17 state voters make their cases on Walker vs. Barrett
Tuesday's gubernatorial recall election has two sides and an infinite number of reasons. Some support Republican Gov. Scott Walker and want him to finish his first term. Others feel strongly about replacing him with Democratic challenger Tom Barrett, mayor of Milwaukee. Some Walker supporters give the governor credit for making difficult and unpopular choices to almost totally eliminate the state's $3.6 billion structural deficit. Opponents, however, blame him and his choices for creating a bitter and divided political atmosphere. Employment figures and the future of collective bargaining powers for government workers and their pension payments are other factors motivating voters.
Nearly everyone seems to have a vested interest in an election that will make state history.
Gannett Wisconsin Media's Investigative Team is highlighting 17 Wisconsin voters who have a passion for their candidate and their causes as the "Faces of the Recall."
They're people who have bumper stickers on their cars, yard signs on their lawns and an overwhelming interest in this election.
They are a mix of Walker supporters and Barrett supporters, but all are willing to share their hopes for Tuesday's election and Wisconsin's future. Some of them will appear in today's newspaper and all will be posted online at www .greenbaypressgazette .com/FacesoftheRecall.
Their stories, just like Wisconsin's, continue after Tuesday. Their feelings and reactions to the vote will be included in next week's newspaper. Richard Parins, 63, Green Bay
Connection to recall: A mortgage originator, Parins has worked in the field for two decades. He supports Walker's campaign financially, and he has made "200 to 300" telephone calls on Walker's behalf.
He is president of the Brown County Taxpayers' Association, a group that promotes responsible government spending. He previously ran for seats on the Green Bay School Board and the Brown County Board.
Hopes for Tuesday's election and Wisconsin's future: Parins wants Walker to remain in office and continue efforts to reduce government spending, stabilize taxes and improve the state's economy.
"What Gov. Walker has done so far to keep taxes affordable is great for the homeowners, and potential homeowners," he said. "Nothing makes a house more affordable than a job. We need to let Walker continue to work to create jobs. We need to give him a chance to let his initiatives to play out."
Parins said the state has seen a positive impact from Walker's tenure: slower growth of property taxes. Parins feels the benefits, in business and as a taxpayer, because the tough stance on government contracts prompted entities — including the Green Bay School District, in which he lives — to limit spending increases.
"He's taken decisive action," Parins said. "There's parts he hasn't completely cured yet, but he's kept us from having to borrow more money or put off paying our debt. He deserves the chance to finish what he started. If people still don't like things (in 2014), let them vote for someone else then." Kor Xiong, 38, Black Creek
Connection to recall: As a twice-daily news broadcaster for Appleton-based Hmong Wisconsin Radio, Xiong has informed the state's Hmong residents about the recall. Using his airtime, he's led a get-out-the-vote campaign, and explained the nuts and bolts of Tuesday's vote.
Hopes for Tuesday's election and Wisconsin's future: Xiong said he shares concerns with much of the Hmong community about Walker's policies relating to the University of Wisconsin System and changes to low-income health care. Although Walker's plan failed last spring to split off UW-Madison from the parent system, Xiong said he thinks it will be revived if Walker is re-elected.
"I can see it getting harder for my kids to get an education, if they want to go to UW-Madison and it's separate and harder to get into," Xiong said, noting he collected and personally delivered signatures to trigger the recall earlier this year.
Xiong said many in the Hmong community rely on BadgerCare, a system that has contracted under Walker and increased in cost.
With his ability to span the language barrier, Xiong said he's worked phone banks for Wisconsin Democrats, explaining how this week's vote will have repercussions for years to come.
"Many families don't understand why this election is special, but I explain how it will affect our community at large for a very long time," Xiong said. "Many Hmong also work for public employee unions and have had their voice limited." Mike and Jessica Gallipeau, both 37, Sheboygan
Connection to recall: Parents of four, the Gallipeaus have rallied with their children in support of Walker. They say reforms are needed to protect a fiscally secure future.
Hopes for Tuesday's election and Wisconsin's future: The Gallipeaus say they fear for their children's future if Walker fails to win Tuesday's gubernatorial recall election.
"I think Scott Walker's done some tough things … and there's some tough things that need to be done all over the country," Mike Gallipeau said. "If you've got somebody trying to stand up and do what's right and make some tough decisions, and they just get pushed out of office right away, nobody's going to have the courage to join them."
