MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Matt Flynn accused fellow Democrat Tony Evers on Thursday of using a "Walker-style tactic" by proposing to lower state lawmakers' pay equal to that of a first-year teacher, a sharp criticism referring to Republican Gov. Scott Walker in a primary that's largely avoided public infighting.
With less than two months before the Aug. 14 primary, the 10 Democratic candidates are looking for any advantage to distance themselves from the field. Evers, the state superintendent, is the only one in the field to have been elected to state office. Flynn is a former state party leader who hasn't been publicly active in politics for years.
They and the eight others have mostly kept their focus on attacking Walker, who is seeking a third term. But Flynn shifted his focus on Thursday with the attack on a plan Evers announced Wednesday to lower state lawmakers' salaries to the same as the average first-year teacher.
Flynn likened the plan to Walker's signature Act 10 law that took away collective bargaining from public workers, including teachers, and forced them to pay more for retirement and health benefits. Anger over that law fueled massive protests, which Evers participated in, and an effort to recall Walker. Evers signed the recall petition.
"Why is a Democrat adopting Scott Walker tactics on wages?" Flynn said. "This is a Walker-style tactic to pit the public against their own elected officials."
Evers' campaign manager Maggie Gau responded by accusing Flynn of "hanging in the gutter" and being "desperate to distract voters from his connection to the Milwaukee archdiocese child abuse scandal."
Flynn was the attorney for the archdiocese from 1989 to 2004 and defended it against priest abuse lawsuits. He has refused calls to drop out of the race from Women's March Wisconsin and the National Organization for Women, saying critics of his past legal work can "jump in the lake."
Flynn accused Evers of using "divide-and-conquer tactics," the same description Walker gave to a prominent Republican donor when he described his plan to go after public employee bargaining rights.
Flynn said the next governor should work to raise salaries for everyone, not "drag everyone down."
State lawmakers make about $51,000 a year. Evers said the average first-year teacher earned $37,000 last year.
Other Democrats running for governor are Mayor Paul Soglin; state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, of Alma; state Rep. Dana Wachs, of Eau Claire; former state Rep. Kelda Roys; state firefighter union leader Mahlon Mitchell; political activist Mike McCabe; Milwaukee businessman Andy Gronik; and corporate attorney Josh Pade.