Walker Heads to Florida Fundraiser, Finds More Protesters Than Supporters

February 8, 2012
Kristine Gill


NAPLES — Although he was more than 1,500 miles from home, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker encountered a familiar sight upon arriving in Naples - protestors.

"I'm used to protestors coming from other states to protest me," Walker told 150 attendees during a speech at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort Wednesday afternoon. At least that many people gathered outside to demonstrate against one of the country's most polemical political figures.

The luncheon, hosted by The James Madison Institute, a Tallahassee-based conservative think tank, came months before Walker is scheduled to face a recall election following a controversial first year in office. Walker said the political unrest that gripped his state last year was temporary and has led to fiscal stability.

He's confident he'll win the recall election this summer.

"It's not just about who the governor of Wisconsin is. I believe that when we prevail, and we will, we will send a powerful message... to state houses and state capitals all across this country," Walker said. "Conversely, if we fail it will send an equally powerful message and set us back a decade if not a generation."

Walker spurred national outrage in February 2011 when he pushed for legislation that would force public employees to contribute more to their pensions and health care insurance while taking away their collective bargaining rights in an effort to balance the state budget. Union members and their supporters from around the country descended on the Madison statehouse that month as 14 Democratic senators fled to Illinois to stall the bill's passage.

"Collective bargaining is not a right," Walker said to nods and applause. "It's an expensive entitlement.""That sounds like a pretty good re-election platform doesn't it? And yet here I stand facing a recall election," he said.

"The people who control (the protestors), the union bosses, understand if we give people a chance to choose, they won't work with their unions," Walker said.

About 200 protestors from Occupy Naples, the AFL-CIO and the Florida Education Association among others lined Vanderbilt Beach Road near the intersection of Airport-Pulling Road where they waved signs at honking motorists and handed out sandwiches, a direct jab at Walker, who they say is "full of" bologna.

"He's created a mess in Wisconsin that seems to be going nationwide," said Joanne McCall, vice president of the Florida Education Association. "We don't want him here raising money, creating civil unrest."

Dan Lynaugh, 60, lives in Wisconsin when he's not vacationing in Naples. On Wednesday, he held signs reading "Recall Walker" and "Reclaim Wisconsin" that his daughter, a Wisconsin teacher, sent from home.

"This is probably pretty friendly country for Scott Walker, being Naples and all," he said. "But I want him to know that there are people from Wisconsin who live in Naples who don't support him."McClure said his organization knew there would be significant interest in Walker.

"There are a lot of Midwesterners this time of year," he said.