Last night, Wisconsin Democrats chose Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett as their candidate to go up against Governor Scott Walker. Barrett's pretty well known to Wisconsinites, both as a U.S. congressman and as a previous gubernatorial candidate. But most of us weren't all that interested in Wisconsin until Walker passed his anti-union laws and the widespread protestss began last year. Since then, the race has developed a national following—and some say, has national implications. With only a few weeks until the recall, meet the man Democrats are hoping will beat Scott Walker:
1. Irony of ironies, he's hardly a union favorite.
Even though the recall has largely been painted as a fight between pro-labor and anti-labor groups, Barrett was hardly the first pick for Wisconsin unions. Rather, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk had the bulk of union support early on. From the state AFL-CIO, the the Wisconsin Education Association Council to AFSCME, almost all the major unions backed Falk. In fact, they were so intent of a Falk victory that they actively discouraged Barrett from running. It's not shocking—Barrett went up against the Wisconsin teachers union in a fight over reform in the Milwaukee Public Schools.
Barrett waited until hours after the recall was official to throw in his hat, and in his declaration, specifically labasted Walker's anti-union policies. It may not have helped him much then, but immediately after his victory Tuesday night, Barrett had labor support. Both the Education Association Council and the AFSCME sent statements endorsing Barrett against Walker. It's a good thing, too—without union support, it's unlikely It's not the first time Barrett has enjoyed union support of course. When he ran against Walker in 2010, his top ten donors were unions, according to the Center for Public Integrity.
2. He's going to be outspent. By a lot.
Barrett faced Walker in the 2010 governor's race, losing by 6 points. This time around, however, Walker has a lot more money on his side. Thanks to a loophole in the recall laws, Walker was allowed to raise over $14 million, largely in unlimited and out-of-state gifts before the recall was made official. Barrett, meanwhile, has had to conform to the standard rules (which now also apply to Walker). That means while Barrett's raised around $830,000, with about $475,000 still on hand. Walker still has almost $5 million on hand, which means he can spend over $1 million each week between now and the recall date.
3. He may still win.
Barrett just proved that he can handle being outspent—outside groups supporting Falk spent close to $4 million in an unsuccessful effort to make her the Democratic candidate. Barrett also had to contend with negative ads from pro-Walker forces, who saw Falk as an easier candidate to beat. In many ways, they're right. While Barrett is sure to fall short in money, the race is quickly shifting from a focus on collective bargaining to an emphasis on the state's economic woes, and Barrett can build appeal among both angry union members and those who are just concerned about their livelihood. Walker's campaign promist to create 250,000 jobs in four years is far from on track, and last year the state lost more jobs than anywhere else.
While Barrett was trailing Walker in polls for the last few months, the gap has been narrowing, and at this point the race is a dead-heat between the two men, despite a barrage of ads from Walker these last few weeks. (Here's the latest.)
4. In a Ryan Goslin moment, Barrett once got battered trying to call police as a woman fought with a violent young man.
Okay maybe this isn't quite so relevant to Barrett's bid for governor, but worth knowning. In 2009, Barrett, walking out of the state fair with his family, heard a woman yelling. Barrett sent his family to the car and approached the scenario, as a young man fought with his ex's mother. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, when Barrett took out his cell phone to call 911, the guy flipped out, hitting the mayor in the abdomen so hard Barrett fell over. After telling Barrett to lie on the ground, Barrett popped up to fight back—when the younger man came back with pipe. Barrett lost some teeth, and his hand had to be reconstructed in surgey. He was in considerable pain, but back to work soon after, earning a call from President Barack Obama. Still, that's a guy you can't count out.