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Some conservatives in Minnesota are really annoyed with Scott Walker

REUTERS/Joshua Lott
Republican presidential candidate Gov. Scott Walker shows off his pork chop at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines on Monday.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is making his first campaign foray into Minnesota as an official presidential candidate. But he enters the state toting some new baggage.

Walker was to appear this morning in Brooklyn Center at the Cass Screw and Machine Company, where he was to unveil a national health care plan that he said would replace Obamacare. Later, he’s be the star attraction at a fundraiser at O’Gara’s Bar and Grill in St. Paul. 

Social conservatives, conservative workers, small-government types, business people, even sports fans all are in play as Walker comes into his neighboring state. 

But there’s that baggage. Last week, Walker signed off on a bill that will forward $250 million in public money for the construction of a new basketball arena in downtown Milwaukee. Without the new arena the National Basketball Association’s Milwaukee Bucks had threatened to leave the state.

To make matters stickier for the governor, the finance director of Walker’s presidential campaign, Jon Hammes, is a minority owner of the Bucks. Additionally, Hammes’ family is tied to a company that donated $150,000 to a Walker Super PAC.

If you like political balance, there’s this: The majority ownership of the team is a New York hedge fund run by Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry. Lasry is a major fundraiser for Hillary Clinton. And if you like economic balance, there’s this: Walker’s latest budget cut funding to the University of Wisconsin system by $250 million

In justifying the Bucks deal, Walker sounded like all of those other public officials that have caved to threats by pro sports teams to leave cities if they didn’t receive public funds for new stadiums. Holding on to the Bucks, Walker said, is a good investment for Wisconsin. It will, he said, both enliven downtown Milwaukee and give back a good return on the public investment. 

How’s that line playing among conservatives in Minnesota?

“It’s a dumb move, and it’s one we can’t overlook,’’ said Jake Duesenberg, executive director of the Minnesota Tea Party Alliance. “If you’re going to be willing to bail out the billionaire owners of a sports team, then you’re surely going to bail out the people on Wall Street any time they call for help.’’

At a gathering last week in the north metro, Duesenberg said that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was “easily the favorite” among the 150 people who attended the meeting. Duesenberg believes that Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul also will attract considerable support among those active in the state’s Tea Party.

Given its border position to Wisconsin, Minnesota would seem to be a crucial state for Walker.

Both the GOP and the DFL hope that Minnesota will be a bigger player in presidential politics now that both parties will hold their caucuses on March 1, the same day as the Colorado caucus and primaries in Florida, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Texas, Vermont and Virginia.

Where can Walker draw his support in Minnesota?  

Four relatively well-known state politicians have endorsed the Wisconsin governor. House Speaker Kurt Daudt has agreed to be the honorary chairman of Walker’s state campaign, while three failed GOP gubernatorial candidates — state Sen. Dave Thompson, former House Speaker Kurt Zellers and former Minority Leader Marty Seifert  — all have signed on as co-chairs.

What of that support for public subsidy of a basketball arena? 

Thompson, long an opponent of such subsidies, said that all elected officials have taken positions “that I might not approve of.’’ That means that only such candidates as Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, who never have held elective office, are free of making unpopular decisions. 

Thompson believes that Walker can find support among a cross section of Minnesota business people, working-class people and social conservatives. 

“His appeal is that he is growing an economy that allows people to keep more of their own money, he has a philosophy that allows people to make more of their own decisions and has government less involved in their lives,’’ Thompson said. 

Certainly, Walker will work hard to appeal to Minnesota’s social conservatives, who can be big players in the GOP caucuses. Four years ago, for example, Rick Santorum was the winner of the GOP straw poll at the state caucuses. That victory came thanks to social conservatives, who turned out in droves to support him.

At this point, Autumn Leva, director of policy and communications for the Minnesota Family Council, doubts that the state’s Christian/social conservatives have moved en masse to any of the Republican candidates. But she did say that social conservatives are heartened “by the sheer breadth and depth of social conservative values’‘ being discussed by almost all of the candidates.

