Tuesday’s Badger State primary took center stage in the GOP presidential nomination contest this week, but voters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s biggest city, were asked to do something slightly unusual that day – vote for a candidate who already had announced that he will run for another office.
Milwaukee mayor and former congressman Tom Barrett (D) was re-elected to a third term as the city’s mayor, but apparently isn’t planning to serve in that capacity for very long. On Friday of last week, he announced that he had also decided to become a candidate for the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial nomination in the primary election to be held in a little over a month, on May 8, for the right to face Gov. Scott Walker in a recall election that is sure to carry national implications.
Barrett will have to ramp up a statewide campaign quickly in the primary battle against former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, Secretary of State Doug LaFollette, and state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout for the right to take on Walker in the June 5 recall election. Also being conducted are recall elections against Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and three state senators. A fourth legislative office under recall will see a special election after incumbent Sen. Pam Galloway (R) announced her resignation in early March.
For the past few weeks Barrett had been coy, but dropped several hints that he was interested in a possible third run for governor even as he was campaigning for another term as Milwaukee’s mayor. Barrett lost the 2010 gubernatorial election to Walker by a 52 percent – 47 percent margin. He and Falk also previously lost a Democratic gubernatorial nomination, in 2002 to then-Attorney General Jim Doyle, who went on to serve as governor until Walker’s election in 2010.
Mr. Barrett has had a testy relationship with public employee unions, particularly those representing teachers, in Milwaukee. In fact, some union leaders had urged him to stay out of the race to clear the way for Falk and avoid a contentious Democratic primary with only one month to put together a general election campaign against Walker.
Counting the presidential primary, the regular primary, the recall, and the general election, Wisconsin voters are being asked to go to the polls at least five times between April and November all in significant contests that will affect more than just their own state’s politics. No wonder many in Wisconsin feel so “badgered” by politics.