Pre-Election Snapshot of a Divided Wis. Town
I just got back from a visit to Fort Atkinson, WI, 33 miles east of Madison.
Back in 2010, the town went narrowly to Walker, who got 2,252 votes and Barrett got 2,060. After an hour of talking with people in Ft. Atkinson, it was clear to me that Walker still has a strong base of support here and that he has succeeded in getting his message out.
“I think these union people are getting too much money,” a middle-aged woman told me at the Stop-N-Go in the way into town. “I grew up on a farm and did a lot of farm work. I never had benefits like them. Let’s even out the table.”
At the Frostie Freeze, Virginia Kupicek, 50, said she also liked Walker’s stance on collective bargaining. “I’m a taxpayer,” she said. “I can’t afford to subsidize somebody else.”
Tim Stachowiak, 43, said he’s also for Walker. “I like to see the budget balanced,” he said, “and I don’t think Barrett would do a very good job with how he’s doing in Milwaukee.”
Marcie Garity, 18, said: “I’m probably voting for Scott Walker. I didn’t think he did anything wrong.”
Andrea, 37, a nurse whose husband is a union electrician, is also voting for Walker. “Because I care about the debt burden my children will carry,” she said.
Along the Rock River downtown, Kong Lee, 27, was fishing. “I’m going with Barrett,” he said. “I’m a big supporter of education.”
Shawn Chaw, 21, who was fishing nearby, said he’s voting for Walker but said he’s done two opposite things. “He improved jobs,” he said, “but he doesn’t support poor people.” Though Chaw said he viewed Walker in a 50-50 way, Walker would still get his vote.
A third fisherman, Pang Xiong, 28, who had an impressive bucket of white bass, said he liked Walker’s job record but didn’t like his attack on teachers and the increase in classroom size. He’s also planning on voting for Walker anyway.
At a downtown bar, Bryan Belstner, 24, says he’s voting for Walker “because he’s better than Tom Barrett.” Why? “He doesn’t really have any plans,” Belstner said of the Milwaukee mayor. Belstner, unlike the other people I’ve mentioned, didn’t vote for Walker last time but is doing so this time around.
In the same bar, Brian Price, 52, said he didn’t vote at all last time but is going for Walker this time. Why? “Pretty much because he’s making it fairer with everyone paying a little bit,” Price says. “I’ve been paying all my life high dollar for insurance.”
At a nearby Mexican restaurant, Devin Larkin, 40, is clear about his choice.
“Not Walker,” he says. “He’s an asshole. We don’t want the Koch Brothers running our state. If Scott Walker wins, I’m throwing myself in the Rock River.”
At the McDonald’s on Main St., Haley Madson, 30, said she was “definitely voting for Tom Barrett.” Madson, who didn’t vote last time, said: “I don’t agree with Walker’s de-unionizing. I believe in unions. I support the middle class, and Walker is not doing enough for the middle class and the lower class.” She cited his cuts to BadgerCare and his increasing of class sizes.
I did find a handful of people who are still undecided. One said, “I’m not informed.” Another said, “I’m not really into politics too much.” A third said, “I’ve got the weekend to decide.”
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
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