“The stances they have taken regarding one man, one woman marriage and defunding Planned Parenthood for too long have been ignored,” Leva said. “Those issues are not being ignored now. What we have seen in recent years is that the liberal, progressive voters have been willing to take a stand and they have moved their agenda forward. We want a candidate who will be willing to take a stand, someone who doesn’t just talk about these things but is willing to walk the walk.’’

Just last month, Walker signed one of the country’s most restrictive abortion bills, a bill that would not allow abortions after 20 weeks. He’s made state budget cuts to Planned Parenthood that have forced the closure of five of the state’s clinics, including clinics where no abortions were performed.

But in this field, it’s difficult to be a leader in pronouncing social conservative values. 

There’s one other major area where Walker will have considerable work to do. Once upon a time, he could count on the support of a significant number of blue-collar workers. But union leaders in both Wisconsin and Minnesota believe that he has burned most of his bridges to the working class.

Jennifer Munt, a spokeswoman for the public employees union AFSCME, says Walker might have once had success with some in the working class by using “divide and conquer’’ tactics. In 2010, for example, Walker had the support of some construction unions by “pledging” a couple of things: that the only unions he was attacking were the public employee unions; and that he would not support a right-to-work law in Wisconsin.

“I have no interest in a right-to-work law in this state,’’ Walker said in 2012. “We’re not going to pursue it in the future. The reason is that private sector unions are my partner in economic development.’’

Last spring, Walker signed a bill that made Wisconsin the 25th “right-to-work” state in the nation. “It’s another arrow in the quiver” of economic development, he explained. He’s made cracking down on unions a major theme of his campaign.

“His record is a classic case of saying one thing and doing another,’’ said Phil Neuenfeldt, president of Wisconsin’s AFL-CIO. “He’s lied. He’s stabbed people in the back. Ask workers in the state how they feel about Scott Walker now.’’

Despite his next-door-neighbor status, candidate Walker’s first trip to Minnesota can’t be his last.

Comments (30)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 08/18/2015 - 11:17 am.

    It’s just my opinion

    …but I don’t think a belief in “social conservative values” is necessary to find Mr. Walker’s sign-off on a public subsidy of an arena for a privately-held (and profitable) sports corporation while simultaneously cutting virtually the same amount from the state’s flagship university system (cuts that will affect everyone in the state, directly or indirectly) abhorrent. These are the actions of a corporate toady, a much more polite word than the one I’d prefer to use. His campaign against blue-collar workers is the most damning proof of his hostility to citizens who are not wealthy, but the “balance” of his basketball subsidy while whacking the U of W is a nice illustration of the sort of “social conservative values” practiced by the French aristocracy in the years before the French revolution. In terms of public policy, he’s actively working *against* the welfare of the vast majority of Wisconsin citizens. Bob La Follette must be rolling in his grave, betrayed by a know-nothing pretender.

  2. Submitted by Pat Borzi on 08/18/2015 - 11:35 am.

    Walker is consistent in one respect.

    As a Wisconsin state assemblyman he supported the public subsidy for Miller Park, the retractable-roof stadium for the Milwaukee Brewers. Years later, Walker called it the most polarizing issue he ever dealt with as a legislator. His quotes are on the second page.

  3. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 08/18/2015 - 12:06 pm.

    The GOP has lost its moral core

    The all for your “personal freedom” party, the GOP, strikes again. They proclaim they are all about personal freedom, but are anything but. Scott Walker took the Wisconsin Teacher’s Union bargaining rights away. Unions were formed because of the GOPs beliefs of needing to beat people down, rather than raising them up. The GOP wants to take your right to have an abortion away, no matter the circumstances, even let the mother die if necessary. The GOP wants to take certain peoples voting rights away, especially those not likely to vote for them. Now, Walker and others, even want to take certain peoples citizenship away. I listened to Walker at Cass Screw this morning and learned nothing but him speaking political claptrap. Every third word was freedom which is so counter to the GOP. The GOP has lost its moral core. How does any of this add up to a party that wants you to have more personal freedoms? It is another case of listen to the GOP and assume the opposite. You will be right more than you will be wrong. The GOP is a very insecure party. The GOP circus continues.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/18/2015 - 12:53 pm.


