Scott Walker (politician)

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Scott Walker
Scott Walker by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Scott Walker speaking at the 2013 CPAC in Washington D.C. on March 15, 2013.
45th Governor of Wisconsin
Assumed office
January 3, 2011
LieutenantRebecca Kleefisch
Preceded byJim Doyle
Milwaukee County Executive
In office
April 30, 2002 – December 27, 2010
Preceded byJanine Geske
Succeeded byLee Holloway (acting)
Member of the Wisconsin State Assembly
from the 17th district
In office
June 30, 1993 – May 14, 2002[1]
Preceded byPeggy Rosenzweig[2]
Succeeded byLeah Vukmir
Personal details
BornScott Kevin Walker
(1967-11-02) November 2, 1967 (age 46)
Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Tonette Marie Walker (née Tarantino; m. 1993); 2 sons
ResidenceGovernor's Mansion (official)
Wauwatosa, Wisconsin (personal)
Alma materDelavan-Darien High School1986
Marquette University(attended, 1986–1990)[3]
ReligionNon-denominational, evangelical Christianity[4]
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Scott Walker
Scott Walker by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Scott Walker speaking at the 2013 CPAC in Washington D.C. on March 15, 2013.
45th Governor of Wisconsin
Assumed office
January 3, 2011
LieutenantRebecca Kleefisch
Preceded byJim Doyle
Milwaukee County Executive
In office
April 30, 2002 – December 27, 2010
Preceded byJanine Geske
Succeeded byLee Holloway (acting)
Member of the Wisconsin State Assembly
from the 17th district
In office
June 30, 1993 – May 14, 2002[1]
Preceded byPeggy Rosenzweig[2]
Succeeded byLeah Vukmir
Personal details
BornScott Kevin Walker
(1967-11-02) November 2, 1967 (age 46)
Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Tonette Marie Walker (née Tarantino; m. 1993); 2 sons
ResidenceGovernor's Mansion (official)
Wauwatosa, Wisconsin (personal)
Alma materDelavan-Darien High School1986
Marquette University(attended, 1986–1990)[3]
ReligionNon-denominational, evangelical Christianity[4]

Scott Kevin Walker (born November 2, 1967) is an American politician who is the 45th and current Governor of Wisconsin. A member of the Republican Party, Walker was first elected Governor in 2010 and was sworn in on January 3, 2011.

Born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Walker attended Marquette University. He started his career working for IBM before gaining a marketing job with the American Red Cross. At the age of 22, Walker initially ran and lost for a seat in the Wisconsin State Assembly in a Milwaukee district in 1990, though later won the first of five terms in a special election two years later after moving to a more Conservative district in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. He served in the Wisconsin Assembly from 1993 to 2002. In 2002, after the resignation of Tom Ament, Walker again won in a special election, winning the first of three terms as Milwaukee County Executive. Walker won reelection in 2004 and 2008; serving as County Executive in Milwaukee County from 2002 to 2010.

After a first run for Governor and dropping out before the Republican primaries in 2006, Walker again ran for the governorship in 2010. Walker won in a three person race in the Republican primary and faced Democratic nominee, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, in the general election, where Walker won with 52% of the vote. After being sworn into office in 2011, Walker introduced a controversial budget repair plan which modified collective bargaining rights for most state employees and made over $1 billion in cuts to the state's biennial education budget[5][6] and $500 million in cuts from the state's biennial Medicaid budget.[7] The budget led to significant protest at the Wisconsin State Capitol and sparked an effort to recall Walker among the critics of the proposed budget. In June 2012, Walker again faced Barrett in Wisconsin's first and only to-date Gubernatorial recall election and defeated him for a second time, obtaining more than 53% of the vote. Walker is the first and only governor in the U.S. to date to win a gubernatorial recall election.[8]

Early life, education, and business career[edit]

