With media reports indicating Kathleen Falk going on the offensive against Tom Barrett, a leading Wisconsin Democrat called for his party to show a united front against Gov. Scott Walker.
Former U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, speaking in a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning, called Walker "belligerently confrontational" and said the Democratic candidates in this spring's recall election need to be concentrating their fire on him, not each other.
Obey spoke in response to a Politico report Tuesday that said the Falk campaign planned to ratchet up the rhetoric against Barrett in the next two weeks in hopes of gaining in the polls. The report said a Falk staffer criticized Barrett for hesitating to sign a recall petition, while a Journal Sentinel story quoted Falk as challenging Barrett's views on the governor's collective bargaining legislation.
Obey, who has endorsed Barrett, said the notion that one of the four Democratic candidates is not sufficiently opposed to Walker is "grasping at straws."
"No one candidate is more opposed to Walker than any of the others," Obey said.
Obey said the candidates must keep their "eyes on the prize" and earn the trust of voters by treating each other in a fair-minded way.
He said a divided party would be akin to a "suicide pact."
"The chances of unseating the governor are not so outrageously good that we can waste time attacking each other," Obey said. "Stretching facts to score points ... needlessly divides us."
In a statement through campaign spokesman Scot Ross, Falk said she has been attacked for her labor support and determination to stand up for working men and women.
"I'm talking to voters about important differences between Tom and myself," Falk said. "I've been part of this movement from the start. We'll beat Walker with the movement that started a year ago, a strong grassroots campaign with labor, women, environmentalists and community organizers.
"The real suicide is if elected officials ignore the grassroots, the labor unions, women and the environmentalists who are supporting my campaign because of my commitment to undoing Walker's harms."
The Democratic primary is May 8, while the general election is June 5.