Walker, Barrett spar over jobs numbers, collective bargaining, John Doe in debate

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker and his Democratic challenger, Tom Barrett, repeatedly sparred over collective bargaining rights, Wisconsin's economy and an ongoing criminal investigation into Walker's former aides during a contentious debate Thursday, their last matchup before Tuesday's recall election.

Walker, in office just 17 months and the third governor in U.S. history to face a recall election, defended his record and said the election is about "whether we want politicians to act on tough decisions."

Walker stormed into office, using a Republican majority in the Legislature to pass a law that effectively ended collective bargaining rights for most public workers. That sparked the recall movement, in which more than 900,000 signatures were gathered on petitions to trigger Tuesday's election.

Barrett, who lost to Walker in 2010 by 5 points, said Walker's policies are "working for the wealthiest people in the state but they're not working for the middle class." He said Walker, who has traveled nationwide raising $31 million since he took office, wants to make Wisconsin the "tea party capital of the country."

Polls show a tight race, with Walker holding a narrow lead within the margin of error of three publicly released polls within the past two weeks. Walker is vying to become the first governor to win a recall election.

One of the liveliest exchanges during the debate at the Marquette University Law School came when Walker and Barrett, seated next to each other at a round table fielding questions from moderator and veteran journalist Mike Gousha, discussed collective bargaining rights.

Walker defended his going after bargaining rights of most public workers just a month into office, saying it would be a mistake to reopen that debate as Barrett wants to do by calling a special legislative session to undo the changes.

Gousha asked Walker why, in a video recently made public that taken just before he introduced his plan in January 2011, he described his plan as a "divide and conquer" strategy against the unions.

Walker said he was talking about standing up to powerful special interests.

"We drew a line in the sand and said we're going to put the power back in the hands of taxpayers," Walker said.

Barrett, who repeatedly called Walker by his first name, said he was really signaling his support for turning Wisconsin into a right-to-work state.

"You wanted to pit people against each other because that's the way you operate," Barrett said.

Walker refused to say whether he would veto a right-to-work bill, saying he would ensure it never passes the Legislature.

"Mark my words, he'll sign it," Barrett said. "He would have a fall from grace with the far right if he would say he's going to veto that."

Barrett cast the recall as a question of trust, saying Walker has betrayed the people of the state.

Walker said he's shown courage in taking on tough challenges and that's what voters want.

While the collective bargaining fight triggered the recall, Walker has been attacked on numerous other issues during the truncated campaign, including his record on job creation.

Walker two weeks ago issued employment data that showed about 23,300 jobs were created in 2011, a dramatic positive swing from previously reported numbers showing a 33,900 drop, which was worst in the nation.

Walker made the unusual move of releasing the numbers before they had been reviewed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This week, his Department of Workforce Development said the numbers had been verified by the BLS and the state would post them Friday on its website.

"They reviewed and verified the numbers," Walker said to Barrett. "I know this undermines your ads of the past two months, but the facts are the facts."

Barrett said even if Walker's numbers are to be believed, the state's job creation numbers don't measure up to nearby states. Walker promised in 2010 to create 250,000 jobs in his first term and he's far from being on pace to deliver on that.

Another testy moment in the debate came during discussion of Walker's involvement with the ongoing criminal investigation focused on aides and associates of his during his time as Milwaukee County executive, a position he held for eight years.

The investigation has already led to charges against six people who worked for or were associated with Walker's county executive office, including two charged with embezzling more than $60,000 from veterans and their families.

Walker has not been charged, but he did create a legal defense fund into which he's funneled $160,000 of campaign money.

Barrett hammered Walker on the issue, saying in his 28 years in public life he's never had a single staff member charged with a crime and he's never opened a criminal defense fund.

Walker said Barrett was bringing up the probe to distract from other issues.

"He's not winning on jobs, he's not winning on the budget, he's not winning on our reforms," Walker said.

Barrett also chastised Walker for his most recent television ad that takes Barrett to task over a report that Milwaukee police misrepresented the city's crime statistics resulting in an apparent drop in violent crime when there actually was an increase.

"If Tom Barrett is willing to cover up hundreds of violent crimes in Milwaukee, what else is he hiding?" the narrator of Walker's ad says.

Barrett said Walker knows the ad falsely attacks his integrity and he should be ashamed of it.

"I have a Police Department that arrests felons," Barrett said. "He has a practice of hiring them."
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Republican Gov. Scott Walker and his Democratic challenger Tom Barrett sparred over whether jobs were created in Walker's first year in office.

Walker and Barrett had a spirited exchange over jobs in Thursday's second and final debate before Tuesday's recall election.

Walker two weeks ago issued employment data that showed about 23,300 jobs were created in 2011, a dramatic positive swing from previously reported numbers showing a 33,900 drop, which was worst in the nation.

Walker says he knows the new numbers undermine Barrett's campaign, but "the facts are the facts."

