By Matthew DeFour
Gov. Scott Walker framed his bid for a third term Sunday as a continuation of the policies and themes he has championed over the past seven years.
He touted some $8 billion in tax cuts so far, promising more, though without specifics. He highlighted the state's record employment level, calling for an economic climate where "everyone can find not just a job, but a career to support themselves and their families." And he pledged to fight a growing opiate drug epidemic.
"That's a pretty clear agenda," Walker said. "We're not satisfied with just where we're at. We're ready to move forward because there's more to be done."
One year out from election day, Walker cautioned his supporters that the road to re-election would be a "challenge" because the "big government special interests in Washington have already made us a target" -- a familiar target from his past campaigns when Democrats controlled the White House.
Walker will grapple for the first time with an unpopular president from his own party in the White House. At this point, President Donald Trump's approval ratings are lower than any modern president, the Washington Post reported Sunday.
"That's going to be a challenge for Walker to navigate," said UW-Madison professor Barry Burden. "Whoever the Democratic opponent is will run ads showing Walker in the oval office standing next to Trump."
Walker will also have to navigate the uncertain political terrain of the state's $3 billion tax incentive to Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn, which is expected to create some 13,000 jobs in Racine County. A recent Marquette Law School Poll found lukewarm support for the deal in southeastern Wisconsin, the area most likely to benefit. Walker didn't mention the company in his remarks.
Walker's approval level in the Marquette poll dipped to 37 percent when he ran for president in 2015. It has since rebounded to 48 percent as of June, though the poll hasn't been conducted since the Foxconn deal was announced.
Walker will face off against one of a growing list of Democrats. Candidates so far include state superintendent of public instruction Tony Evers, former Democratic Party chairman Matt Flynn, Milwaukee businessman Andy Gronik, former Wisconsin Democracy Campaign executive director Mike McCabe, Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, and Rep. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire.
"The reason we have so many people interested in running is because people can clearly see the direction our state is taking under Scott Walker and Republican leadership is so alarming," Democratic Party of Wisconsin chairwoman Matha Laning said ahead of Walker's announcement. "Walker is vulnerable like we've never seen before. Walker and his agenda are unpopular and beatable."
About 300 supporters cheered Walker as he took the stage at Weldall Manufacturing. Among them was Deanna Young, a retired homemaker from Wauwatosa, who has volunteered for Walker campaigns since Walker was a Republican legislator.
"He's always seemed like a nice, sincere guy," she said, crediting Walker with sticking with the Republican agenda of "low taxes and making our taxes work. Doing more with less."
Walker shook hands with supporters for nearly an hour after his speech ended. He didn't take any questions from reporters.
Outside Weldall, a slightly larger crowd of protesters chanted "si se puede" in opposition to legislation that would penalize so-called sanctuary cities and demanded an increase in the state's minimum wage.
Walker has opposed raising the state's minimum wage, which is the same as the national rate of $7.25 per hour. In 2010, before he took office, 14 states had higher minimum wages than Wisconsin. As of the beginning of this year, 28 states have a higher minimum wage.
Peter Rickman, one of the organizers of the protest, criticized Walker's opposition to raising the minimum wage and his support for laws that have diminished labor unions in the state.
"Low-wage Walker has made Wisconsin much worse for working people," Rickman said.
Walker is planning to tour the state over the next three days with stops on Monday in La Crosse, Eau Claire, Wausau, Rhinelander and Green Bay, where he plans to tailgate ahead of the Packers game. On Tuesday he'll be in Appleton, Oshkosh, Fond du Lac, Sheboygan and Janesville and on Wednesday he'll be in Hudson, Superior and southwestern Wisconsin.
(c)2017 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.)