Candidates for Wisconsin governor debate

Published On: May 25 2012 10:50:29 PM CDT

MILWAUKEE, Wis.-- Governor Scott Walker and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett squared off tonight in their first of two debates. Walker is trying to keep his job as Governor and Barrett is trying to become the first person to win a statewide recall election.

A panel of journalists from across the state asked questions on a range of topics from taxes and equal rights to the John Doe investigation and the issue that started the whole recall progress, collective bargaining.

Governor Walker said in the debate, "remember before our refroms, school districts all across the state were literally spending tens of thousands of dollars they didn't need to, because under collective bargaining they were forced to buy their insurance from essentially one company. If I had told people that's what was at stake then, I think most people, most taxpayers would've said, Governor you need to fix that."

"You decided to use a budget crisis to divide and conquer the state, that's what happened, that's what lead to all of this, and you succeeded, you succeeded in dividing this state," said Mayor Barrett.

While the candidates spent a good portion of the night focused on the issues, it didn't stop them from taking occasional jabs at each other.

"It's clear what's going on.  He can't defend his record on jobs, so they trot out these numbers that are not used in this fashion ordinarily, and they put tens of millions of dollars behind them in commercials, trying to convince the people of the state they have created jobs, when in fact the state has lost jobs," says Barrett.

"The reason I think the Mayor and our opponent are spending so much time on this, is they want to distract attention on this, is because they are desperate, the things that this election was supposed to be about, the reforms, they don't talk about, because they're working," says Walker.

The two will meet again in their second and final debate next Thursday. The recall election is June 5th.