Political activists converge on Wisconsin for recall

MILWAUKEE Sun Jun 3, 2012 12:21pm EDT

Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who is facing a recall election, smiles before the start of a debate with Democratic challenger and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, at Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin May 31, 2012. REUTERS/Darren Hauck

Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who is facing a recall election, smiles before the start of a debate with Democratic challenger and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, at Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin May 31, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Darren Hauck

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MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - Political activists converged on Wisconsin on Sunday to join get-out-the-vote efforts two days before a historic election on whether to recall Republican Governor Scott Walker that is seen as a test for November's presidential race.

Walker enraged labor unions by denuding their power with a news state law last year, and the battle has taken on national significance with some calling it the second most important U.S. election of the year.

Wisconsin is a good testing ground for the November 6 presidential election because it is closely-divided politically -- voting for President Barack Obama in 2008 but electing Walker and a Republican legislature in 2010.

The division over the recall extends all the way to the White House race. Presumed Republican nominee Mitt Romney has called Walker a "hero," while Obama has supported Walker's Democratic challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

All over the Midwestern state - known for its dairy farms, factories and the revered Green Bay Packers NFL football team - political professionals and volunteers fanned out to ensure supporters go to the polls.

"It's really about the future of this state," said Bob Peterson, the president of the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association as he grilled hamburgers on Saturday for volunteers who will try to get-out-the-vote against Walker.

Civil Rights activists Reverend Jesse Jackson from Chicago and Al Sharpton from New York will be in Milwaukee to try to turn out the black vote in the state's largest city.

If he loses, Walker would be only the third state governor recalled from office during his term after North Dakota's Lynn Frazier in 1921 and Gray Davis of California in 2003.

Polls show a close race although Walker has held a single-digit lead since the recall date of June 5 was formally set, and there are almost no undecided voters. The focus is on voter turnout in a state with a history of high voter participation.

Most members of state and local government unions, who took an effective pay cut when Walker's law forced them to pay more for health insurance and pensions, believe he balanced the state budget on their backs. The law also made paying union dues voluntary and forced unions to recertify annually.

Thousands of people protested the measures last year, which Walker said where needed to balance the state budget in a tough economic environment.

Kelly Heigl, a school teacher, said on Saturday that she feared public education would be crippled in Wisconsin if Walker remains in office.

"I am so, so excited because we are so close and I feel a big victory coming on," Heigl said, as she sat in her vehicle with "Teachers for Barrett" written on the windows.

A year ago it looked like Walker would be ousted in the recall because of the protests and unions' reputation for turning out the vote of their supporters. Nearly a million people signed petitions calling for the governor to go.

But conservatives and Republicans around the country have rallied to Walker's side. A parade of Republican luminaries have appeared with Walker in Wisconsin, including New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.

Walker has traveled the country, raising some $30 million in political donations, more than half of which is from out of state sources such as the conservative Koch brothers. Barrett has raised about $4 million.

Victoria Marone, who has several "Stand With Walker" signs in the yard of her Milwaukee home, said on Saturday she is worried that the massive union effort could still overcome Walker's efforts.

"Unions ... are like rabid dogs with their jaws clenched down on your arm and won't let go," said Marone, who was a school teacher for more than 50 years.

Walker far outspent Barrett and the Democrats on television advertising, and Republicans have mounted their own ground effort based on new software that allows them to pinpoint like-minded voters house-by-house.

John Larrabee, a truck driver who also had a "Stand with Walker" sign in his Milwaukee yard, said he agreed with Walker that joining a union should be voluntary.

"This is class warfare," Larrabee said. "They're trying to pit those that are successful with those that want to sit on their butt."

(Editing by Greg McCune and Anthony Boadle)

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Comments (3)
Wississippi wrote:
ALEC helped pioneer some of the toughest sentencing laws on the books today, “truth in sentencing” laws. In 1995 alone, ALEC’s Truth in Sentencing Act was signed into law in twenty-five states. (Then State Rep. Scott Walker was an ALEC member when he sponsored Wisconsin’s truth-in-sentencing laws and, according to PR Watch, used its statistics to make the case for the law.) This forced Wisconsin to build new or rebuild 71 county jails 71 courthouses and dozens of prisons. This also forced Wisconsin to build or remodel 238 police stations. This also forced Wisconsin to buy or lease several hundred halfway houses etc. This also forced Wisconsin into hiring some 30,000 plus public sector workers to work at these places. Every time Scott walker says he is for small government and talks about the budget. remember who caused the budget problems and huge government in Wisconsin. He is for small government like George Bush was. He hires millions in the name of Homeland security. Vote Conservative and for small government. Vote out Scott Walker. Can we afford his tax and waste ideals and huge government? If not for Walker and Alec Wisconsin would have tens of billions in surplus. We could get tax refunds again. Lets blame the real reason for budget problems. “Scott Walker”.
As we all know this ended liberty and justice for all in Wisconsin. It has made our justice systems get rich quick schemes.

Jun 03, 2012 7:26am EDT  --  Report as abuse
truedat wrote:
Scott Walker DID NOT campaign on removing collective bargaining rights! HE NEVER MENTIONED IT while a candidate. He is NOT just some altruistic guy who was trying to balance the state budget. He came in with a secret agenda to destroy unions. He considers a union employee who’s just trying to keep his pension from getting stolen and his job from being outsourced as “the enemy”. He has collected over 31 million $$ for his recall election. That’s not coming from grandmas and soccer moms sending him 10 dollars each, people. Apparently sugardaddy billionaires (Koch brothers) are just fine with him but union members are communists in his book.
Then you have this woman Diane Hendricks from the “divide and conquer” video. She is worth almost 3 BILLION dollars but yet she is still not a happy person. What would make her happy? To see the chance for a middle class lifestyle taken away from most of the public by getting rid of all unions, public and private. It is also noteworthy that this woman somehow paid no state income tax last year. How do us commoners get that deal? It’s no coincidence that these millionaires/billionaires will get even richer when they can pay everyone minimum wage with zero benefits (and get nice tax breaks while doing so). These people have no morality at all.

Jun 03, 2012 9:37am EDT  --  Report as abuse
walkerforprez wrote:
Fact or fiction, this governor has balanced the budget.. All hard working “middle class” workers have to contribute to their retirement/health insurance. The reason the gov has gone after the union workers is because they don’t pay their “fair share”. I hate that term, but it seems fitting for the unions. It’s not a war on the working people or union employees – it’s a war on the irrelevant unions that are becoming more and more responsible for this country’s debt. Period.

Jun 03, 2012 7:25pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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