What’s the hottest issue for local candidates as the April 5 election approaches?

You guessed it. Gov. Scott Walker’s war on workers, education, BadgerCare, SeniorCare and the rule of law.

“Lisa Subeck stands with working families,” declares the headline on a new leaflet from the District 1 aldermanic candidate.

“Over the last few weeks, I have spent countless hours at our State Capitol standing in solidarity with our teachers, nurses, police officers, firefighters, and all of the other working people who make our city and state great. I have sat through hours of testimony, and even testified myself, about the harm being done by Gov. Walker’s budget repair bill,” writes Subeck, who adds that she has been “inspired and empowered by the people who have gathered at the Capitol to make our collective voices heard.”

Five pictures on the leaflet show Subeck at the Capitol protests, holding signs that read: “It’s about freedom” and “Stop the attack on Wisconsin families.”

Sam Stevenson, a candidate in District 2, is seen holding one of those same “Stop the attack on Wisconsin families” signs at a Capitol rally.

“Defend Madison against the assault from Scott Walker,” announces the headline on Stevenson’s literature, which declares that he is “proud to be endorsed by the working people of the South Central Federation of Labor (SCFL) and Teaching Assistants’ Association.” He’s also highlighting support that he’s getting from state Rep. Mark Pocan, the Madison Democrat who led the fight against Walker’s bill in the Assembly.

Stevenson is challenging Ald. Bridget Maniaci, who appears on her literature holding a sign that reads, “Elected official for collective bargaining.” She also appears with state Sens. Fred Risser and Mark Miller, two of the 14 senators who blocked Walker’s bill for weeks in late February and early March.

And so it goes, district after district, as well as in the mayoral and county executive races (in the case of Joe Parisi, if not Walker-backer Eileen Bruskewitz) and a number of village and town races around Dane County.

The April 5 election will be a referendum on Walker’s anti-labor, pro-corporate power grab, especially in contests where there are clear choices, as with the Parisi versus Bruskewitz race. But, in a broader sense, it’s a message election. And the smart candidates are betting that the voters will cast their ballots with a vengeance against the governor’s agenda.

John Nichols is the associate editor of The Capital Times. jnichols@madison.com

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