The Milwaukee Mayor will garner the largest coalition of voters to remove Gov. Scott Walker from office In the campaign to remove Gov. Scott Walker from office, many factors have to be considered. Can the nominee actually win in a recall contest? Does the candidate have the ability to unify a coalition of Wisconsinites that range in political persuasion, from fiery liberals to temperamental moderates? Lastly, will that candidate represent the people in the positive progressive vision that our state's leaders of the past have exemplified?
Each Democratic candidate seeking to unseat Walker has different strengths and weaknesses. On all three questions, the candidates certainly have varying degrees of qualifications that make them all strong potential opponents to the governor. However, the most well-rounded candidate to take on Gov. Walker is clear: Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Known for his cool demeanor and centrist appeal, Barrett may not be the movement's first choice to take the recall forward. And yet, he is the right choice if we're hoping to win.
Other recall candidates may have a more leftist background than Barrett, or may have the backing of more organizations, or may even have a geographical advantage to the Milwaukee mayor (residing outside of the Milwaukee-Madison areas). This movement was energized by the progressive traditions of our state, and that momentum shouldn't change.
But there's also nothing to say that those traditions would be endangered by a Barrett candidacy. He's repeatedly stated he supports reinstating collective bargaining rights for state workers. He's indicated that job creation has to be among our highest priorities, an issue our current governor pretends to support but seemingly forgot about once he got into office. And as the spouse of an educator, Barrett understands that the best way to approach a quality education for ALL Wisconsin students is NOT making drastic cuts, but responsible investments in our state's schools.
Are there problems with a Barrett candidacy? Sure. For one, he's already lost to Walker in the past. Additionally, Barrett has earned the scorn of several unions across the state that have chosen to back his Democratic rival Kathleen Falk instead of him.
But the loss in 2010 to Walker was due in large part to a wave of conservatism that swept the country that year, which led to the loss of state houses and governor mansions across the nation (not to mention the U.S. Senate seat once held by Russ Feingold). Low turnout also contributed to that wave of losses -- more than 824,000 voters who had cast a ballot in 2008 stayed home in 2010.
And the fact that Barrett hasn't won the endorsement of most state employee unions doesn't mean he's not a pro-union candidate. Indeed, Barrett has gained the backing of several pro-labor legislators and former political leaders who have previously been backed by those very same unions, including the endorsement of the past five Madison mayors.
We should pledge to support any of the four Democratic candidates for governor that win the primary on May 8. Of the four that are running, each are far better alternatives to what we now have as our current governor. But when looking at who could best defeat Gov. Walker, as well as who has the best chances of garnering the votes of a broad coalition of Wisconsinites while still maintaining a progressive vision, the answer is clear: Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.