Scott Walker (politician)

Scott Walker
Walker in February 2011
45th Governor of Wisconsin
Assumed office
January 3, 2011
Lieutenant Rebecca Kleefisch
Preceded by Jim Doyle
Milwaukee County Executive
In office
April 30, 2002 – December 27, 2010
Preceded by Janine Geske
Succeeded by Chris Abele
Member of the
Wisconsin State Assembly
from the 17th District
In office
June 30, 1993 – May 14, 2002[1]
Preceded by Peggy Rosenzweig[2]
Succeeded by Leah Vukmir
Personal details
Born November 2, 1967 (1967-11-02) (age 44)
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Tonette Walker (m. 1993)
Children Two sons
Residence Governor's Mansion
Alma mater Delavan-Darien High School, 1986
Marquette University (attended, 1986–1990)[3]
Religion Non denominational, evangelical Christian[4]
Website Official website

Scott Kevin Walker (born November 2, 1967) is an American Republican politician who began serving as the 45th Governor of Wisconsin on January 3, 2011, after defeating Democratic candidate Tom Barrett, 52 percent to 47 percent in the November 2010 general election. Previously, Walker was the County Executive of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin from 2002 to 2010, and a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly from 1993 to 2002.


Early life, education and career

Walker was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to Llewellyn and Patricia (née Fitch) Walker, a Baptist minister and a bookkeeper, respectively.[5][6] The family moved to Plainfield, Iowa, and when Scott was ten years old, to Delavan, Wisconsin, a town of about 8,000, where his father became a prominent preacher.[5][7]

While in high school, he attended two weeks of American Legion-sponsored training in leadership and government; Badger Boys State held in Wisconsin, and the selective Boys Nation held in Washington, D.C.[8][9] He has credited the experience with solidifying his interest in public service and giving him the "political bug".[5][9] While in Washington, he met Ronald Reagan, who became his inspiration and model.[7]

He enrolled at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1986.[3] He attended college for four years but never graduated, working part-time for IBM selling warranties.[10] His IBM job led to a full-time position in marketing and fundraising at the American Red Cross from 1990 to 1994.[7][10]

Wisconsin State Assembly

Walker made his first try for government office in 1990 at age 22, winning the Republican nomination for Milwaukee's 7th District seat in the Wisconsin State Assembly, but losing in the general election to incumbent Democrat Gwen Moore.[11][12] He moved to the predominantly Republican edge city of Wauwatosa when its Assembly seat opened up in 1993,[10] winning the special election over Democrat Chris Ament, the son of then-Milwaukee County Executive Tom Ament.[13]

During the campaign, Walker backed welfare reform and opposed the expansion of mass transit.[14] He supported a cap on state spending and said that the law on resolving labor disputes with local government employees needed to be reformed.[14] Walker received the endorsements of Wisconsin Right to Life and The Milwaukee Sentinel, with the Sentinel calling him a fiscal conservative and noting his pro-life, tough-on-crime, and pro welfare reform positions.[2] He was re-elected four times, serving until 2002 when he became a county executive.[13]

While in the State Assembly, Walker took a special interest in criminal justice matters,[13] and chaired the Committees on Correctional Facilities, and Corrections and the Courts.[15] Over the years, he served on a number of other committees, including Health, Census and Redistricting, Financial Institutions, and Housing.[15] In 1999 he took the lead in passing a truth-in-sentencing bill that ended the practice of taking time off prisoners' sentences for good behavior.[13] In 2001, he was the lead sponsor of a bill to prevent pharmacists from being disciplined for refusing to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception.[16] He was also a strong supporter of a bill to require voters to show photo id at the polls.[13]

Milwaukee County executive

Walker at Marquette University conference, 2007

Walker became Milwaukee county executive in a special election called in April 2002, after the former county executive, Tom Ament, resigned in the wake of a county pension fund scandal.[13][17] He was elected to a four year term in 2004 gaining 57 percent of the vote to defeat former state budget director, David Riemer.[18][19] He won another four year term in 2008, defeating State Senator Lena Taylor with 59 percent of the vote.[20]

