MADISON — Former Gov. Scott Walker said he would endorse his former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, should she run for governor in 2022, while also not ruling out his own political comeback.
During a Tuesday Milwaukee Press Club forum, Walker said Kleefisch would make “a hell of a great governor” and that he wouldn’t run for office before 2025, but added that he would “never say never.”
Walker, a Republican, said he is committed to serve as president of the conservative group Young America’s Foundation through 2024. He officially takes that role in 2021. After that, Walker said he couldn’t rule out a potential run for office.
Walker served as a state lawmaker, Milwaukee County executive and two terms as governor before losing to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers last fall. In 2015 he launched a short-lived presidential campaign.
Walker also touched on impeachment inquiries of President Donald Trump and the state of Foxconn in Wisconsin and shared his thoughts on gun safety following two Wisconsin school shootings this week.
Walker said he couldn’t speak to specifics in the two school shootings — on Tuesday, a school resource officer shot a 16-year-old student after being stabbed by the student at Oshkosh West High School and on Monday, a police officer shot an armed student in a classroom at Waukesha South High School.
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Walker said he feels a larger focus needs to be placed on mental health issues, rather than gun control, including red flag laws proposed earlier this year by Evers.
“We’ve got to do a better job of countering the challenge we have in this state and the country on mental health,” he said.
Evers had called for a special session to vote on bills that would require universal background checks for all firearm purchases in Wisconsin and implement so-called red-flag laws, under which people deemed to be threats by a court must surrender their firearms.
However, Republican leadership in the Assembly and Senate adjourned their respective sessions immediately without holding a formal vote.
Walker said he remains optimistic about his 2017 deal to provide nearly $4 billion in state and local tax incentives to Foxconn Technology Group if it invested $10 billion and created 13,000 jobs over 15 years while building a 20-million-square-foot campus in Racine County.
“I’m still very confident they’re going to be here,” Walker said.
Proponents of the incentives provided to Foxconn argue they are necessary to attract businesses and can spur additional development.
Meanwhile, a new George Mason University study concluded that economic development subsidies, specifically Wisconsin’s incentives for the controversial Foxconn project, could cause more economic harm than good.
The report argues that tax cuts or subsidies for Foxconn come at a cost of higher taxes for other individuals or businesses, or reduced investment in public services. In addition, that uneven taxation is more likely to discourage economic activity, the report said.
Walker said he anticipates ongoing impeachment inquiries by House Democrats against Trump to “galvanize” Wisconsin’s Republican voters.
“I don’t think any of it is a certainty, but I think the president’s odds are improved,” he said, adding that he feels Bernie Sanders is Trump’s biggest challenge right now.
Trump faces allegations that he put pressure on Ukraine to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Biden’s son Hunter.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, has also said he feels the impeachment inquiry will invigorate GOP supporters, while U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Black Earth, earlier this week argued the issue shouldn’t be viewed as political.
“If we do nothing, we have set the precedent for every future president that you can do whatever you want and you won’t be accountable, so we have to do this,” Pocan said. “Whether it has electoral pluses or minuses has to be a secondary thought.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.