The Badger State
Over a year ago, people in Wisconsin started a long shot process to recall Governor Scott Walker and a number of other Republican elected officials. When Walker took his narrow margin of victory as an opportunity to decimate the rights of workers, the people of Wisconsin took over the capitol building and legislators left the state in an attempt to blunt his power grab. Those events set in motion today’s recall election.
Given Walker’s seven to one financial advantage Governor Walker holds, this is a tough race for Democrats. Scott Walker has raised well over 30 million dollars since he took office thanks to a national network of Republican sponsors. Democratic Mayor Tom Barrett raised $4.2 million for his effort to unseat the Governor.
Incumbency does have its privileges. For Scott Walker that means tens of millions of out of state, corporate dollars.
For Democrats, the odds are so stacked against any attempt at a recall a Governor that the fact that this is a competitive race is an unlikely outcome. The financial imbalance makes it even more improbable.
No matter the margin in the Walker race, absolute judgments will be made about who the winners and losers are. But no matter the outcome in the Governor’s race, there are also recall elections for the Lt. Governor and four state senate seats.
Should the Governor win, but lose the Lt. Governor’s race or the state senate majority, the main aim of the recall process will be a success: Scott Walker’s ability to exercise power will be diminished.
But there is another ultimate consequence of the Wisconsin recall process that has much larger implications.
For a number of reasons, the Special Election process has brought significant attention to Governor Walker: it is historically rare for the Governor of a state to be recalled; it has taken some time for this process to run its course because, due to Wisconsin law, Walker could not be recalled until his first full year in office was complete; and it is ironic that Walker became Milwaukee County executive through the special election process as well.
That job, Milwaukee County executive, may be the job that defines the Scott Walker Legacy.
For almost two years, a separate and less public examination of Scott Walker has occurred. A Federal investigation into his county executive office has led to arrests, guilty pleas, convictions and the discovery of embezzlement and political work being done on behalf of Walker at the taxpayers expense.
Homes have been raided, computers seized. At least 13 Walker aides have been granted immunity in exchange for their cooperation with the investigation. And Scott Walker recently transferred $100,000 to his personal legal defense fund, raising the fund’s total to $160,000. That may be a strong indicator of where this investigation is headed.
At a debate the other night, Mayor Barrett sought to draw a sharp distinction between himself and the Governor: “I have a police department that arrests felons, he (Walker) has a practice of hiring them. I’ve been in public life for 28 years. No one on my staff has been charged with a felony, and I’ve never had a criminal defense fund.”
The evidence gathering or “John Doe” investigation into Walker does reveal one of two conclusions to make: either he is corrupt and complicit in the criminal activity that occurred during his tenure by people he appointed or he is an incredibly incompetent manager who is so dim that criminals win his trust and violate the law with impunity right under his nose.
No matter the outcome of today’s election, the court with the final say over Scott Walker may not be the court of public opinion.
About Bill Buck
Bill Buck is a Democratic strategist and President of the Buck Communications Group, a media relations and new media strategies consulting business based in Washington, DC. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CBS Local.