Candidates for Wisconsin governor tout their cheapness as they promise to cut state spending

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Wis. governor candidates compete to be cheapest

MADISON, Wis. — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett took a page out of Republican Scott Walker’s play book in his most recent television ad, claiming to be “one of the cheapest guys on the planet.”

Walker has based his entire campaign on his personal frugality, calling it a “brown bag movement” because he claims to pack the same ham and cheese sandwiches nearly every day for lunch. The Milwaukee County executive has promised to bring the same conservative approach to cutting state spending and balancing the budget, which now has a $2.7 billion shortfall.

A fundraising letter from Walker’s wife, Tonette, sent out earlier in the campaign included the line, “Scott calls himself frugal or fiscally conservative. I sometimes call him cheap.”

In Barrett’s ad, which began airing last week, the Milwaukee mayor looks directly at the camera and says, “As my wife can tell you, I’m one of the cheapest guys on the planet, and proud of it.”

Barrett campaign spokesman Phil Walzak said Tuesday the spot was in response to negative ads being run by Walker and the Republican Governors Association in an attempt to portray Barrett as a big spender.

“Why does Scott Walker get to corner the market on cheapness?” Walzak said.

Asked to cite examples of Barrett’s cheapness, Walzak said he doesn’t like to pay for parking and drives a 2001 Ford Taurus with about 75,000 miles on it.

In addition to talking about his proclivity for brown bag lunches, Walker also ran an ad earlier in the campaign showing him behind the wheel of his car, which has more than 100,000 miles on it.

Both candidates have said they want to cut government spending to help balance the state budget.

Barrett also uses his latest ad to make an appeal to viewers about the spots being run against him.

“When it comes to the negative ads, I trust you to separate fact from fiction,” he says.

Both Barrett and Walker, as well as outside groups on both sides, have run numerous negative ads in the race. The campaigns said the latest round of ads were airing in numerous markets statewide, but they wouldn’t release details on how much they were spending to buy TV time.

Polls show Walker leading Barrett a month away from Election Day.

Walker’s campaign manager Keith Gilkes said it was hypocritical for Barrett to speak out against attack ads when his campaign has run several against Walker, including one on the air now.

That ad claims Walker’s mismanagement led to more debt in Milwaukee County and the state taking over management of its welfare programs. It features stories from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, but the visual images include fake front pages.

Walzak said techniques used in the ad were common for political campaigns and the arguments made are factual. Walker’s campaign sent television stations a letter Tuesday asking them to pull the ad.

For his part, Walker has a new spot touting his job-creation plan and saying that Barrett supported a “radical environmental agenda” because he voted for a fuel tax in 1993 as a member of Congress and signed a letter as mayor in support of the Kyoto Protocol, which aimed to reduce greenhouse gases.

Neither became law or resulted in any job losses.

But Walker claims in the ad that both would have caused the loss of 100,000 jobs in Wisconsin.

Walzak said the estimates were highly suspect and because no jobs were losses, saying they could have been misleads viewers.

While that ad attempts to paint Barrett as a radical environmentalist, another spot Walker’s running makes Barrett out to be a polluter because of problems with Milwaukee’s sewer system.

Walzak accused Walker of being a hypocrite for making conflicting claims. Gilkes, with Walker’s campaign, said the ads weren’t contradictory and were meant to show that Barrett hasn’t solved the sewer problem and also supports environmental policies that would hurt job creation.

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