White House Brief: Things to know about Wisconsin's Walker

Published July 13, 2015 4:00PM (EDT)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A snapshot of things to know about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who entered the 2016 race for the Republican presidential nomination:



Scott Walker rose to national prominence by effectively ending collective bargaining for most public workers, confronting them in the state where their main union was founded. Walker was forced into a recall election because of the fight with unions the following year but won, making him the first governor in U.S. history to survive such an effort. His 2014 re-election as governor continued a 24-year run of holding public office. He's been dogged by an investigation launched in 2010 that resulted in misconduct and theft convictions of six associates, as well as by a newer probe focusing on whether conservative groups illegally helped his recall campaign. But he's not been charged with wrongdoing, and courts placed the second investigation on hold. Walker failed to meet his signature campaign promise to create 250,000 jobs in his first term. He's enacted nearly $2 billion in tax cuts while also shifting the state to the right by signing into law conservative priorities such as abortion-access restrictions, a requirement for photo identification to vote and a law letting people carry concealed weapons. Moreover, he's made Wisconsin a right-to-work state and rejected federal money to pay for expanding Medicaid coverage.



Walker served in the state Assembly for nine years before being elected Milwaukee County executive, the top elected position in Wisconsin's largest county. He ran for that post in 2002, becoming the first and to date only Republican to hold the office in the heavily Democratic county. Walker benefited from the recall process that would later test his hold on office as governor — his victory as county executive came in a special election called after the incumbent retired following a petition drive to recall him from office. Walker briefly ran for governor in 2006 but dropped out. He won election in 2010, defeated the recall in 2012, and was re-elected in 2014.



The son of a Baptist minister, Walker was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Nov. 2, 1967. Because of his father's job, Walker's family moved to Plainfield, Iowa, three years later, then to Delavan, Wisconsin, when he was 10. Walker grew up there. He attended Marquette University in Milwaukee but dropped out 34 credits short of graduation to take a Red Cross job. He could be the first president since Harry Truman, elected nearly 70 years ago, without a college degree. Scott and Tonette Walker have two sons, one attending Marquette and another at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Walker has said both plan to take a year off from school to help him campaign.



More than 100,000 people rallied at the Capitol in 2011 to protest his legislation curtailing union rights, and Senate Democrats fled the state for three weeks in a failed attempt to stop its passage by denying the legislative body a quorum. More than 900,000 people signed petitions to force the recall election. But Walker's unprecedented victory came by a wider margin than did his election as governor. He claims more than $3 billion in savings to local governments as evidence that the law succeeded: The law forced public employees except for police and firefighters to pay more for pension and health benefits, and limited their collective bargaining to base wage increases no greater than inflation. Critics say Walker put the state through chaos to weaken unions. "In the Republican field, there are some who are good fighters, but they haven't won those battles. And there are others who've won elections, but haven't consistently taken on the big fights. We showed you can do both," he said in a Monday announcement video.



Walker has been a frequent visitor to neighboring Iowa and is traveling more to other influential early-voting states, such as New Hampshire and South Carolina. He launches a six-day announcement tour Tuesday that includes stops in Nevada, South Carolina, New Hampshire and Iowa.



Walker, along with columnist and scholar Marc Thiessen, wrote "Unintimidated: A Governor's Story and a Nation's Challenge" in 2013. It largely chronicled his battle with the unions and subsequent recall victory, but Walker also devoted a chapter to dissecting what he said Mitt Romney did wrong in the 2012 presidential campaign and argued that his successes in Wisconsin were a blueprint for others to follow. "If we can do it in Wisconsin, we can do it anywhere — even in our nation's capital," Walker wrote.



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By Scott Bauer

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