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Gov. Scott Walker says that as he campaigns for re-election over the next year, he will lay out a series of priorities to guarantee that everyone in Wisconsin “shares in our economic prosperity,” hoping to blunt a central Democratic criticism that he hasn’t done enough to help the middle class.
Walker told The Associated Press in an interview Saturday that he plans to ensure that all children have access to a quality education, increase household incomes through more and better-paying jobs, and continue to cut taxes. He said he would outline these themes in his speech at Weldall Manufacturing in Waukesha later Sunday formally launching his bid for a third term.
“Why I’m more optimistic about the future today than I ever have been before is there’s more to be done,” Walker said. “I want to make sure everyone in the state shares in our economic prosperity.”
More than a dozen Democrats are running against Walker or considering doing so. Democrats say their eventual nominee will expose a long record of failure by Walker and will chart a different course to benefit the middle class, which they say has struggled under his leadership.
“He’s neglected our state while he’s pursued his own personal political ambitions,” said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling. “Families don’t trust Governor Walker anymore.”
Walker said he doesn’t care which Democratic challenger emerges victorious from August’s primary because “they’re all pretty much the same. They’re all pretty far to the left.”
He said he was worried that outside money that flowed into his 2012 recall and 2014 re-election campaigns won’t be there this time around, while he remains a top target of liberal groups, including the national union representing public workers.
“The kind of resources that might have been available in the past to try and help counter some of the groups ... will be overwhelmingly spent in other states,” Walker said. He said this is why he’s focused on building a strong re-election team in Wisconsin and already has campaign co-chairs in all 72 counties.
Democrats have also been busy organizing, having hired a new statewide coordinator and seven regional directors this year to prepare for the 2018 election.
Walker was the first governor in U.S. history to win a recall election, and that 2012 victory helped lay the groundwork for his unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination in the last presidential race. He said Saturday that he doesn’t regret running for president, and that the time he’s spent traveling the state since then has paid off — he’s made more than 50 school visits since February alone.
“It’s just given me renewed excitement,” Walker said. “For me, I look at this and say it’s just crystal clear my focal point is going to be on what can we get done, what more work do we have to do, over the next four years.”
Walker said he’s proud to stand on his record of cutting taxes, including keeping property taxes on the typical home lower in 2018 than in 2010, freezing University of Wisconsin System tuition for five years and increasing funding for K-12 schools in the most recent budget.
The state’s unemployment rate, bolstered by the national economy, is the lowest it’s been since 2001. Walker earlier this year signed the largest economic development deal in state history, with Taiwanese company Foxconn Technology Group planning to invest up to $10 billion on a display screen factory that could employ 13,000 people, in return for nearly $3 billion in incentives from the state. Though some Democrats have criticized the deal, it was a significant victory for Walker, who hasn’t come close to fulfilling a 2010 campaign promise to create 250,000 private-sector jobs.
Walker heads into next year’s race with some lingering vulnerabilities, including festering problems at the state’s youth prison and lackluster performance by the semi-private jobs agency he created. He said he has no intention of visiting the Lincoln Hills juvenile prison, which he’s never been to despite it being the target of a federal investigation into prisoner abuse for three years, because he’s confident in the leadership of his Department of Corrections.