Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) will likely be chosen today by Wisconsin Democrats to take on Gov. Scott Walker (R) in a June recall election.
Democrats launched the recall against Walker last fall, in response to the governor’s move to strip public employee unions of collective bargaining rights.
Recall campaigns last summer took down two Republican state senators. Because he did not take office until January of 2011, under Wisconsin law Walker himself was not eligible for recall until this year. Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (R) and four more Republican state senators face recalls.
Polls show Barrett with a solid double-digit lead over former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk in the recall primary, with state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout and Secretary of State Doug La Folette far behind.
Falk has the support of the vast majority of organized labor groups, along with environmental and progressive organizations in the state. She entered the race in January, while Barrett did not declare his candidacy until late March. But Barrett’s name recognition — prior to his current post he served in Congress and was the party’s 2010 nominee against Walker — along with the perception that he was more electable, quickly gave him the lead.
The race has also shifted away from the fight over collective bargaining, which is what prompted the recall election in the first place, to focus on jobs and unemployment.
While unemployment is at its lowest since 2008, job creation has been very slow. Wisconsin has lost more jobs than any other state since Walker took office.
Taking advantage of laws that allow a recall target to raise unlimited funds, Walker has raked in $25 million so far, mostly from out of state. He’s also been spending heavily — over $20 million, more than any candidate in recall history.
Barrett has raised less than a million dollars, but once the primary is over he is expected to gain in fundraising given the massive national interest in the recall. With the general election on June 5, both candidates have a very short window to woo voters.
Head-to-head matchups of Barrett and Walker show a dead heat. Very few voters are undecided; some surveys put their number in the low single digits.
Polls close at 9 p.m.. eastern time. The Government Accountability Board has predicted record turnout of 30 to 35 percent, but turnout in the Republican presidential primary last month fell far short of similar predictions.