When Gov. Scott Walker entered the 2016 presidential race on Monday, his two sons and wife, Tonette, opened the door.
Tonette Walker introduced her husband to the audience at the Waukesha County Expo Center — putting her in the spotlight more than she has been before.
And sons Matt and Alex Walker emceed the event, becoming visible parts of their father’s campaign.
Walker’s wife and especially his two sons have always been central to his political message, but the acceleration of their roles in the campaign “was on full display” at Monday’s announcement, said Wisconsin political consultant Mark Graul.
“Not many presidential candidates have their sons emcee the event, or have their wife introduce them,” Graul said.
Explaining Monday why he was running for president, Walker spoke about the campaign as one the family was waging, not just him.
“After a great deal of thought and a whole lot of prayer, we are proud to announce that I am officially running to serve as your president of the United States of America,” Walker said Monday. “Tonette and I want our sons Matt and Alex — and all of the other sons and daughters like them — to grow up in a country that is at least as great as the one we inherited.”
That was a familiar theme during his 2014 gubernatorial campaign.
“I think it’s very clear, from knowing the governor, that his family is the most important thing to him, so it’s not a surprise that they would be an integral part of (the campaign),” Graul said.
The campaign wouldn’t make Tonette, Matt or Alex Walker available for an interview Tuesday.
Matt and Alex Walker are taking a break from college to campaign, and on Monday the two emceed their dad’s campaign announcement making a case for a down-to-earth guy who the average American could relate to.
“Like any other dad he still embarrasses us — he still wears jean shorts” said Matt Walker.
Walker’s sons gave national interviews to CNN and ABC News earlier this week. The two also have taken to social media to promote their father on Twitter and Instagram. Earlier this week, the two wrote a joint blog post on the Independent Journal Review website intended to introduce their father to voters with stories from their childhood.
Matt, 21, and Alex, 19, have known their father only as a politician — Walker was elected to the state Assembly before both were born.
“Not only have we seen our Dad’s personal side, but we’ve had the privilege of a front row seat to our Dad’s career as well,” they wrote. “It’s that leadership, commitment and courage that we believe our nation desperately needs today.”
Tonette Walker’s introduction of her husband on Monday hit on key stories included in Walker’s stump speeches, like how the two met at a Wauwatosa bar and that they were married on Feb. 6 — Ronald Reagan’s birthday.
Before Walker’s presidential campaign was officially launched, even the Walker family relationship became a news story of its own.
Tonette Walker told The Washington Post earlier this month that her sons disagreed with her husband’s statement on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to legalize same-sex marriage across the country in which Walker called it a “grave mistake.”
“That was a hard one,” Tonette told the Post. “Our sons were disappointed. ... I was torn. I have children who are very passionate (in favor of same-sex marriage), and Scott was on his side very passionate.”