In their last debate before next Tuesday’s recall election, Republican Governor Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Tom Barrett went after each other on issues ranging from collective bargaining to crime in the city of Milwaukee.
In a conversation with the candidates at Marquette Law School Thursday night, Governor Walker defended his changes to public employee collective bargaining that launched the recall effort, saying that the issue has faded into the background because those reforms are working for the state. He pointed to savings for taxpayers, reductions in property taxes, and job growth that have resulted from the budget reforms he championed since taking office. Walker argues the recall is the only holding back further job growth in the state.
AUDIO: Gov. Scott Walker (:21)
Barrett fired back, saying Walker took advantage of a fiscal crisis to divide the state. The Milwaukee mayor says Walker went after his political enemies while giving tax breaks to businesses, despite arguing that the state was broke.
AUDIO: Tom Barrett (:05)
When pressed on whether he would veto a right to work bill, Walker argued it will never make it to his desk. Barrett says the governor is afraid of “falling from grace” with his supporters and his unwillingness to take a position shows he would sign legislation if it passes the Legislature.
AUDIO: Tom Barrett (:04)
Barrett continued to criticize Walker over an ongoing John Doe investigation in Milwaukee County, which has focused on the governor’s administration when he was the county executive. The probe has resulted in charges against five former associates of Walker, although the governor himself has not been charged with any crimes.
The mayor called on Walker to release emails from his office related to the investigation and to disclose who is paying for a legal defense fund he established. Governor Walker held firm on past statements that prosecutors have asked him not to discuss details of the case.
Walker used the issue to shift the focus to recent revelations about misreported crime statistics in Milwaukee. A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation found violent crime statistics in the city had been improperly reported to the FBI, which incorrectly made it appear the city’s crime rate had gone down. Governor Walker says Barrett should explain how that happened.
AUDIO: Gov. Walker (:11)
Barrett fired back at Walker over a campaign ad focusing on the mistake. Barrett says the ad, which highlights the death of a young child that was misreported, tries to make it appear as if the mayor had something to do with it. Barrett called it “Willie Horton stuff.”
AUDIO: Tom Barrett (:10)
Barrett says the two issues come down to the fact that he “has a police department that arrests felons, he (Walker) has a practice of hiring them.”
The debate was the final meeting for the two candidates ahead of the June 5th recall election. Recent polls show Walker with a slight lead heading into the election, but the outcome of the recall is expected to depend largely on voter turnout.