Walker was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, one of two sons of Patricia Ann "Pat" (née Fitch) and Llewellyn Scott "Llew" Walker, a bookkeeper and a Baptist minister, respectively. He has a brother, David.[9][10] The family moved to Plainfield, Iowa, and when Scott was ten years old, to Delavan, Wisconsin, a city of about 8,000, where his father became a prominent preacher. In high school, he attended two weeks of American Legion-sponsored training in leadership and government at Badger Boys State in Wisconsin, and the selective Boys Nation in Washington, D.C.[11][12] Walker has credited the experience with solidifying his interest in public service and giving him the "political bug".[13] He attained the highest rank, Eagle Scout, in the Boy Scouts of America,[9][14] and graduated from Delavan-Darien High School in 1986.[15]

Walker enrolled at Marquette University in Milwaukee in 1986.[3] He attended college for four years but never graduated. During college he worked part-time for IBM selling warranties. His IBM job led to a full-time position in marketing and fundraising at the American Red Cross from 1990 to 1994.[12][16]

Wisconsin State Assembly[edit]

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.[17][18] This is the only competitive race for public office that Walker has lost to date. He moved to the then-predominantly Republican edge city of Wauwatosa when its Assembly seat opened up in 1993,[16] winning the special election over Democrat Chris Ament, son of then-Milwaukee County Executive Tom Ament.[19]

During the campaign, Walker backed welfare reform and opposed the expansion of mass transit. He supported a cap on state spending and said that the law on resolving labor disputes with local government employees needed to be reformed.[20] Walker received the endorsements of Wisconsin Right to Life and The Milwaukee Sentinel, which called him a fiscal conservative and noted 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.[19]

While in the State Assembly, Walker took a special interest in criminal justice matters,[19] and chaired the Committees on Correctional Facilities, and Corrections and the Courts. Over the years, he served on a number of other committees, including Health, Census and Redistricting, Financial Institutions, and Housing.[21] 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. In 2001, he was the lead sponsor of a bill to prevent pharmacists from being disciplined for refusing to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception[22] and was a strong supporter of a bill to require voters to show photo ID at the polls.[19]

Milwaukee County Executive[edit]

Walker became Milwaukee County Executive in a special election run in April 2002, after the former County Executive, Tom Ament, resigned in the wake of a county pension fund scandal.[19][23] Walker was elected to a four-year term in 2004, winning 57% of the vote to defeat former state budget director, David Riemer.[24][25] He won another four-year term in 2008, defeating State Senator Lena Taylor with 59% of the vote.[26]

Walker won the office on a platform of fiscal conservatism, promising to give back part of his own salary. He criticized other county workers who kept all of their salaries and said that his voluntary give-back gave him moral authority to make cuts in the budget. He returned $60,000 per year (slightly less than half of his salary) for several years, but by 2008, he had reduced his give-back to $10,000 per year.[27]

During his eight years in office, there were 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.[18] The County Board approved several budgets over Walker's veto and he never submitted a budget with a higher property tax than the board had approved the prior year.[19] He cut the number of county employees by more than 20%, and reduced the county's debt by 10%.

Operation Freedom[edit]

Walker appointed Kevin Kavanaugh, head of the local chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, to be the treasurer of the County Veterans Service Commission.[28] Each year Walker raised funds for veterans at a benefit for veterans called Operation Freedom. The proceeds were given to the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Kavanaugh and four others were arrested for theft of those benefit's funds. Kavanaugh was convicted of theft and sentenced to 21 months in prison.[29][30]

Tim Russell, who had worked for Walker in a number of posts, was implicated in the same investigation; he was charged in January 2012 and pleaded guilty in November 2012 to diverting more than $21,000 to his personal bank account. In 2010, Walker's last year as Milwaukee County executive, Russell was his deputy chief of staff and Milwaukee Housing Director.[31]

Walker was not charged in any of the above.[32]

2006 campaign for governor[edit]

While county executive, Walker became a candidate, in February 2005, in the 2006 race for Wisconsin governor. He dropped out in April 2006, after 14 months of campaigning, citing fundraising difficulties. Walker threw his support to fellow Republican Mark Andrew Green, who won the Republican primary unopposed. Green lost the general election, in November 2006, to the incumbent Democrat, Jim Doyle.[23][33]

2010 campaign for governor[edit]

