Steven Walters
The State of Polltics

Advice for Gov. Tony Evers

Take it or leave it, here’s some do’s and don’t’s for the new governor.

By - Nov 19th, 2018 11:31 am
Tony Evers. Photo from Tony for Wisconsin.

Tony Evers. Photo from Tony for Wisconsin.

Dear, Governor-elect Tony Evers:

You didn’t ask for advice, but here is some anyway.

*Enter the Capitol through the main doors, and with work-the-room energy that says you enjoy being governor. You tend to be more shy and reserved than past governors. But try to make coming to work one of the best public moments of your day.

Don’t rush to your East Wing office, police officers flanking you, without greeting someone visiting the Capitol. Those visitors – whether from Shawano or Omaha – will remember the handshake, and tell their friends and relatives they “met the governor!”

Ex-Gov. Tommy Thompson did this best; he turned going to work into an exercise in retail politics.

After the Act 10 controversy in 2011 that prompted violent threats to him, his family, and to Republican legislators, Gov. Scott Walker began arriving and leaving amid tight security.

And, Mr. Evers, please don’t use the underground utility and delivery tunnel that links the Capitol and the Risser Justice Building. That’s a cowardly commute for a governor.

*Give a Republican you respect a cabinet job.

Like you, Thompson faced a Legislature controlled by the opposite party when he became governor in January 1987. Thompson had to be talked into it, but he named the respected leader of Senate Democrats, Tim Cullen, as his secretary of Health and Human Services.

“If my administration was going to succeed, I needed help from the other side of the aisle,” Thompson wrote in his new book. “People were shocked.”

One result of their partnership was passage of welfare reform.

*Let Thompson work with whoever you name secretary of corrections to try to implement Thompson’s reform plan for the Racine prison.

Thompson’s plan would assess Racine inmates for the ability to respond to job training, and offer alcohol and drug abuse counseling. Those inmates would work at Foxconn or other businesses by day and return to prison at night.

Thompson bets he could get Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and Foxconn to help pay for the reforms, which could be a template for other adult prisons. Is Thompson bluffing, or could he pull it off? Find out.

And, while we’re talking about potential corrections secretary, here’s a name: Rick Raemisch, a former Dane County sheriff, a Democrat and a former Wisconsin corrections secretary who will be running Colorado’s prison system until January. That’s when the new Colorado governor may pick his own prison chief.

Raemisch was verbally reprimanded for using a state vehicle to go hunting a year ago, according to Fox 31 TV news in Denver. But he won national attention for spending 20 hours in a solitary confinement cell to learn how those cells emotionally ravage inmates.

*If Republicans who control the Legislature won’t negotiate on your spending and other priorities, prepare to push the nuclear “veto” button.

Thompson gave Walker two words of advice – “be bold” – when Walker became governor in January 2011. And he and Republican legislators did just that, passing more than 50 major changes in labor, gun, tax, welfare and public benefits “safety net” laws.

Next year, Republican legislators could easily set aside your proposed 2019-21 budget, which you have promised will include controversial changes like applying for federal cash to expand the Medicaid program.

Instead, the GOP-controlled Joint Finance Committee (JFC) could build its own 2019-21 budget based on the current two-year spending plan. The current budget has no Democratic priorities.

What that means: When the four Democrats on JFC introduce your priorities as amendments to the budget Republicans are building, all those amendments lose on 12-4 votes.

Then, when Democrats in both houses reintroduce your changes as the budget is being debated in the Assembly and Senate, Democrats – and you – lose again.

If the budget process plays out that way, and what lands on your desk has very little or nothing you want in it, “be bold.” Veto the whole damn thing.

If it means there is no state budget signed into law until September or October, so what? Legislators get paid an annual – not hourly – salary.

*Remember that you only won only 19 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties. Residents in three regions of Wisconsin – the west, north and northeast – were told you are a “Madison liberal” and voted against you. They’ll be watching to see if you’re their governor, too.

Steven Walters is a senior producer for the nonprofit public affairs channel WisconsinEye. Contact him at

One thought on “The State of Polltics: Advice for Gov. Tony Evers”

  1. Paul Trotter says:

    Unfortunately Mr. Walters- Evers won’t have the chance to name his own cabinet members given the arrogant power grab by vindictive Scott Walker, Vos and Fitzgerald.

    Some excellent suggestions !

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