Walker won the office on a platform of fiscal conservatism, promising, among other things, to give back part of his own salary, and criticizing the salaries of other county workers as excessive.[21] He said his voluntary give-back gave him the moral authority to make cuts in the county budget.[21] He continued returning $60,000 annually (slightly less than half of his salary), for several years, but by 2008, he cut his give-back to $10,000 per year.[21] During his eight years in office, he engaged in disputes with the county board "over taxes, privatization of public services, quality of parks and public buildings, and delivery of social services," according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.[12] He never submitted a budget with a higher property tax levy than the county board had approved over his veto the prior year.[13] He cut the number of county employees by more than 20 percent, and reduced the county's debt by ten percent.[13] However, according to the Associated Press, "overall county spending ... increased 35 percent over his tenure".[13] The conservative-led Greater Milwaukee Committee produced a report indicating that during Walker's tenure as county executive, the county had come to be "in such dire financial shape that state lawmakers should push through legislation that would allow it and other local governments to file for bankruptcy," as reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.[22]

Campaigns for Governor

2006 campaign

During his time as county executive, he entered the 2006 race for Wisconsin governor; becoming a candidate 21 months before the election, but dropping out after 14 months of campaigning, citing fund-raising difficulties.[17] He threw his support to fellow Republican Mark Andrew Green, who ultimately lost the election to the incumbent Democrat, Jim Doyle.[17][23]

2010 campaign

Walker became an early favorite for the 2010 Republican Party endorsement for Wisconsin governor, winning straw polls of Wisconsin GOP convention attendees in 2007 and 2008.[24][25] He announced his candidacy in late April 2009 after several months of previewing his campaign themes of reduced taxes and reduced spending to Republican audiences around the state.[17] He criticized the 2009–11 Wisconsin state budget as too big given the slow economy.[17] He won the Wisconsin GOP convention endorsement on May 22, 2010, receiving 91 percent of the votes cast by the delegates. Walker won the Republican nomination in the primary election of September 14, 2010, receiving 59 percent of the popular vote, while former U.S. Representative Mark Neumann garnered 39 percent.[26]

As part of his campaign platform, Walker said he would create 250,000 jobs in his first term through a program that would include tax reforms[13] such as rolling back the 2009 state tax increases on small businesses, capital gains, and income for top earners, and cutting state employee wages and benefits to help pay for the tax cuts.[27] Critics claimed his proposals would only help the wealthy and that cutting the salaries of public employees would adversely affect state services.[27][28] Supporters said that tax cuts for businesses would reduce the cost of labor, which would ultimately promote consumer demand and more job growth. Walker indicated he would refuse an $810 million award from the federal Department of Transportation to build a high speed railroad line from Madison to Milwaukee because he believed it would cost the state $7.5 million per year to operate and would not be profitable.[29] The award was later rescinded and split among other states.[30]

Social issues played a part in the campaign. Walker has stated that he is "100% pro-life" and that he believes life should be protected from conception to natural death.[31] He opposes abortion in all circumstances, including in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother.[16][32] He supports abstinence-only sex education in the public schools, and opposes state supported clinical services that provide birth control and testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases to teens under the age of 18 without parental consent.[16] He supports the right of pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for contraceptives on religious or moral grounds.[16][33] He supports adult stem cell research, but opposes human embryonic stem cell research.[13][34] As the election drew near, Barrett attempted to portray Walker as an extremist on social issues.[32][35]

On November 2, 2010, Walker won the general election with 52 percent of total votes cast, with his closest opponent, Democrat Tom Barrett, garnering 46 percent.[36] His running mate, now Lieutenant Governor, was Rebecca Kleefisch, a former television news reporter in Milwaukee.

Governor of Wisconsin

Walker took the oath of office to become the 45th Governor of Wisconsin on January 3, 2011.[37][38] On January 25, 2011, the state legislature passed a series of Walker-backed bills, the largest of which would cut taxes for businesses at "a two-year cost of $67 million", according to the Associated Press.[39]

2011 budget repair bill and protests

Walker proposed a budget repair bill on February 11, 2011 that would save the state an estimated $30 million in the current fiscal year, and $300 million over the next two years.[40] The bill would require additional contributions by state and local government workers to their health care plans and pensions, amounting to roughly an 8% decrease in the average government worker's take home pay.[41] The bill also would eliminate, for government workers, most collective bargaining rights except for wages. Unions would be unable to seek pay increases, for government workers, above the rate of inflation, unless approved by a voter referendum.[40][42] Under the bill, unions would have to win yearly votes to continue representing government workers, and could no longer have dues automatically deducted from government workers' paychecks.[40][43] Law enforcement personnel and firefighters would be exempt from the bargaining changes.[44][45]

