Following a recall effort largely motivated by the repeal of collective bargaining rights for public employees, Democratic gubernatorial candidates have shifted the race’s platform to zone in on job creation as their primary looms in the near future.
Former Dane County Executive and gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Falk and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett both released television advertisements on job creation in response to a statistic asserting Wisconsin had the largest job loss above any other state in the nation throughout the past year.
Wisconsin for Falk released a television advertisement Wednesday as part of its $1 million campaign in the final days before the primary accusing Gov. Scott Walker of destroying workers’ rights and hurting job creation.
Falk’s spokesperson Scot Ross said Falk’s campaign is focusing on her record with job creation.
“When it comes to Kathleen’s record, under Gov. Walker, Wisconsin had the most job loss, whereas under Kathleen Falk, her county had the highest rates of employment,” Ross said.
Barrett released a television advertisement May 1 in response to Walker’s call for Wisconsin to “stay the course” in order to see economic success. Barrett’s ad alleged Walker’s “course” and his promise to create 250,000 more jobs have led to a loss of 24,000 jobs.
Jamie Rebman, spokesperson for gubernatorial candidate Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, said the Vinehout platform has always been job creation. Rebman neither confirmed nor denied a shift in campaign focus.
Secretary of State and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Doug La Follette did not return requests for comment.
Although collective bargaining rights did spark the recall election process, University of Wisconsin mass communications and political science professor Dhavan Shah said the job-focused advertisements are a by-product of collective bargaining rights campaigns.
“I think the entire effort to reduce workers’ rights and essentially end collective bargaining was contingent on Walker’s claim to create jobs,” Shah said. “The fact that Wisconsin has the worse job record per capita in the nation gives Democrats leverage with job creation.”
Shah said this shift to job creation and the effort to prime the issue are attempts to adhere to a wider spectrum of voters. As jobs are a signal of the state’s economy, the idea of “more jobs” reaches a broader group of voters, Shah said.
According to Shah, a limitation on collective bargaining rights does not affect everyone in the state, whereas a focus on job creation addresses voters beyond the public sector and consequently benefits the Democratic candidates.
“The record of job creation is so meager,” Shah said. “Priming the public on that issue will benefit democrats.”
However, Friends of Scott Walker spokesperson Tom Evenson said in an email to The Badger Herald this shift of platform focus is only a “desperate power grab” made by the Democrats.
According to Evenson, Walker is confident voters will not be convinced by the attack advertisements.
“Gov. Walker has the confidence of Wisconsin voters, and Democrats are running scared in this desperate power grab,” Eveson said. “The Walker campaign welcomes the focus on job creation.”
According to Evenson, under Walker’s leadership, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is at its lowest point since 2008, and Wisconsin’s private sector has so far created 15,600 jobs in 2012. He said this contrasts with Barrett’s record on jobs, as Milwaukee’s unemployment rate rose 29 percent under Barrett’s “reign as mayor.”