Wisconsin Recall: Day One
Tom Barrett's decisive victory in the Democratic primary officially launched the next phase of the campaign to recall Scott Walker.
Barrett's speech at his victory party last night at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Milwaukee set the tone.
"Do we want a governor who has divided this state like it's never been divided before?" Barrett asked the crowd, which responded with a resounding "No!"
"Do we want a governor who has caused this state to lose more jobs than any other state in this country?"
"Do we want a governor who focuses on giving tax breaks to corporations and the wealthiest people in this state?"
"Do we want a governor who raises 60 to 70 percent of funds from outside the state of Wisconsin?"
"And do we want a governor who has to have a legal defense fund?"
Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, said after the speech, "I've known Tom Barrett a long time, and I've never seen him so fired up." Neuenfeldt's presence at the Barrett rally was a sign that his federation and the other statewide labor organizations, which backed Barrett's opponent Kathleen Falk, are ready to mend fences and get behind the winning Democrat.
The historic grassroots uprising in Wisconsin, with the massive rallies of a year ago and the unprecedented million-signature petition drive to recall the governor has given way to a political campaign, run by professionals and featuring an expensive TV ad war.
State Democrats cancelled a planned march to the Capitol in Madison today, where Barrett was to march with the firefighters and their bagpipes, the Cops for Labor and the grassroots groups as well as representatives of all the unions that backed Falk.
Instead of a unity march, there is a unity brunch this morning, with all the candidates gathering at Barrett's Milwaukee home.
But if Barrett's candidacy did not emerge from the grassroots movement (Barrett lost to Walker in 2010 and is now running in what news outlets around the state are calling a "do over,") the grassroots will determine if he wins or loses to Walker on June 5.
Reconnecting with the energy that drove the protests, and getting the voters who were motivated to sign recall petitions to the polls on June 5, will be the key to a close race that will be all about turnout.
Today, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee announced a major ad buy urging Wisconsinites to remember the historic protests of 2011 and featuring a powerful portrait of the rallies of a year and a half ago.
The ad begins with the word "Remember" and black-and-white footage of a firefighter standing in the snow outside the Capitol in Madison, holding an American flag.
"As a Republican my entire life, I'm appalled at what Scott Walker and the Republicans did," a man says over more footage of the rallies. A child in a snowsuit holds a sign that says, "Mom's union."
"I'm just a secretary, and this bill that Walker is proposing is going to cost me more than $3,000 a year," says a woman standing in the snow.
The footage turns to color and the music becomes more upbeat, with summer scenes of recall signs on the highway and a Harley rider flashing a thumbs-up as he drives by. The music builds to a crescendo as a man says, "This is for my children, this is for my wife, this is for my friends, my neighbors, this is for our community."
"This is Republican class warfare. An attack on the middle class. This is a battle we need to win," a woman concludes.
Scott Walker, at his own rally after the primary last night, decried the "special interests" who support public employees' collective bargaining rights, and said "I stand with the taxpayers of Wisconsin."
While each side is running ads claiming to represent ordinary citizens against special interests, the ground game will be the most important part of the recall race. Walker has a daunting operation.
One point in the recall proponents' favor: voter suppression measures, including voter I.D. laws that make it hard for students, minorities and the elderly to vote, will not be in effect for the June 5 election.
If you liked this article by Ruth Conniff, the political editor of The Progressive, check out her story "Scott Walker's Money."
Follow Ruth Conniff @rconniff on Twitter
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