Barrett was Best Hope for Dems, but Race will Turn On Jobs

He may be a reluctant gubernatorial candidate, but in a sense, the beating he took while coming to the aid of a woman outside of State Fair Park may have knocked something into, rather than out of, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Barrett, who made his candidacy for governor official this past weekend, could be headed for a potential match up with fellow Beer City pol Scott Walker, the Milwaukee County Executive. Pledges of support from Gov. Jim Doyle and President Barack Obama and the assurance that he could work from Milwaukee, eliminating many of the potential family disruptions, probably were the inducements Barrett needed to dip his toes in the water.

The fact is, after Congressman Ron Kind fell out and Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton probably was pressured out of it (personal reasons, my foot), Barrett was the only viable candidate the Democrats had left. (By the way, ladies, especially you progressives, why aren't you angrier that Lawton was denied an opportunity to wage a campaign for governor? Hillary Clinton may have lost to the cool, young guy, but as grating as that was for many of you, at least she was able to run. Lawton, whose relationship with Doyle was never very good, did not even have the chance to test her mettle after eight years as Lt. Governor and a lifetime of community activism. Perhaps our common Green Bay roots influence my simpatico for her, but it's not as though the woman lacked qualifications.)

It is worth noting that three people with business backgrounds, including Madison real estate developer and U.S. Senate candidate Terrence Wall, former U.S. Senate candidate and home builder Mark Neumann, Walker's primary opposition for governor, and former Third Wave Technologies honcho Kevin Conroy, who reportedly would have run for governor had Barrett declined, have expressed interest in running for office. This is just another sign that the current Powers That Be are clueless about creating jobs in the private sector, and people in the business world know it.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act helped save a lot of jobs for teachers and law enforcement and first-responder personnel. While vital, those are public-sector jobs, not private-sector jobs. A healthy churning of the latter, which is indispensable for an equally healthy flow of revenue to the government, are only created when the people who run companies have incentives to invest, not to cut back. It's high time the state and federal governments promoted job creation, not job destruction. Of late, they have demonstrated a disturbing knack for the latter.

Speaking of which, the 2010 gubernatorial race will no doubt come down to jobs, job, jobs — as will most races statewide and nationwide. As is the unfortunate case with modern politics, there will be attempts to distract from the real issues of the campaign, but unless the economy makes a remarkable, job-creating turn around, it will be very difficult for political Machiavellis to unload their weapons of mass distraction. That only works when people have money in their pockets.

Tom Barrett's signature achievement as Mayor is hiring an effective police chief, which is not trivial given Milwaukee's recent history of violent crime. He was indeed the best candidate the Democrats had left to offer, but unless he can articulate a job-creating vision for the private sector, all the cajoling in the world will not have done the party bosses any good.

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