‘Very complex’: Challenges to finding compromise, Gov. Evers & Gov. Walker one-on-one
MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Divided government in Wisconsin something lawmakers often say is the reason why things don’t get done, but many agree it shouldn’t be used as an excuse.
After eight years of Governor Scott Walker's tenure and Republicans controlling the state legislature, there was a shake-up in state politics. In 2018, Democrat Tony Evers narrowly defeated the incumbent seeking another term. Evers came into office, just as many politicians do, with a promise of ‘getting things done’ but working with a Republican controlled legislature presents its challenges.
“Divided government is not easy,” said Evers. “It probably looks pretty ugly from the outside.”
Before Evers was sworn into office his predecessor and the Republican-led legislature passed a series of laws weakening his executive powers creating a rocky relationship with GOP leadership from day one.
The governor’s relationship with Republican leaders has not improved much, Evers admitted it could “be better” but now it’s impacting the state’s efforts to pass much-need COVID-19 legislation. The Evers administration also continues to face challenges to his efforts to try and reduce the spread of the virus like issuing mask mandates Republicans attempted to overturn.
“I think a lot of it's got to do with all this pent up frustration,” said former Gov. Scott Walker. “I think the bottom line, we need to get back to the fundamentals.”
Walker said communication is key to building better relationships with the opposing party but a lot has changed since he was in office. A pandemic, an economic crisis, demands for racial justice -- all issues pitting people against each other.
“Talk about things, even if you know they're going to be areas of disagreement,” Walker said. “With all the similar kind of stress we're going through now, with the protests and the recall, back then, it was critically important to get back and just socialize to treat each other like humans.”
Evers and top Republicans did not speak for six months in 2020, at the peak of the pandemic which has now led to more than 6,000 deaths in Wisconsin. Evers said he has recently talked to the newly-elected Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) but not for ‘a while’ with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester).
“I am open to talking to them anytime if they wish to reach a compromise on something,” said Evers. “We did that for several meetings, and it didn't work out.”
A rare event of bipartisanship came when Evers and Republicans passed the state budget, Evers called it his biggest accomplishment. However, things might be more difficult this year due to current disagreements on how to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
While division can encourage involvement in politics, it can also bring out harsh rhetoric. Partisan division peaked last month during the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, something Evers said was fueled by President Donald Trump.
“It is very complex and very contentious, and it reached a crescendo when the US capitol was invaded,” he said.
Gov. Walker has faced criticism for comparing the attack in D.C. to Act 10 protests against his politics to end collective bargaining for most public employees. He says some comparisons are that he faced death threats, both resulted in large crowds and property damage.
“A smaller group tried to come back to the capitol after the courts removed the protesters and when they were there they did break through windows, much like the images in some cases were almost identical to the images we saw in January,” Walker said.
But some key differences, injuries, deaths, firearms, and arrests.
Both Evers and Walker agree things were not as contentious as they are today and are hopeful for the future.
“Just as people who have different political beliefs, knowing that we're still going to debate things, and we should, but there are ways you can defuse it,’ said Walker.
It’s anticipated Governor Evers will face Democrat and Republican challengers as his term is coming to an end in 2022. Evers said he has yet to make up his mind if he’ll run again.
Walker is currently the president of Young America’s Foundation and said he’ll stay in that role for the next four years but after that he’s keeping his options open, eyeing the next presidential race.
“I'm a quarter of a century younger than Joe Biden. So I figured I got plenty of time to make a decision,” said Walker. “But after (this position), we'll see.”
Walker ran for President in 2016 but dropped out amid dwindling contributions.