Fri May 4, 2012
More aggressive Barrett hopes to win Tuesday's primary
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is trying to keep the focus on Scott Walker, ahead of next Tuesday's Democratic primary in the gubernatorial recall election.
Just five weeks ago, Tom Barrett's only official campaign was running for re-election as Milwaukee mayor. He didn't want to appear to take that contest for granted, so Barrett was the last true Democrat to enter the Democratic gubernatorial recall primary. But because of the statewide organization Barrett set up during his failed bid for governor in 2010, supporters of Barrett were out just two days later collecting nomination signatures for him. Melissa Warner circulated papers on April 1st, at a Democratic party dinner in Racine. "He's the best candidate to oppose Walker because my feeling is, don't you wish you'd voted for him the last time?" she said.
A few days later, Barrett joined the other Democratic candidates at a forum in Milwaukee, and with a passion some observers didn't hear in Barrett two years ago, he talked about the Republican Governor's Association having aired a TV ad aimed at convincing Barrett not to run. "...and i'll tell you what my reaction was, if you're going to hit me, I'm getting into that boxing ring," he said. "I'm coming into that boxing ring because if you're gonna let me have it, I'm gonna let you have it right back."
While Barrett's main Democratic rival, Kathleen Falk, successfully went after union support, Barrett in part lined up backing from some past and present Democratic office holders, including Congresswoman Gwen Moore, former Congressman David Obey, and U.S. Senator Herb Kohl.
"I don't do endorsements easily. But in Tom's case, I know him well enough to speak out in his support without any reservation."
During the compressed recall primary campaign Barrett has run TV ads, held news conferences and appeared at forums like tonight's in Madison. Like the other candidates, he has done less of the meet and greet handshaking you'd see in a longer campaign.
But Barrett did press the flesh this week at a Milwaukee diner. One of the customers at the diner was real estate agent Suzy Koutsios.
She says Barrett cares about people. "He's a people person. He might not be right on every one of his issues, but he does care about the people and he will rethink his issues if he think it has to be."
Some of Barrett's past beliefs continue to trouble a sizable number of people affiliated with public sector unions. They say Barrett has been too accepting of taxpayer-funded voucher schools in Milwaukee, and they remember when Barrett supported Democratic Governor Jim Doyle's failed push to give the mayor more oversight over MPS. So, retired Milwaukee teacher Jeff Wagner supports Kathleen Falk.
"I think we need to have this system for the people who are living here and for the people who are going to support public education and not privatize, give it away and job everything out for everybody else."
Wagner says he would support Barrett if the mayor wins Tuesday's Democratic primary. But labor's disappointment with the mayor, and unions typical ability to get people to the polls have made a Barrett primary victory somewhat less than a sure thing. Barrett has tried to brush away any differences between him and Falk, and instead keep the focus on defeating Governor Walker in June. Barrett has been zeroing in on job losses under walker and did so again yesterday in Madison. Despite Barrett being a latecomer to the Democratic recall primary, polls show him in a dead heat with walker, and with the best chance to defeat the Republican incumbent.