To absolutely no one’s surprise, Scott Walker announced last week that he is running for a third term as governor. Of course, this isn’t what Walker had planned. He wanted to be living in the White House right now, but he is shooting for another four years in the governor’s mansion as a consolation prize.
Walker’s re-election is anything but assured. A recent poll by a respected national survey firm found that Walker trails a generic Democratic opponent for re-election by 48 percent to 43 percent.
I’m not popping the champagne corks just yet, because we still have a year to go before the actual vote. Also, Walker will run against an opponent, not a “generic Democrat,” and he will have untold millions from the Koch brothers and other partners in greed to slander, smear and defame the Democratic candidate. Even before Walker announced, the Koch brothers’ organization was running ads to shore up Walker.
The good people of Wisconsin have plenty of reason to want a different governor. Walker’s tenure in office has been a failure. Also, voters are likely to want to send a message about their dissatisfaction with the Trump/Republican Party, for which Walker is an unabashed cheerleader.
Walker’s failings are many, but leading the pack is his failure to fulfill his top campaign pledge: to create 250,000 private-sector jobs in his first four years. After seven years in office, he is still way short. Wisconsin’s private-sector job growth lags the nation and ranks in the bottom third of the states. Ironically, if Wisconsin’s economy had simply performed at the national rate of growth, we’d be at 300,000 jobs. In his desperation to repair his poor jobs record, Walker got snookered by a foreign corporation into forking over $3 billion in taxpayer dollars to a notoriously untrustworthy foreign company.
Walker has proven to be an inept executive. His Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has given tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to corporations for job creation only to see those companies move jobs overseas or create no jobs at all. The youth prison has been mismanaged to such an extent that a federal judge has had to intervene. The state’s facility to care for veterans at King was fined last year for the death of a veteran blamed on substandard care and had its federal rating downgraded due to a critical federal review of care at that state-run institution. The state’s roads have severely deteriorated as the Transportation Fund faces a bleak future.
Probably his biggest failures are regarding the environment and education. He decimated the science division at DNR, failed to enforce many pollution laws, stymied the protection of conservation areas, eliminated support for our beloved state parks, and allowed polluters to contaminate drinking water. Funding for public schools has been sharply cut and has fallen below pre-Walker funding levels during the last decade, adjusted for inflation. The university has suffered attack after attack and has seen its academic reputation eroded.
With Walker vulnerable, it should shock no one that a large field of qualified Democrats is lining up to challenge him. Democrats have an embarrassment of riches with at least five top-tier candidates in the running.
I could enthusiastically support any of the major Democratic candidates if they win the primary, not only because they are an alternative to Walker but because they are all impressive in their own right.
In this field of eminent contenders, I am actively supporting State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers. Evers is a strong progressive from the Kettle Moraine country, a proven advocate for education, and a passionate conservationist. Most important, I think he has the best chance to beat Walker, having already been elected statewide three times, most recently by an overwhelming margin. ￼
Spencer Black represented the 77th Assembly District for 26 years and was chair of the Natural Resources Committee. He currently serves as a director of the national Sierra Club and is an adjunct professor of urban and regional planning at UW-Madison.
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