      When does a Union member have “personal freedom”? They have to pay the collective’s fee, work within the collective’s contract, be paid based on the collective’s step/lanes, get laid off based on the collective’s rules, etc. Right to Work and Employment at Will maximize personal freedoms.

      Ensuring the rights of the fetus are protected at the expense of the woman is a trade off, and has been since Roe V Wade.

      Voter ID laws: another trade off discussion. No one loses rights.

      • Submitted by jason myron on 08/18/2015 - 01:07 pm.

        The only personal freedoms

        that are “maximized” by Right to Work and At will Employment are those of the employer who are then free to fire that employee for absolutely anything. Voter ID laws most certainly quells the rights of the elderly, the poor and students.

      • Submitted by Bill Willy on 08/18/2015 - 03:12 pm.

        Where rubber meets road

        Median weekly “earnings for union members in 2013 was $950, compared to $750 for non-union workers…

        “If you include fringe benefits, the difference between union members and non-union workers grows. According to BLS data from 2011, worker’s pay plus benefits for a 40-hour week was $1,508 for a union employee and $1,083 for a non-union worker. That’s a gap of $425…”

        $425 X 52 weeks = $22,100 more in income and benefits per year and THAT creates way more “personal freedom” than whatever it is you’re talking about.

        As far as “right to work” proposals go, how ’bout this instead? If a person has union or personal freedom issues that trouble them deeply, there’s an extremely simple solution that doesn’t require any legislation or cost anyone a nickel:

        Don’t apply to work at places that have unions.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/18/2015 - 10:46 pm.

          I agree that Union personnel make more and have better benefits. Unfortunately the Government jobs are the only people who choose to pay the extra costs on a wide spread basis. Thus all of our tax bills are higher than they would need to be.

          The value hunting American Consumer pretty well decimated unions and their extra costs in the Private sector.

          Now for the downside, union employees get tenure and seniority benefits… And then they are handcuffed to the position since they lose that if they move to a new company, district, etc. And if they become burned out, frustrated, etc their productivity likely falls and Lord they are hard to fire.

          As an engineer I have been at quite a few places where Unions have run amuck and are driving a great deal of waste. It is too bad they don’t work like a guild where they only advance people based on performance and they make sure their personnel are performing. If they provided value maybe they would be worth the extra cost.

          So for the good of the country and the freedom of the people, I like the normal Right to Work definition. Please remember that it works both ways, they can fire you, or you can quit and pursue greener pastures.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 08/18/2015 - 04:36 pm.

      He crushed the public employee union

      Big deal. Even FDR was opposed to public employee unions as are most taxpayers. They’re a conflict of interest, funnel taxpayer money to political campaigns for one party, and are generally a waste of taxpayer money.

      Walker’s actions saved Wisconsin billions down the road while forcing dead beats to find honest work.

      • Submitted by jason myron on 08/18/2015 - 06:20 pm.

        Wow…So union members are “deadbeats?”

        You might want to check your facts on Walker’s fiscal wizardry. He’s actually saddled Wisconsin taxpayers with a 2 billion dollar deficit, kicked the can on debt repayment down the road, a la Tim Pawlenty and just gave the Milwaukee Bucks 250 million that he snatched from the UW educational system. Yeah…he’s a genius.

      • Submitted by Tom Christensen on 08/18/2015 - 11:33 pm.

        The recipe

        Why unions are needed.

  4. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/18/2015 - 01:18 pm.

    “When does a Union member have ‘personal freedom’?” They may quit the union, while still paying for the bargaining services provided. Or, if enough employees don’t like it, they can vote to decertify the union.

