MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Union members and other backers of Democratic governor candidate Kathleen Falk said Thursday their get out the vote effort will spur her on to victory in the May 8 primary.
Falk is one of four Democrats running for the chance to take on Republican Gov. Scott Walker in a recall election June 5. The recall was largely motivated by Walker's law passed last year effectively ending most union rights for public workers.
Although Falk has snared the backing of nearly every major union in the state, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has emerged as the front-runner with the primary less than two weeks away. Polls show him with a lead, Walker and others have been running television ads only targeting him, and political strategists say Falk is trailing.
Falk steered clear of attacking Barrett on Thursday, saying she was running a positive campaign.
Representatives from the statewide teachers union; the American Federations of State, County and Municipal Employees; the Sierra Club; Emily's List; the American Federation of Teachers; and others spoke in support of Falk at a Capitol news conference.
"They lit the fire," said Arlyn Halvorson, representing AFSCME. "We have boots on the ground."
The Falk backers said their efforts to contact voters directly - through phone banks, mailings and word of mouth - will push her on to victory.
"With such a big tent, with all these grass-roots groups supporting her, we know she can't lose," said Shahla Werner, representing the Sierra Club.
Falk said Walker opponents have continually proved naysayers wrong by sustaining large protests against Walker's collective bargaining proposal last year, forcing six recall elections of Republican state senators last year, and collecting roughly 1.7 million signatures on recall petitions targeting Walker and five other Republicans this year.
"Now they're saying a candidate can't win who's backed by labor," Falk said.
Women voters will make the difference in the election, said Heather Colburn, speaking on behalf of Emily's List, a Washington-based political group that helps elect Democratic women who support abortion rights.
Falk said she planned to blanket the state before the primary with stops including Eau Claire, Superior, Milwaukee and Manitowoc.
Barrett was in Milwaukee on Thursday and planned a news conference to talk about jobs, which has been one of the major issues of the campaign.
Walker promised in 2010, when he beat Barrett by 5 percentage points, that he would create 250,000 private sector jobs in Wisconsin over four years. Fifteen months in, there are only 5,900 new private sector jobs and the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this week that Wisconsin lost more jobs than any other state during the past 12 months.
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