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Former Sen. Russ Feingold revved up a crowd at a fundraiser for Tom Barrett on Wednesday night in the recall battle against Gov. Scott Walker.
The event, at the Majestic Theater in downtown Madison, drew a jammed audience of about 500 people.
Wisconsin state representative Chris Taylor kicked off the evening. “We’re not going to stand for what Scott Walker has done to our state,” she said, adding: “We want a governor who doesn’t have a criminal defense fund. We want our clean, transparent government back.”
She then introduced Feingold, who received a very warm reception from the crowd.
Feingold stressed Barrett’s honesty and kindness. “He’s an exceptionally decent person,” he said. “I’ve never met a more decent person in or out of politics.”
Barrett’s inclusive style of governing is what Wisconsin “desperately” needs right now, Feingold said.
He then made the case for the recall of Scott Walker, acknowledging that “recalls are unusual, and they should be.”
But Feingold said there are three sufficient reasons for recalling Walker.
“Number one: He committed a surprise attack on the people of Wisconsin,” Feingold said, by going after workers’ rights and voting rights. “These are fundamental rights,” he argued.
“Secondly, the tactics he used were outrageous. They were ruthless,” Feingold said. He mentioned the squelching of debate in the state legislature and the manipulation of the state supreme court. These tactics were “unforgivable,” he said.
“Number three, the governor’s people are under investigation for criminal conduct,” Feingold said.
Each of these reasons, taken alone, would be sufficient to remove Walker from office, Feingold argued.
“If we do not prevail,” he warned, “Scott Walker will have committed the perfect political crime. Don’t let him get away with it.”
Feingold then turned the microphone over to Barrett, who was met with resounding applause.
“We’re going to win this thing,” he promised. And then he said: “You got to love Russ Feingold. He should run for office some day.”
Barrett also joked that “not a penny of tonight’s proceeds will go to anyone’s legal defense fund.”
He accused Walker of being more interested in his own political ambitions than in the interests of the state of Wisconsin. “It’s never been about Wisconsin, but about moving his career forward,” Barrett said. “He wants to use this state as an experimental dish for the rightwing. We’re not going to let that happen.”
Playing off Walker’s now-infamous remark to one of his billionaire donors that he wanted to “divide and conquer,” Barrett said Walker “has succeeded in dividing this state as never before. But we will never, ever, let him conquer the middle class in Wisconsin.”
Barrett said no true leader would try to do that to people, and he stressed the importance of “trust and integrity.”
He also criticized Walker’s failure to create the 250,000 jobs he promised back in 2010. Barrett, who ran against him last time, said he heard that figure from Walker almost as many times as he heard Walker brag about being an “Eagle Scout and the son of a preacher.” Barrett then pointedly asked how Walker could square those two credentials with having a criminal defense fund.
Acknowledging Walker’s fundraising advantage, Barrett said: “He’s got the mountains of money. I’ve got you.”
Toward the end of his speech, Barrett raised another issue: Walker’s war on women.
“I will make sure women have access to all forms of health care,” he said. “I want the women of this state to be able to make their own health care decisions—and not in consultation with their governor.”
Barrett ended by saying that the election is about “the future of this state” and he vowed: “We will reclaim our state.”
After his speech, in a brief meeting with reporters, Barrett returned to Walker’s legal difficulties. “When he spends $260,000 in attorney’s fees, we’re not talking about a parking ticket,” Barrett said. “It’s time for him to tell the people of Wisconsin what’s going on. It’s time he comes clean.”
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story “Wisconsin gubernatorial recall race is historic."
Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter