On Eve of Expected Primary Win, Barrett Moves Beyond Labor Issue… Won’t Be Seen at Capitol Recall Rally

MacIver News Service | May 7, 2012

[Madison, Wisc…] With a comfortable lead in the polls heading into Tuesday’s Democratic Primary election in the gubernatorial recall, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has reportedly decided not to participate in a special “Unity” rally planned for Wednesday night.

The move has left some union activists crying foul and a Republican spokesperson hopeful it is a sign of disunity among the coalition of liberal special interest groups who oppose Governor Scott Walker.

The DPW announced the cancellation on their facebook page.

“The time for celebrating is when we beat Scott Walker on June 5th,” read the DPW post. “So instead of uniting in celebration at the Capitol now, we need to unite in action all across the state. Please help us defeat Scott Walker by clicking the link below and signing up for a volunteer shift.”

Former Fitchburg Mayor Jay Allen, a supporter of Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, also took to Facebook to explain why the rally was actually cancelled.

“The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has pulled out of the event because Mr. Barrett has decided not to participate,” Allen wrote.

A diary on the liberal website Daily Kos panned the move. The piece, titled ‘WTF – Democratic Party of Wisconsin Cancels post primary Unity Rally” was penned by a contributor whose pseudonym is Giles Goat Boy.

“I’ve read plenty of ass-covering propaganda in my time, but who exactly does Mike Tate, the chairman of the DPW, think he’s talking to?” the diary read. “Hasn’t he noticed that this new alliance of Wisconsin freedom fighters has spent the past 15 months fine-tuning their bull$^!t detectors? Tell the truth, Mike Tate.”

Wisconsin Republicans also chimed in.

“Why would Tom Barrett not attend a ‘unity rally?'” asked Republican Party of Wisconsin Communications Director Ben Sparks. “Democrats in Wisconsin are clearly having trouble rallying behind a single candidate, and this does not bode well for a Democrat base that has shown lackluster excitement, at best, for their liberal slate of candidates.”

Also running are State Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) and Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette.

With polls showing that the fervor over the collective bargaining issue has cooled, the presumptive Democratic nominee appears to be distancing himself from the movement that made the Recall possible. The winner Tuesday will most certainly soon appear with the three other challengers in a sign of party unity, however.

But the reaction of some Democrats gives merit to the GOP spokesperson’s assertion that bitter feelings are brewing in Dem circles.

“So, Tom Barrett supporters, your so-called unifying, calming candidate has decided that he will not participate in the unity rally on Wednesday, so it is being cancelled,” Allen posted on Facebook. “Your candidate is an ass.”

Falk has received the endorsements of a plethora of liberal-leaning special interest groups including AFSCME, WEAC, SEIU, EMILY’s List, the Sierra Club and Voces De la Frontera Action.

WEAC and AFSCME, in particular, have backed these endorsements with dollars, having funded a Super PAC for Falk to the tune of $5 million.

Despite this, Falk has trailed Barrett in every publicly-released poll. The most recent survey, done by Marquette University, showed Barrett up 38 percent to 21 percent, compared to the seven point lead he had over Falk in the same poll in March (36-29), leading some observers to expect Barrett to cruise to victory Tuesday.

A DPW strategy memo uncovered by Mother Jones magazine last month, detailed plans to downplay the union issue for the upcoming election.

“Collective bargaining is not moving people,” Graeme Zielinski, Democratic Party spokesman, told the magazine.

The Marquette survey results confirm that assertion. The poll showed that only twelve percent of Democratic voters chose “restoring collective bargaining rights for public employees,” as their most important issue.

Outraged over proposed changes in state law that limited collective bargaining for public employees to wages within the cost of living, unions and other liberal activists stormed the Wisconsin state Capitol in February of last year, occupying it for three weeks as Democratic senators unsucessfully tried to prevent the legislation’s passing. Fourteen Democratic senators fled to Illinois, which prevented action on the budget reform plan. A quorum of 20 senators of the 33 Senators was needed to pass any major fiscal policy.

The labor law change advanced after the measure was separated from the budget repair bill. It passed both houses of the legislature and eventually became known as 20111 Wisconsin Act 10 when the bill was signed by Governor Scott Walker.

Thousands of labor activists helped circulate recall petitions and the Government Accountability Board confirmed earlier this year that more than 900,000 signatures were submitted, in excess of the approximately 540,000 that would automatically trigger a Recall election.

Ironically, separating the budget adjustment bill’s bargaining changes language and fiscal components was suggested and supported by Mayor Barrett, more than a year before he would announce his candidacy in the Recall election.

The primary is Tuesday. The General election will be June 8th.