MILWAUKEE, WISC. – Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett easily won the Democratic primary on Tuesday in Wisconsin, setting up a rematch with Governor Scott Walker (R). The two faced each other in 2010, with Walker winning, getting 52% percent of the vote over Barrett’s 47%.
“We need a governor who will end the civil war and put Wisconsin first. It’s time to fix Wisconsin and move our state forward,” Barrett said in his victory speech last night at the Hyatt Regency in Milwaukee.
Barrett’s Democratic primary challenger, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, immediately threw her support behind the mayor saying, “I give my full support to Tom, and I urge you to do the same. Now we must turn to tomorrow. Gov. Walker must be recalled.”
Now that the contested primary race is over, divisions within the party still remain. The battle to face Walker has put the party in disarray and has many Democratic leaders scrambling to unify the party in time for the June 5th recall election.
Today, all the Democratic gubernatorial candidates will meet at Barrett’s home for what is being called a ‘unity’ event in hopes to end any quarrels between each other.
When asked about the division in the party Mike Tate, chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said, “ I have no question in my mind that are friends from organized labor, are allies in the progressive movement are 110% behind Tom Barrett ready to go and in 28 days we are going to beat Scott Walker.”
Tate also spoke about the ‘unity’ event saying, “I fully expect we are going to see all the democratic candidates tomorrow talking about their strategy to beat Scott Walker and talk about the best way to get behind Tom Barrett. I fully expect all the candidates will campaign for Tom Barrett.”
Still, questions remain as to how the party will unite and what strategy they will use in trying to defeat Governor Walker. Already, Barrett has moved away from campaigning on collective bargaining rights, the reason the recall was issued in the first place and has switched his focus to jobs.
Labor leaders who supported Falk have also been furious with Barrett implying the candidate supported Walker’s stance on collective bargaining. Andy Stern, the former longtime leader of the national Service Employees International Union said he expects “a short let-down” if Barrett comes out on top of Tuesday’s primary.
AFSCME has been critical of Barrett for demanding too many concessions from the union in his role as mayor.
Barrett canceled his appearance at a Democrats’ post-primary “Unity Event” over fear that pictures with him and other union leaders will be used against him in his race for Governor against Scott Walker.
The recall race is expected to be very close. According to a Marquette Law School poll, Walker leads Barrett by one percentage point among likely voters.
Post-primary, Tom Barrett has to figure out how close he can cozy up to Wisconsin’s unions – still smarting from concessions he demanded in Milwaukee – and excite them to drive GOTV for Democrats on Recall Election Day, without letting Scott Walker convince voters that the mayor is really in Big Labor’s pocket.