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May 29, 2012 at 7:00 AM
HUDSON, Wisc. – In this town of 12,000 on the sleepy banks of the St. Croix River, Republican Gov. Scott Walker stood on a metal chair, flanked by flags as he spoke to a packed house. With just days before a June 5 recall election, his local campaign office was lined with volunteers eager to meet Walker in person.
He was talking economics. But religion was there for those who had ears to hear.
“Do any of you remember ‘this little light of mine’?” he asked, holding up a hand. Several children shouted yes. Their moms and dads nodded and smiled. Walker, the son of a Baptist preacher, said no more, leaving the words to speak on their own. A few minutes later, Walker told them to remind their friends at church on Sunday morning to vote, because “we’ve got the truth.”
For those who have watched Walker in action, these kind of subtle references to faith are usually the extent of his nod to the religious convictions of many of his supporters, and to the conservative Christian heritage that’s present throughout the Midwest.
But as Walker stepped down from the chair that day, Tony Nasvik, the president of the Wisconsin chapter of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a faith-based advocacy organization founded by Ralph Reed and allied with Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council, approached Walker, and handed him a note.
The note said that Walker had been selected to receive Nasvik’s group’s “Courage in Leadership” award, which honors individuals who have exemplified faith-based engagement in the public sphere.
They’ve liked what they’ve been hearing.
May 28, 2012 at 11:00 AM
The UW Election Eye team of Kirsten Johnson, Thor Tolo and Will Mari headed to the southern border town of Beloit, Wisconsin for its Memorial Day parade.
BELOIT, Wisc. — Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett seems to have a strong foothold in this home to several manufacturing firms, including Regal-Beloit.
At the sun-stained intersection of Grand Avenue and State Street, LouRaye Kramer and her friend, Marge Hilgart, are watching the Memorial Day parade. Both are fans of Barrett, and stand when he walks by, proudly slapping on stickers bearing his name.
“Did you notice how quiet it got when the Republican float went by?” asked Hilgart, a retired Beloit high-school teacher, a few minutes later. Kramer, whose daughter also works as a high-school teacher in town, nods.
They’re here to watch their fellow teachers and their students march. But between rounds of applause for the honor guards of various veteran groups, they both say they’re motivated to vote because of their worries about what will happen to the state’s K-12 education in a rejuvenated Walker administration.
“He’s just a weasel,” Hilgard said, frowning. “He’s just not a nice man.” She said that she won’t shop at stores that have signs supporting Walker.
“It’s just … it’s just been bitter,” she said, in regards to how recall politics have divided neighbors.
Still, Kramer, who moved to Beloit eight years ago from the city of Wisconsin Dells, is happy to see people out politicking.
You have “to get out there to get the vote,” she said, smiling, waving, and watching as kids dashed in and out of the parade line for candy and tossed bags of chips.
“This is Barrett country,” said Janice Smith, whose 21-year-old cousin died in the Vietnam War. People like to participate in politics in Beloit, she said, and “a lot of people are involved in this election.”
Bridget and Nick Aldridge were on hand to watch their son march in one of the local high-school bands.
“Beloit is mostly blue collar, [and] it’s very diverse economically and racially,” said Bridget.
She’s said that it’s sad to see folks split over the recall.
“It’s really divided the community. Even though manufacturing has been on the decline since the 80s there’s still a strong union foothold in the area,” and that has motivated people to come out and support Barrett,” she said.
“There’s a high rate of unemployment, but also a great sense of pride.”
But in the midst of recall politics, the crowd watching the parade remained focused on why they were standing on street corners, as the flags fluttered by.
“We should remember the freedom we got,” said Jim Hardt, “and the men who sacrificed in the military and died for freedom.”