In announcing the proposed legislation, Walker said the Wisconsin National Guard and other state agencies were prepared to prevent disruptions in state services.[46][47] He later explained that police and firefighters were excluded from the changes because he would not jeopardize public safety.[48] Walker also said that the bill was necessary to avoid the layoffs of thousands of state employees, and that no one should be surprised by its provisions.[47] Union and Democratic leaders quickly criticized the bill as a power grab, claiming that Walker had never campaigned on doing away with collective bargaining rights.[47] In a media interview one week later, Walker said he was not trying to break the unions, and noted that Wisconsin government employees would retain the protections given by the civil service laws.[48] He said that asking employees to pay half the national average for health care benefits was a modest request.[48]

Demonstrators began protesting against the proposed bill on February 15, 2011.[49][50] During the sixth day of the protests, leaders of the two largest unions said publicly they were willing to accept the financial concessions in the bill, but would not agree to the loss of collective bargaining rights. All 14 of the Democratic state senators departed the state on February 17, delaying the passage of the bill by the Republican-controlled legislature by preventing the quorum necessary for a vote.[51] The missing legislators said they would not return to Madison unless Walker agreed to remove the limitations on collective bargaining from the bill.[41][52] Walker warned that if the budget repair bill was not passed by March 1, refinancing of a $165 million state debt would fall through, and more cuts would be needed to balance the budget.[41]

Appearing on Meet the Press on February 27, he said that he did not believe the unions were sincere in offering the pension and health care concessions because local unions had recently pushed through contracts with school boards and city councils that did not include contributions to the pensions and health care, and that in one case, the contract actually included a pay increase.[51][53] On February 28, the largest public union filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the state labor relations board, claiming that Walker had a duty to negotiate, but had refused.[41]

On March 8, private emails were released dating back to February 28 showing that Walker had been trying to negotiate with the Democratic legislators, even proposing to allow some collective bargaining rights.[54][55] However, unable to reach a compromise with Democratic legislators, Walker removed some fiscal measures from the bill, claiming that allowed passage by simple senate majority.[56]

On March 18 a court order was issued by Judge Maryann Sumi preventing the publication of the bill by the Secretary of State while legal challenges to it were being considered. On March 26, the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) published the bill. Republicans contend that the court order did not mention the LRB, which is responsible for publishing laws, and their actions make the bill law. Democrats contend that the bill cannot become law until the Secretary of State takes action and the entire law is published in the state newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal. Judge Sumi, the same judge who issued the March 18 order, later clarified her order to indicate that the bill may not be considered as published pending legal reviews.[57][58]

On May 26, Judge Sumi struck down the budget repair bill after finding that its passage was in violation of state open meetings laws.[59] The Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned Sumi's ruling on June 14.[60]

2012–2013 budget proposal

Wisconsin faces an anticipated deficit of approximately $3.6 billion in the 2012–13 budget cycle[40][61] that must be balanced according to state law. Walker was planning in mid-February 2011 to propose a budget bill but was delayed by the protests and the absence of 14 state senators. He confirmed in advance that he will be asking for a 9% ($900 million) cut in state aid to education. A revenue limit that would reduce the property tax authority by $500 per pupil will also be proposed.[41] The state school superintendent has objected in advance to the budget, saying, "whole parts of what we value in our schools are gone".[41][62] The governor released information regarding the effect his budget proposals will have on each district. In the proposal, the projected savings statewide in fringe benefits comes to about $489 million, which is offset by state aid reductions of about $394 million.[63]

Job appointment controversy

The Walker Administration has been criticized for alleged favoritism and patronage. Valerie Cass, the mistress of State Senator Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac) was hired at a salary of about $11,000 a year higher than that of her predecessor. According to state records, Cass had never formally applied to the position, while multiple other qualified candidates with high-level recommendations were passed over for the job.[64][65]

On April 3, 2011, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Walker had appointed Brian Deschane to an $81,500 per year job overseeing environmental and regulatory matters and dozens of employees at the Department of Commerce. Deschane's father, Jerry Deschane, is executive vice president and a longtime lobbyist for the Wisconsin Builders' Association, which donated $121,652 to Walker over the past two years. State Representative Brett Hulsey noted that the new law which made collective bargaining changes also converted 37 top agency attorneys, communications officials and legislative liaisons from civil service positions to jobs appointed by the governor. [66]

Domestic partner registry defense

On May 13, 2011, the Walker administration petitioned the Dane County Circuit Court for permission to withdraw the state as a defendant from Appling v. Doyle. Appling is a challenge to the state's domestic partner registry, which enumerates 43 rights for registered same-sex couples. Walker inherited the case from the previous administration. The motion to withdraw was made because Walker believes the registry, which was instituted in 2009, violates the state's 2006 constitutional ban of same-sex marriage and the creation of a "legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals". Walker's predecessor, Governor Doyle, had asked the court to rule that the registry is constitutional. If the court does not allow the state to withdraw, Walker wants it to allow him to change the state's previous filing and request the court strike the registry as unconstitutional.[67]

