Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker faces Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in a recall election more than a year after passing a law limiting workers’ collective bargaining rights.
The recall vote closely divided Wisconsin, which helped elect Democrat Barack Obama as president in 2008, is seen as a dress rehearsal for the 2012 U.S. presidential election in November, according to Reuters.
Wisconsin election will be just the third recall election of a governor in U.S. history, and it was preceeded by weeks of loud protests by demonstrators who occupied the state capitol in Madison as Walker and fellow Republican lawmakers pushed through the union curbs in March 2011.
According to the law, most state workers, including teachers, have to pay more for health insurance and pensions, limited their pay raises, made payment of union dues voluntary and forced unions to be recertified every year.
“So here we are. It’s the last 28 hours,” said Tom Barrett at his final major rally.
“It’s like a heavyweight boxing match. And in this corner, you’ve got Scott Walker with his millions and millions of out-of-state dollars. And in this corner, you’ve got Tom Barrett, and he’s got YOU,” he said.
On Monday Scott Walker held an election eve rally on Milwaukee’s south side, where he said his administration had been a successful one.
“We’ve only got a few hours left. The polls open tomorrow morning — just a few hours from now. And in less than 22 hours, the polls close,” said Walker.
He added: “The polls show us ahead. I was just up in the shadow of Lambeau Field this evening, and I said — you know, I’m borrowing from the Packers — ‘We can’t spike the ball on the 10-yard line. We’ve got to get it all the way through to the end zone. … The truth is on our side.”
About two dozen protesters briefly confronted Walker supporters in a parking lot outside the hall until police arrived to separate the two groups.
CNN writes that the recall race was born out of Gov. Walker’s first budget, which sought to deal with an expected $3.8 billion shortfall and turned out to be an austere plan that included stripping most public unions of collective bargaining rights.
“This is not about the word ‘I.’ This is about the word ‘we,'” said Barrett in his pitch to supporters.
“We are in this together. We are in this together to reclaim our state. To make sure that our children and their grandchildren and their grandchildren can be here. So we can have a middle class in a state we’re proud of. This is about our values. It’s about Wisconsin values. That’s why we need each other. That’s why we have to keep working. That’s why we have to win this election tomorrow,” Barrett said.
According to The Huff Post, Walker kept the focus on jobs in his speech, arguing that his controversial reforms were successful.
“You know what the biggest concern for employers is?” asked Walker. “The biggest thing that’s holding people back from creating even more jobs? The recall! The recall! In survey after survey after survey, it’s the recall.
“And I can understand why. I spent the last year and a half, nearly every day, visiting farms, factories and small businesses, all across Wisconsin. And I hear what I see in these surveys. Employers like the direction we’re headed. They like the opportunity to add more jobs in a state that’s willing to work with them, but they’re scared to death about going backwards and not forward,” Walker said.
Walker has led Barrett narrowly in most opinion polls, with very few voters undecided, so each side has mounted intense get-out-the-vote campaigns.
President Obama Tweeted on Monday “It’s election Day in Wisconsin tomorrow, and I’m standing by Tom Barrett. He’d make an outstanding governor.”
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has called Walker a “hero.”