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Wednesday, March 4, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 13.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Tom Barrett's entry into the Wisconsin recall race miffs Kathleen Falk supporters
'Another Wisconsin woman is dissed.'
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Falk supporter tells Barrett: 'You had your chance.'
Falk supporter tells Barrett: 'You had your chance.'

Linda Balisle put just one word in the subject line in her email to Tom Barrett: "Disappointed."

"You had your chance," the Madison attorney wrote Barrett Friday, just about 30 minutes after the Milwaukee mayor and 2010 gubernatorial candidate ended months of speculation by announcing he would run for governor. "We all gave you money. You lost. Now after Kathleen [Falk] has done all the work, a Chicago boss steps in and another Wisconsin woman is dissed."

Balisle, a longtime supporter who first met Falk when the two were students at UW Law School, says in a phone interview that she is disappointed that "after 35 years of [Falk's] boots-on-the-ground-work that has had a real effect on people's lives in Wisconsin, that [Barrett] would feel she's not good enough."

The "boss" she refers to is Chicago mayor and former Obama aide Rahm Emanuel, who recently attended a fundraiser for Barrett in Milwaukee.

Phil Walzak, spokesman for Barrett's campaign, says that the upcoming Democratic primary on May 8 - state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout of Alma and Secretary of State Doug La Follette are also running - is about who is the best candidate to go out and defeat Scott Walker.

"I think that the people of Wisconsin will decide who their candidate is in a spirited and hopefully clean campaign," says Walzak.

Balisle says Falk has been traveling the state since the time of the Capitol protests against Walker's collective bargaining bill, even interviewing those gathering petitions to recall the governor. "All of this before she decided to run," says Balisle. "She didn't want to go on a fool's errand. She made sure she could do the numbers before she put friends and family through this."

Balisle also posted a "say it isn't so" message on Terese Berceau's Facebook page when she heard the Democratic state lawmaker from Madison might be backing Barrett. Falk has been endorsed by Democratic state Reps. Chris Taylor and Brett Hulsey of Madison, Sondy Pope-Roberts of Middleton and Chris Sinicki of Milwaukee.

Berceau confirms she is backing Barrett, though she says Falk would also make a great governor.

"I know that has disappointed many of my fellow Kathleen supporters," says Berceau, who supported Falk when she ran for governor in 2002.

"But this last session has been so horrible for the state of Wisconsin and for governing in Wisconsin on every level that it's very important to me that we have a person who can win," she adds.

Berceau says Barrett has the best chance of appealing to independents.

"Independent women are the gold standard," she says. "We know we need to reach them and know they're critical. Name recognition is going to be a big factor with a short period of time."

State Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton), who is also endorsing Barrett, says in his travels around the state he has not found much excitement for a Falk run. Voters are also not that worked up about Barrett, he adds.

But he says there is a perception that Falk is vulnerable because she is too closely aligned with public worker unions; in February she pledged to veto any budget that did not restore collective bargaining rights to public workers.

"Unions, to be honest, did not do Kathleen any favors," says Erpenbach. "This is not just about collective bargaining. It's about cuts to education, cuts to technical schools, the assault on women's health." Falk is opposed to all of that, Erpenbach says, but Walker will be able to paint her as a single-issue candidate.

"If we get Kathleen, it's Scott Walker against the unions."

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