By SCOTT BAUER
Associated Press Writer
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Prepare for the barrage.
Over the next seven weeks, millions of dollars will pour into Wisconsin for what is expected to be the most expensive governor’s race in state history.
Republican Scott Walker and Democrat Tom Barrett said shortly after winning their primaries on Tuesday that they planned to focus on a positive vision for Wisconsin’s future. Voters aren’t likely to see much of that when they turn on the TV, though.
Outside groups on both sides have already run negative ads, as have both candidates. Common Cause in Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, two nonpartisan watchdog groups, have predicted that spending could hit $50 million or more before voters decide the winner Nov. 2.
“For the average voter it means having to endure an amazing amount of trash on television,” Mike McCabe, director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, said Wednesday. “Just nonstop political advertising that is woefully short on substance and packed full of attacks and scurrilous claims.”
The race is being watched closely nationally, with Wisconsin seen as a key state in the 2012 presidential race. Wisconsin, traditionally a swing state, went big for President Barack Obama in 2008. Perhaps sensing things have narrowed, Obama has been a frequent visitor to the state. He plans to be back in Madison on Sept. 28 for a rally and Vice President Joe Biden is coming for a Barrett fundraiser on Oct. 7.
Both Barrett and Walker outlined their basic campaign platforms in victory speeches Tuesday.
Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee since 2004, promised to provide the “adult leadership” necessary to make the difficult decisions. Walker said he’ll reform state government and rein in spending.
They offer a stark contrast on major issues. Walker wants to repeal $1.8 billion in tax increases passed last year that largely affect large multistate businesses and people earning more than $300,000 a year. Barrett thinks that’s irresponsible given a projected $2.7 billion budget shortfall.
Walker said he can create 250,000 jobs in four years through tax cuts and other reforms. Barrett said his goal is to replace the 180,000 jobs lost during the recession.
Walker opposes construction of a high-speed train being paid for with $810 million in federal stimulus money; Barrett backs it. Barrett supports embryonic stem cell research; Walker opposes it. Walker opposes abortion in all cases; Barrett supports abortion rights.
“If you’re looking for the ideologue in this race, it’s not me,” Barrett said. “I’m going to remain optimistic about the future of the state, but at the same time recognizing we have serious problems.”
Walker, who lives in Wauwatosa, said the key question for voters will be whether they feel they are better off now than eight years ago, before two-term Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle took office.
“We’re going to get this state working again,” Walker said.
Barrett enters the final weeks of the race with more than twice as much cash on hand as Walker — $2.6 million to $1.2 million. But that gap is expected to narrow as outside spending comes in.
The Republican Governors Association has spent more than $1 million on ads assailing Barrett as a tax-and-spender. Barrett started running ads in early August accusing Walker of being a politician who can’t be trusted, attacking his record as county executive, his changing positions on Arizona’s immigration law and his support for repealing Wisconsin’s smoking ban.
Walker, 42, started his TV campaign focusing on his personal frugality — he claims to pack a brown bag lunch with two ham and cheese sandwiches nearly every day — and how he would bring that attitude to the Statehouse and cut spending and government waste.
But in recent weeks Walker began turning his attention to Barrett, trying to tie him to Doyle and arguing that his victory would amount to a third term for the unpopular governor.
Reggie Oakley, 63, of Sun Prairie, said he voted for Walker because he’s “sick” of Doyle and his politics.
“(Walker) can do a much better job. I just feel he’s the man who can give us a better future in the state,” Oakley said.
Barrett’s most recent ad turned personal, with his wife, Kris, talking about how Barrett, 56, was attacked last year outside the state fair. The spot included news footage describing Barrett’s attack and ended with his wife saying her husband “will always stand up for Wisconsin.”
Anne Grunau, 64, said she voted for Barrett as much for his character as for his politics.
“Everyone who knows him says he’s a fine, moral, honorable person,” said Grunau, a small-business owner from Milwaukee.
Based on preliminary totals, Walker captured 59 percent of the vote, compared with 39 percent for Mark Neumann, a former two-term congressman. Turnout was about 19 percent, below the predicted 28 percent.
Far more Republicans — 614,000 to 233,000 — voted in the gubernatorial primary, unsurprising given that Barrett faced only token opposition.
Both Walker and Barrett come from the Milwaukee area, meaning Wisconsin will have its first governor from Milwaukee County in nearly 70 years.
Tom Nelson, a state representative from Kaukauna, won the lieutenant governor primary for the Democrats and will be paired with Barrett, giving the ticket some geographic diversity. The Republican lieutenant governor candidate, Rebecca Kleefisch, is a former television anchor from Oconomowoc, just 40 miles west of Milwaukee.[polldaddy poll=”3768295″]