BY JOHN MCCORMACK
Governor Scott Walker is facing the fight of his political life. On June 5, in the third gubernatorial recall election in U.S. history, Wisconsin voters will either choose to keep Walker in office or elect a Democrat. Polls show a tight race with Walker hovering at or slightly below 50 percent and holding a small lead over potential opponents. Walker won’t know which Democratic opponent he’ll face until May 8, when the recall primary is held. Meanwhile, he’s letting the state of Illinois serve as a stand-in.
Speaking on April 19 to machinists in blue-collared shirts, jeans, and boots at the Trace-A-Matic Corporation, Walker contrasts Wisconsin’s record with that of its neighbor to the south. “A year ago their unemployment rate was above 9 percent,” he says. “And today, a year later, it’s still above 9 percent because they made some poor choices. They raised taxes on businesses and individuals. On individuals, believe it or not, they raised it by 66 percent.”
And Wisconsin? Unemployment has dropped from 7.7 percent to 6.9 percent since Walker took office. Property taxes are down for the first time in 12 years. A $3.6 billion deficit was eliminated without lots of layoffs. The message resonates with the machinists. Almost all applaud enthusiastically for Walker.
“Unions had a place in history,” says Mike Payne, one of Trace-A-Matic’s machinists. “But I think it went to the other extreme. And I think to diminish them a little bit is to really benefit us because that brings things back to a fairer level.”
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Sitting in one of his campaign offices later in the day, Walker considers whether he might have avoided a recall. “If I hadn’t gone so far, would I face a recall? I don’t know,” Walker tells me. “But if I hadn’t gone as far as I did, I wouldn’t have fixed it.” And fixing Wisconsin’s fiscal problems is what matters, he says. “I’m running a campaign to win. And I aim to win. But I’m not afraid to lose.”