop the bomb,'” Barrett says. “He changed political history in this state, ending 50 years of collective workers’ rights. He divided this state, divided families and declared a war whose victims are jobs.”
Q2: What is the most important issue facing Wisconsin right now?
“This election is a referendum on Gov. Walker and his policies,” Barrett said. “Are people satisfied that Wisconsin lost more jobs that any other state in the past year? No. Do people want the divisive war to end in Wisconsin? Yes.”
Q3: What distinguishes you from the other Democrats running in the primary?
“I hit the ground running,” he says. “I’ve been in the executive branch, I’ve done budgets, I’ve created jobs.”
Barrett is also proud of the fact that Sen. Herb Kohl has endorsed his candidacy for governor. Kohl has only given one endorsement during his entire political career – to his nephew, Dan Kohl, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for the state assembly in 2008. Former Rep. David Obey (D-Wausau) has also endorsed Barrett in this race.
“They recognize that I am the strongest candidate who can win, and will win,” Barrett says.
Q4: Are you seeking support or taking money from unions and out-of-state PACs? Why or why not?
“I do have some union support,” Barrett says, adding that he has focused on grass roots support in Wisconsin, not on out-of-state funding. While he hasn’t secured the support of the state’s largest employee or teachers unions, Barrett is proud to have the endorsement of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association and the Iron Workers Union.
Q5: If elected, what is your first act as governor on June 6?
“I can tell you what I won’t do,” Barrett tells ThirdCoast Digest. “I won’t do a public speaking tour around the country to attack collective bargaining. Instead, I will be here to focus on the creation of jobs, not raising money from the Koch Brothers.”
Barrett says he plans to start his term as governor by reaching out to the people of the state to heal the divisive civil war raging in Wisconsin.
The gubernatorial recall primary is Tuesday, May 8. As per a ruling by the state appealate court, Voter photo ID will not be needed to vote in this contest.