    “Right to Work and Employment at Will maximize personal freedoms.” Maximize employers’ personal freedoms to fire employees. A huge comfort to the unemployed, I’m sure.

    “Ensuring the rights of the fetus are protected at the expense of the woman is a trade off . . .” What you call a “trade off” is a thinly veiled excuse to limit the rights of women. What is the woman whose right to make her own reproductive choices gaining in this “trade off?” The interest in the “rights of the fetus” was also made a big issue when overt racism became impolitic.

    “Voter ID laws: another trade off discussion. No one loses rights.” The nature of a “trade off” is that someone loses something, in exchange for something else. What do the voters gain from an ID requirement? Cleaner elections? I believe that one about as much as I believe the fight against abortion is strictly about protecting the “rights of the fetus.”

  5. Submitted by Bill Willy on 08/18/2015 - 01:41 pm.

    Something to remember

    To me, the most important thing the article points out is that the person being trusted to set the agenda and oversee the legislative process of the Minnesota House of Representatives has now made it undeniably and unavoidably clear where he stands and what policies he is using his position to enact into Minnesota law.

    Regardless of what he says or pretends to do, I’ll be remembering that.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/18/2015 - 10:47 pm.

      Just in case you are tempted to vote for him someday? 🙂

      • Submitted by Bill Willy on 08/19/2015 - 01:24 pm.


        Just in case YOU or any of your friends and relatives are. I encourage you and them to remember it too. Unless, of course, you and they think the Scott Walker blueprint actually is a good one to follow.

        Speaking of, had a chance to take a look at his “Day One Emergency Health Reform Plan” he unveiled yesterday? (19 million dumped back into No Insurance Land immediately, but “details to follow” his election, I guess).

        Kurt is squarely behind it and thinking we should move in that direction in Minnesota too, no doubt. How ’bout you? Seem like a good idea, plan, direction to move in?

        I know… I know… You haven’t made up your mind yet. Way too early to commit.

        But really, I’m just hoping everyone in Minnesota will find out and remember who and what Kurt threw all-in with the next time he gets in front of the media and, in that aw shucks affable, cucumber cool and reasonable peace maker way he has, tells hardworking Minnesotans (especially outstate folk) how hard he and his fellow Republicans are working to get them, their friends and relatives freed up from the burden of things like education for their kids, MinnesotaCare, Medicaid, Medicare, and crushing union wage-like incomes so businesses can be relieved of having to pay property taxes so they can prosper and not share any of the resulting profit gains with them.

        So get busy now and Tweet, Facebook or email this article’s address to all those friends and relatives (and don’t forget to tell them to do the same and that I said “Hi!” and would LOVE to know what they think about Kurt and his role model hero).

  6. Submitted by jason myron on 08/18/2015 - 03:16 pm.

    Walker is Pawlenty 2.0

    Minus the effervescent personality.

  7. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 08/18/2015 - 08:44 pm.

    Nice to make an appearance

    But Minnesota is certainly not a state that any Republican “needs” or will spend much time visiting since it is reliably DFL in presidential elections. Money and time are best spent elsewhere in a national election.

    • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 08/19/2015 - 09:19 am.

      Looking for delegates

      Minnesotans still nominate the GOP presidential candidate and the state has delegates up for grabs.

  8. Submitted by Dan Landherr on 08/19/2015 - 09:17 am.


    Who thought it was a good idea for Walker to announce his health care plan at a Screw company? Was it a writer at the Daily Show?

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/19/2015 - 10:46 am.

      More Optics

      The apron that says “Pork: Be Inspired” should have been presented to him by the Milwaukee Bucks.

  9. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/19/2015 - 10:50 am.

    Unions are going to come back…

    People are finally realizing that “at will” employment leaves them with unfair wages, benefits, and working conditions. Sure, the polls today say American’s don’t care about wealth inequality, but polls also showed all kinds of support for “traditional” marriage… until they didn’t.

