The Wisconsin governor who gained national recognition while tangling with public employee unions was a big hit Wednesday night among 250 of Iowa’s most prominent Republicans. Scott Walker delivered the keynote address at a Heritage Foundation event in West Des Moines. Organizers said Walker’s presence resulted in the organization’s largest fundraiser ever held outside of Washington, D.C.
Walker opened his speech by discussing a period of his youth when he lived in Plainfield, Iowa, from 1971-77. Senator Chuck Grassley, who was in attendance, was Walker’s state representative. “Now there goes an honest man,” Walker recalled his grandfather telling him about Grassley.
Iowa’s Republican U.S. senator, governor, lieutenant governor and secretary of state were among those who came to hear Walker’s message. A few dozen protestors tried to deliver a message of their own outside the event. Most of them were union members. The sight was nothing new to the Wisconsin governor. “I brought some of my fanclub with me tonight,” Walker joked to the crowd inside.
Walker dealt with massive protests in Wisconsin just one month after becoming governor. He announced reforms to repair Wisconsin’s budget that included requirements for public employees to pay more for their healthcare plans and pensions. Walker also wanted to prevent public employee unions from seeking pay raises above the rate of inflation.
Protestors from around the country descended on the state capitol in Madison in response, thrusting Walker into the spotlight. In the end, Walker and the Wisconsin Republicans emerged victorious. “It was not only a politically courageous vote, it was a physically courageous vote,” Walker said Wednesday night. He and other Republican lawmakers received death threats, had nails placed in their driveways, strangers banging on their doors early in the morning and protestors showing up in front of their house.
“This was ultimately about big government union bosses who didn’t want us touching their money,” Walker said. The union bosses lost this round, but they are coming back. Scott Walker now faces a recall election.
Wisconsin Democrats will try to collect 540,000 signatures between November 15 and January 15. If they succeed, Walker faces the prospect over becoming the third sitting governor in U.S. history from being ousted in a recall election. Unfortunately for the Democrats, campaign finance limits will not apply to Walker during those 60 days, so he can exceed the normal $10,000 maximum donation.
The Wisconsin governor will use those two months to explain the positive reforms he has made. “For 60 days, I can tell the truth without interference from the local newscast,” he said. “We avoided massive layoffs, we protected middle class jobs and we protected property tax payers. We’re the ones who stand up for the middle class.”
Taking on the public employee unions was not the only major accomplishment Walker achieved after only a few months in office. He said a Wisconsin radio host recently told him he counted 40 promises Walker made on the campaign trail. 38 of those have already been fulfilled. Next week, Walker will sign a concealed carry law. The legislature also passed a requirement for voters to show photo identification, something Republicans in Iowa also hope to achieve.
Scott Walker stood up for his conservative principles, fought battles against well-funded unions, and won. But the war is not over. He implores Republicans to continue the fight. “What we need now more than ever is courage,” Walker said. “Courage. A commodity that is more rare than ever before.”
Although Walker faces a serious challenge in the recall election, he has higher goals. The Wisconsin governor says he is looking out for the next generation, not the next election.
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