Even as Scott Walker tries to position himself for a run at the presidency, the long arm of the law may be reaching out for him.
According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the last player in the Walkergate case is his right-hand man, Tim Russell, who just reached a plea deal with prosecutors over his alleged embezzlement of funds from a veterans group.
Russell, as you might recall, is also the person who was alleged to have set up the secret email system inside the capitol so that others could conduct political business on others' time. On November 29, 2012, we are likely to discover more information about what happened, when it happened, what Scott Walker knew, and when he knew it.
Stemming from these revelations (which were really revelations to only the people that haven't been following along here), Walker was feeling enough heat that he had a press conference to discuss this and try to weasel his way out of it.What a rip snorter that turned out to be!
Walker gave us his best impression of Nixon's "I'm not a crook" line when he again denied being John Doe:
Gov. Scott Walker said Monday that coordination between his gubernatorial campaign and his Milwaukee County executive's office in 2010 was fundamentally different than the caucus scandal that shook the state Capitol a decade ago.
And he said he remains "absolutely" confident that he is not the subject of a criminal investigation involving former aides in the Milwaukee office.
For someone who is supposedly "'absolutely' confident" that he isn't John Doe, he's sure betting against himself. Walker has already funneled a third of a million dollars into his legal cooperation fund - and that's just the money we know of. It's probably a lot more now, especially after today.
So the question in front of us, which might be answered in court on Thursday, is whether they were able to obtain any "usable information" about Governor Walker in exchange for a deal with Russell, who is facing far more serious charges than Reindfleisch.
The Wisconsin John Doe investigation involving close aides of Governor Scott Walker has taken some twists and turns in the past few months, but none as interesting as some recent bickering between the District Attorney and the attorney for one of the defendants, Tim Russell.
Tim Russell was Scott Walker's close friend and aide right up until he was arrested and charged with embezzlement in January 2012, based on evidence obtained in the John Doe investigation. In fact, it was Tim Russell who received the order from Scott Walker via his campaign email account that there were to be no further stories like the one about Darlene Wink being fired for posting pro-Walker comments on websites on Milwaukee County's clock. That email triggered an IM chat from Kelly Reinfleisch to Tim Russell confirming that the secret email system they'd installed in the Governor's office had been turned off.
It seems that Tim Russell is a little upset that negotiations for a plea bargain in his case haven't progressed, and so his attorney filed a Motion to Dismiss based on truly flimsy grounds, which District Attorney Bruce Langraf responded to, point by agonizing point.
Here's the full text of that, just in case it's hard to read. It's an email from Scott Walker to John Hiller. Hiller was Scott Walker's campaign treasurer and aide for eighteen years. It reads as follows:
So I've been reading everything I can today in terms of analysis about the election in Wisconsin today and I've yet to find anything that I really agree with. I don't want to rehash much of what you can read elsewhere, but it seems that the only people more off the mark about what Wisconsin "means" than Fox News and their allies are progressives. There are a few notions that I really can't wrap my head around, no matter how many people seem to say them. I'm not suggesting that I am the only one who "knows" what all this means and that everyone else is wrong, I'm saying that what I'm reading and hearing doesn't make sense in the context of questions I still have. Convince me I'm wrong or let's expand the conversation to get more accurate analysis.
This was a big loss for the left: How is something that was entirely expected to happen a big loss? Pretty much all the polling said Scott Walker was going to stay in office, he had a massive money advantage, the Democratic candidate was uninspiring and was fought against in the primary by left-wing groups, voters don't like recalls, recalls almost never work and Walker had already beaten this candidate not even two years ago. So how is this a surprise outcome and how is it "big" in any way? If a professional basketball team plays a college team and beats them, how would that be big for the pro team? The upset would've been big, but the status quo, while painful, isn't big. From the beginning, this was a movement that was something that people were hopeful about, but there was never any real evidence that Walker was going to lose. There was lots of evidence that he should lose, but one of the first things you study in public opinion polling classes is how little voters make their choice based on issues. On the issues, Wisconsin voters aren't that much in line with Walker, but since most voters aren't making their decision based on the issues of the day, that doesn't matter much.
The only victory in Wisconsin was a moral victory: When the broad recall campaign started last year, it had two goals: recall Scott Walker and recall enough state senators to flip control of that chamber to the Democrats. One of these worked and the other didn't. And, at least until next year, it seems as if Walker's agenda will be nearly completely stalled. The ultimate goal of both of these recall efforts seems to be to stop Walker from further harming the state. It looks like -- barring a recount -- that such a goal has been achieved, at least, potentially, until the next election. How is that not a victory?
