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UW Election Eye 2012

Campaign 2012 through the eyes of UW faculty and students

May 28, 2012 at 11:00 AM

Memorial Day in Wisconsin: Barrett marches in Beloit, finds support

The UW Election Eye team of Kirsten Johnson, Thor Tolo and Will Mari headed to the southern border town of Beloit, Wisconsin for its Memorial Day parade. 

BELOIT, Wisc. — Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett seems to have a strong foothold in this home to several manufacturing firms, including Regal-Beloit.

Tom Barrett, the man who hopes to unseat Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the June 5 recall election, showed up for a Memorial Day parade in Beloit - a Norman Rockwellian town of 36,000 hugging the Illinois border. (Photo by Thor Tolo/UW Election Eye)

At the sun-stained intersection of Grand Avenue and State Street, LouRaye Kramer and her friend, Marge Hilgart, are watching the Memorial Day parade. Both are fans of Barrett, and stand when he walks by, proudly slapping on stickers bearing his name.

“Did you notice how quiet it got when the Republican float went by?” asked Hilgart, a retired Beloit high-school teacher, a few minutes later. Kramer, whose daughter also works as a high-school teacher in town, nods.

They’re here to watch their fellow teachers and their students march. But between rounds of applause for the honor guards of various veteran groups, they both say they’re motivated to vote because of their worries about what will happen to the state’s K-12 education in a rejuvenated Walker administration.

“He’s just a weasel,” Hilgard said, frowning. “He’s just not a nice man.” She said that she won’t shop at stores that have signs supporting Walker.

“It’s just … it’s just been bitter,” she said, in regards to how recall politics have divided neighbors.

Still, Kramer, who moved to Beloit eight years ago from the city of Wisconsin Dells, is happy to see people out politicking.

You have “to get out there to get the vote,” she said, smiling, waving, and watching as kids dashed in and out of the parade line for candy and tossed bags of chips.

No military branch had a greater presence in Beloit than the U.S. Marine Corps, which was represented in a color guard, a marching band, and atop this float during a two-hour parade. (Photo by Thor Tolo/UW Election Eye)

“This is Barrett country,” said Janice Smith, whose 21-year-old cousin died in the Vietnam War. People like to participate in politics in Beloit, she said, and “a lot of people are involved in this election.”

Bridget and Nick Aldridge were on hand to watch their son march in one of the local high-school bands.

“Beloit is mostly blue collar, [and] it’s very diverse economically and racially,” said Bridget.

She’s said that it’s sad to see folks split over the recall.

“It’s really divided the community. Even though manufacturing has been on the decline since the 80s there’s still a strong union foothold in the area,” and that has motivated people to come out and support Barrett,” she said.

“There’s a high rate of unemployment, but also a great sense of pride.”

But in the midst of recall politics, the crowd watching the parade remained focused on why they were standing on street corners, as the flags fluttered by.

“We should remember the freedom we got,” said Jim Hardt, “and the men who sacrificed in the military and died for freedom.”

Beloit residents Janice and Gary Smith display their support for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. (Photo by Kirsten Johnson/UW Election Eye)

Comments | More in Culture, National | Topics: Memorial Day, recall, Tom Barrett

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