Exclusive: Walker rallies supports for upcoming elections
By Thomas J.McKillen, managing editor, published Feb. 2, 2018
A few weeks after one special election upset and a close local election, Gov. Scott Walker rallied local supporters to get out the vote in elections the rest of the year.
“The wake up call is that we cannot assume that our neighbors know about the positive things we’re doing here in Wisconsin — we can’t assume it,” Gov. Scott Walker said during the Washington County GOP Brunch and Caucus held in West Bend Jan. 28.
Walkers comments came less than two weeks after Republicans lost a Jan. 16 special election in northwest Wisconsin, as St. Croix County Medical Examiner Patty Schachtner upset Rep. Adam Jarchow to win a State Senate seat that had been held by Republican Sheila Harsdorf for 16 years before she resigned in November to become Walker’s agriculture secretary. That same evening, Rick Gundrum won a special election in Washington County, being elected to fill the remainder of the 58th Assembly District term. However, the race was competitive, as Gundrum defeated Democratic Party candidate Dennis Degenhardt by a 56.56 to 43.37, while Degenhardt won wards in the city of West Bend.
During his comments to local Republicans, Walker referenced his State of the State speech and noted it was twice as long as speeches he presented in past years.
“For years I’ve said the state of our state is strong. I didn’t say that this year: I said the state of our state is historically strong,” Walker said. “We have a larger workforce than ever before, we have a historically low unemployment rate, we made historic investments in the K-12 education, we had the largest economic development project in history of the state (the Foxconn development), one of the largest in the history of the nation. There are amazingly good things happening in this state.”
Walker cited data showing the state has the lowest unemployment in this history of the state (3.2 percent as of November 2017) while local school districts can now make employment and promotions decision based on merit. He further explained how targeted investments have been made in technical colleges and training programs. He also stated that the 25,000 people have been transitioned from receiving Food Stamps to being in the work force and also noted that under GOP leadership a tuition freeze has been in place at state universities for the past six years.
“These are the positive things we’re getting done for the people of Wisconsin,” Walker said.
When interviewed after his speech, Walker said the GOP can’t assume for this election that people know about the positive work that has been done over the past several years. Walker referenced the low voter turnout in the two Jan. 16 elections as to what the GOP should learn in response for the rest of the year.
“We can’t assume that people know about it. When you have 12 percent turnout, that means a lot of people assumed it was going to happen,” Walker said.
Walker added that “I tell people all the time I’m going to have a tough election, arguably the toughest election I’ve had, including the recall election. People go ‘oh no, it’s overhyped.’ I go, ‘no, the left — for reasons unrelated to Wisconsin, more related to Washington D.C. Whether it’s the frustation with the Senate or the president, whatever it might be — the left is angry and motivated. We’ve got to make sure if we’re going to win in November we’ve got to counter that with optimism and organization, getting our message out, telling people about the good and optimistic things happening in the state. If we do that, we can win. I think in the special elections of voters assumed it was in the bag and they didn’t need to worry about it.”
Walker added that the message included saying that “Wisconsin is not Washington” and laying out plans for the future.
“For me, my focal point has been and will be in this campaign in particular is to talk about things that matter. Talk about things that matter to everyday people. If you keep that in mind, then you don’t get drawn off into other things,” Walker said.