Unions are big losers in Wisconsin: The only way you could make such an argument is if you lay the entire campaign at the feet of the labor movement and/or you convincingly make the case that the voters chose Walker's anti-union agenda on purpose. I don't think either of those arguments is consistent with the facts. Unions were part of a broad coalition that was fighting against Walker for, what, six months? And how much of that time was spent on winning the election, as opposed to the Democratic Primary or the petition gathering process? Unions, as with other groups, fully focused on defeating Walker for about a month. To claim the labor movement is dead because it couldn't pull off the unprecedented feat of taking out a sitting governor who was elected by the people in a month fails even a basic logic test. And, again, decades of political science research shows that less than 20 percent of the electorate makes its candidate choice based on current policies. Exit polls showed that 10 percent of yesterday's voters who rejected Walker's assault on unions voted for him. 38 percent of union members voted for him. 52 percent of voters who think things have gotten worse under Walker voted for him. If voters were voting based on issues, even issues that directly affect them, in any significant numbers, how could these exit poll results exist?
The left lost because it had a bad message: Exit polling makes it very obvious this isn't the case:
First, 60 percent of voters thought that recall elections were only appropriate for official misconduct, while 27 percent said "any reason." Another 10 percent said "never"—and those voted for Walker 94-5. It's hard going into any election with 10 percent immediately off the board, and for those who said "only official misconduct," Walker won 68-31. Turns out people just didn't like the idea of a recall—something worth filing away as an important lesson learned.
Second of all, young people didn't turn out. Only 16 percent of the electorate was 18-29, compared to 22 percent in 2008. That's the difference between 646,212 and 400,599 young voters, or about 246,000. Walker won by 172,739 votes. Turns out having the recall in the summer, when the universities were out, was among the biggest strategic miscalculations.
How can you win an election when 70 percent of the electorate doesn't think the election itself is valid? Now it is probably the case that Walker has engaged in official misconduct, but he hasn't been charged with anything, which is kind of what the word "official" implies. Until he's charged, most Wisconsin voters don't think that any recall is valid. Despite that, the vote against Walker significantly outpaced the belief that the recall election was valid. Similarly, the decline in youth turnout outpaced the Walker margin of victory. What I can't understand is saying something like "this means liberalism lost," when it's clear that people didn't reject liberalism, they rejected the recall election itself. If Walker loses re-election in 2014, that will pretty much cement my take on this and I'll predict that Walker will not be elected governor of Wisconsin in 2014.
Young people don't matter: See above. Young people could've decided the election, but they didn't because they weren't taken enough into account in determining the strategy for the recall. This is a complaint that a number of people on the left have been making for years. And when young people are taken into account, it has a significant impact. One of the reasons Barack Obama won in 2008 was that he expanded the playing field of the electorate, including youth outreach. Why hasn't the left continued this approach much since then? If we don't turn this around -- and not just with youth, but with all groups that underperform in voter turnout -- we'll continue to lose.
The Wisconsin results show that GOTV money is wasted: It's pretty clear that some more GOTV money spent on young people could've changed the outcome of the election. And since Walker won by 172,739, it's certain that some more spending on GOTV, particularly if it were spent earlier, could've had a significant impact on the margin of victory.
Electoral politics are a dead end for the left: The left had some electoral victories in 2006 and 2008, then immediately proceeded to abandon some of the significant changes they had made in order to achieve those victories. It's also quite clear that things like Citizens United changed the rules of the game and not in our favor. Add to that, in the 1960s, conservatives started methodically building a movement that now has them in major positions of power and has them with the infrastructure and financing they need to dominate elections despite being out of touch with the people on most issues. Part of the problem is that the left, while they have recognized the need to build a similar movement, still hasn't built anything like what the right built and it doesn't seem like they are really even trying to. Sure, a lot of good people are doing a lot of good work, but too much of that work is still siloed off and there isn't much of an overall movement being built, certainly nothing like what the right has done. Elections are part of that movement, but too many on left have focused solely on elections -- which gets you some victories -- and haven't focused enough on building the infrastructure that wins you elections even when you don't have good candidates, campaigns or messages. The right has that infrastructure, how else can you reconcile the fact that, from Florida alone, terrible candidates like Allen West, Sandy Adams, Daniel Webster, David Rivera and Steve Southerland are in Congress? It's because you can plug any idiot into the Republican system and they can find a way to win in a competitive district. Democrats only win competitive districts with stellar candidates and/or campaigns. We can talk about that infrastructure at a later date...
