Politics & Government

As protesters chant, Wisconsin governor appears with David Williams

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, at podium, spoke on behalf of Republican gubernatorial candidate David Williams, left. Walker has gained the national spotlight by curbing his state workers' collective bargaining rights.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, at podium, spoke on behalf of Republican gubernatorial candidate David Williams, left. Walker has gained the national spotlight by curbing his state workers' collective bargaining rights.

While about 70 protesters stood in the rain Thursday morning, chanting "stop the war on workers," Republican gubernatorial nominee David Williams stood with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at a rally in Lexington.

Walker, in his first year in office, has been the bane of unions for curbing collective bargaining for state worker unions in his budget, which was passed by the Republican-controlled Wisconsin legislature.

Walker landed in the national spotlight when workers and Democrats protested his moves.

Walker was not fazed by the protesters outside the Fayette County Republican headquarters on Southland Drive where loud chanting could be heard as Walker and Williams touted conservative values at the rally.

Asked what he made of the protest, Walker said, "You have folks from all across the country protecting the big government union bosses.

"But in the end, what we are doing in Wisconsin and what I think others are going to do across the country is actually defend workers — middle-class workers who want to have the right to choose whether or not they want to be a part of a union or not and ultimately want jobs."

Walker's appearance in Kentucky for Williams and the GOP slate of candidates for state constitutional offices came a day after Williams released a position paper on jobs and the economy.

Williams' plan, in part, calls for allowing counties to decide whether they want right-to-work and whether they will pay the cost of prevailing wage that unions seek for public construction.

Gary Blake, secretary-treasurer of International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local Union 651 in Lexington, said his union does not agree with Walker's positions.

"We will unite to protect our Kentucky workers and resist David Williams and any others who share Scott Walker's views on labor," he said.

During the rally, fliers against Williams were placed on car windshields. Paid for by the Kentucky Democratic Party, they claimed that Williams, as state Senate president, has been spending taxpayers' dollars on himself rather than struggling Kentucky families.

At the rally emceed by Andy Barr, who is making his second bid next year for Kentucky's 6th Congressional District seat, Williams said his position paper on the economy was "a turning point" in the race for governor.

Williams faces Democratic incumbent Gov. Steve Beshear and Lexington independent Gatewood Galbraith in the Nov. 8 general election.

Williams, who has been trailing in most polls by double-digits, said Kentuckians now are focusing on the race.

He claimed Kentucky under Beshear is "adrift."

Concerning the protesters, Williams said, "To those fine folks out there with those signs today, I have a message for them: You cannot organize a plant or job that does not exist in the Commonwealth of Kentucky."

He said if anyone tried to take away a worker's right to voluntarily join a union, "I would be out there shoulder to shoulder and arm to arm with them.

"For that is a right everyone should have. But you shouldn't have to pay dues to any organization that you don't want to belong to."

Walker said it would be an honor to have Williams join him as the 30th Republican governor in the nation.

He later said the Republican Governors Association will help Williams' campaign, but he did not elaborate.

Walker also said conservative Kentuckians should not "back down for one minute" in their support of Williams.

He said that a Republican this week "came out of nowhere" to win a Democratic congressional district in New York.

Williams' running mate, state Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer, said Williams and he can win the election, but they need the help of supporters to get out the vote.

Before the Lexington rally, Walker attended a private fund-raiser in Lexington with Williams and several other GOP candidates.

Williams and Walker also campaigned together Thursday in Edgewood.

Beshear was in Owensboro on Thursday morning to launch a group known as "Veterans for Beshear."

Asked to comment on Walker's visit for Williams, Matt McGrath, with the state Democratic Party, said, "The energy of the crowd of working people (who appeared to outnumber supporters of the rally) speaks for itself."

Dea Riley, running mate with Galbraith, participated in the protest against Walker.

She said Walker "has no real business in Kentucky and should return to Wisconsin posthaste.

"For a governor purportedly opposed to waste and collective principles, his taking time off from his governing responsibilities to travel to another state to specifically participate in a partisan fundraising activity seems hypocritical at best."

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader