With a week to go before the recall election that will determine whether Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker serves the remainder of his term, he and his Democratic opponent were both out campaigning around the state Tuesday.
Walker and Tom Barrett also faced a Tuesday deadline to report how much money they have raised and spent on the campaign through May 21. Walker reported last month that he had brought in $25 million since he took office in 2011, more than doubling his own previous fundraising record set in 2010. Barrett, by contrast, had raised only about $1 million for the recall as of late April.
The state elections board predicted Tuesday that turnout for the recall would reach as high as 65 percent. That would be better than the nearly 50 percent who voted in 2010, when Walker beat Barrett by 5 points, but not quite as high as the 69 percent turnout in the 2008 presidential election.
"Wisconsin has never had a statewide recall election, which makes predicting turnout difficult," said Kevin Kennedy, director of the Government Accountability Board.
Barrett took to the road Tuesday with former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, while Walker held a campaign event at Husco International in Waukesha. Walker also attended the groundbreaking of a new 80,000 square-foot addition for an Ashley Furniture production facility in Whitehall that is projected to create 225 jobs.
Walker's campaign released a new television ad attacking Barrett on Milwaukee crime numbers. The ad focuses on one of more than 500 incidents since 2009 that Milwaukee police misreported to the FBI as minor assaults instead of aggravated assaults, based on a review by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. If the 500 incidents been classified properly, the violent-crime rate last year would have risen 1.1 percent from the previous year's figures, instead of falling 2.3 percent as the police department had reported. "Violent crime in Milwaukee is up, and Tom Barrett isn't telling the truth," the narrator in Walker's ad says.
Barrett has said he supports an internal audit. Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, issued a statement saying there's no evidence to back up claims made in the ad that Barrett is lying and covering up crime.
Walker's spokeswoman Ciara Matthews said Barrett owes his constituents an explanation of what she called "widespread misreporting of violent crimes" in Milwaukee.
But Mike Tate, chairman of the state Democratic Party, called the ad "over the top" and said it indicates Walker is behind.
"It's the type of ad you drop when you're trying to pull someone down," Tate said. "It's the typical Republican attack ad. Let's play on people's fears."
The effort to recall Walker began after he successfully pushed to remove the collective bargaining power of most public employee unions and has become a nationally watched battle over worker rights.
A pro-Barrett group called the Greater Wisconsin Committee also released a new ad Tuesday that hits Walker on a number of topics, including his measure taking away collective bargaining rights from state workers and his role in an ongoing secret criminal investigation centered on former aides and associates of his when he served as Milwaukee County executive.
Walker has refused to talk in detail about that so-called John Doe investigation, despite calls from Barrett and Democrats to release emails from his time as county executive and divulge who is contributing toward a criminal defense fund he established.
Meanwhile, Barrett campaign spokesman Phil Walzak said the office had also received hundreds phone calls from people, mostly angry Democrats, asking about a text message they received Tuesday that said, "Tom Barrett is a Union Puppet who will give Union Thugs everything they want." It listed the Barrett campaign office number and encouraged recipients to call and ask why.
Anti-Democratic text messages have been reported in other states, including Virginia a week before elections last year, but it has not been a widespread issue in Wisconsin.