"The whole country's watching," Jessica Gallipeau said.
The Gallipeaus have taken their four sons — ages 9 to 13 — to rallies supporting Walker and the tea party.
"Are we going to cut spending now, or are we just going to keep racking up these deficits, and someday what's their future going to be like if taxes keep going up … and pretty soon no businesses want to work here, and there's no jobs?" said Jessica, a self-employed accountant who home-schools the couple's children. "For the first time in a long time, when Ron Johnson got elected and Scott Walker got elected, there was hope for me as far as our economic future."
Mike, a computer programmer, saw a wage freeze, a forced furlough and annual increases to health insurance premiums as the economy struggled in recent years. Jessica said it's only fair public-sector workers make similar sacrifices.
Besides, she said, there shouldn't be do-overs in politics "just because you didn't like what happened." Jena Foster, 36, Manitowoc
Connection to recall: As a social worker and mother of a 7-year-old son, Foster is concerned about cuts to education for her child and cuts to government services for her job.
Hopes for Tuesday's election and Wisconsin's future: Jena Foster has been on the front lines of the battle to recall Walker, and after budget cuts that hit home both personally and professionally she's looking for Wisconsin to make a statement.
"What is at stake is so much more than just even what's happening right here in Wisconsin," said Foster, 36, of Manitowoc. "Other states have been attempting to do the same types of things that have been attempted by Gov. Walker, and it is important for the people of Wisconsin to take a stand and vote against that."
Foster organized a 14-leg run from Manitowoc to Green Bay the day after the 14 Democratic state senators returned from Illinois amid the contentious collective bargaining debate in March 2011, and in June that year, she put together a "Walkers against Walker" march that drew about 200 people in Manitowoc. She also gathered about 50 signatures during this year's recall petition drive.
Foster said she has seen the impact of Walker's budget cuts.
"As a parent with a child in public education, I've seen how things have changed over the year, even though Gov. Walker states it hasn't. My son's class size has been huge; cuts in his school have been devastating," she said. "(At work) I have seen numerous cuts to our department and other agencies that try to help people who have been struggling."
Foster also is concerned about repealing a 2009 law that allowed discriminated workers to sue in state court, the Act 10 limits to collective bargaining and the ongoing John Doe investigation.
"I hope that if — when — Barrett wins, the state is able to move together and try to put this behind us," Foster said. Susan Lamb, 41, Wisconsin Rapids
Connection to recall: Lamb is a member of an interdenominational prayer group that prays for government leaders. Since the recall effort began, the group has prayed that Walker will continue as governor. Besides praying for one another and their families, the women pray for good resolutions to city, state and national issues, Lamb said.
"The Bible states you are supposed to pray for people in office and we take that very much to heart," she said.
Hopes for Tuesday's election and Wisconsin's future: Lamb is supporting Walker because she agrees with his policies. "When he was running (for governor) he stated very clearly what he would do and he has followed through on it," she said.
As a businesswoman, Lamb said she has carefully followed Walker's stands and policies to foster business and industry growth in the state.
"I'm hopeful that Wisconsin will continue on the same path," she said. "(Since Walker was elected) Wisconsin is a business- and industry-friendly state, which will cultivate the jobs the state really needs."
"Our area was heavy on (the) paper (industry), which has been hit hard," Lamb said. "Business diversification is really important. Walker is making it easier for small businesses to start and small business is what brings in the majority of the jobs."
Addressing the issues that prompted the recall, Lamb said, "People only see the short run. In the long run, everyone is going to benefit" because of Walker's policies. Nancy Stencil, 55, Rib Mountain
Connection to recall: Led effort to force a recall election against former Wausau state Sen. Pam Galloway, who resigned in March
Hopes for Tuesday's election and Wisconsin's future: To Stencil, there can be only one outcome on Tuesday: "Tom Barrett has got to win. He's got to."
A "Rosie the Riveter" type of mother raised Stencil, who works as a mental health tech at a government health care center in Marathon County.
Stencil became the face of a recall effort against Galloway and made collective bargaining a central issue of her own unsuccessful campaign for a Wausau School Board seat.
Since last summer, she's spent at least 10 hours a week canvassing or making signs. Stencil's relationship with one family member — her brother, who supports Walker as strongly as his sister opposes the governor — has suffered.
"It has created a rift," she said. "We're civil, but we're not what we once were."