Glen Johnson / Globe Staff
MILWAUKEE Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is in Wisconsin tonight, addressing state Democrats energized in the aftermath of their collective bargaining dispute with Republican Governor Scott Walker.
Patrick is the keynote speaker at the Democratic Party of Wisconsin's Founders Day Dinner, which organizers proudly say sold out at 400 attendees in the aftermath of the Walker fight.
The governor flew into town this morning from Los Angeles, where he appeared on HBO as part of the book tour for his new memoir, "A Reason to Believe." He also was pulling double duty in Wisconsin, holding a book signing after the dinner. In addition, copies were available for purchase at a table outside the ballroom entrance.
The visit came at the end of a week when Massachusetts itself was the focus of labor unrest after the Democratically controlled House passed a budget that would require municipal workers to receive health insurance programs like that used by state workers unless they can negotiate a cost-saving alternative of their own.
It triggered union protests at the State House not unlike those seen over the winter at the Wisconsin capitol in Madison.
The governor sat at a table with eight of the 14 Senate Democrats who fled the state in February and remained over the border in Illinois in an effort to prevent Walker from passing a bill that eliminated collective bargaining rights for most government workers.
Ultimately, the 19 Republican members of the Senate passed the bill after Walker modified it to avoid the requirement for a quorum. A county judge has since stayed the law, and now both Republicans and Democrats are pushing recall elections in retribution.
Democrats have successfully gathered the signatures to compel six (they need only three seats to regain control of the Senate), while Republicans have garnered the signatures for three recalls of Democrats.
The votes are tentatively set for July 12.
The emotion of the moment was evident in remarks by former state Assembly Speaker Tom Nelson, who ran for lieutenant governor last fall on a Democratic ticket with gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee.
Nelson and Barrett, who also addressed the dinner, ended up losing to Walker and his running mate.
Nelson railed against the governor, saying, "What we know, and what the governor does not, is that without a strong and vibrant public sector, without protecting and investing in workers of all sectors and industries, we are just another Alabama or Louisiana."
He then added: "We will not become the Mississippi of the Midwest."
Each of those states is also led by a governor from the GOP.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.