Democrats need more moderate or centrist candidates to win: This one is simply a matter of looking at the numbers. How many wishy-washy centrist Democrats win election in competitive districts? How many extreme Republicans win election? How many centrist Republicans win election? It looks to me like of these three groups, extreme Republicans are most likely to win in a competitive district. Why is that? Money is obviously a factor. So is infrastructure and candidate training, recruitment and staffing. But it seems pretty clear that how "extreme" the candidate is doesn't seem to hurt them a whole lot if they make it clear what their values are and stand by their convictions. Voters seem to like that more than candidates who are more moderate. This is an argument that people smarter than me have been making for years. And it seems just as true today as it was when people made it years ago. Every time Democrats lose an election, the establishment left calls for more centrist candidates. Then Democrats lose again. Go back to the polling from 2008 and remember that the electorate overwhelmingly thought that Barack Obama was more liberal than the average American (forget that he never was for the moment), and yet they voted for him anyway. Because of the success of the right-wing message machine, my guess is current polls would also say that Obama is more liberal than the average American (forget again that it still isn't true) and compare that to the swing state polling and it seems likely that he will be elected again, despite being thought of as more extreme than the rest of the population.
Money either "doesn't matter" or "is the only thing that matters": It's obvious that money can matter in elections. 2010 is a prime example of that, particularly if you look at places like Florida where Gov. Rick Scott bought the job using his own personal fortune. It doesn't always matter, it isn't the only factor and it can be overcome, but it's clear that outspending a candidate 7-1 (or more) has to have an effect on the outcome of the election. Walker might've lost if he had less money. But it's also clear that spending more money doesn't always win elections, particularly if the other side has adequate funding and uses it more wisely and runs a better campaign with a better candidate. It's clear none of that happened with Walker's opponent. Victory depends on sufficient money coupled with a good candidate and a good campaign. In Wisconsin, we lost on all three of these, so it's no wonder Walker stayed in office.
So I looked at the exit polling data, and a substantial number of Wisconsinites (60 percent, according to MSNBC) seem to have voted for Walker because they thought this recall election was an abuse of the recall process. That they thought recalls should only be used for "high crimes and misdemeanors", not political differences. (You know, like the pending indictments in the John Doe investigation?)
And of course the lesson Democrats will take from this election is that they need to act more like Republicans.
The tentative silver lining in this is that the Dems seem to have won one of the four state senate races, giving them a razor-thin edge in controlling the senate - and thus, depriving Scott Walker of his previous rubber stamp:
RACINE — In a crucial election that swings control of the state Senate to the Democrats, Racine County appeared to have ousted current state Sen. Van Wanggaard Tuesday.
Former state Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine led state incumbent Republican Sen. Van Wanggaard, with 36,255 votes to Wanggaard's 35,476 votes, according to unofficial results with all precincts reporting.
Three Republicans won state Senate races Tuesday in Wisconsin, but with Lehman winning Racine County, the Democrats will take control of the Senate and gain the 17-16 majority.
Lehman declared victory shortly before 1 a.m.
“First of all, this victory is solely dedicated to all the hardworking volunteers who have put us over the top tonight," he stated in a news release. "Tonight, the citizens of Racine County voted for checks and balances in our state legislature. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the state senate.”
Around 12:50 a.m., Justin Phillips, Wanggaard’s campaign manager, released a statement saying, “We owe it to all of Senator Wanggaard’s supporters and the voters of Wisconsin to thoroughly examine the election and its results and act accordingly once we have all of the information.”
Some of the delay came from absentee ballots. More than an hour after polls had closed in Racine, and as late as 11:30 p.m. in Mount Pleasant, election workers were still entering stacks of absentee ballots.
But (you knew there was a "but") their regular legislative session has already ended for the year:
Though taking control of the Senate is a huge moral victory for the Democrats, they won't be able to do much with it, at least for a while. The Legislature isn't scheduled to convene again until January, and Democrats will have to defend their majority in November's elections.
But Democrats will be able to block any Republican legislation should Walker call for a special session of the Legislature. And if the Democrats maintain their majority, it would make life politically difficult for Walker for the first time; his fellow Republicans have controlled both the state Assembly and Senate since he took office in January 2011.