Voter ID law

On May 25, 2011, Scott Walker signed a Voter ID Law that required voters to show a government-issued ID before casting a ballot.[68]

Possible recall

After the contentious collective bargaining dispute, Walker's disapproval ratings have varied between 50-51% while his approval ratings have varied between 47-49% in 2011.[69][70] Democrats led recall elections to remove six Republican state senators, and unseated two. Wisconsin law makes Walker eligible for recall beginning January 3, 2012, and the Wisconsin Democratic Party has called it a "priority" to remove him from office.[71] In the first half of 2011, Walker raised more than $2,500,000 from supporters.[72][73]

Personal life

Walker married Tonette Tarantino in February 1993,[74] and they have two children, Alex and Matt.[75][76] The family attends a non-denominational evangelical Christian church in Wauwatosa.[4][77]

During the summers of 2004 through 2009, Walker led a motorcycle tour called the "Executive's Ride" through Wisconsin and parts of neighboring states. The ride was organized to attract people to Milwaukee County.[78]

Electoral history

Wisconsin gubernatorial election, 2010[36]
Party Candidate Votes Percentage
Republican Scott Walker 1,128,941 52.25%
Democratic Tom Barrett 1,004,303 46.48%
Republican gain from Democratic
Wisconsin Gubernatorial Election 2010 – Republican Primary
Party Candidate Votes Percentage
Republican Scott Walker 360,053 59%
Republican Mark Neumann 237,944 39%
Milwaukee County Executive Election 2008
Non-partisan election[20]
Candidate Votes Percentage
Scott Walker (incumbent) 98,039 59%
Lena Taylor 68,785 41%
Milwaukee County Executive Election 2004
Non-partisan election[19]
Candidate Votes Percentage
Scott Walker (incumbent) 136,203 57%
David Riemer 101,089 43%
Milwaukee County Executive Special Election 2002
Non-partisan election[79]
Candidate Votes Percentage
Scott Walker 99,850 55%
James Ryan 81,099 45%
Wisconsin State Assembly 14th District Election 2000[80]
Party Candidate Votes Percentage
Republican Scott Walker (incumbent) 20,268 100%
Democratic None 0 0%
Republican hold
Wisconsin State Assembly 14th District Election 1998[81]
Party Candidate Votes Percentage
Republican Scott Walker (incumbent) 14,110 68%
Democratic Jim Heidenrich 6,750 32%
Republican hold
Wisconsin State Assembly 14th District Election 1996 [82]
Party Candidate Votes Percentage
Republican Scott Walker (incumbent) 15,658 62%
Democratic Dale Dulberger 9,792 38%
Republican hold
Wisconsin State Assembly 14th District Election 1994[83]
Party Candidate Votes Percentage
Republican Scott Walker (incumbent) 15,487 100%
Democratic None 0%
Republican hold
Wisconsin State Assembly 14th District Special Election 1993[84]
Party Candidate Votes Percentage
Republican Scott Walker 5,027 57%
Democratic Christopher T. Ament 3,663 42%
Libertarian Larry A. Boge 93 1%
Republican hold
Wisconsin State Assembly 7th District Election 1990[11]
Party Candidate Votes Percentage
Democratic Gwen Moore (incumbent) 3,847 69%
Republican Scott Walker 1,690 31%
Democratic hold


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  64. ^ Controversy over Valerie Cass hiring
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  68. ^
  69. ^ New poll reflects divide on bargaining limits
  70. ^ Wisconsin Recall Prospects Dimming
  71. ^ Democratic Party targets Walker for recall
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External links

Wisconsin State Assembly
Preceded by
Peggy Rosenzweig
Member of the Wisconsin State Assembly
from the 14th District

Succeeded by
Leah Vukmir
Political offices
Preceded by
Janine Geske
Milwaukee County Executive
Succeeded by
Lee Holloway
Preceded by
Jim Doyle
Governor of Wisconsin
United States order of precedence
Preceded by
Joe Biden
as Vice President
Order of Precedence of the United States
Within Wisconsin
Succeeded by
Mayor of city
in which event is held
Succeeded by
Otherwise John Boehner
as Speaker of the House of Representatives
Preceded by
Terry Branstad
as Governor of Iowa
Order of Precedence of the United States
Outside Wisconsin
Succeeded by
Jerry Brown
as Governor of California

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