By Bob Petrie
With the smells of a Friday night fish fry and the sounds of a polka band in the air, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett got a big taste of Oktoberfest, Sheboygan-style, Friday night.
The Milwaukee mayor worked the crowd at Al and Al's Stein Haus, posing for photos and shaking hands -- using both hands -- and even danced a short polka.
"We thought we'd come up here," said Barrett, 56, a Democrat who is challenging Republican Scott Walker in the governor's race. "We knew this was a good community celebration and there's a lot of good Sheboygan Germans here. We thought we're going to come and enjoy ourselves."
Accompanying Barrett was state Rep. Terry Van Akkeren of Sheboygan.
"(I want to) show him Sheboygan has a good German heritage here and just get his name known here with all the people that are here tonight," Van Akkeren said.
Barrett, severely attacked in August 2009 outside State Fair Park by a man wielding a tire iron, suffered a broken right hand and was hit in the head by his attacker, losing three teeth in the fight, during which he punched the other man, Anthony Peters.
Barrett, who underwent several surgeries and suffered permanent damage to his right hand, said he's only recently started using that hand to shake hands during appearances.
"It works, when people grab the fingers, that's when it hurts," Barrett said. "I'm trying to be able to shake hands again."
Barrett's visit came at a time when polls are showing the governor's race tightening a bit between him and Walker, the Milwaukee County executive. A Fox News poll on Tuesday showed Walker leading, 49 percent to 45 percent, and a Rasmussen Poll released Friday showed Walker with a 6-point lead, 50-44.
"The new polls are showing it's a tossup right now and we're very comfortable with that," Barrett said. "We're happy to be where we are. We've got a lot of good energy, a lot of good excitement and I think as people hear more and more about how I want to focus on jobs and getting state government on a diet, they're responding in a very positive fashion."
Barrett said he's been "going 120 mph" in the campaign, and plans to visit Beloit, Racine, Milwaukee, Superior and Bayfield this weekend.
"This is the last 31 days of the campaign; your foot's on the accelerator for 31 days," he said.