Barrett says even if his numbers are to be believed, Wisconsin's job creation numbers would still be the worst in the Big Ten.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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  • by David Location: Eau Claire on Jun 2, 2012 at 01:37 PM
    I seriously hope you Dem folks don't choose a doctor the way you choose a governor. Me - "Doctor Barrett, why should I choose you as my primary care provider - what would you do different?" "Well, your other doctor didn't solve your problem completely.....He lied about being able to help you, and some people he knows got in trouble, too. So HE must be in trouble." Me - "But Doctor Barrett, what can YOU do about my problem?" "I can get some people to talk about it." Me - "So what you're saying is YOU don't know what to do about it.....GREAT! You're my man!"
  • by Fall guy Location: Eau Claire on Jun 1, 2012 at 06:35 PM
    I'm still baffled how Barrett is on this ballot at all. Doesn't have a plan for Wi and Milwaukee won't even endorse him! What a joke! Walker is no gem either but I will vote this time around.
  • by cletus Location: eau claire on Jun 1, 2012 at 03:47 PM
    I think the 900,000 people that signed for the recall should pay for it. we all know who you are.
  • by anon on Jun 1, 2012 at 02:33 PM
    dont worry waukashaw county will produce enough votes to put the crook back in office they have done it before so one more time wont hurt
    • reply
      by Andy on Jun 1, 2012 at 06:14 PM in reply to anon
      well said
  • by Anonymous on Jun 1, 2012 at 01:00 PM
    I don't think it matters who wins this. Walker is going to end up being arrested anyhow. Another of his staff offered immunity yesterday? That's 13 total now from his staff and close associates! Think about it...if you had 13 people around you offered immunity in exchange for their testimony. Walker hasn't been offered immunity so he is obviously the target!!
  • by Anonymous on Jun 1, 2012 at 12:40 PM
    Barrett clearly ruled the debate. In Milwaukee we arrest felons, in Madison you hire them!! Walker just cringed. Was pretty funny actually!
    • reply
      by Pete on Jun 1, 2012 at 02:25 PM in reply to
      Heres something pretty funny too,Maybe Barrett mispoke about hiring felons....LOLOLOLOL...Less than two years after Gohkman was convicted of felony fraud, Mayor Barrett is accepting campaign cash from him, Talk about appointing the fox to guard the henhouse, Barrett appoints a developer convicted of defrauding the government to a board overseeing city development efforts. why not give an accountant convicted of embezzlement the checkbook while you’re at it? Now we also find out his statement about never having a staffer with criminal charges is untrue also, indeed funny stuff, or just another flat out lie.
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Jun 2, 2012 at 09:55 AM in reply to Pete
        So obviously barrett isn't smart enough to realize the media and public are going to check out his claims and besides Gov. Walker did not hire these people with felonies they got them afterwards, where barrett appointed an already felon...ya, he ruled the debate alright, in bold face lying for sure!!
  • by Ted- to Collin R.F. Location: WI on Jun 1, 2012 at 11:41 AM
    Thanks for the info. You must be Barrett supporter. The companies are having a hard time finding qualified people. People with the jobs skills required for employment with their companies. Barrett brought this up to Walker, but Walker had no solution! Walker's budget cut funding to tech schools. What was Walker's solution?
    • reply
      by I noticed..... on Jun 1, 2012 at 07:28 PM in reply to Ted- to Collin R.F.
      Yep I noticed that ALL the Tech Colleges in Wisconsin just closed up and are out of business. Get real just because ones budget goes down does not mean that everything goes in the crapper all at once. The biggest problem like you said is THE PEOPLE that won't retrain because they want things given to them instead of WORKING for what they get.
    • reply
      by Collin on Jun 2, 2012 at 06:51 AM in reply to Ted- to Collin R.F.
      You can align programs better with industry and get more bang for your buck, as Rahm Emanuel is attempting to do in Chicago. I don't know that Walker has similar plans, but I do know he doesn't agree with your premise of simply throwing money around and hoping outcomes magically improve. That method hasn't worked particularly well for Mr Barrett -- Milwaukee spends as much or more on education than anybody and gets pretty pitiful results.
  • by Lee Location: N. Wi on Jun 1, 2012 at 11:11 AM
    It surprises me that no one has brought up the fact that Wi companies are waiting to hire after they are sure Walker will still be in office. I know because I am one of them. If Barrett gets in I will probably be moving my business out of state!!!
    • reply
      by D on Jun 1, 2012 at 05:46 PM in reply to Lee
      Good, we do not need your low wage jobs.
    • reply
      by John on Jun 2, 2012 at 03:58 AM in reply to Lee
      Good riddons..
  • by Biff Location: Eau Claire on Jun 1, 2012 at 10:44 AM
    Anyone else catch old Tom trying to race-bait last night? It was only when he got really upset that the "true" Tom Barrett came out. Tommy boy, YOU should be ashamed of yourself.
    • reply
      by J on Jun 1, 2012 at 07:12 PM in reply to Biff
      actually I was glad to see it, it's about time someone has the courage to stand up for what is right.
  • by Collin Location: River Falls on Jun 1, 2012 at 09:44 AM
    According to this survey, 62% of the manufacturers in the state plan to hire this year. That's the best number they've had in ten years. Let the guy do his job. http://www.jsonline.com/business/survey-finds-state-firms-bullish-on-hiring-growth-js5jsnl-155813185.html
    • reply
      by mr on Jun 1, 2012 at 10:23 AM in reply to Collin
      I just hope we are all happy with the $8.00 an hour job that we are getting. If you can live with that, good for you! Hope you are happy with the Walker jobs!
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jun 1, 2012 at 12:37 PM in reply to Collin
      Of course they are going to say that right now! Prove it and hire!! Anyone can SAY anything right before an election. They need to put their money where their mouth is.
    • reply
      by Rainbird on Jun 1, 2012 at 02:43 PM in reply to Collin
      Great. That is an even more made up number than Scott Walker's numbers.
    • reply
      by john on Jun 1, 2012 at 03:13 PM in reply to Collin
      Careful Collin, you're using facts, that may not go over too well in Leftsville.
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