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Scott Walker: GOP needs focus on fundamentals, rather than any one personality like Trump
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FORMER GOVERNOR | STATE JOURNAL INTERVIEW

Scott Walker: GOP needs focus on fundamentals, rather than any one personality like Trump

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As Wisconsin’s midterm elections inch closer, former Gov. Scott Walker said a major key to any GOP success here will likely hinge on the Republican Party’s ability to “get beyond specific personalities,” including former President Donald Trump.

Walker, who lobbed broadsides at Trump during the 2016 Republican presidential primary before later becoming one of the former president’s more prominent supporters in the state, told the Wisconsin State Journal on Monday he’s certain Trump will continue to have a lasting impact on politics, but added that conservatives as a whole may need to “get back to the fundamentals.”

“President Trump will obviously continue to have an impact, not just with Republicans but in any politics, but it’s not as defined as it was back in the end of 2020,” Walker said. “In the end, conservatives are going to have to make our case based on our ideals, not just based on any one personality.”

When discussing the Republican Party’s future last month, former House Speaker Paul Ryan, another prominent Wisconsin conservative, urged the GOP to reject Trump and “second-rate imitations.”

At the same time, many Republicans remain loyal to Trump despite the former president’s repeated efforts to make false claims about his election loss last year.

New caucus

Walker, who is now president of national conservative youth organization Young America’s Foundation, also discussed the foundation’s new Campus Free Speech Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives. Walker said a Senate caucus is expected to come to fruition in the near future.

YAF works to promote conservative ideas among young people and the officially recognized caucus will focus on maintaining free speech, caucus officials said in a Monday statement.

“Obviously we come at it from a conservative standpoint, but our view is that free speech isn’t just limited to protecting conservative students, it should be available for any student no matter what their viewpoints are,” Walker said.

While universities are largely regulated at the state level, Walker said the caucus could push to make sure any institutions that receive federal funding adhere to free speech guidelines, by potentially limiting funds to schools that don’t crack down on students who disrupt conservative speakers.

Hazy horizon

Walker, who last ran for office in 2018 when he lost his re-election bid to current Gov. Tony Evers, said he has no immediate political aspirations at this point. Walker added that considering President Joe Biden is 78 years old and Trump turned 75 on Monday, he has plenty of time to consider a return to politics.

“I am a quarter-century younger than Joe Biden, so I figure I’ve got plenty of time,” Walker said.

Walker added that his contract with YAF runs through the beginning of 2025.

“After that, who knows,” Walker said. “We’ll see what happens.”

An endorsement

With Evers officially seeking a second term next year, Walker again pointed to his former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch as a viable challenger to the Democratic incumbent.

“The bottom line is, if she gets in, which I have every expectation that she will be, she’ll be a great candidate, she’ll be a great governor, but she’ll certainly be her own person,” Walker said.

No Republicans have officially announced a gubernatorial bid, but there are several in the potential lineup, including Kleefisch, former Marine Kevin Nicholson and lobbyist Bill McCoshen, who also served in former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson’s administration. Reince Priebus, former chief of staff to Trump and former leader of the Wisconsin and national Republican parties, also has been rumored to be mulling plans to run for governor or U.S. Senate.

Year in review: The top Madison-area stories of 2020

It started out well enough. The Badgers were making a late-in-coming run at the Final Four. Hometown insurance behemoth American Family announced it was boosting its starting minimum wage to $20 an hour. Madison East Siders welcomed a new Pinney branch library.

The first two and a half months of the year feel like a different era, when news of a strange new virus infecting people in China was safely tucked away in the back pages of the newspaper and the heart-breaking images of a white Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of a 46-year-old Black man had yet to go viral.

Then came March and successive waves of closures, cancellations, lockdowns, furloughs, layoffs, infections and deaths. If the subsequent uprisings over the killing of George Floyd weren't enough to remind America that it has plenty of work to do to overcome racism, the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha tragically emphasized the point. And a divisive presidential election carried the tone of the year at the end.

While it may not be a year to look back on with particular fondness, 2020 no doubt is one to remember. Here's a look back at some of the top stories in the Madison area as they occurred.

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It marked the fourth consecutive loss in the Rose Bowl for UW, and the first time since 2013 that the program lost its final two games of the year.

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Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain said Sunday the victim who officers found in an apartment at 1905 McKenna Blvd. shortly after 2:30 p.m. Saturday was a 20-year-old African American male.

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With the Green Bay defense failing to lay a hand on 49ers running back Raheem Mostert for much of the first half and the Aaron Rodgers-led offense committing two turnovers and failing to convert a third down yet again during a scoreless first 30 minutes, the Packers dug themselves a 27-0 halftime deficit on their way to a demoralizing 37-20 loss.

