Updated March 30, 9:40 p.m. ET
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has officially announced that he is running in the recall election against Republican Gov. Scott Walker, following the official triggering of the recall by state election administrators earlier on Friday.
Barrett has also been running for re-election as mayor, a race he is widely expected to win in the election this Tuesday, April 3. The recall primary will be on May 8, and the general election June 5.
Already in the Democratic primary for governor are former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, and Secretary of State Doug La Follette. A recent survey by Public Policy Polling (D) showed Barrett starting out with a lead 36%-29% over Falk, with La Follette at 15% and Vinehout 12%.
If Barrett were to win the contested Democratic primary, this would set up a rematch from 2010, and a test of whether the Tea Party wave of 2010 has receded. He was the Democratic nominee against Walker in 2010, losing by a 52%-47% margin in that Republican year.
“This was not a decision I made lightly,” Barrett wrote in a press release. “I love this state and I care deeply about our future. That’s why I ran for governor in 2010 — even though I knew it was an uphill battle. We ran a strong and energetic campaign fueled by your support and the support of thousands across Wisconsin.”
After denouncing Walker for polarizing the state, he later adds: “We need to bring our state back. Wisconsin needs a governor who is focused on jobs, not ideology; a leader committed to bringing our state together and healing political wounds, not pitting people against each other and catering to the special interests.
“This is the governor I will be for the people of Wisconsin.”
Barrett has been moving toward another run — but at the same time, officials in the public employee unions have been very openly opposing him, due to various disputes involving the city’s budget and public school system.
Since January, the key AFSCME and WEAC public employee unions have endorsed Falk.
Barrett previously ran for governor in 2002, after having served in the U.S. House of Representatives for ten years. He came in second place: Jim Doyle 38%, Tom Barrett 34%, and Kathleen Falk 27%. He then came back in 2004, getting elected as Mayor of Milwaukee. Doyle won the 2002 general election, was re-elected in 2006, and retired in 2010, when Barrett became the unsuccessful Democratic candidate.
Wisconsin GOP communications director Ben Sparks released this statement, on Barrett’s entry into the recall:
“Voters have no desire to take Wisconsin down the disastrous path Tom Barrett has led Milwaukee. Even after being rejected by Wisconsin voters twice in his repeated bids for governor, he clearly has not taken the hint. Wisconsin rejected Barrett and elected Governor Walker by an overwhelming majority because they wanted to move Wisconsin forward from the 8 years of failed liberal policies that culminated in 150,000 lost jobs and a $3.6 billion budget deficit.
“In just over a year under Governor Walker’s leadership, Wisconsin has created thousands of private-sector jobs, has held our unemployment rate to 6.9%- the lowest since December 2008- and balanced a $3.6 billion budget deficit without raising taxes. We look forward to contrasting Governor Walker’s bold record of moving Wisconsin forward with Barrett’s liberal tax and spend agenda that has only led to a total downward spiral of Milwaukee’s economy.”
Late Update: The Walker campaign also released a statement. Key quote:
“Under Mayor Barrett, Milwaukee has seen a dramatic increase in taxes and government spending, coupled with an astonishing loss of jobs. It is because of this dismal record, that Milwaukee has become the 9th poorest big city in the country,” said Ciara Matthews, communications director for Governor Walker’s campaign. “Tom Barrett’s record of failed leadership as mayor of Milwaukee has twice been rejected by Wisconsin voters.”
Matthews notes specifically that during Barrett’s time as mayor, property taxes have increased by $48 million, city spending has increased by more than $338 million, and Milwaukee’s unemployment rate has gone up 27 percent.
“These numbers will stand in stark contrast to Governor Walker’s record of holding the line on taxes, reining in government spending, and creating an environment for job growth.
“It is shocking that despite the downward spiral of Milwaukee’s economy that Tom Barrett has presided over that he would ask Wisconsinites to not only stop the progress the state has seen in Governor Walker’s first year in office, but completely reverse it by electing him as governor.”
Ed note: Reporter Eric Kleefeld was a volunteer in 2002 for Barrett’s gubernatorial campaign in the Democratic primary that year, in which Kathleen Falk was also a candidate. He has had no additional political involvement with Barrett since that time.