By Brendan O'Brien
MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - Wisconsin's largest police union on Tuesday endorsed Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett for governor, delivering a rebuke to Republican Governor Scott Walker who is facing a recall election.
Barrett, a Democrat, earned the endorsement from the more than 10,000 members of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association for his campaign's "energetic, independent and ethical approach in waging its bid to unseat Governor Scott Walker."
Democrats and union members forced a recall of the first-term governor, who pushed controversial legislation last year that curbs the power of public sector unions. The union criticized Walker's cuts in funding of public safety and education.
The Walker campaign responded to the police association's endorsement by criticizing Barrett's public safety record.
"Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has consistently and unapologetically failed the people of his city by refusing to invest the necessary resources to make public safety a priority in his administration," said Walker spokeswoman Ciara Matthews.
Democrats make their choice among several candidates in a May 8 primary. The party's candidate then will face Walker in a general election June 5.
Barrett's main primary rival, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, has earned endorsements from several labor organizations including the state's largest teachers' union.
Other candidates are State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout and Secretary of State Doug La Follette.
(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Jackie Frank)