The Democratic Governors Association announced Monday they will pay close attention to the gubernatorial race in Wisconsin now that Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has entered the race.

According to a statement released Monday by the DGA, Wisconsin will be added to the list of “top-tier defensive holds” for 36 nationwide gubernatorial elections scheduled for 2010.

DGA Executive Director Nathan Daschle said in the statement Barrett’s accomplishments in leading his city will also appeal to people across Wisconsin during difficult economic times.

The DGA has been involved with Wisconsin’s two previous gubernatorial elections, where Gov. Jim Doyle successfully maintained two terms in office, said Mike Tate, chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Tate said the DGA plans on successfully helping the race once again.

However, some Republican supporters, including Bruce Pfaff, spokesperson for former congressman and Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Neumann, suspect DGA’s immediate support of Barrett demonstrates the general anxiety of Democrats toward gubernatorial elections in the near future.

Tate quickly dismissed the speculation, saying the interest was sparked because of the highly-competitive nature of this gubernatorial race.

“The DGA has shown interest in Wisconsin because they expect a competitive race,” Tate said. “They are interested in endorsing Barrett because they believe and we believe he would do well.”

Jeff Fleming, spokesperson for Barrett’s gubernatorial campaign, agreed the DGA’s support does not reflect negative anxiety about the results of the race. Rather, the prompt support from all Democratic governors around the country shows a genuine interest in the Wisconsin gubernatorial race.

“I understand the key role of the DGA is to make sure that a Democratic governor is elected,” Fleming said. “I can’t say about all Democrats, but we aren’t anxious; we are excited to get started.”

There have yet to be any specific collaborative plans made between the Barrett campaign and the DGA to win Wisconsin’s executive office, according to Fleming.

Nonetheless, Pfaff said the DGA’s major support for Barrett will not affect Neumann’s campaign. Pfaff said outside endorsements such as DGA’s are irrelevant for the actual role of the governor.

“If you support Barrett, that is to support Jim Doyle’s legacy,” Pfaff said. “Doyle drove private industries and businesses out of the state. We have to balance the budget, but Doyle clearly can’t. Now, Wisconsin is the third worst state in the nation to do business.”

Pfaff cited a 2009 Forbes ranking of the best states for businesses, which ranked Wisconsin as No. 48 in the country for fostering a good business environment.

The campaign of Milwaukee County Executive and Republican candidate Scott Walker also stressed how Doyle’s legacy will reappear in Barrett’s candidacy.

In a statement released Sunday, Walker campaign manager Keith Gilkes said Barrett has increased taxes in Milwaukee by tens of millions of dollars.

“If the Obama-Doyle administrations were looking for someone to maintain the status quo in Madison, then they sure found a willing foot soldier in Tom the Taxer,” Gilkes said.

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