Scott Walker Biography

U.S. Governor (1967–)
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is best known for his controversial 2011 budget proposal, in which he wanted to eliminate most collective bargaining rights for Wisconsin state employees. Walker is also the first governor in U.S. history to win a recall election.

Who Is Scott Walker?

Scott Walker was born on November 2, 1967. He became interested in politics as a teenager, left Marquette University before graduating and worked in fundraising for several years. By the age of 25, he was a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly and quickly moved up the ranks, serving as a Milwaukee County executive and the state's governor. His fiscal conservatism launched him into the national spotlight in 2011, when he proposed eliminating most collective bargaining rights for state workers. Some Wisconsin residents demanded a recall election, which Walker won, making him the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election. Walker was subsequently elected to a second term in 2014, and launched an unsuccessful bid for the White House the following year. 

Early Life

Scott Kevin Walker was born on November 2, 1967, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. His mother was a bookkeeper and his father was a Baptist minister. When Walker was 10 years old, his father moved the family to Delavan, a small town in Wisconsin, where Walker joined the Boy Scouts.

Walker first exhibited his interest in politics in high school when he was selected as one of two boys to represent Wisconsin in Washington, D.C., for the Boys Nation (a two-week American Legion–sponsored leadership and government training event). While there, Walker met Ronald Reagan, who he said inspired him and became his role model.

From 1986 to 1990, Walker attended Marquette University and was active in student government, but he did not graduate. When questions arose about why Walker did not receive his college degree, he allowed Marquette to release this statement in 2013: "Governor Scott Walker was a student at Marquette from fall of 1986 until spring 1990 and was a senior in good standing when he voluntarily withdrew from Marquette," the university said. 

In a meeting with reporters hosted by National Review in 2013, Walker said: “The reason I went to college, in large part, was not just to get an education for an education’s sake, but to get a job,” according to Time magazine.

In his State of the State speech in 2013, the governor gave a few more details about that time of his life: "During my senior year at Marquette University, I was offered a full-time job at the American Red Cross. I thought I would squeeze in a course here or there and finish things off in a year or two, but then Tonette and I got married. Then we had Matt. And then came Alex. Next thing you know, you're putting all your extra time and money into your kids."

Walker worked for four years at the American Red Cross, handling its marketing and fundraising efforts.

Political Beginnings

After an unsuccessful run for a seat on the Wisconsin State Assembly at age 22, Walker ran again in 1993 and won, receiving endorsements from Wisconsin Right to Life and The Milwaukee Sentinel, which made note that he was a fiscal conservative with pro-life and pro-welfare reform positions. Walker was reelected to that seat four times, until he became executive of Milwaukee County in 2002, as the result of a special election. He was reelected as county executive twice, in 2004 and 2008.

As he had done when running for his Assembly seat, Walker, a married father of two, used a fiscal conservative platform in his run for the county executive seat. Similarly, when he ran for the Wisconsin governorship, his campaign included themes of reduced taxes and spending. On Walker's 43rd birthday—November 2, 2010—he won the general election for state governor, defeating Democrat Tom Barrett.

Collective Bargaining Controversy

In Walker's 2011 budget repair bill, he proposed eliminating most collective-bargaining rights, except wages—a proposal that met with such heated protest that it launched Walker onto the national political scene. In essence, he "lit the fuse" of 2011 nationwide union protests, according to nonprofit investigative news organization Mother Jones.

The controversy caused tension among party lines and throughout the entire state of Wisconsin. The bill was passed by the state Senate in March 2011, but then went to court, where Judge Maryann Sumi struck it down in May 2011, saying it was void because lawmakers broke open-meeting statutes during the approval process. The Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned her ruling on June 14 of that year.

Some Wisconsin residents were so angered by Walker's actions and the controversy they created that they wanted to remove him from office. They demanded a recall election, which took place on June 5, 2012. Walker won the recall election, however, once again defeating Tom Barrett. He is the first governor in American history to survive a recall election.

In the midst of his recall election, Walker shot down speculation that he could be Mitt Romney's vice-presidential pick. Instead, he told FOX Business Network's Neil Cavuto in June 2012 that if Romney were to ask him who would be a good pick from Wisconsin, he would suggest Paul Ryan—whom Romney did eventually choose as a running mate. "I am not going through a year and a half of this to then take off," Walker told Cavuto, according to The Huffington Post. "I have to fulfill my commitment to the voters of the state of Wisconsin." 

Walker was elected to a second term as governor of Wisconsin in 2014. 

2016 Presidential Bid

In early 2015, Walker established an organization called Our American Revival to begin fundraising for what was presumed to be a run for the Republication presidential nomination for the 2016 elections. On July 13, 2015, Walker announced his run for the White House on Twitter: "I'm in. I'm running for president because Americans deserve a leader who will fight and win for them," he tweeted. 

Walker joined a crowded race, becoming the 15th Republican candidate to run for president. But it was not to be, Walker's campaign never gained traction and he dropped out of the race that September.

Back to Wisconsin

Resuming his governorship, Walker turned his attention to public education. He signed a budget in 2017 that provided funding for K-12 schools, and the following spring he launched the Technology for Educational Achievement (TEACH) grant program to train school and library administrators in areas of information technology.

Walker also generated controversy with his attempts to eliminate the office of state treasurer, striking it from the ballot in 2018. Critics said the move was part of the governor's plan to consolidate power.

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