MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker made a national name for himself with his dramatic move against public sector union power when he first took office in 2011, but he’s signaling that his second term will be far less divisive as he builds his resume for a potential presidential run.
“For us, it’s not so much looking for a big, bold thing,” Walker told The Associated Press days before his re-election victory Tuesday. “It’s steady growth in the things that have been successful.”READ MORE: Russell, Towns Lead Wolves To Rare Win At Milwaukee
Holding steady may be the plan, but that won’t get him the same level of national attention that staring down the unions and winning a recall election did. Republicans, however, aren’t looking for more dramatic moves from Walker, said GOP strategist Mark Graul.
“I think they’re looking for steady, solid, common sense conservative leadership,” Graul said.
Given that he took on unions and won, and won a 2012 recall and his re-election, means Walker “does not have to do anything to establish his bona fides as a conservative,” said University of Wisconsin political science professor Ken Mayer.
Walker didn’t receive the national attention for other legislative successes in his first term, but they were the cornerstone of his re-election campaign and are consistent with his conservative credentials: $2 billion in tax cuts, the expansion of private school vouchers, the rejection of federal Medicaid expansion, and laws making it more difficult to get an abortion.
Walker promises more of the same during his second term, saying he’s focused on further cutting income and property taxes, rejecting the Common Core academic standards, and requiring applicants for food stamps and unemployment benefits to pass drug tests.
Walker sent mixed messages about his presidential ambitions after his victory Tuesday night, telling the AP that any decision about that “will have to wait (until) long after” he works with the Legislature on passing the next state budget, which typically would be in June.
But the 47-year-old son of a preacher seemed to be speaking to people across the country, not just Wisconsin, in his victory speech.
“In America you can do and be anything you want!” Walker said to rousing applause. “That’s right. You see in America, the opportunity is equal, but the outcome is up to you. That’s the difference between what we believe here in Wisconsin and what they’re selling in Washington. We believe the opportunity is equal but the outcome is up to each and every one of us.”
Wisconsin voters aren’t yet convinced about a Walker presidential run.
Only 42 percent of all respondents in an exit poll said they thought Walker would make a good president. That nearly doubled, to 82 percent, among Republicans.READ MORE: Whitecaps Jump To 5th Place With 2-0 Win Over Loons
Still, Walker’s 6-point win over Democrat Mary Burke is a major boost to Wisconsin Republicans who wondered if their gains in the last midterm election of 2010 were a fluke. Republicans will control both chambers of the Legislature, which should allow Walker to enact his agenda.
While Walker promised to move quickly to enact his second term agenda, he hasn’t promised to serve a full four-year term, fueling speculation that he will get into the presidential race sooner rather than later.
Brandon Scholz, a Wisconsin Republican strategist, said he wouldn’t expect Walker to make any sudden moves to position himself for a presidential run.
“My sense is that postelection he gets down to the business of taking care of Wisconsin,” Scholz said. “If there are others out there who think he is presidential timber, they will go about the business of taking care of whatever they need to do as the sweepstakes warm up.”
Republicans Maintain Majority In Wisconsin Senate
Republicans fended off Democrats’ push to regain control of the state Senate, winning 11 races in Tuesday’s elections to boost their majority to 19 seats.
The victories give the GOP complete control of Wisconsin state government for another two-year legislative session. Republicans held onto their majority in the state Assembly — unofficial results showed the GOP had won 60 seats in the chamber with two races still undecided early Wednesday morning — and Republican Gov. Scott Walker defeated Democratic challenger Mary Burke.
Republicans have run both legislative houses and the governor’s office for most of the last four years. The election results mean Democrats again will be powerless to stop the GOP agenda.
“Tonight’s results reinforce what I have been saying since the beginning of this election cycle, and that is voters will reward the party that acts as a responsible steward of their tax dollars,” Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said in a statement released early Wednesday morning.
Seventeen of the Senate’s 33 seats were up for re-election, including seven held by Democrats and 10 held by Republicans. Two Democratic incumbents, Jon Erpenbach, of Middleton and Tim Carpenter, of Milwaukee, were unopposed, which meant Democrats needed to win seven of the remaining 15 races to gain control of the chamber.
Democrats had their sights set on three open seats in particular — the 17th District in rural southwestern Wisconsin, the 19th District in the Fox Cities and the 9th District in Sheboygan.
The 17th’s incumbent Republican, Dale Schultz, of Richland Center, decided not to seek re-election after butting heads with Walker and the rest of Republican leadership, leaving the seat open. The district leans moderate, giving Democrats hope that their candidate, Spring Green attorney Pat Bomhack, could defeat Republican state Rep. Howard Marklein, of Spring Green, for the seat. But Marklein prevailed in Tuesday’s elections, besting Bomhack by nearly 6,300 votes, according to unofficial returns.
Marklein didn’t immediately return a message left for him on a campaign worker’s voicemail early Wednesday.
The 19th’s incumbent, Senate President Mike Ellis, of Neenah, decided not to run again after a video of him discussing setting up an illegal political action committee surfaced earlier this year. But former Republican state representative Roger Roth of Appleton defeated Democratic state Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber by almost 10,500 votes to capture the seat.
Roth said he focused his campaign message on improving the economy and creating jobs.
“I just think we ran a very clean campaign,” he said. “(The voters) looked and saw we’re making progress.”
Democrats also targeted the 9th District in Sheboygan. Incumbent Republican Joe Leibham decided not to run in order to mount what would turn out to be an unsuccessful bid for Congress. But Republican Devin LeMahieu, a member of the Sheboygan County Board, defeated Democratic community organizer Martha Laning to take the seat.
LeMahieu said voters responded to his promises to lower taxes, reduce the size of government and help businesses grow.
Wisconsin Turnout Close To Prediction
About 55 percent of Wisconsin’s voting-age population cast ballots in the midterm election, the highest turnout in at least 60 years for a non-presidential year.
Based on unofficial numbers, with 99 percent of precincts reporting, just short of 2.4 million people voted in Tuesday’s election in which Gov. Scott Walker defeated Democrat Mary Burke and Republicans maintained control of the state Legislature.
The state Government Accountability Board predicted that 2.5 million people, or 56.5 percent of the voting-age population, would vote.
The preliminary 55 percent turnout number is short of the 57.8 percent turnout in Walker’s 2012 recall election and far from the 70 percent turnout in the 2012 presidential election.
(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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