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.[34][35] 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. He criticized the 2009–11 Wisconsin state budget as too big given the slow economy.[23] He won the Wisconsin GOP convention endorsement on May 22, 2010, receiving 91% of the votes cast by the delegates. Walker won the Republican nomination in the primary election of September 14, 2010, receiving 59% of the popular vote, while former U.S. Representative Mark Neumann garnered 39%.[36]

Walker after winning the Republican gubernatorial primary, 2010

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 cuts for small businesses, capital gains tax cuts, and income tax cuts for the highest-earning Wisconsinites.[19] He proposed cutting state employee wages and benefits to help pay for these tax cuts. Critics argued that his proposals would help only the wealthy and that cutting the salaries of public employees would adversely affect state services,[37][38] while supporters argued 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 prove profitable.[39] The award was later rescinded and split among other states.[40]

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.[41] He opposes abortion, including in cases of rape and incest.[22][42] 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.[22] He supports the right of pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for contraceptives on religious or moral grounds.[22][43] He supports adult stem cell research, but opposes human embryonic stem cell research.[19][42][44][45]

On November 2, 2010, his 43rd birthday, Walker won the general election with 52% of total votes cast, with his closest opponent, Democrat Tom Barrett, garnering 46%.[46] His running mate, now Lieutenant Governor, was Rebecca Kleefisch, a former Milwaukee television news reporter.

Governor of Wisconsin[edit]

Scott Walker declares Wisconsin "Open for Business", February 17, 2013

Walker took the oath of office to become the 45th Governor of Wisconsin on January 3, 2011.[47][48] 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.[49]

Walker became a figure of national recognition and controversy after he proposed the "Wisconsin budget repair bill" in 2011. The bill, which would eventually be passed by the Wisconsin Legislature, significantly changed the collective bargaining process for most public employees in Wisconsin. Opponents of Walker's actions launched a push for a recall election, and received enough support to force an election on June 5, 2012, the first time a Governor of Wisconsin had ever faced recall.[50] Walker successfully kept his seat as governor after winning the Wisconsin recall election against two-time opponent Tom Barrett. Walker won the recall by a slightly larger margin (53% to 46%) than the 2010 election (52% to 46%), making him the first U.S. governor to have successfully kept the seat as governor in a recall election.[51]

2011 budget repair bill and protests[edit]

Walker proposed a budget repair bill on February 11, 2011, estimated to save Wisconsin an estimated $30 million in the current fiscal year, and $300 million over the next two years.[52] 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.[53] The bill would eliminate, for most state workers, other than certain public safety workers, many collective bargaining rights aside from seeking pay increases, and then not above the rate of inflation, unless approved by a voter referendum.[54] 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.[52][55] Law enforcement personnel and firefighters would be exempt from the bargaining changes.[56][57]

In announcing the proposed legislation, Walker said the Wisconsin National Guard and other state agencies were prepared to prevent disruptions in state services.[58][59] He later explained that police and firefighters were excluded from the changes because he would not jeopardize public safety. Walker said the bill was necessary to avoid laying off thousands of state employees, and that no one should be surprised by its provisions. Union leaders and Democratic legislators immediately criticized the bill, claiming Walker had never campaigned on doing away with collective bargaining rights.[59] In a media interview a week later, Walker said he was not trying to break the public sector unions, noting that Wisconsin government employees would retain the protections of civil service laws. He said that asking employees to pay half the national average for health care benefits was a modest request.[60]

Demonstrators began protesting the proposed bill on February 14, 2011.[61] During the sixth day of the protests, leaders of the two largest unions said publicly they were prepared to accept the financial concessions in the bill, but would not agree to the limitations of collective bargaining rights. All 14 of the Democratic state senators fled the state to Illinois on February 17, preventing the passage of the bill by the (Republican-controlled) legislature in the absence of the quorum necessary for a vote.[62] The missing legislators said they would not return to Madison unless Walker agreed to remove the limitations on collective bargaining from the bill.[53][63] Walker warned that if the budget repair bill was not passed by March 1, refinancing of a $165 million state debt would fail, and more cuts would be needed to balance the budget.[53]

Appearing on Meet the Press on February 27, Walker stated that he did not believe the unions were negotiating in good faith in offering 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, a contract even included a pay increase.[62][64] 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.[53]

On March 8, private emails were released dating back to February 28 which showed that Governor Walker had tried to negotiate with the Democratic legislators, even proposing to allow some collective bargaining rights.[65][66] However, after failing to reach a compromise with Democratic legislators, the Republican Senate legislators removed certain fiscal provisions from the bill, allowing it to be passed by a simple senate majority.[67]

On March 18, Judge Maryann Sumi issued a court order to prohibit 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 contended the court order did not mention the LRB, which is (also) responsible for publishing laws, and that the publication made the bill law. Democrats maintained the bill could not become law until the Secretary of State took action, and the entire law was published in the state newspaper of record, the Wisconsin State Journal. Judge Sumi subsequently clarified that, pursuant to her order, the bill could not be considered to be published, pending completion of court review.[68][69]

On May 26, Judge Sumi struck down the budget repair bill, finding that its passage was in violation of state open meetings laws.[70] The Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned Sumi's ruling on June 14.[71]

2012 recall election[edit]

After the contentious collective bargaining dispute, Walker's disapproval ratings varied between 50% and 51% while his approval ratings varied between 47% and 49% in 2011.[72][73] The effort to recall Walker officially began on November 15, 2011.[74]

Walker reportedly raised more than $30 million during the recall effort, with a significant portion from out of state.[clarification needed] Commentators claimed the amount of money raised was "illustrating the national significance both political parties saw in the recall fight."[75]

In March 2012, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board announced there were more than 900,000 valid signatures to force a recall vote, well above the required minimum.[76]

In February 2012, Walker's campaign requested additional time for the petition signatures to be verified, claiming about 20% of the signatures were not valid. Democrats argued that even if 20% of the signatures were disregarded they still had obtained 300,000 more signatures than required to initiate the recall. Wisconsin Democratic Party Communications Director Graeme Zielinski claimed Walker was "delaying the inevitable".[77] On February 17, 2012, Dane County judge Richard Niess denied Walker's request for additional time. On March 30, 2012, the Government Accountability Board unanimously ruled in favor of the recall election. The recall election for both Walker and Kleefisch took place on June 5, 2012.[78]

During the Republican primary election for the recall, Walker received 626,538 votes. In the Democratic primary, all of the Democratic candidates combined received 670,288, with the winner, Tom Barrett, receiving 390,109, a majority. On June 5, 2012, Walker won the recall election against Barrett.[79] This was only the third gubernatorial recall election in U.S. history and the first in which the incumbent won. Walker won the recall by a slightly larger margin (53% to 46%) than the 2010 election (52% to 46%).[80]

2012–2013 budget proposal[edit]

Wisconsin faced an anticipated deficit of approximately $3.6 billion in the 2012–13 budget cycle[52][81] 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 would be asking for a 9% (or $900 million) cut in state aid to education. A revenue limit that would reduce the property tax authority by $500 per pupil would also be proposed.[53] The state school superintendent has objected in advance to the budget, saying, "whole parts of what we value in our schools are gone."[53][82] The governor released information[when?] 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.[83]

Domestic partner registry defense[edit]

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, which 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, Doyle, had asked the court to rule that the registry is constitutional. If the court does not allow the state to withdraw, Walker has asked that it allow him to change the state's previous filing and request the court strike the registry as unconstitutional.[84]

Regulatory Reform Bill[edit]

On May 23, 2011, Walker signed legislation making important changes to the administrative rulemaking process. This measure, which became 2011 Wisconsin Act 21 (and became effective June 8, 2011), changes State agency authority to promulgate rules, provides for gubernatorial approval of proposed rules, makes revisions to the requirement of an economic impact analysis for proposed rules and changes venue in the process of judicial review of agency rules.[85]

Voter ID law[edit]

On May 25, 2011, Walker signed a Voter ID Law that required voters to show a government-issued ID before casting a ballot.[86] The ACLU filed a lawsuit in federal court to invalidate the law on December 13, 2011, claiming the law violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law.[87]

