• WisPolitics

Saturday, March 31, 2012

 5:25 PM 

Four Dem guv contenders make first public apperance together

Kathleen Falk stressed Saturday to Milwaukee-area Dems that she’s the one who’s been on the campaign trail for the last two months laying a foundation to take on Gov. Scott Walker in the upcoming recall election, while Tom Barrett portrayed himself as the candidate who’s battle tested and ready for the race.

Barrett and Falk were joined by fellow Dem guv candidates Doug La Follette and Kathleen Vinehout Saturday in speaking to the state Dem Party's annual 4th Congressional District Convention. It was the first public appearance featuring all four candidates after Barrett jumped into the race Friday. The four will square off May 8 in a primary to see who will take on Walker in the June 5 recall election.

Falk said she is undeterred by Barrett's announcement.

"We have 37 days here and I've been out there working all last year side by side with citizens all across this state and that's why I've earned the endorsement of every single organization that has endorsed against Scott Walker," she said.

In her speech, Falk stressed her Milwaukee-born roots as the granddaughter of a bus driver, but also noted that her family lived many years in rural Waukesha County, where she developed a love for the environment.

"No matter where we are from in Wisconsin, we share the same values," she said. "We want a good education for our kids, a decent home, a good-paying job, and clean air and water. Governor Walker has assaulted and affronted each and every one of those core values."

Barrett told the crowd he's the candidate "who's been tested, who's been through the battles."

"I ran against Walker in 2010, and I feel as if I spent a year of my life saying, 'I know this guy. I know this guy He's on an ideological warpath. Listen to me,'" Barrett said. "I feel like I spent the next year of my life saying, 'I tried to tell you.'"

Barrett accused Walker of lacking commitment to Wisconsin for "failing to stick around" to help pass venture capital and mining legislation. And Barrett said Walker was more interested in punishing his political enemies than concentrating on job creation. He said union leaders had already agreed to concessions on health care and pension benefits when Walker went further and eliminated their ability to collectively bargain.

"This was an ideological war, and he had his opponents on the ground,” Barrett said. “They were crying uncle. With Wisconsin values, when you have someone on the ground crying uncle, you get off. But he didn't get off them. He kicked them again."

Falk earlier this month called on Barrett to support her campaign, arguing he had his shot at Walker in 2010 and now she get behind her bid.

She said in an interview after the event that she spoke with Barrett yesterday before he announced he was in.

"I said, 'We'll see you on the campaign trail,'" Falk said.

But she declined to say whether she had ever asked Barrett directly for his support, saying only, "We've been friends for decades so we speak regularly."

La Follette stressed his statewide reputation and his appeal to moderate voters, including Republicans whom he says were fooled by Walker and who should be embarrassed at the divisiveness created by the Walker administration. La Follette also blasted the trend of high campaign spending.

"Big money politics is a destructive force," La Follette said. "Democrat or Republican, we have to stand up against the tremendous power of big money."

La Follette said he's running because he couldn't stand by while Wisconsin is "being torn apart." and added, "It's clear that people didn't expect an attack on so many issues."

La Follette told WisPolitics.com that Barrett's decision to run for governor must have been a tough one because Barrett already has a job as mayor of Milwaukee, along with family responsibilities. La Follette said he has the advantage of being single, and that he is neither seen as a Madison liberal or a big city mayor.

Vinehout started her speech by describing the reason she was one of the14 Dem senators who fled to Illinois in an attempt to stall the vote on Walker's budget repair bill, which included the collective bargaining changes. She called Feb. 17, 2011, a life-changing date.

She said she took a call at 6 a.m. from fellow Dem Senator Mark Miller, advising her of the urgency of the situation and three hours later, she was intent on crossing the Illinois border.

“I knew they had the votes and we would lose if we went to the floor," she said. "We took the power that was given to us in the constitution to stop the process. We took back our power for our constituents. If I hadn't gone to Illinois to slow this bill down, I wouldn't have been doing my job."

Vinehout told WisPolitics.com she welcomes Barrett's entry into the gubernatorial race.

"I think it's a good thing. It will raise the profile of the race, it will bring more attention to this race," she said.

But Vinehout said she has the advantage of appealing not only to Milwaukee-area Democrats, but people in other counties, including those who lean Republican and may have voted for Walker in 2010. She also noted a majority of voters in her Senate district voted for Walker in 2010.

Vinehout argued none of the other Dem candidates can match her current state government experience.

"Since I've been in state government, I've dealt with every major issue a governor faces: health care, education, balancing the budget, figuring out how to make programs effective ... there's nobody that's running that has that current experience in state government."

-- By Kay Nolan


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