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Evers, Michels, Barnes and Johnson — the competition for Milwaukee-area votes heats up

Gov. Tony Evers at Mexican Fiesta
Chuck Quirmbach
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, greets a girl, while campaigning Saturday at Mexican Fiesta.

The candidates for Wisconsin governor and U.S. Senate continue to make their pitches for Milwaukee-area votes.

They were in the region over the weekend, and more events are expected here this week.

On Sunday, the 53rd Chicken Burn picnic, an annual gathering of conservatives, was held in Wauwatosa.

Patriotic songs were also served. "Across the plains of Texas, from sea to shining sea," went the lyrics, as a local GOP activist sang Lee Greenwood's God Bless the U.S.A.

Republican candidate for governor Tim Michels was among the speakers. He told the crowd of a couple hundred people that he's spending a lot of time campaigning in Milwaukee.

Republican candidate Tim Michels speaks Sunday, at the Chicken Burn backyard picnic in Wauwatosa.
Chuck Quirmbach
Republican candidate Tim Michels speaking Sunday at the Chicken Burn backyard picnic in Wauwatosa.

"I have people up in Green Bay, Wausau, Superior, LaCrosse [saying], 'Tim, why are you
spending all this time in Milwaukee?' Michels said.

He continued, "No state, no state can be the greatest state it can be, if its biggest city is full of problems. For years, for generations, Republicans, conservatives have said Milwaukee is the problem. I say, 'Milwaukee is not the problem, Milwaukee has a problem, and I'm going to fix it!'"

Michels fix-it plan? Expand taxpayer-funded vouchers to what he calls universal school choice. The wealthy construction business owner from Chenequa, who served in the Army, says he also opposes reducing police budgets.

"Everyone in law enforcement is going to know the governor, himself, wore a uniform, albeit a military one, for 12 years. They're going to know that I back the blue, and these catch and release DAs, I'm going to fire them!" he said.

District attorneys in Wisconsin are elected by voters, and a governor can only remove them for committing a felony or perhaps willful neglect or refusal to perform the DAs duties.

Incumbent Democratic Gov. Tony Evers spent part of Saturday shaking hands with people attending Mexican Fiesta at Milwaukee's lakefront. Evers told reporters that unlike Michels, he remains a big backer of public schools.

"We do care about public education. He has said it's insanity to give more money to public education, which is weird because our public education is rated eighth in the country. And so, my course is, we have to have more resources for them to do a great job," Evers said.

That eighth place is from a U.S. News and World Report ranking. Republicans argue some of the credit for improvements in the ranking should go to previous Governor Scott Walker, a Republican. But Evers said he's restored and improved funding commitments to primary and special education, and expanded mental health services to kids.

Evers also said Michels may be spending time in Milwaukee, but is mired in the past with his support for the state's restrictive abortion law, passed by an all-male Legislature in 1849.

"His positions on a number of things, such as women's reproductive rights, are back from 1849.
I'd say that's probably not a good place to be if you're a woman in the state of Wisconsin," Evers said.

A Marquette University poll this month showed Evers with a slight lead over Michels, but within the poll's margin of error. So, expect both candidates to spend a lot more time in Milwaukee.

Wisconsin U.S. Senator Ron Johnson speaks Sunday, at the Chicken Burn.
Chuck Quirmbach
Wisconsin U.S. Senator Ron Johnson speaking Sunday at the Chicken Burn.

Republican incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson also spoke at Sunday's Chicken Burn. The Marquette poll shows him seven points behind Democratic challenger, Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.

Johnson claimed a lot of that margin is due to misinformation about his views, including about a couple of huge federal programs.

"Let me start out by setting the record straight. I want to save Social Security. I want to save
Medicare. I have never, ever said I want to put them on the chopping block, cut it. I've never said it. They take everything I say and twist the words," Johnson yelled to the crowd.

Johnson has been calling for Congress to review and approve the annual budgets of Medicare and Social Security, instead of letting them rise automatically, which they do as mandatory spending programs.

Also Sunday, Johnson had perhaps his harshest criticism yet for Mandela Barnes — repeating claims that have been in TV ads from Johnson or his supporters — then adding the allegation that Barnes has now gone into hiding.

"He's hiding from the press. He's hiding from Wisconsin!" Johnson claimed.

Mandela Barnes speaks July 15, at a campaign event in Milwaukee.
Chuck Quirmbach
Mandela Barnes speaking July 15 at a campaign event in Milwaukee.

Barnes had a press event last Thursday in Oshkosh, and has another scheduled for Monday in Milwaukee.

Barnes' campaign contends Johnson is threatening Social Security and Medicare, and will say anything to "distract from his record of enriching himself and wealthy donors, at the expense of working people."

Johnson is scheduled to speak Tuesday to the American Legion national convention in Milwaukee.

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