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Barrett says Walker should have kept focus on jobs

wisconsin_recall_debate.jpg

May 31, 2012: Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, right, and Democratic challenger Tom Barrett participate in a televised debate in Milwaukee. (AP)

Democrat Tom Barrett said Sunday that 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.

Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee, said on CNN's "State of the Union" program that he believes recall elections like this Tuesday's should be rare.

"But this is a rare instance," he said. "You have a governor who did not campaign at all about having an attack on workers, on workers on the state."

The drive to recall Walker, as well as Wisconsin's Republican lieutenant governor and four GOP state senators was sparked by the Walker-backed law the Republican-led Legislature pushed through last year that stripped most public workers of collective bargaining rights and forced them to pay more for health insurance and pension benefits, which amounted to a pay cut.

Walker contends the moves were necessary to help balance what had been a $3.6 billion state budget shortfall, while Democrats say the law's primary purpose was to eviscerate the unions, which tend to back their party.

Barrett said Walker had already extracted some concessions on health care and pension from the unions, but instead of being satisfied with that he went into 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."

The program's host, Candy Crowley, said she invited Walker to appear as well but was told his schedule was too tight.

Walker and Barrett spent the final weekend ahead of Tuesday's election visiting voters across the state.

On Sunday 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 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's it's close enough that he won't rest until 8:01 p.m. Tuesday, one minute after the polls close.

Walker scheduled additional stops Sunday at another dairy breakfast in Marathon County and a Republican volunteer center in Fitchburg, along with a stop in Germantown with Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

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 planned another campaign stop in Oshkosh with U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl on Sunday morning, followed by a meeting with voters in Stevens Point.