    We have a candidate now in Bernie Sanders that’s bringing these issues to the forefront, and Walker simply has nothing to offer at the end of the day, he’s running the complete opposite direction that the country is traveling on.

    Mark my words, this anti-union hysteria is about to implode along with the other “pillars” of conservative ideology.

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 08/19/2015 - 03:26 pm.

      At will employer

      Do you know the history or origin the “at will” laws in MN, Paul?

      It really IS a bizarre and sometimes nasty thing that can have more strange affects “in the workplace” than most people ever think about… I worked for years in an environment where the mildly psychotic or “character disordered,” but successful, owners and a handful of “inner circle” types would, every once in a while, just “banish” people for no apparent, or work-related reason. No one ever knew what the rules were (“grounds for dismal”), and no one that ever got the deep 86 treatment was ever able to find out “Why!?” it had happened.

      It made for a semi-paranoid, sometimes twisted atmosphere (“Do you think she’s a spy for Them?”) in which it became apparent that a little key person ear-whispering, outright backstabbing, etc., could be a viable route to that “inner circle” and the power and income enhancement that came with it. To me, whatever exactly “it” was, it as creating a dysfunctional, counterproductive, “bad business” zone and “less-than-it-could-be” enterprise. (“So much easier, more enjoyable, productive, profitable to just do things ‘the right way,’ ” I’d always say, to no avail.)

      Lots of that going on all over the place, no doubt.

      Anyway… After hanging out in midst of it for quite a while I became aware of the “At will” element and had a minor “Ah ha” moment. But when I tried to “look it up,” I wasn’t able to trace down when or where it got started in state law, etc. (to see what ought to be “repealed” or straightened out so there’d be at least SOME kind of rational and documented process required when cutting people off from their income and, in some cases, long-invested-in and loved occupation).

      It’s an ugly “business management tool” that comes awfully close making “duress” or “extortion” legal for any business owner that chooses to use it that way.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/19/2015 - 09:27 pm.

      Who will Pay

      Exactly which American customers do you see willingly paying more so that the Union members can have higher wages and benefits than the market offers?

      My prediction is that if Liberals succeed and American business costs increase due to government regulations and union efforts, more people will shop for goods made in lower cost states or countries. That has been the trend for 40 years, I am not sure what you see changing that consumer behavior?

      It seems you see all the Subaru, Toyota Prius, VW, etc loving folks switching back to the top of the list… Probably highly unlikely if costs increase in the USA and the dollar stays strong.

      • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 08/24/2015 - 09:42 pm.

        Who will pay?

        Good question, we seem to pay exorbitant; salaries, stock options, bonus’s etc. to the execs, sports teams, sports facilities, power company monopolies, communication oligopolies, etc. etc. etc. W/or W/O our approval. Certain local CEO compensation $92,182,148 in 2014, that’s 1676 union or non-union workers at ~ $55K year.

  10. Submitted by Anthony Walsh on 08/20/2015 - 02:44 pm.


    It’s funny how some people seem to think profits are a fixed sum, while labor costs cannot be negotiated, that market forces don’t affect prices, and that this only comes true when we are talking about wages. Otherwise, it’s forgotten.

    It’s not funny how otherwise intelligent people (maybe) ignore the effects of “Free” Trade.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/20/2015 - 06:15 pm.

      Personally I am all for negotiating labor cost, vacation, etc. I always push for more before I take a new job, or if I am starting to feel under appreciated at work.

      And market pressures certainly impact prices, the prices in the USA are less than is necessary to support the compensation and benefits desired by the Liberals and Unions. The American Consumers simply are not willing to pay more if they don’t need to, therefore the American companies adjusted or went bankrupt.

      As for profit… Investment capital goes where it can earn the highest return. Do you want your 401K manager investing in low return companies? Do you want them buying GM stock when Hyundai stock is more profitable because the American Consumers are buying Hyundais?

      • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 08/22/2015 - 03:55 pm.