I think Feingold's right. They had low turnout for the gubernatorial, and I have to think the people who want Walker gone are a lot more fired up than the people who still like Walker. Barrett's internal polling shows a dead heat and that means he's got the momentum:
MILWAUKEE -- Former Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold is confident Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) is going to unseat Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) on Tuesday.
"Let me say this: I believe, that in a stunning upset, Barrett is going to win this thing. I think Barrett's going to win," said Feingold in an interview with The Huffington Post at a Starbucks in downtown Milwaukee on Thursday.
Feingold said he wasn't deterred by the recent Marquette University poll showing Walker with a seven-percentage point lead, noting that other internal polls had the race significantly closer.
Both Democrats and Republicans say the key at this point is turning out the most number of voters, since there are very few undecided Wisconsinites left to persuade.
Barrett lost to Walker in the 2010 gubernatorial race, and Feingold lost his seat to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who was heavily backed by the Tea Party. That election saw sweeping wins for Republicans nationwide.
Feingold said it's important for Democrats to make sure that turnout is higher than in 2010, predicting it will help Barrett.
"He didn't win by an overwhelming margin in 2010, and we know that by all estimates, it's going to be a higher turnout than 2010. It won't be as great as 2008," he said. "But we also know that those people that will be voting are going to be tilted heavily to Barrett. You know, the other side maxed out with their people in 2010. They had extremely good turnout."
One of the reasons the Wisconsin recall is such a huge event is this: Unions are being weakened, and as they are weakened, corporations will represent the majority of organized political activity, leaving people -- actual real, flesh and blood people -- without any voice at all. Unions are, after all, best at organizing and deploying people to get out the vote, to galvanize voters, and to push back on corporate messages.
The statistics on union membership in Wisconsin post union-buster bill passage are stunning. As Rachel explains, in one year public sector union membership in Wisconsin has shrunk with frightening rapidity. Before the union-buster passed, AFSCME membership in Wisconsin was 62,818 members. Today, post-passage, membership has shrunk to 28,745. AFT membership pre-passage was about 17,000 members. Post-passage, 11,000.
That's in one year. ONE single year.
From the transcript:
We've shown this chart a bunch of times on this show. These were the heavyweights when it came to outside spending in the 2010 election cycle. These were the ten groups that spent the most money on the election that year. Six of the ten spent big time on the right. They spent on the republican side. They were led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The biggest spender in 2010. Almost all the of groups spending on behalf of the republicans were corporate funded groups like that, business groups.
The only major spenders on behalf of Democrats in 2010 were unions. That was it. They made up only three of the top ten spenders. The only thing that Democrats had were unions. If you kill public sector unions in Wisconsin, you can kill unions altogether and you can kill this key source of strength. It's true around the country. They're doing it in Wisconsin.
Republicans set out to kill the unions and that's what is they have done. Look at this headline. Wisconsin unions see ranks drop ahead of recall vote. This is the membership for Wisconsin's second largest union of public sector workers. This is before the union stripping law. Here is that same union's membership today. We don't have the stats on all public unions but what we have looks the same. This is the American Federation of Teachers before the stripping law went into effect and this is the membership now.
A year after Scott Walker's law took effect. That's what they have been able to do in a year. Now because they could not stop the implementing of this law, the Democratic side in the Wisconsin recall effort doesn't have the means to compete politically that they usually have the unions play a political role. To the extent that unions are going away, they can play less of a political role.
It's a big reason why the Republican side has had a spending advantage that's reached at times 25 to 1. $25 on the republican side for every single dollar on the Democratic side. This recall election on Tuesday is really close. Democrats might yet pull it off. They say that the ground game is key.
Who used to be best at the ground game? Unions. Killing off the unions is what Republicans want to do in every state of the country. That's why Scott Walker is the poster boy for the Republican Party this year. They understand this is the way they can win not just now but forever. Republicans get this, and they want it to happen in every state in the country. Do Democrats get it? Do they understand what's at stake?
I would ask the question a little differently. I would ask whether people in general get it or whether they're so thoroughly spellbound by corporate mumbo-jumbo that they've lost their ability to reason. I say that because one of the most disappointing emails I ran across in the big email dump earlier this week was one from a union member to Scott Walker before the union bill was introduced, commending him for his approach.
On the Young Turks Friday, David Shuster claimed that he is almost certain that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will be indicted in the coming months for his role in the numerous scandals floating around his first campaign for governor. Shuster later clarified his claim on the Take Action News Facebook page:
According to lawyers familiar with a Milwaukee criminal corruption probe, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is now a "target" for prosecution.