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Gutierrez, superintendent of the school district in Seguin, Texas, was announced Friday as the Madison School Board's pick to lead the district.

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The person returned to Dane County Regional Airport after a trip to Beijing Jan. 30 and went directly to UW Hospital's emergency room, officials said.

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This weekend's performances at the Alliant Energy Center will be the last with elephants in Dane County as a contract between the circus and the venue expires. 

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Tony Evers said he vetoed the legislation, which uses surplus revenue, because it doesn't invest in the state's schools. 

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Despite no Wisconsin cheeses finishing in the final top three, state producers dominated the competition, earning 45 gold medals out of 132 categories.

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This decision is unprecedented for Wisconsin's largest university and taken to slow the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.

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The closure order, to take effect no later than 5 p.m. on March 18, affects nearly 1 million Wisconsin children in grades K-12 in public and private schools.

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One was a man in his 50s from Fond du Lac County; the other was a man in his 90s from Ozaukee County.

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David A. Kahl, 53, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide.

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Tony Evers’ “safer at home” order represents a shift from the governor's position last week, when he said he did not plan on issuing such an order.

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Most voting locations saw few lines and smooth operations. But other places, notably Milwaukee, experienced significant delays, chaos and conditions that made it impossible for some voters to cast a ballot.

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Jill Karofsky's win over Dan Kelly cuts the court's conservative majority to 4-3, giving liberals a chance to take back control in 2023.

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The U.S. Air Force announced the final selection of the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing, capping more than three years of study and deep community division over the planes, which come with the promise of jobs and new construction but also noise and pollution.

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While applauded as a good first step, Democratic members, as well as public safety and health officials, have criticized the bill for not allocating more state funding to respond to the pandemic.

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For 30 years, "Ms. Milele" was the publisher of UMOJA magazine and a prominent leader in Madison's black community. She was "short in stature but mighty in force." 

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Free community testing for COVID-19 started at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison on Monday morning.

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Gov. Tony Evers and legislative Republicans will need to work quickly to come up with a replacement plan.

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The Vilas Zoo, Goodman Pool, beaches and movie theaters are among the places not opening yet.

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There were signs early Sunday that the violence was spreading into other parts of the city.

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"It’s clear they have important process issues to work out," the candidate said.

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School Board President Gloria Reyes said the decision to pull police from Madison's four main high schools is effective immediately. 

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The Madison School Board chose Carlton Jenkins, a superintendent of a suburban Twin Cities school district, over another finalist for the job. He starts Aug. 4.

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As a Dane County public health order requiring face coverings in all indoor spaces outside the home took effect Monday, businesses offered mixed views on mandates, though for many retailers it was business as (the new) usual.

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There was no update on the second victim from the shooting at Schroeder Road and Chapel Hill Road Saturday night. 

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Travis M. Christianson, 44, is tentatively charged with first-degree intentional homicide.

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Republican President Donald Trump also has caused controversy for saying he might deliver acceptance speech at White House.

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The girl was in a car that was struck by gunfire late Tuesday morning on East Washington Avenue.

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The conference decided — after meetings between presidents and athletic directors, and outcry from players, coaches, politicians and fans — to cancel the fall sports season and will attempt to move football to the spring semester.

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"The video that came out of Kenosha is absolutely horrific. I don’t understand how people can watch it and not be here," one Madison protester said. 

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The fifth-seeded Heat finished off an upset of the NBA’s best regular-season team Tuesday, topping the Milwaukee Bucks 103-94 in Game 5 of their East semifinal series — while Giannis Antetokounmpo, the league’s reigning MVP, couldn’t play because of a sprained right ankle.

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UW-Madison is pausing in-person instruction for at least two weeks and quarantining more than 2,200 students living in two dorms.

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Police are not recommending charges against Althea Bernstein, saying there is a difference between someone trying to deceive law enforcement and not being able to corroborate a report of a crime.

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The alternate care facility at State Fair Park in West Allis may begin taking patients Thursday.

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A small crowd Downtown Saturday morning before the race was called turned into hundreds of people honking horns, cheering and waving signs after Biden was declared the winner, while some Trump supporters turned out in protest.

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"We understand the eyes of the world will be on these Wisconsin counties over the next few weeks,"  Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator Meagan Wolfe said.

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St. Mary's and Meriter expect to get vaccine soon.

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The flurry of activity caps off a tumultuous post-election saga in Wisconsin that has now concluded.

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A look back at the year 2020 through the lens of Wisconsin State Journal photographers John Hart, Amber Arnold and Steve Apps

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