If Walker gets to Washington, who might state GOP put forth?

Matt Pommer • Wisconsin Newspaper Association

Who will be the Republican gubernatorial candidate in 2018?

Yes, it may be early for that question. On the other hand, Scott Walker is likely to be in Washington or to be pushed that way by 2018.

State Sen. Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester could be likely candidates for the top office. Rebecca Kleefisch, who is lieutenant governor, would move up if Walker left for a federal post.

The last two lieutenant governors who moved up when governors took federal jobs were Democrat Martin Schreiber and Republican Scott McCallum. Both men got their party’s nomination, but were defeated when they ran for governor at the following general elections.

In poker terms, Walker has gone all-in as he seeks the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. Pundits also have suggested he could end up as the party’s vice-presidential nominee. Certainly, he could end up in the cabinet of a Republican president.

On the other hand, America could elect a Democrat as president next year. Walker would be a top Republican choice to run for the U.S Senate seat now held by Democrat Tammy Baldwin. Perhaps he could then run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2020 as a U.S. senator.

Walker could face a difficult re-election run for governor in 2018. He has turned down hundreds of millions of dollars in federal Medicaid monies for Wisconsin while proposing to cut $300 million in state aid for the University of Wisconsin system.

As governor, Kleefisch would inherit all the questions about cutting the university system budget while turning down federal help. Her Democratic opponent in 2018 would certainly note that some Republican governors have fashioned responses that allowed their states to accept the additional federal Medicaid money.

One of those states was Iowa which is the first state to select delegates to the Republican presidential nominating convention.

Democrats in the Wisconsin Legislature are planning to offer a budget-bill amendment to adopt Iowa’s approach to the Medicaid money issue. It will fail because Walker isn’t going to retreat while he focuses on his presidential race.

Walker’s latest budget sought to remove key phrases, dating back a century, about the university’s mission. He first blamed it on aides who made a “drafting error,” but finally retreated as reporters dug into the issue.

As a footnote, former Gov. Tommy Thompson noted that when he was governor for 14 years, he spent hundreds of hours scrutinizing every line of the budgets he submitted to the Legislature.

Fitzgerald has been in the State Senate for more than two decades, much of the time in leadership roles.

In this session, he has championed two causes dear to the state’s business community. He has pushed for quick action on a rightto work bill sought by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. Walker had wanted action on the bill later, which would make it closer to the presidential selection process.

The WMC also is opposed to an increase in the state’s gasoline tax. Both Vos and Fitzgerald say a gasoline tax increase wouldn’t pass the Republican controlled Legislature. Fitzgerald says that would be a “terrible blow” to middle class families.

Vos, in the Assembly for a decade, is seen as a champion of so-called “school accountability,” meaning vouchers and charter schools.

He also is the partisan driving force to alter the board which oversees ethics and elections in Wisconsin.

Vos is annoyed at how the six-member panel of retired judges acted during the recent John Doe investigations.

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