Democratic candidates set to clash at final pre-primary debate

Poll: Walker has 7-point lead among likely voters

The stage is set on Friday for the final debate between Democratic gubernatorial candidates before the recall primary next week.

The four Democrats vying to unseat Republican Gov. Scott Walker in the recall election are set to clash on Friday night at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, state Sent. Kathleen Vinehout and Secretary of State Doug La Follette will appear at the Wisconsin Public Television studio.
Prior debates haven’t seen candidates willing to attack each other. The joint appearance, which starts at 7 p.m., comes at a critical time of the campaign. The latest Marquette University Law School polling shows Barrett has a double-digit lead — 38 percent — over Falk, who garnered 21 percent of the 700 voters who were polled. Vinehout and La Follette are both polling in the single digits.

Earlier on Friday, Falk was touting the support of women’s groups and appeared “four generations of Wisconsin women.” She appeared at an event with local elected officials and the founder of the Wisconsin Womens Network. Attendees said they wanted Falk to become the first female governor of the state of Wisconsin.


The gender issue has recently become a centerpiece of the campaign as the candidates search for those women swing voters. Falk said that she intends to champion women’s issues.

“They are leaders because they are women, and behind every one of them are hundreds of thousands of other women who do the same thing every day. They lead our state and I am proud to stand with them, to fight for them, and I will not stop fighting for them,” Falk said.

Barrett said on Friday that he doesn’t see the forum as a debate in the traditional sense, saying he ultimately thinks they will talk more about taking on the governor than going after each other.

“I want to restore trust to the office of governor, I want to heal the deep divisions we have in the state. I want to be the governor who is going to be (focused) on creating jobs and I want to end the civil war. and I think that’s what people in the state are looking for right now,” he said.

The candidates will all kick off statewide whirlwind tours in the next three days following the debate, WISC-TV reported.

The winner of Tuesday’s election will advance to face Walker in the June 5 general recall election.
Democrats have forced Walker and five other Republican lawmakers into recall elections in part as punishment for passing a contentious law stripping most public workers of their union rights.
Democrats, though, have worked over the last few weeks to turn the election into a referendum on Wisconsin’s sputtering economy.