Eight years after his first election as governor, an event that shot him to national prominence and began the historically progressive Wisconsin’s hard turn to the right, Gov. Scott Walker’s voters have denied him a third term in office. In the early hours of Wednesday morning, he was defeated by Democrat Tony Evers.
The win for Evers, the 67-year old three term Superintendent of Public Instruction, marks a significant departure for Wisconsin from the Walker years.
After his first win in 2010, Walker and Wisconsin’s GOP legislature embarked upon a project to drastically remake the state’s government into a hellhole of right-wing experimentation. One of the most immediate and worst reforms was a comprehensive union-busting bill which brought about the end of collective bargaining for most public employees, caused huge protests for weeks at the Wisconsin Capitol, and ultimately drove an unsuccessful effort to recall Walker two years later. Walker won re-election to a second full term in 2014 before running a brief and failed campaign for president in 2016.
The impact of Walker on Wisconsin can’t be overstated. The year after the anti-union bill passed, 11 percent of public school teachers left the profession. By 2016, union membership in the state had plummeted nearly 40 percent.
It’s no wonder that the AFL-CIO rejoiced, pithily, at Walker’s defeat.
Evers has vocalized his support for repealing the anti-union legislation, but it’s highly unlikely that by the end of the night, Democrats will have flipped both chambers of the Wisconsin legislature. That’s because of the GOP’s 2011 gerrymandering, the subject of a lawsuit which made it to oral arguments over the Supreme Court in the last term before being kicked down to the lower courts. (Notably, Evers’ win means he’ll have veto power over the next round of redistricting in 2021.)
For now, however, Wisconsin Democrats can rejoice: the man who butchered their state for the past eight years is finally gone.