Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, having defeated former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, will face Governor Scott Walker in the June 5 recall election. Falk was the union-backed candidates — and it was the unions who were the driving force behind the recall in the first place — but Barrett, who lost to Walker in 2010, had greater name recognition and the backing of much of the Democratic establishment. While the Democrats try to heal their intraparty rift — and accusations about the cancellation of a post-primary “unity rally” aren’t helping matters on that front — tonight’s results look like good news for Walker: He received more votes than Barrett and Falk combined.
While the anti-Walker votes do top the governor’s total when you add in the minor Democratic candidates and the Madison protester who ran a stunt candidacy on the Republican line, the strong turnout for Walker is a good sign: Republicans had little reason to show up for an essentially uncontested race, and the fact that so many did is a sign of enthusiasm going into next month’s election.
The Walker campaign is wasting no time going on the offensive; tonight they issued a pugnacious statement from deputy campaign manager Dan Blum:
As Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett enters the general election in his soon to be third statewide losing campaign, he will surely find that his record of raising taxes and promises to continue to do so will not resonate with voters. While Governor Walker’s term has seen unemployment drop to its lowest rate since 2008, unemployment under Tom Barrett has risen more than 28%. Rather than Tom Barrett’s path of taking Wisconsin back to the days of billion-dollar deficits, double-digit tax increases and record job loss, we are confident that voters will choose to stand with Governor Walker and move Wisconsin forward.
The Walker campaign already has a website dedicated to attacking “Tom the Taxer.” Expect a harsh month of campaigning in what is among the most important races of the year; Walker’s success or failure will have political resonance far beyond Wisconsin, setting a tone of either boldness or timidity for conservative reformers across the country.