        The individual negotiation formula

        means that the increased wages and benefits go not necessarily to the best qualified people, not necessarily to the people with the most seniority (who are in the years when they should be saving for retirement and helping their children get started in life and maybe caring for their parents) but to the most assertive. A person may be a good employee but just too shy to go ask for a raise.

        American consumers would be willing to pay more if they had more disposable income. I remember what prices were like in proportion to the minimum wage in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Most consumer goods were more expensive, but housing, food, transportation, and college tuition were more affordable, even accounting for inflation, and many workers had their health care costs fully paid by their employment-based insurance policy. This left them more to spend on that (in today’s dollars) $1000 plain vanilla stereo with a turntable, amplifier, and speakers.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/24/2015 - 02:32 pm.


          “Senior People” should be payed more because they may not have saved appropriately when young to fund their 401K, help their parents/kids, etc? If 2 crews gave you quotes to replace your shingles, both came with great references, the young crew quotes $7,000 and the older crew quotes $12,000… Would you select the older crew and pay the additional $5,000?

          Shy people may not change jobs or ask for a raise, so we should give everyone higher incomes whether we know if they can perform or not?

          If people had more money… They would buy American… According to your comment they had more money in the 1970’s, yet they stopped buying American electronics and cars by the droves. Why do you think it will be different this time?

          • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 08/25/2015 - 11:20 am.

            Do you not understand that individual negotiation

            is a divide and conquer tactic?

            As for “not saving when they’re young,” I wonder what the lives of many of today’s college graduates will be like forty or fifty years from now. The money they could have used for saving for a down payment on a house or for retirement is instead going for student loans. Now you may say that they were stupid to take out student loans, but there are many reasons why it might have seemed like a good idea at the time.

            If someone is really not performing, they can still be fired. Unions only insist that workers are given due process and aren’t fire simply because their supervisor doesn’t like them.

            Well, I know why Americans stopped buying American cars. Gas prices went way up after 1973, and Detroit execs and auto designers insisted on continuing to make gas guzzlers that didn’t last very long, the object being to encourage the then-entrenched custom of buying a new car every two years. When the Japanese exported well-made cars with good fuel economy, the consumers’ choice was obvious. (After bad experiences with a couple of American-made lemons, one of the members of my extended family vowed never to buy another American-made car.)

            As for electronics, do you know that the VCR was invented by RCA? They had the technology but decided that it would have limited appeal (which was probably correct, since their prototype was huge and bulky and could record only 30 minutes at a time), so they didn’t develop it commercially. Evidently, they were unaware that some people were already audio-taping their favorite TV programs.

            The Japanese did develop the VCR commercially by shrinking it and giving it greater recording capacity. Since Japanese corporate taxes were extremely high at the time and because their market was absolutely saturated with TVs (it was not uncommon to see houses with a TV in every room when I lived there in the 1970s), they were highly motivated to pour money into R&D and come up with new products: the improved VCR, the Walkman, and in 1995, the DVD player. This was precisely the era in which American companies fell for the mantra that “the only duty of a corporation is to increase shareholder value.”

            Yes, the Japanese (whose labor costs were not all that much lower than those in the U.S. at the time) focused on improving their products and making them cheaper while the sclerotic American electronics companies tried to operate on business as usual while concentrating on their shareholders.

            Now the Japanese companies have gotten complacent and are being overtaken by Korean and Chinese companies. Samsung and LG, not Sony, dominate the Android phone market worldwide. Cell phones don’t differ that much in price (some are provided at no cost with a contract), so consumers are choosing the Samsung and LG for their features, not their prices.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/25/2015 - 10:37 pm.


              So are you saying that if we increase the cost of doing business in the USA by giving people higher compensation and benefits, now they will spend that money on products and services from China and South Korea, instead of Japan? I don’t see this ending well either.

              As long as Americans choose to buy a Prius over a Volt, the unions will suffer and American jobs will continue to be lost. Or worse a Subaru Forester over a Chevy Traverse. Choices. Choices.

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