Janesville36.1°

Barrett: Race to boil down to jobs

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
May 4, 2012
— Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says Gov. Scott Walker will outspend him 20 to 1 in the four weeks leading up to the June 5 recall election—or maybe as much as 50 to 1.

But that can happen only if Barrett wins Tuesday's primary election.


Barrett visited Janesville on Thursday, continuing his campaign strategy of ignoring the three other Democrats running for the chance to face Walker on June 5.


The others are former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, Secretary of State Doug La Follette and state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout. Barrett leads in the polls, so his strategy seems to be working.


The Milwaukee mayor met supporters at the Time Out Pub. His speech was all Barrett-versus-Walker.


The governor also seems to think Barrett is the guy to watch. Walker's campaign website on Thursday led with "Tom the Taxer," saying that Milwaukee under Barrett "has seen a dramatic increase in taxes and government spending, coupled with an astonishing loss of jobs."


Barrett on Thursday blamed Walker for the job losses in Milwaukee and statewide. He pointed to the decision to cancel a $116 million maintenance contract with train manufacturer Talgo and wind-farm siting legislation that Barrett said killed or suspended seven wind-farm projects "because neither of them fit his (Walker's) ideological playbook."


Barrett boasted to the crowd that despite Walker's multimillion-dollar campaign spending, Barrett is still running neck-and-neck with him in the polls.


Walker reportedly had $4.8 million cash on hand at the close of the latest reporting period, about 10 times as much as Barrett did.


About 60 supporters at the Time Out seemed pleased with what Barrett had to say.


Retiree Leon Freeburg of Janesville noted that Barrett lost to Walker 18 months ago by 5 percentage points. Freeburg figures that if Barrett can pull in the independents and disaffected Republicans, he'll win this time.


"I don't believe in Mr. Walker's environmental policies, the way he's treating women. He seems to be siding only with the rich," Freeburg said. "I believe Mr. Barrett can bring in jobs."


Barrett told the crowd that the campaign will boil down to the jobs issue, even though it started with the Republicans ending public employees' ability to bargain for anything except a limited wage increase.


Walker promised in the 2010 campaign to create 250,000 jobs, Barrett said, and yet Wisconsin had the worst record on jobs of any state in 2011.


Barrett returned to his oft-repeated theme of how Walker has started a "political civil war" and how Barrett is the one to end it.


Asked in an interview how he would do that, Barrett said he succeeded in a politically divided Milwaukee because of his style.


"I don't try to embarrass people. I don't try to score political points at other people's expense. I try to work with people, and I realize the state Legislature is a much more partisan institution, but I had success in Milwaukee working with people.


"I think part of it is, do you want to work with people, or do you want your approach to be 'my way or the highway,' and that's the way Scott Walker has always operated—you either do it my way, or you're not going to do it."


Barrett said he's been in politics long enough not to be naively optimistic. "I know the knives are going to be out, but if you work directly with communities—if you work with the business community or the environmental community—you're going to be able to at least try to find where the common ground is, instead of … this (Walker's) ideological playbook."


Barrett said he will support the Democratic nominee, no matter who wins Tuesday.


Barrett told the crowd of being invited to the White House to watch the Packers in the 2011 Super Bowl. When asked later if he expects help from President Barack Obama in the recall election, however, he said no.


"I think he's got his own fish to fry right now," Barrett said of Obama. "He's obviously concerned about his own re-election, so I don't think that's a slight or anything."



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