Small Business Owner On Why Walker Must Go
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Coming up, we're going to head to the Beauty Shop for a touchup. We want to talk about the role the media is playing in the Republican presidential primary. That conversation in a few minutes.
But first, more on the ongoing recall efforts against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. We just heard from him. He defended his record and criticized the recall effort as a waste of time and resources.
So now, we wanted to hear from one of the people who is leading that effort. Lynn Freeman is the vice chair of the Board for United Wisconsin, which is one of the groups pushing to unseat Governor Walker.
Lynn Freeman, thanks so much for speaking with us, also.
LYNN FREEMAN: Hello, Michel. Thank you for having me on.
MARTIN: Now, you just heard from Governor Walker. You heard the conversation. He says, number one, he did have a mandate from the voters to pursue these changes and, number two, he says that state and local governments in particular have already seen the benefits, that they have increased flexibility and budget room. What do you say to that?
FREEMAN: What I say to that is, he did not have a mandate from the people for two reasons. Number one, this is not what he ran on. And number two, he didn't win by a wide enough margin to have a mandate.
I think it's very, very important to note that part of the reason United Wisconsin is a grassroots nonpartisan group is because we have so many members who voted for Scott Walker and who are Independents and Republicans. So, clearly, the people of Wisconsin do not feel that this was part of his mandate.
I would say that with regard to local communities having more flexibility, there's a lot of evidence that what we're doing here in Wisconsin isn't working. Last month, we lost 12,400 jobs and the cuts in education that we've seen to the state make us number one in the country, which is not something that we should be proud of. We cut $635 per student with this budget.
So, you know, from his perspective, I appreciate that he thinks this is working. Of course, he does, but we wouldn't be seeing the hoards of people across Wisconsin signing the petition to recall him if it was actually working.
MARTIN: Why a recall and why not just wait for the next election?
FREEMAN: I really appreciate that question and that observation. Here's how I frame this. None of us who have jobs, other than elected officials, have a job evaluation every four years. We have a job evaluation every six months or every year. And signing the recall petition is a voter's way to say, I want you evaluated in your job sooner than four years - three years from now. Wisconsin can't wait.
Every single policy decision that has come out of this governor's office hurts the average person in the state of Wisconsin and we don't want to vote for him or against him in three more years. We want to make that decision now, so I consider this to be a job evaluation.
MARTIN: One thing that I think that people will find interesting is that you are, yourself, not a public employee. You're a small business owner and the stereotype is that you're exactly the kind of person who would support Governor Walker because the stereotype goes that your primary interest is, you know, a competitive business environment, low taxes and so forth.
And I also understand, just from talking to you previously, that you were not particularly politically active previously So why did you decide to get involved in this?
FREEMAN: Yeah. I think there's a little bit of a misunderstanding nationally that this is just about public workers and collective bargaining. We have over 220,000 members now as part of our grassroots organization and more than 7,000 volunteers and I'll tell you, Michel, if you ask 10 of us the reasons that we want to recall this governor, I believe that you would get 10 different reasons.
The reason that I want him recalled and the reason I'm not one of the expected supporters is we've seen the tax cuts and the tax breaks go to corporations. When Scott Walker talks about supporting business, he doesn't mean my business. He means corporations that are outside of Wisconsin and, you know, there's not any evidence that when you make the rich richer, they create jobs. That's never been the case.
So I am not directly benefiting from his policies and my reasons for wanting him recalled are disingenuous leadership and the fact that he is trying to balance the state budgets on the backs of the very people that can't afford it. This budget process is taking dollars out of middle-class workers' pockets exactly at the time when we need to be putting more money into the Wisconsin economy and if so, is actually having a negative effect.
MARTIN: You know, to your point, I just got, a couple of minutes ago, a Wisconsin Public Radio/St. Norbert College survey that says that, in the spring, only 7 percent of Republicans supported recalling Walker, but that is now about 24 percent. And the support among Democrats is high. It was 88 percent in the spring and 92 percent in the fall. So how do you assess your chances?
FREEMAN: Oh, we assess our chances as very good. We need a minimum of just over 540,000 signatures and we're actually going for between 700,000 and 800,000 signatures and we do believe we'll be able to get those. I saw that poll, as well, this morning and what's really interesting about it from an analytical perspective is that the greatest growth in the population of people who want to be called a governor is in Republican voters. And I think that's saying a lot.
Just recently, the Republican-controlled legislature held a, quote, "jobs session," and they didn't take up one piece of legislation to create jobs. That's the second time this legislature has gone into session and not created jobs. They passed bills on sex education and guns and hunting, but nothing about jobs. So I can't say that I'm particularly surprised.
Also, Scott Fitzgerald, one of the leaders of the Republican legislature here in Wisconsin, just said yesterday that they were seriously considering and even expecting to run state candidates. So I think people are looking at this and saying this is disingenuous.
MARTIN: Lynn Freeman is the vice chair of the Board for United Wisconsin. That's the group that's pressing for a recall vote against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. She joined us from member station WHA in Madison. As you heard, we talked to Governor Walker earlier in the program.
Lynn Freeman, thanks so much for speaking with us.
FREEMAN: Thank you, Michel.