Aug. 8, 2014, file photo shows Wisconsin Gov. Scott
Walker as he speaks at the Republican National
Committee summer meetings in Chicago. Becoming a
governor can take years of paying political dues and
a grueling nomination battle. Once itís gotten,
keeping the power tends to be easier. Incumbents are
tough to beat, particularly when the economy is on
the upswing. Thatís the case this year when 36
states pick governors.
ó Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker portrays himself as a man
of action, willing to take on tough political fights. It's
a huge theme in his re-election campaign, underscored in
his 2013 political memoir, "Unintimidated."
as he enters the homestretch of a closely contested race,
Walker has been trying to stay clear of a touchy issue for
voters in densely populated southeastern Wisconsin.
approve the Menominee Nation's plans for a massive casino
here? Saying yes could open the door for thousands of jobs
for the region. It also could cost the state tens of
millions of dollars.
has delayed a decision until well after the November
election. He hasn't offered any hints about which way he's
leaning, drawing criticism from Democrats and some
residents who say it's time for the governor to reveal his
Alderin, 30, who lives in a subdivision across from the
potential casino, said she wants to know where Walker
stands before she goes to the polls. She said the casino
would bring jobs, but she's worried about traffic and
unseemly activity in her neighborhood.
like the big elephant in the room," she said.
"It's been thought about and people are considering
it, but nobody's talking about it."
Menominee make their home on a remote northeastern
Wisconsin reservation. They've been looking to open a
casino in a shuttered 220-acre dog track in Kenosha, a
city on the Wisconsin-Illinois border within easy driving
distance of many thousands of Chicago-area gamblers. The
federal government granted its permission a year ago,
leaving the governor with the final decision.
maintains the casino would create thousands of jobs in a
metropolitan area where the July unemployment rate was 8.1
percent and help pull the tribe's members out of poverty.
Democrats and labor union leaders are demanding a quick
OK. Opponents, led by a group called Enough Already! WI,
insist a state with 25 tribal casinos doesn't need more
who is mulling a 2016 presidential bid, has made a
national reputation with his willingness to wade into
tough issues. His plan for addressing state budget
problems by stripping most public workers of their union
rights drew protests that paralyzed the state Capitol in
2011. He has also spent months sparring with prosecutors
over whether he illegally coordinated with conservative
groups during the recall campaign.
Walker says he wants the state's 10 other tribes to sign
off on the Kenosha casino before he'd approve it. That's
where things get complicated.
Forest County Potawatomi has refused to get on board. That
tribe runs a lucrative casino in Milwaukee, about 40 miles
away, and doesn't want the competition.
Wisconsin tribes that offer gambling, the Potawatomi has
agreed to give the state a share of the revenue. According
to the agreement, the Potawatomi could seek to reduce its
payments and receive a refund if it loses business to a
new Kenosha casino. The Walker administration has
estimated the give-back could amount to $100 million.
budget already is on track to be in the red next year. A
big payout could exacerbate the shortfall and expose
Walker to criticism about his management of the state's
on a compromise have continued without resolution, and in
June the Potawatomi withheld a scheduled $25 million
payment to the state.
has pushed off a decision to February, well after the
election. He said he needs time to figure out a deal. The
Menominee have offered to compensate the state for any
reductions in the Potawatomi's payments.
shouldn't be talking about it on the campaign trail
because it's a decision that shouldn't be made based on
politics," Walker said.
Democratic opponent, Mary Burke, hasn't made the casino an
issue in the race yet. She has focused her campaign on her
own plan for improving the economy. Pressed by reporters
in Milwaukee, Burke said she would support the casino if
it meant jobs.
Menominee are so far withholding criticism.
think (Burke and Walker) are being cautious in seeing how
this plays out," tribal legislator Gary Besaw said.
voters in southeastern Wisconsin, still suffering from
declines in the manufacturing economy, are losing
Schumacher, a 64-year-old Kenosha author, said Walker is
waffling when the area needs jobs.
too hot an issue for them to handle," Schumacher said
with disgust. "The best thing to do (for the
candidates) is try to pretend it doesn't exist."
Peeples, a 54-year-old Kenosha pastor who worries the
projected job gains are exaggerated, wants the candidates
to lay out their stances.
a stand," he said, "one way or the other."