Last year, when Gov. Scott Walker won passage of his budget reform bill, WI’s public sector unions vowed to take the issue to the voters and oust Walker in a recall election. In the interim, the unions tried, and failed, to wrest control of the state Senate in recall elections last year. And they tried, and failed, to take control of the state Supreme Court. Today, their leading candidate in the recall election, Kathleen Falk, is set for a thumping defeat to moderate Democrat, Tom Barret, mayor of Milwaukee. It turns out that, even among WI Democrats, the union positions just aren’t that popular with voters.
Make no mistake, the unions went to the mat for Falk, who, in return, vowed to veto any budget that didn’t restore the union’s collective bargaining rights. They poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into her campaign and launched their own PAC, which spent over $5 million on Falks behalf. AFSCME released a scathing ad against Barrett, suggesting he supported Walker’s collective bargaining reforms. All this support earned Falk a ten-point drop in the polls. She goes into today’s election trailing Barrett by a whopping 17 points.
Of course, its possible Falk and her union allies squandered their monetary advantage with a poorly run campaign. But, there are other signs that the union message is losing out among Wisconsin voters. Barrett’s campaign has raised about 85-90% of its funds from individuals, over 80% of whom are from Wisconsin. Over a third of Falk’s money has come from special interests and around half her total funds have come from out-of-state.
More worrying for the unions, however, is the fact that Barrett, the presumptive Democrat nominee running against Walker, doesn’t want to appear allied with the unions. The Dems had planned a big ‘unity rally’ tonight, to heal the wounds of the often contentious primary. It was cancelled, though, after Barrett pulled out of the event. It seems he was worried about photos and videos of him surrounded by WI union members.
It is certainly telling that Barrett believes his best chance to defeat Walker in the recall is to completely ignore the issue that sparked the recall in the first place. No matter what happens in June, the unions have already lost the war.