WAUWATOSA -- It has been a year since Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's epic showdown with organized labor. In that time, a lot has changed for Walker. He's now hailed as a hero, or jeered as a villain almost everywhere he goes. Walker says he's focused on doing his job, and keeping it during the upcoming gubernatorial recall election.
Walker has been traveling the country as one of the most sought-after speakers in the Republican Party. In his first sit-down interview since his trip to Illinois to speak with the Illinois Chamber of Commerce in Springfield, Walker spoke with FOX6 News about the coming recall election, and the crush of national attention.
The Washington Post and Associated Press called Walker a "rock star" after his trip to Illinois. "I said my kids would laugh at that. They told me at Summerfest I go to the 'old fogey's' stage to watch classic rock, so I don't know that I'm any kind of rock star," Walker said.
In city after city, Walker is met with standing ovations, swarms of media and throngs of protesters. There was a 25-foot-high cutout of Walker in Illinois that said "Don't Badger Us." "I kind of chuckle. I just saw a problem and I tried to fix it, and I stayed firm with it. I knew there would be push back. I just never dreamed it would be this big," Walker said.
The push back has come largely from the labor movement - outraged at what they see as an attack on workers rights. "People understand that middle class families are under attack. They're coming together to make their voices heard. That's what the labor movement is about. It's about collective bargaining and collective action," Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt said.
"When the big government union bosses are threatened, we stand in the way of their money and their power. If you look at Indiana, Indiana did this back in 2005 just for the state employees. Good employees actually fare better now. They're able to be rewarded. 91 percent of the people in the union dropped out of the union to protect them because they were just fine, and that's going to be the same thing here at the state and local level," Walker said.
Walker is raising money and campaigning to keep his job. He is just the third sitting governor in U.S. history to face a recall election. "For me, it's just the passion. When you're in the thick of it, when you're getting things done, not just talking about it but it's happening, the pressure's on - it's the old adage that heat either melts people away or makes them stronger," Walker said.
The gubernatorial recall Democratic primary is set for May 8th, and the general election is June 5th.