By Devlin Murphy
July 9th, 2015
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is planning on announcing his candidacy for president this coming week on Monday, July 13th in Waukesha, Wisconsin. His announcement has left a significant portion of the country wondering who is Scott Walker, and what does he stand for?
Walker has yet to hold a national office. He began his political career with a bid for a State Assembly seat. He was defeated by the incumbent candidate Gwen Moore, who is now a United States Congresswoman.
He has won every election he has been a part of since his initial defeat. After his loss he decided to relocate to a more conservative district where he won a State Assembly seat.
After his tenure in the State Assembly, he was chosen in a special election, to be the Milwaukee County executive (the county with the most population in Wisconsin).
Following his time there, he ran against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett for Governor of Wisconsin, after long time Governor Jim Doyle did not seek re-election. Walker defeated Barrett winning the election with 52% of the vote on Walkers 43rd birthday in 2010. Since then he also won re-election against Democratic challenger Mary Burke in 2014.
Walker, the son of a bookkeeper and Baptist minister has gained some national coverage for his victory in a recall election, which has given him the bragging rights to say that he is the first governor to win a recall election in American history.
He was recalled over the passage of Act 10, (or as it was known in Wisconsin “the budget repair bill”) which was controversial due to its provisions eliminating collective bargaining rights from most public sector unions.
Since then he has pursued a conservative legislative agenda focusing primarily on tax cuts to businesses, and continued work to lessen the power of unions in Wisconsin culminating most recently with the passage of Right to Work legislation.
He has strong financial ties to national conservative organizations including the Koch brothers due to his campaigns (especially his recall campaign). They have consistently stated they believe him to be a strong candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 2016.
While he has yet to make many campaign statements it appears as though his anti-union sentiments may be a large part of his campaign platform due to comments he has made.
He is coming into the election as one of two candidates who are Governors of Midwestern states (the other being Ohio’s Governor John Kasich). Some pundits believe this will give him a boost in many of the other Midwestern swing states that prove critical for candidates to win. Politico states that his record is positioning him to run as “the favorite son of the Midwest.”
Walker’s appeal to blue collar voters stems from his roots in the Midwest, as well as his personal history. He did not finish his College degree at Marquette University, choosing instead to work full time for the American Red Cross. Additionally, he is known to ride a Harley Davidson motorcycle (a Wisconsin company).
However, outside of the Midwest, Wisconsin is not well known. Most people in the United States probably think of Wisconsin only in the context of sports teams or cheese, especially with the University of Wisconsin Badgers making it to the NCAA Basketball championship game. Additionally, the NFL Green Bay Packers football team is very well known and beloved by many across the country.
This does beg the question can he compete nationally, outside of the Midwest.
Critics of Gov. Walker often highlight his lack of national experience, especially in regards to foreign policy. Walker himself has been fairly quiet on his plans for foreign policy apart from criticizing President Obama.
One of the few statements he has made was during a speech to the Conservative Political Action Committee in regard to his credentials on the national and international stage. He stated “If I can take on 100,000 protestors, I can do the same across the world.”
Walker is considered one of the strongest GOP candidates at this time. While not exceptionally well known nationally, he has a very strong national donor base from his recall campaign and is fundraising effectively.
Additionally, Reince Priebus, the head of the Republican National Committee, is a fellow Wisconsinite, which may play a role on whether or not his is chosen as the GOP’s candidate.
On the flip side, his top campaign promise for Wisconsin was creating 250,000 new jobs which simply has not occurred. According to Politifact over Walker’s four year term he there 146,795 jobs create, approximately 59% of what he claimed he would create.
Also of note, there have been two secret John Doe probes started. John Doe probes are a Wisconsin specific phenomena. The goal is to allow the judge to determine whether it appears probable from the testimony given that a crime has been committed. But the proceedings are also designed to protect innocent citizens from the fallout of frivolous prosecutions by often keeping most aspects secret from the public until possible charges are brought.
John Doe probes are somewhat similar to Grand Jury investigations but are more similar to a preliminary step. They are utilized after a complaint is issued to a judge, who then decides whether there is merit in further investigations. After it is begun it allows law enforcement investigators to subpoena
The first started in 2010 and focused on Walker’s time as Milwaukee County executive. It ultimately culminated in the convictions of six Walker aides, associates or appointees on charges ranging from theft from a veterans fund to misconduct in office.
The second John Doe probe was launched in 2012 and has investigated coordination between conservative political groups and Walker during recall elections that convulsed the state in 2011 and 2012.
One of the facts that was released from the John Doe probe was the existence of a secret e-mail system during his time as County Executive. Staffers used this system to coordinate for his campaign while working for the County (a crime in Wisconsin).
Ironically when questioned on his thoughts on then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s secret e-mails he had this to say
“It’s a logical assumption that the secretary of state is talking about highly confidential classified information. How can she ensure that that information wasn’t compromised. I think that’s the bigger issue—is the audacity to think that someone would put their personal interest above classified, confidential, highly sensitive information that’s not only important to her but to the United States of America. I think is an outrage that Democrats as well as Republicans should be concerned about.”
Ultimately Walker is a dynamic candidate who has many advantages and could be very attractive to conservatives within the Republican Party. At the same time, his lack of experience on the national stage, and conviction to weaken labor unions may call his candidacy’s viability with moderates into question.
Walker is less bombastic than Senator Rand Paul, or Donald Trump, less extreme on social issues than former Senator Rick Santorum, and is one of the few Republicans to win a statewide office in a state that has gone Blue in the Presidential election since 1988.
If the Republican Party is looking for a more middle of the road candidate, with appeal in Midwest America, Walker may be a logical choice.
Devlin Murphy attends the University of Wisconsin, Madison where he has lived for over 15 years. This summer he is working for the Center for Politics and Foreign Relations as well as the Trans-Atlantic Magazine.