Rejection of health care funds[edit]

In January 2012, Walker returned a $37.6 million federal grant meant to set up a health exchange in Wisconsin for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.[88] Walker posited that "Stopping the encroachment of Obamacare in our state, which has the potential to have a devastating impact on Wisconsin's economy, is a top priority."[89] Walker rejected an $11 million federal grant designed to improve Medicaid enrollment systems.[88] It can take up to 3 months to determine whether an applicant qualifies for the program. If the applicant does not qualify, the state must pay the medical costs for the first three months. The Walker administration previously said it wants to end the practice of presuming some applicants are eligible and go to a real-time system for determining eligibility.[90] Walker also rejected an expansion of Medicaid coverage for the state, but instead reduced the eligibility requirements for the state's BadgerCare program.[91]


On April 2, 2012, Walker signed a law to fund evaluation of the reading skills of kindergartners as part of an initiative to ensure that students are reading at or above grade level by 3rd grade. The law created a system for evaluating teachers and principals based in part on the performance of their students on standardized tests.[92]

Indian Gaming Regulatory Act[edit]

Governor Walker created a modification of the statutory process established by Section 20(b)(1)(A) of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (“IGRA”). This modification to the IGRA, known as the "Walker Rule" gives the Governor unrestricted authority to approve or veto any off-reservation tribal casino located in the state.[93]

Personal life[edit]

Walker married the former Tonette Marie Tarantino (born 1955) in February 1993; the couple has two sons.[94][95] Walker is a Christian. The family attends Meadowbrook Church, a nondenominational evangelical church in Wauwatosa.[4][96] She is a former development director for the American Lung Association.[95]

During the summers of 2004 through 2009, as Milwaukee County Executive, 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.[97] In 2013, Walker published Unintimidated - A Governor's Story and A Nation's Challenge about his experiences, especially the recall vote and subsequent election.[98]


Electoral history[edit]

Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election, 2012[99]
RepublicanScott Walker1,334,45053.1%
DemocraticTom Barrett1,162,78546.3%
Republican hold
Wisconsin gubernatorial election, 2010[46]
RepublicanScott Walker1,128,94152.25%
DemocraticTom Barrett1,004,30346.48%
Republican gain from Democratic
Wisconsin Gubernatorial Election 2010 – Republican Primary
RepublicanScott Walker360,05359%
RepublicanMark Neumann237,94439%
Milwaukee County Executive Election 2008
Non-partisan election[26]
Scott Walker (incumbent)98,03959%
Lena Taylor68,78541%
Milwaukee County Executive Election 2004
Non-partisan election[25]
Scott Walker (incumbent)136,20357%
David Riemer101,08943%
Milwaukee County Executive Special Election 2002
Non-partisan election[100]
Scott Walker99,85055%
James Ryan81,09945%
Wisconsin State Assembly 14th District Election 2000[101]
RepublicanScott Walker (incumbent)20,268100%
Republican hold
Wisconsin State Assembly 14th District Election 1998[102]
RepublicanScott Walker (incumbent)14,11068%
DemocraticJim Heidenrich6,75032%
Republican hold
Wisconsin State Assembly 14th District Election 1996[103]
RepublicanScott Walker (incumbent)15,65862%
DemocraticDale Dulberger9,79238%
Republican hold
Wisconsin State Assembly 14th District Election 1994[104]
RepublicanScott Walker (incumbent)15,487100%
Republican hold
Wisconsin State Assembly 14th District Special Election 1993[105]
RepublicanScott Walker5,02757%
DemocraticChristopher T. Ament3,66342%
LibertarianLarry A. Boge931%
Republican hold
Wisconsin State Assembly 7th District Election 1990[17]
DemocraticGwen Moore (incumbent)3,84769%
RepublicanScott Walker1,69031%
Democratic hold


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External links[edit]

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
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Lee Holloway
Preceded by
Jim Doyle
Governor of Wisconsin
2011 – present
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Joe Biden
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Otherwise John Boehner
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Terry Branstad
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Jerry Brown
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