The legal sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Walker faces "serious legal challenges," including a "possible indictment" regardless of the gubernatorial recall election results on Tuesday.
The investigation began in 2010 when Walker served as Milwaukee County executive.
Six people have been charged, with accusations ranging from campaigning for Walker on government time to embezzlement. 13 other Walker associates have been given immunity from prosecution in exchange for their testimony in the case.
This week, Governor Walker acknolwedged he has now transferred $160,000 from his campaign accounts to a legal defense fund. Mr. Walker confirmed the money is strictly for his own defense and not for any current or former staff.
Lawyers for Governor Walker recently appeared at the Milwaukee courthouse but refused to say why they were there. The lawyers have also refused to comment on the Governor's status in the investigation.
On Tuesday, Wisconsin voters will go to the polls in the state's recall election. Fifteen months ago, Walker set off huge protests at the Capitol when he took aim at unions representing state government workers and passed a law ending many of their rights to collective bargaining.
There was a buzz of excitement in the late hours thinking that Shuster had stronger information about a possible indictment, but it appears that it is simply a conclusion based on the available evidence, not a report of an actual impending indictment. Wisconsin blogger Steve Hanson:
There was a little flurry of excitement in the cheddarsphere tonight caused by David Shuster's appearance on The Young Turks, followed by a Tweet, followed by an announcement at the Tom Morello concert, followed by a tweetstorm. I think it was a lot of excitement for what there actually is. Shuster's TV appearance amounted to saying that there is "every indication" that Walker is now a subject of the John Doe investigation, and could possibly be indicted in the next few months.
I don't think it has been possible to come to any other conclusion on the basis of Walker's use of a criminal defense fund and the legal implications of that. But it is still a supposition, and under the circumstances it's fairly clear we will have to wait until after the election to get a clear picture of what has been going on.
It would be nice for Walker to be indicted before the recall election, almost guaranteeing that he would lose, but there is little to no chance that will happen and it's distinctly likely that Walker could win the election, then be indicted afterwards. I'm not an expert on Wisconsin law, but couldn't that lead to impeachment, removal and replacement by whoever ends up as the lieutenant governor after Tuesday?
This interview where Michelle Rhee celebrates Scott Walker's union-busting ways was recorded on March 5, 2011, at the height of the protests in Madison, Wisconsin over Walker's union-busting bill.
On Wednesday, over 7,000 emails were published from the early days of the Walker administration in response to an FOIA request. They were quite sanitized and redundant, but this little nugget jumped out at me while reviewing them last night.
The day after Scott Walker announced his intention to strip teachers and other public employees of their collective bargaining rights, his staff was brainstorming ways to counter the inevitable outcry from teachers. Their goal was to "correct their message" before they could get outraged enough to get a message out to the community. After considering a letter out to them all, one staffer suggested that they get Michelle Rhee and StudentsFirst to get involved. Click on the image to see the larger version.
Staffer Chris Schimpf wrote, "I wonder if we should talk to michelle rhee's group, students first. If we could get her to come do something, that would give us a lot."
Michelle Rhee, who ran the Washington, DC, schools system from 2007 to 2010, never made a big public appearance in Wisconsin as envisioned by Schrimpf. But Rhee did defend some of Walker's anti-union measures twice on television soon after he announced his plan. "The move to try to limit what [public-sector unions] bargain over is an incredibly important one," she said on "Fox and Friends."Months later, Rhee appeared alongside Walker at a DC meeting of the American Federation for Children, a hard-line conservative education organization founded by Betsy DeVos, the wife of Amway heir Dick DeVos and a funder of numerous conservative causes.
Since leaving DC, Rhee has embraced and promoted a more conservative, anti-union education reform agenda. She pushed a bill in the Tennessee legislature that ended collective bargaining for teachers, stumped for Ohio's SB 5 bill (later repealed via referendum) which restricted bargaining rights, and has worked as an unpaid adviser to Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a tea-party-favorite who "has never met a voucher or a charter school he doesn't like," as one education reporter put it.
If you want a picture of what Michelle Rhee supports, just take a look at Wisconsin. On June 5th, we'll find out if the state supports Walker's union-busting ways (and by extension, Michelle Rhee's), or whether they're going to stand for the middle class. If you can help get out the vote, please do. It's a squeaker right now.
