Republicans, Democrats speak to Walker’s legacy

January 7, 2019

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Prominent Democrats, Republicans and political observers answer the same question: What will be Scott Walker’s legacy?


Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson

“Governor Walker devolved power away from Madison and public sector unions, giving local governments the ability to balance their budgets and Wisconsin businesses the ability to grow and create better opportunities. He leaves office with the tax burden at a 50-year low and unemployment near record lows, and every employer I talk to tells me there are more jobs available than there are people to fill them.”


Democratic U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, who served in the state Assembly when Walker was first elected

“Scott Walker was a better failed candidate for president than he was a governor. Unfortunately, the people of Wisconsin were never front of mind like previous governors, and that showed. His attacks on working people were especially divisive and left many in Wisconsin worse off after eight years of his governorship.”


Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald

“There’s no avoiding Act 10 (the law that effective eliminated public sector collective bargaining) because it had such an impact on everyone that was here and across the state. You can’t find a governor that was more focused on making sure the state was in a good financial position. He always tried to hold the line on property taxes. ... He was driven by that. He wanted to make sure the state was in a good place fiscally, and it is.”


Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling

“Gov. Scott Walker’s legacy will be one of division and political ambition. Families, businesses, and communities continue to feel the effects from Gov. Walker’s self-described ‘divide and conquer’ tactics. Whether it was his repeal of worker rights in 2011, his short-lived presidential campaign or the slew of lame luck proposals ... Walker has always prioritized his personal political ambitions rather than what’s best for the state.”


Republican strategist Mark Graul

“Scott Walker dramatically improved the tax and business climate in Wisconsin. Pre-Walker, our state consistently ranked as a top 10 tax hell and, by most measures, was not considered a good place to do business. We now have the lowest tax burden we’ve seen in 50 years and we have become an international draw for business expansion. Of course, the collective barraging reforms will always be a part of his legacy as well. But, his work to control taxes and improve the business climate has been far more transformative for our state.”


Mike Browne, deputy director of liberal group One Wisconsin Now

“When you’re talking about legacy, we remember elected officials who showed inspired leadership bringing people together in times of crisis and we remember the crooks. Scott Walker didn’t bring people together and he wasn’t charged with anything. Legacy also suggests a finality to the political career of Scott Walker. While he may never again be a successful candidate for public office, politics is all he has ever known in his adult life. His inability to be gracious in defeat will be our last memory of him as governor, but to the extent there is a Scott Walker legacy it is that after eight years of his cronyism, corruption and incompetence he leaves Wisconsin politics worse than he found it.”


Republican strategist Brandon Scholz, a former state party director

“When Scott Walker gave his inaugural address in 2010, ‘austerity in government’ was a central focus. Each year of his two terms, Walker worked to reduce taxes, whether it was property taxes or income taxes cutting nearly $8 billion in taxes. The property tax is lower that when Walker was elected and the state has a $588 million surplus that didn’t exist when he was elected.”


Democratic strategist and former state party chairman Mike Tate

“Scott Walker is without a question the most significant governor of Wisconsin in modern times. His legacy will be of a governor that actively sought and succeeded in dividing Wisconsin by race, class, geography, and station in life; pitting citizens against each other in a brazen effort to further his own political ambition and reward his donors. His conduct and that of those like him laid the groundwork for the modern Republican Party led by Donald Trump.”


University of Wisconsin political science professor Barry Burden

“He will be remembered for presiding over the longest stretch of single-party control of state government since the 1950s, and a highly productive stretch at that. Walker and his Republican colleagues in the state Legislature transformed state government to reflect his conservative take on unions, gun ownership, election laws, public education, the environment, and more. Walker will also be remembered for fiscal austerity in the name of economic development.”