‘Program! Get your June 5 vote program!’

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Steven Walters
Monday, May 14, 2012

The historic June 5 recall election for governor will be between Republican Scott Walker, the Baptist minister’s son who has had the job for 17 months, and Democrat Tom Barrett, the lawyer just elected to a third term as mayor of Milwaukee running for governor for a third time.

It’s a winner-take-all cage rematch being watched nationally, since Walker beat Barrett—52 percent to 47 percent—in November 2010.

If you see it as a sport event, here’s a program:

Ages: Walker is 44; Barrett, 58.
Family matters: Walker, his wife, Tonette, and their two sons split their time between their Wauwatosa home and the executive residence in Maple Bluff. Barrett, his wife, Kris, and their four children live in Milwaukee.
Faith: Walker is a born-again Christian; Barrett is Catholic.
Early years (from Walker campaign Website):

“Scott Walker grew up in a small Wisconsin town called Delavan. The son of a pastor, Scott had the spirit of service instilled in him at an early age. He was involved in sports, band, church, and achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.

“While in high school, Scott was selected to attend the American Legion’s Badger Boys State program. There, he was selected as one of two representatives to Boys Nation in Washington, D.C. Both of these programs teach young men that the American form of government is stronger and more vital in today’s world of struggle and change than ever before. The experience opened Scott’s eyes to public service.

“In 1986, Scott moved to Milwaukee to attend Marquette University. While still in school, he worked for IBM before leaving school in his senior year to work full time in development for the American Red Cross.”

Early years (from Barrett campaign Website):

“Tom’s parents settled in Milwaukee, where they raised Tom and his brother and two sisters in a middle class home on the city’s west side.

“Tom grew up cheering for the Braves, and of course, the Brewers, along with Badgers, Warriors and the Packers.

“He worked in high school as an usher at (Milwaukee) County Stadium. He would go on to graduate from college and law school at UW-Madison, spending time in between working on the assembly line at Harley-Davidson.

“Tom turned to a career in public service, earning a reputation for his integrity, for his respect of diverse views, his ability to bring people together, and for his hard work.”

Walker enters politics (from campaign):

“Scott was elected to the state Assembly in 1993. While there, he chaired several committees and authored important pieces of legislation that include: truth-in-sentencing, photo identification requirements to vote and the elimination of the statute of limitations in sexual assault cases.

“In 2002, Scott was elected Milwaukee County executive to reform the scandal-ridden county government. The scandal rocked Milwaukee County to its core and left taxpayers on the hook for millions in pension obligations.”

Barrett enters politics:

He was elected to the Assembly in a 1984 special election, elected to the state Senate in a 1989 special election and elected in 1992 to the U.S. House. He was re-elected four times in the old 5th Congressional District but did not run in 2002 after Wisconsin lost a U.S. House seat after the 2000 Census.


Walker raised a staggering $25 million over the last 16 months with fundraising travels nationally and one-on-one sessions with rich conservatives, who sent him home with large donations. Once the June 5 recall election was officially scheduled, Walker devoted himself to retail politics—holding four and even five official or campaign events in a day.

Barrett’s voters could be more motivated, however. “Defeating Scott Walker” was listed the second-most important reason for voting June 5 by those who responded to the latest Marquette University statewide poll, for example.

June 5 wild cards: The tiny—at little as 3 percent or 4 percent—number of voters who repeatedly tell pollsters they are undecided. If those undecideds break evenly or don’t vote, the party with the best get-out-the-vote effort wins.
Loser’s consolation prize: If Barrett loses, he has a job—Milwaukee mayor—that takes him home at night. If Walker loses, according to Governor’s Journal magazine, “He is a political martyr, but still a star.”
Steven Walters is a senior producer for WisconsinEye. This column reflects his personal perspective. Email stevenscwalters@gmail.com.

Last updated: 8:35 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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