By Brendan O'Brien
MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - Wisconsin Democratic primary voters on Tuesday picked Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to face controversial Republican Governor Scott Walker in a recall election next month which will be a test of labor union strength in a battleground state ahead of the November elections.
Barrett lost the Wisconsin governor's race to Walker by 5 percentage points in the Republican sweep of 2010. Since then, Wisconsin has been split by what Barrett calls a "civil war" over Walker's drive to curb union power in the state.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel newspaper said on its website that Barrett defeated former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, Secretary of State Doug La Follette and state Senator Kathleen Vinehout.
"After months of historic division, job loss, criminal corruption and partisan power grabs, Tom Barrett offers Wisconsin a new start," said Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate, in a statement.
Walker infuriated Democrats and labor organizations weeks after taking office in 2011 by pushing a measure that curbed collective bargaining power of public sector unions through the Republican-led legislature.
The law set off massive protests at the capitol in Madison. In January, Walker opponents submitted more than 900,000 recall petition signatures to the state elections board, triggering a June 5 recall election of the governor.
Walker easily won the Republican nomination on Tuesday.
(Reporting By Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Mary Wisniewski)