Ahead of the June 5 recall vote in Wisconsin, rapper Head-Roc, in conjunction with We Are Wisconsin, released a music video targeting Scott Walker to the tune of Jay-Z's hit song "99 Problems." The song is a brilliant attack on Walker and is also a good song, musically speaking, with a compelling video. I've touched on this before and will continue to do so, that it is this type of genre-crossing political outreach that will continue to expand who participates in politics and what they know about what conservatives are doing to the country. With the mass of talent on the progressive side, there is no reason that we can't make massive strides in educating the public and expanding the electorate through the use of creative content like this.
My transcript (e-mail me at email@example.com for corrections):
If you uneployed and broke, I feel bad for you son
I got 99 problems but the rich ain't one
I canceled the cops, so no block patrols
Need help from the police, the station's closed
When I need assistance, I just ask my billionaire bros
Charles and David Koch are the friends I chose
Don’t care if you got holes in yo zapatos
And either do my friends with their gang of dough
Too busy poppin bubbly up in they chateau
Talkin sh*t and some mo', eatin escargot
Funny voters believed my little dance & show
The people? I care more about my bordeaux
Rich donors manipulate the middle class
Deceive the people by giving me cash for ads
I don't know what you take me as
Like ?#@*&%! I ain't concerned with the lower class
We all think that working families are bums
I got 99 problems but the rich got funds
99 problems but the rich ain't one
If you unemployed and broke I feel bad for you son
I got 99 problems but the rich ain't one
Snatched the win in 2010, but governor, that's raw
In my rearview mirror, it's me with no flaws
I got two choices ya’ll
Work for Wisconsin or erode workers rights
Strip em’ down to the floor
I got a few Fed dollars
But I don't bake that cake
Cause I ain't trying to see railways built in this place
Said I'd protect jobs
Threw that to the side of the road
And heard "jobs that's what we fighting for"
With a labor rights record so terrible
Don't have to be a mind reader for you to know
How many jobs lost? You wanna guess some more?
People plead "Mr. Walker step out of the car"
You hopin [?], I know a lot of you are
But I ain't comin out of it
My kingship is legit
And while I'm here
I'ma push up on your earnings a bit
Cough up your health care and pensions
So we can pad our stats
We want bargaining rights
We got a recall for that
Y'all organize or something
Y'all feelin empowered or something
But y'all ain't in power now
But that's about to switch
Enough to free Wisconsin from your death grip
But we'll see how smart you are when the recall comes
I got 99 problems but the rich got funds
99 problems but the rich ain't one
And if you unemployed and broke I feel bad for you son
I got 99 problems but the rich ain't one
The race has tightened up and Barrett's within striking distance, so hopefully this recall election will pull it off and kick Walker out:
MADISON — Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, down in the polls to Gov. Scott Walker, aggressively went after Walker in a debate Friday and accused him of purposefully dividing the state and triggering the June 5 recall election.
Barrett kept Walker on the defensive throughout much of the hour-long debate in Milwaukee, which was broadcast live statewide just 11 days before the election. Walker is only the nation’s third governor to ever stand for recall. The previous two, most recently California Gov. Gray Davis in 2003, were defeated.
Polls show a tight race, with Walker holding a narrow lead within the margin of error of two publicly released polls within the past 10 days.
Walker, who defeated Barrett in 2010 by 5 points to win election as governor, was targeted for recall after successfully passing a law last year that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers.
Barrett said that proposal, which sparked massive protests for weeks and made Wisconsin the center of a national debate over collective bargaining powers, tore the state apart. Walker said his measure, which also forced most workers to pay more for pensions and health insurance, was needed to help deal with a $3.6 billion state budget deficit.
“You decided to use a budget crisis to try and divide and conquer this state,” Barrett said, speaking directly to Walker as the two stood near each other behind podiums in a television studio. “That’s what happened. That’s what led to all of this. And you succeeded. You succeeded in dividing this state.”
Walker said he was focused on moving the state forward and didn’t want to relive the past.
[...] Barrett also prodded Walker to release more information about his involvement with an ongoing criminal investigation that so far has focused on aides and associates of his during his time as Milwaukee County executive. Five people have been charged on allegations including embezzling money from a veterans trust fund and campaigning on county time.
Walker has not been charged, but he created a legal defense fund and said he would answer questions from the district attorney’s office. Walker has said he’s been told he is not the center of the probe.
Walker called Barrett’s focus on the investigation a desperate move meant to distract from other issues.
“I will continue to have high integrity,” Walker said.