Gov. Scott Walker, fresh from becoming the nation’s first governor ever to survive a recall election, wants to go about mending Wisconsin’s political divide in an egalitarian way: over brats and beers.
Walker defeated Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett on Tuesday for the second time in year and a half, turning back a recall effort that began with the collection of more than 900,000 signatures seeking his ouster. It was only the third gubernatorial recall in U.S. history.
Now the rising Republican star is focusing his message on what lies ahead. His term runs through 2014, and he faces a state that’s still bitterly divided over his move to end collective bargaining rights for most public employees.
“It’s time to put our differences aside and find ways to work together to move Wisconsin forward,” Walker said in an interview minutes after his victory. “I think it’s important to fix things, but it’s also important to make sure we talk about it and involve people in the process.”
Walker planned to invite all members of the Legislature to meet as soon as next week over burgers, brats and “maybe a little bit of good Wisconsin beer.”
“The first step is just bringing people together and figuring out some way if we can thaw the ice,” he said.
Democrats, including Barrett, pledged to work together, too. But the wounds are deep following the rancor of the recall, which was spurred by Walker’s surprise proposal to go after public employee unions.
“It is up to all of us, their side and our side, to listen. To listen to each other,” Barrett said.
State Rep. Peter Barca, Democratic minority leader in the Assembly, said a lot of work remains to heal Wisconsin.
“I hope Gov. Walker understands and stays true to his pledge to build consensus and be more inclusive going forward,” Barca said.
With nearly all precincts reporting, Walker had 53 percent of the vote, compared with 46 percent for Barrett. The margin of victory was wider than many expected and slightly better than Walker’s 5.8 percentage-point victory over Barrett in the 2010 race.
Democrats and organized labor spent millions to remove Walker, but found themselves hopelessly outspent by Republicans from across the country who donated record-setting sums to Walker.
Read the full story at Associated Press.