MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Labor unions exerted some muscle Thursday in the Democratic primary race for Wisconsin governor, announcing a $1 million advertising blitz and rallying around their endorsed candidate, Kathleen Falk.
A group supported by the statewide teachers union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, as well as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees announced it was buying $1 million of television, cable and online advertising time beginning Friday and running through May 7, the day before the primary.
The group, Wisconsin for Falk, has already spent about $3 million. But its ads had been off the air for more than a week, bolstering the belief that Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett had established himself as the clear front-runner in the Democratic race. Polls also show him ahead and other attack ads from Republican Gov. Scott Walker and his supporters are focused only on Barrett.
The new Falk ad, running in La Crosse, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Wausau and Madison, doesn't mention Barrett or the other two Democrats running. Instead, it attacks Walker and his policies that led to the recall effort.
Union members and other backers of Falk's campaign rallied around her at a news conference in the state Capitol, saying she has the credentials to defeat Walker in the June 5 recall race. The recall was largely motivated by Walker's law passed last year effectively ending most union rights for public workers.
Falk won union support after promising to veto any state budget that doesn't restore collective bargaining rights. Barrett refused to make such a pledge.
Barrett spokesman Phil Walzak said despite the barrage of negative ads, "the polls show Tom is the consensus favorite of the people to take on Scott Walker."
Falk and representatives of numerous unions — including WEAC, AFSCME, the Sierra Club, Emily's List and the American Federation of Teachers — said they would get out the vote through phone banks, mailings and word of mouth to deliver a victory. Wisconsin For Falk said it was using its 18 field offices across the state to drive voter turnout.
"With such a big tent, with all these grass-roots groups supporting her, we know she can't lose," said Shahla Werner of the Sierra Club.