By DINESH RAMDE, Associated Press
GERMANTOWN, Wis. (AP) — Republican Gov. Scott Walker could have avoided being forced into a recall election if he had focused on creating jobs, as he had promised, instead of trying to destroy his political opponents, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said Sunday.
Barrett, the Democrat challenging Walker in Tuesday's election, said recall elections should be used sparingly.
"But this is a rare instance," he said on CNN's "State of the Union" program. "You have a governor who did not campaign at all about having an attack on workers."
The drive to recall Walker, along with Wisconsin's Republican lieutenant governor and four GOP state senators, was sparked by a bill that Walker championed and pushed through the Republican-led Legislature last year. The law stripped most public workers of collective bargaining rights and forced them to pay more for health insurance and pension benefits, changes that amounted to a pay cut.
Walker contends the moves were necessary to help balance a $3.6 billion shortfall in the state budget. Democrats counter that the law's main purpose was to eviscerate the unions, which tend to back their party.
Barrett said Walker extracted concessions on health care and pension from the unions, but instead of accepting the victory and moving on he stayed in attack mode.
"He wanted to go after his political opponents and permanently disarm them," Barrett said. "That's what this was all about, taking away their rights."
Walker made a number of campaign stops Sunday, including at a Republican headquarters in Germantown, about 20 miles northwest of Milwaukee. Walker was joined there by Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, and together they visited with dozens of campaign volunteers.
Afterward, a reporter asked Walker what message a recall win would send to the nation.
"I think the message that will be sent from Wisconsin will be that voters really do expect people in office to make tough decisions," he said.
Walker and Barrett spent the final weekend ahead of the election visiting voters across the state.
On Sunday morning their paths nearly crossed at a popular dairy breakfast in the Town of Rockland in Brown County. Walker talked with people and greeted well-wishers while he dished out eggs and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch served sausages.
Mary Ann Hager, a 69-year-old retiree from the Wisconsin village of Denmark, felt tears coming when she greeted the governor.
"Scott, I just wanted to wish you good luck," she told him. "You've got to keep it up."
Walker told attendees he feels good about the race, but that it's close enough that he won't rest until 8:01 p.m. Tuesday, one minute after the polls close.
About 15 minutes after Walker left his egg station at the Brown County breakfast, Barrett took up the same spot. He also exchanged pleasantries with attendees who also wished him luck.
Barrett's schedule Sunday included campaign stops in Oshkosh with U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl and a meeting with voters in Stevens Point. Walker visited Marathon County and Fitchburg.
At many Walker stops, the governor often obliges supporters who ask him to autograph Walker signs or T-shirts. But at Walker's Germantown stop, one man found a more prominent way to show his loyalty.
Stan Larson, 81, of Menomonee Falls, asked Walker to sign the hood of his sparkling red 1965 Ford Mustang. Walker hesitated for a moment, then wrote, "On Wisconsin!" and his signature in permanent ink. The message covered less than the area of a standard business card.
Larson had a wide grin as he told The Associated Press he was grateful to get the autograph.
"I'm damn proud of my car and I'm damn proud of my governor," he said. "When I pass it on to my (25-year-old) grandson - he's a big Scott Walker supporter - he's going to say, "Grandpa, that's great!"'
Associated Press writer Roger Schneider contributed to this report from Town of Rockland.