MADISON (AP) — Wisconsin's largest police union on Tuesday endorsed Democrat Tom Barrett as its pick to challenge Republican Gov. Scott Walker in the June recall election, making the organization the first major union to publicly back the Milwaukee mayor.
Barrett and primary rival Kathleen Falk have been wrestling for weeks over union support, a key constituency in a recall spurred largely by Republican Gov. Scott Walker's contentious law stripping most public workers of their collective bargaining rights.
Both Barrett and Falk have said they are committed to restoring union rights. Most of the unions have lined up behind Falk, though. She's secured endorsements from the AFL-CIO, the state's largest state workers union, and the state's largest teachers union. The Wisconsin Professional Police Association's endorsement is a big boost for Barrett; the organization has more than 10,000 members in police departments across the state.
"Tom Barrett will be the kind of `big-tent' leader we need to regain the jobs we've lost, end the constant divisiveness, and govern in a fair and independent manner," WPPA Executive Director Jim Palmer said in a statement.
Falk said her labor endorsements far outweigh Barrett's because the unions know she's been fighting Walker's anti-union efforts since the beginning. She noted that she filed a lawsuit challenging the changes minutes after they became law last year.
"Over the last year, I was out there side-by-side with this whole army of citizens," she said. "That's why they've chosen me as the best one to go to battle against Scott Walker."
Falk released a statewide television ad Tuesday touching on the same themes, listing her endorsements and proclaiming she has been at the forefront of fighting Walker since the collective bargaining law passed. The ad made no mention of Barrett, focusing instead on Walker. Falk spokesman Scot Ross refused to say what markets the ad was playing in or how large the buy was.
Barrett and Falk will square off against state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, and Secretary of State Doug La Follette in a May 8 primary. The survivor will earn a chance to unseat Walker in a June 5 general election.
Walker, for his part, has argued he had to make the union changes to help fill the state's budget deficit and give local governments the flexibility to absorb deep reductions in state aid. Democrats, though, saw the move as a doomsday assault on unions, one of their core constituencies. They've been looking for revenge ever since Walker introduced the plan.
The governor is currently on a state tour claiming his policies have saved the state more than $1 billion. He was set to appear at Northland Pines High School in Eagle River on Tuesday afternoon.
Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Did you like this article? Vote it up or down! And don't forget to add your comments below!