Polling taken just a few days before the Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial primary showed Tom Barrett with a sizable (and growing) lead over Kathleen Falk and other Democrats. Barrett has now capitalized on that momentum with a victory in the primary May 8 over Kathleen Falk. He has less than a month to take on the man who beat him in 2010, GOP Gov. Scott Walker, Public Enemy No. 1 of the Wisconsin Education Association Council and other public employee unions.
Preliminary results from the Associated Press, indicated that Barrett reaped 55 percent of the Democratic primary vote, while Falk, who had the backing of the teachers unions and other prominent collective bargaining groups, tallied 37 percent.
Not surprisingly, there are concerns about whether Democratic constituencies will fully unite behind Barrett. As Bloomberg points out, Barrett would not have been the poster boy of the angry protesters in Madison last year fighting Walker’s initiative to strip away collective-bargaining rights. He doesn’t even necessarily have the reputation of spouting fire and brimstone as a politician. One professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee even called Barrett “a nice Catholic boy.” And many state political observers have highlighted accusations that Barrett tried to covertly take advantage of Walker’s initiative to balance Milwaukee’s budget as the city’s mayor, even as he publicly deplored it. (WEAC endorsed Falk well before Barrett entered the primary.)
Still, Barrett did say that Walker “dropped a bomb” on the state with his actions against collective bargaining. The Marquette poll showed Barrett and Walker in a dead heat in the June 5 race. It will be interesting to see how Barrett’s rhetoric changes in the next three weeks, and whether collective bargaining issues or the state’s economy becomes his primary focus.
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.