The Democratic primary field is taking shape in the Wisconsin recall election against Republican Gov. Scott Walker, with former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk receiving the endorsement of the state’s largest public employee union.
The state AFSCME division sent a memo to its members Monday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, calling Falk “the strongest leader to reverse Gov. Scott Walker’s reign of deceit and job-killing extremism.”
Two weeks ago, Falk also received the endorsement of WEAC, the state’s largest teachers union.
Falk has been aided in winning public-employee union backing by her pledging to veto a state budget that does not restore collective-bargaining rights, reversing Walker’s anti-public employee union legislation that served as a major provocation of the recall effort.
Also running in the Democratic primary field is state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, who was one of the 14 Democratic state senators to flee the state a year ago, in an effort to block passage of Walker’s anti-public employee union legislation. Vinehout has declined to make a similar veto pledge, while saying instead that she would work to restore union rights, and would try to avoid “brinksmanship.”
There is also the 2010 Democratic nominee for governor, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who is now openly considering getting into the race. Barrett lost the 2010 race by a 52%-47% margin, in the Republican wave year. He said on a popular state public affairs show over the weekend: “I want our state back where we can have disagreements but not make them so personal and so biting and caustic that family reunions are ruined.”
Barrett also stated his disagreement with the veto pledge: “I’m not going to tie my hands behind my back, and I’m not going to paint myself into a corner.” Barrett has feuded with the public employee unions on some city issues, and they have stated their opposition to him running for governor.
Falk was first elected Dane County (Madison and the surrounding area) Executive in 1997, after having worked for 14 years in the state Department of Justice. She ran for governor in 2002, coming in third place in a closely divided Democratic primary (Jim Doyle 38%, Tom Barrett 34%, and Falk 27%). She then ran for attorney general in 2006, defeating the incumbent in the Democratic primary (due to a drunk-driving scandal) with 53% of the vote, but in November she lost to Republican J.B. Van Hollen by the thinnest of margins, 50.15%-49.73%. She announced her resignation as county executive in late 2010, after nearly 14 years in office.