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Experts: Walker's Caution Indicates Approaching Election Year

Gov. Scott Walker has been taking his time deciding whether to approve a Kenosha casino and whether to make it harder to strip schools of Indian mascots.

Initially, Walker said he’d make his decision about a Kenosha casino in October. Now, he says, it’ll be “many months into 2014.”

When it comes to the mascot bill, the Legislature passed it in November and sent it to the governor. If he doesn’t sign the measure by Thursday, it will automatically become law.

Marquette University Political Scientist John McAdams says it appears the governor is weighing the political fallout.

“If he should veto that bill, a lot of people who resent what they consider to be political correctness are going to be rather made at him. There are imported elites who will immediately cry racism if Walker does not take the politically correct position on this,” McAdams says.

McAdams thinks if the governor had a choice, he would not have wanted the mascot issue to come up this year. That’s because he’s thinking about re-election in 2014 and potentially a White House run in 2016, according to Michael Kraft. He’s a political science professor at UW-Green Bay.

“I think the governor would probably on a whole range of issues think very carefully about, is this going to alienate conservative support, is it going to create a protest that might harm my re-election campaign or cast other things I do as governor into a negative light,” Kraft says.

Kraft says it’s not unusual for politicians to avoid controversial decisions as elections approach.

The governor certainly jumped out of the gate with divisive decisions, early in his term, according to UW-La Crosse Political Scientist Joe Heim. For instance, weeks after taking office, he prompted massive demonstrations, by announcing plans to dismantle many public unions.

“Act 10 was done 3.5 years before the next election and he had plenty of time to weigh in to see how it was going to play out. It ended up carrying out in ways he didn’t anticipate, including the recall elections. In this case, we’re talking about elections that are right on the horizon,” Heim says.

Heim predicts the closer Wisconsin gets to next fall’s elections, the more time Walker might take to weigh-in on hot button issues. However, Marquette’s John McAdams says if the governor takes too much time making decisions, the move could backfire.

“I do think Walker in seeming to shilly-shally, both on the casino and the mascot issue, may be taking some unnecessary political losses. He may rather than seeming prudent and considering the issues carefully, may look to be timid, may look to be indecisive,” McAdams says.

McAdams foresees additional divisive issues on the horizon. He notes that this coming spring, the state Senate could pass and send the governor two abortion-related bills.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.
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