Gubernatorial recall candidates make closing arguments to voters

MILWAUKEE — A gubernatorial recall election has only occurred twice in United States history, and on Tuesday, May 8th, Wisconsin becomes the third state to host such an election. Voters will take to the polls Tuesday in the recall primary, and with one day to go, Wisconsin’s gubernatorial candidates campaigned across the Dairy State, making final arguments to voters.

Democrats will pick a candidate Tuesday to take on Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in the general election June 5th. Walker does face a Republican protest candidate Tuesday, Arthur Kohl-Riggs, but Walker is all-but-guaranteed to advance to the general election.

Monday, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett campaigned with the lunch crowd in Kenosha, meeting voters at institutions like Frank’s Diner, Tenuta’s Deli and the Gateway Diner.

Barrett’s closest Democratic competitor, Kathleen Falk, campaigned on Barrett’s turf. “I’m from Milwaukee, and there’s a lot of people in Milwaukee who are eager to get our state back on track,” Falk said.

Falk spoke with students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “They are reeling under the cuts in education and they are suffering under the increase in tuition,” Falk said.

Barrett says the Democratic campaign has been largely positive, but all that will change in the general election, when he says Republicans will outspend the Democratic nominee.

“For every commercial that I run, Scott Walker can run 25 negative commercials, so people watching your stations will see 25 negative commercials about me for every one that I can run.  If this is about outside money, I won’t win, but at the end of the day that money might come back to haunt him.  There’s something wrong when a sitting governor has a legal defense fund. There’s something wrong when a sitting governor gets 60 to 70 percent of his money from out of state,” Barrett said.

Voters reacted to Barrett’s message that he would heal the political divide. “There’s nothing getting done, because as he said, there’s a civil war with the Democrats and the Republicans,” Holland Dvorak said.

“I think it’s just a spin. It’s real easy to start a fight and then announce that we need to end this by having you surrender, and that’s what I’m seeing. A bunch of crybabies who couldn’t wait for the regular election,” Glenn Woods said.

Walker visited a dairy business Monday to tout job gains. Walker says despite being challenged by 23-year-old Kohl-Riggs in the primary, he’s setting his sights on the general election June 5th.

Both Walker and Barrett released new TV ads Monday targeting one another. The ads focus on jobs – what voters say is the number one issue in the recall campaign.

In front of a crush of news media Monday, Barrett brought a visual aid to make his case against Walker on the jobs front. “This is a graph of what the national job growth is in 2011. If we had simply mirrored the national job growth, that’s 64,000 new jobs.  February 2011, that’s where it starts diverging,” Barrett said.

Walker argued that his reforms are just beginning to work, and the recall itself is creating uncertainty for employers. “Since I’ve been in office, there’s been a net gain, and in particular in the last three months as things have settled down, in the first quarter of 2012, Wisconsin netted 15,600 private sector jobs. We’re headed in the right direction,” Walker said.

Falk says her jobs record when she was at the helm of Dane County makes her the best candidate. “Dane County grew more jobs than any other county in my 14 years,” Falk said.

Falk says the polls that show her trailing Barrett also show 19 percent of Democratic voters undecided, and in that group, she sees a path to primary victory. “Huge numbers of undecided voters, and that’s why you campaign right to the end,” Falk said.

State Senator Kathleen Vinehout was attending get-out-the-vote events in western Wisconsin and Secretary of State Doug La Follette was working in Madison.

Last week’s Marquette University Law School poll showed Barrett with a commanding lead over his rivals, but 19 percent were undecided.

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