- Associated Press - Monday, May 7, 2012

MADISON, Wis. — The leading Democratic candidates in the race to take on Republican Gov. Scott Walker in only the nation’s third gubernatorial recall election made their final campaign stops Monday before the primary.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the last of the four Democrats to get into the race, has emerged as the front-runner in the Tuesday vote. A Marquette University poll released last week showing him with a 17-point lead over Kathleen Falk. The margin of error was 4.7 percentage points.

Mr. Barrett’s apparent edge comes despite Ms. Falk being the favored candidate of the major unions that spurred the recall against Mr. Walker, including the statewide teachers union and the AFL-CIO.

Mr. Walker was targeted for recall after succeeding last year with enacting a law that effectively ended collective bargaining rights for most state workers, sparking weeks of protests and making Wisconsin the center of the national struggle over union rights.


Mr. Walker has since emerged as a national conservative hero and the embodiment of the Republican rise to power in 2010. He has shattered Wisconsin campaign finance records, raising $25 million, about 2/3 of it from outside Wisconsin as he tries to keep his job in the face of the historic recall.

While the union fight spurred the recall, the campaign has been much broader and also focused largely on the state’s economy and Mr. Walker’s 2010 campaign pledge to create 250,000 jobs over four years.

The state’s unemployment rate is at the lowest level it’s been since 2008, but Wisconsin lost more jobs than any other state between March 2011 and March 2012. Since Mr. Walker took office 16 months ago, only 5,900 private-sector jobs have been created.

Mr. Barrett, who lost to Mr. Walker by 5 points in 2010, is hoping for a chance at a rematch. He was spending the last day before the primary meeting with voters in Sheboygan and Kenosha.

Ms. Falk planned a pair of campaign stops in Mr. Barrett’s backyard, meeting with students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus and talking with union workers at a Milwaukee elementary school.

Mr. Walker planned to visit workers at the Emmi Roth cheese plant in Monroe and tour the Rayovac facility in Fennimore on Monday. Both stops were organized through his official office and not his campaign.

His campaign spokeswoman, Ciara Matthews, said Mr. Walker would be making campaign stops Tuesday.

The general election is just a month away on June 5.

Erik Dahlberg, a 51-year-old investment adviser from Beloit, called the recall process a “sham” and said he planned to vote for Mr. Walker. If people don’t like Mr. Walker’s policies, they should vote him out as scheduled in 2014, Mr. Dahlberg said.

“He deserves the four years he earned,” Mr. Dahlberg said. “We run the guy out of office for doing what he said he’d do? He didn’t rob a bank. … Be reasonable. I just think the political process should be allowed to work.”