Scott Walker Political Controversy

Gov. Scott Walker has been called the most divisive governor in America and a rock star of the Tea Party and conservative right.  In July 2015, he declared his candidacy for President of the United States.  After his campaign started off strong but quickly crashed, Walker abruptly ended his run in September, and resumed his post as Wisconsin governor.

Walker served in Wisconsin's state Assembly from 1993 to 2002. Taking advantage of a recall effort against then-Milwaukee County Executive Tom Ament following a county employee pension scandal, Walker ran for county exec in 2001 and won.  Eight years later, Walker ran for governor as a Republican, narrowly beating Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a Democrat.

Walker's actions immediately following his 2010 victory made national headlines as tens of thousands of citizens descended on the State Capitol, and Democratic state Senators fled across the border into Illinois to protest a stunningly controversial state budget that Walker himself described as "dropping a bomb."   The budget ended collective bargaining for most state employees and deeply slashed funding to schools and colleges in a state that long prided itself as a leader in worker rights and educational excellence. 

But Walker survived an attempted recall in 2012, easily holding onto his office in a rematch against Tom Barrett.  And Walker won re-election in 2014 against challenger Mary Burke, whose family founded Trek Bicycle.  That gave Walker three victories within four years, a key campaign point in his run for the GOP presidential primary.

Walker remains a controversial figure. He instituted right-to-work legislation in Wisconsin, further weakening unions. He outlawed abortion after 20 weeks, instituted voter ID and called for limits to even legal immigration.  Unlike some Republican governors, Walker refused to accept federal money to expand Medicaid.  Walker has drawn scrutiny during two John Doe investigations alleging illegal campaign coordination with conservative groups. The probes uncovered a secret email router steps away from his former office and resulted in charges against former Walker aides and backers.  Walker, however, was never charged with any crimes.

I’ve covered Walker since his first run for governor in 2010, the political explosion that followed, the heated recall race of 2012 and Walker’s subsequent re-election in 2014. I was there when he announced his bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 2015, I covered his campaign from Wisconsin and was there when he made his sudden exit speech.  I continue to report on Walker’s political actions and what they mean for voters. 

  • Scott Walker Drops Out

    I rushed to Madison, Wis., to contribute reporting for the New York Times when Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker suddenly ended his presidential run after just 71 days. (Sept. 21, 2015)

  • Walker Exits from a Windowless Room

    I captured the mood and the scene for the NY Times' First Draft political newsletter, and contrasted Walker's lonely, drab exit to the colorful fanfare when he announced his run in July, an event I had also covered. (Sept. 22, 2015)