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CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" - Transcript

Interview

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CROWLEY: Joining me is Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the man who lost to Governor Scott in the 2010 election and looks to unseat him now in the recall. Mr. Mayor, thank you for being here this morning. Let me start out with you asking whether you have asked the president to come and campaign on your behalf?

BARRETT: No, because we understand that he's got a lot going on, and this actually started, Candy, as a grassroots movement here in Wisconsin because of Governor Walker's lack of integrity and his surprise attack on workers in the state. So integrity and a grassroots effort was how this started and it going to be on those same two notes, that's how this campaign will end with the grassroots movement and focusing on his integrity.

CROWLEY: You certainly have -- certainly the Republicans have had more out of state money and more out of state help, but you have had some national figures come in as well from the party and also from the unions who have been fighting Governor Walker in particular based off this budget, and one of those folks, Gerry McEntee, who I know you know well, who is the president of AFSME, had this to say about the Democratic Party. "We think there could have been more responsibility, more work on behalf of the National Democratic Party. We think they could and should have done more."

As you look at these next couple of days moving forward, where do you think the momentum is and could you use more from the DNC and from some of these other folks to get in there and try to pull you over the finish line?

BARRETT: Well, Candy, I traveled the state yesterday, I'm going to be traveling the state again today and tomorrow. And yesterday it was just a phenomenal day, literally hundreds of people all throughout the state, people saying to me they have never seen the level of excitement they're seeing right now. And it's people from Wisconsin, it's people who live here, and that's what this should be all about.

It should be all about the people in the state of Wisconsin because you've got a sitting governor, the only governor in this country who has a legal defense fund, all this outside money. This is Wisconsin values versus outside influence.

And again I want to be on the side of Wisconsin values.

CROWLEY: And do you think then that there is no national message in this? That win or lose, you don't see any national implications for November or any tea leaves coming out of this Wisconsin race?

BARRETT: Again, Scott Walker wants to make this a national race because he wants to be on the national stage as the rock star of the far right, as the poster boy of the Tea Party. That's not what I'm interested in. I'm not going to be the rock star of the far right and frankly on the rock star of the far left. I'm focusing on this state because that's what's important to me. CROWLEY: I was interested -- I want to talk to you a little bit about recall elections in general. The Marquette law school poll, this was about the approval or disapproval of Scott Walker and how he's handling his job. This May 23rd to 26th, so very recently. And 51 percent of those, you know, said, look, we think -- we approve of the job he's doing, 45 percent disapprove.

The recall election itself in general seems to me to encourage in some ways timid leadership. Here is a guy who is polling 51 percent in your state and yet you're trying to recall him because you're unhappy with what he did.

BARRETT: Well, I think it's important to understand the history of Wisconsin here. Scott Walker actually became the Milwaukee County executive following a recall that he was one of the leaders of. And as a state legislator, he says he does not remember whether he signed recall petitions against Senator Kohl and Senator Feingold.

CROWLEY: How do you feel about them though?

BARRETT: Look, you're a city/state legislation -- oh, I think they should be rare. I absolutely they should be rare. But this is a rare instance. You have a governor who did not campaign at all about having an attack on workers, on workers on the state. And he came in in a very furtive fashion. He said, and these are his words, not mine, he said he was going to be dropping the bomb and he was going to divide and conquer. He set out on a strategy to pit people in this state against each other and he succeeded in pitting people against each other.

CROWLEY: But -- you know again, it seems to me that if you use a recall election because a governor does something you don't like, you set up the stakes for timid leadership. They're always sort of putting their finger to the wind trying to figure out what people want so they don't get recalled. And the president himself has said I need four more years in order to fix what's wrong with the economy and other things, and Scott Walker, that whole recall thing, began within months of his taking office. That's kind of what I wanted you to address.

BARRETT: Sure. Well, it's important again to understand what happened. He said that he was require state employees to pay more towards their health care and their pensions, and quite honestly what happened was they agreed to do that. They agreed to do that. Did they want to do it? Of course not, but the leadership agreed to do that.

This entire episode would have been avoided if he would have said, all right, I campaigned on that, you agree to it, let's move on. But it became clear very, very early that was not all that was going on here. He wanted to go after his political opponents and permanently disarm them. That's what this was all about, taking away their rights. And he said it was the first step. And the next step obviously would be to go after people who are in the private sector and people who aren't in unions. So I believe that this is the first step towards taking away workers' rights throughout the state, and that's where the surprise attack came in. He never once mentioned that, but once he came in, he instead of focusing on jobs, which he said he was going to do, he took this road where he went after the rights of workers throughout the state of Wisconsin. That's what got people up in arms. All of this could have been avoided if he would have agreed to that.

CROWLEY: Quickly if I could, are you going to win this thing?

BARRETT: I am going to win it. What we saw in the last tracking poll two nights ago, this is 800 samples, I was one vote behind, not one percentage point behind, but one vote behind. And we have literally thousands of people on the streets this weekend. So we are very, very positive.

CROWLEY: Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, you have got a busy couple days ahead of you so we doubly appreciate your time this morning.

BARRETT: Thank you, Candy.

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