In Wisconsin, sitting Republican Governor Scott Walker has opened up a six-point lead over his Democrat rival, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, in the recall election that will take place on June 5th. The election represents the final attempt by Democrats and their union enablers to overturn the results of the 2010 contest that handed Republicans control of both houses in the state legislature, in turn leading to a curtailment of collective bargaining privileges for the state’s government unions. For many on both sides of the political divide, this race represents a bellwether indication of where the nation is headed in the general election next November.
Thus, it is unsurprising that plenty of money from both sides has been heading into the state. Kantar Media/Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political ad spending, tells CNN that nearly $11 million has been spent from the beginning of November through last Monday to run recall television commercials in Wisconsin. Yet there has been much discontent on the progressive side of the ledger, with Wisconsin Democrats infuriated by a Democratic National Committee (DNC) that, up until yesterday, had refused to make a major investment in unseating the incumbent governor. “We are frustrated by the lack of support from the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Governors Association,” a top Wisconsin Democratic Party official said. “Scott Walker has the full support and backing of the Republican Party and all its tentacles. We are not getting similar support.”
That was Monday. On Thursday, DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced that the Committee would get involved–sort of. “Enjoyed our conversation, @Barrett4WI. Looking forward to my trip this month to raise money & recruit vols to win back the governor’s seat,” she tweeted. Yet raising money and recruiting volunteers is not likely to impress a Wisconsin Democrat party that had requested a $500,000 contribution.
In fact, Democrats remain as angry as they were when Republicans were able to push through the bill in March that limited raises for public employees to the rate of inflation (excepting police and firefighters), required employees to pay part of their health insurance and pensions, forced unions to hold new certification votes on an annual basis, and eliminated mandatory dues collection by union leadership. Those proposals led to Democrat legislators literally fleeing the state to avoid voting on them, and engendered massive protests by public union workers and their supporters at the state capitol building in Madison.
Walker claimed such changes were necessary to close the $3 billion budget gap facing the state over the two-year budget plan that took effect last July. Last month he announced that he had saved Wisconsin taxpayers more than $1 billion so far, three quarters of which even the left-leaning Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel was forced to admit could be “verified,” while they claimed the additional savings made by local governments could not. Walker’s achievements were the result of spending cuts rather than tax increases, including tight limits on local officials’ ability to raise property taxes. Walker’s opponent, Tom Barrett, was unimpressed. He noted Walker’s budget was still $140 million in the red, and that 1,500 teachers had been laid off. “This isn’t a record to brag about–it’s a record that causes failed governors to be tossed from office,” Barrett said in a statement.
Perhaps it already did. Teacher positions were also axed in the last year of Democrat Governor Jim Doyle’s term, and it was he and Democrats, who controlled both houses of the legislature during the time the state ran up the $3 billion deficit. It remains for voters to decide on June 5th whether they prefer the party who left them $3 billion in the hole, or the one that has reduced the deficit to $140 million — and counting.
Walker’s purported ineffectiveness in creating jobs has been the main issue Democrats thought they could use against him. The governor was elected in part based on his promise to create 250,000 jobs during his term in office. And up until Wednesday, it seemed like Democrats had a valid point, due to figures taken from monthly employment surveys showing that Wisconsin had lost 33,900 jobs last year, a number that would have ranked it dead last among the 50 states. Yet employment surveys are estimates, not hard numbers.
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