The Walker-Johnson Bill Is a Sign of a Republican Power Struggle in Wisconsin

How the Races for Governor Could Determine Who Controls the Senate and the House

Last month, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker made headlines when he refused to sign a bill that would have allowed the state to raise taxes, prompting state Republicans to call him “Governor Dumbass.” Walker was also the architect of a bill with Republican co-sponsor Ron Johnson that would have allowed government agencies to deny same-sex couples equal treatment, in essence a bill that targeted gays and lesbians in a way that would have struck fear into the hearts of gays and lesbians across the nation.

One of the biggest reactions to the story line of the Walker-Johnson bill was that it signaled the potential for a Republican power struggle in the state. “Governor Walker just scored a major political victory with the decision to veto the Wisconsin Fairness Act,” said one national GOP operative. By voting “no” on the legislation, Walker would have put himself into the position of the head-of-household, in the words of the media outlet talking point, and he would have shown to the GOP establishment that the GOP was not going to support a Republican nominee who wanted to make policy changes and challenge it from the center.

In the immediate context, the Walker-Johnson bill had no immediate impact. However, the decision to put the proposed legislation on the table in the first place is evidence that in the race for governor in Wisconsin, the Republicans are going to be forced to choose between three candidates: Walker and Ron Johnson; or Democratic candidate Mary Burke, who has run for office many times before; and Green Party candidate Mark Green, who has very strong support from the Greens. While Burke and Green might not have the name recognition or the fundraising ability of Walker and Johnson, they were going to have to be the party’s standard-bearers, because the general election was not going to fall on a Monday, when the legislature is in session.

This is going to be a defining election for the state of Wisconsin and a major test of the power of Senate Republicans and the political power of

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