EXCLUSIVE: From Batman To Pac-Man, Scott Walker Talks About Growing Up In Wisconsin
PHILADELPHIA — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker does not have a favorite television show. He’s too busy exploring a run for the presidency.
“I saw the [Chicago] Blackhawks win. For a couple of nights I got to watch the NBA championship. If I have time, and it’s usually taped, my wife likes to watch Dancing With The Stars,” noting that both were fans of American Idol for years but that the last couple of seasons have not been as exciting.
The young governor indicated to The Daily Caller on Saturday during an in depth interview at Philadelphia’s Downtown Sheraton Hotel, that his schedule leaves little time to watch television these days, so he opts for sports programming, when he finds viewing time.
In the meantime, the 47-year old Walker delivers speeches at Republican-focused events, grassroots-activist venues, and intimate fundraisers with high dollar donors, among other activities. Polling shows Walker as part of a three-way tie as the top spot candidate with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in the last few weeks, so responses to the press on policy as well as personal seem almost safe.
Walker Rolls On His Road King
If Walker is not telling audiences about why he chose to run for governor, a decision he often explains was motivated by a concern of what the future held for his sons, or meeting with a potential donor like David Koch, he takes time to ride on his 2003 Harley Davidson Road King.
Walker learned to ride the 1450 cc twin cam 88 road hog when he was Milwaukee’s county executive 12 years ago. At the height of the labor-union protests in Madison that made Walker a national figure during his state’s budget debate, he told the local Fox affiliate his rides are his escape. He prefers to ride alone at night a few times a week during the summer, a thrill he will likely have to give up or at least greatly modify if he becomes the next president of the United States.
Staying In Shape
However, Walker will not have to give up his other past times should he make it to the Oval Office. He enjoys playing basketball with his teenage sons Matt and Alex as well as taking long runs. The governor appears to keep himself physically fit, telling TheDC he regularly exercises during his travels, drinks lots of water and stays away from soda.
In fact, Walker and some of his traveling staff wear fit bits and compete with one another over the number of steps each has taken. The Wisconsin Republican does not golf, unlike President Obama and past U.S. presidents, saying he enjoys camping or hiking instead.
“I like camping. My parents are wonderful people, but my dad wasn’t an outdoors kind of guy, so I got my love for the outdoors from scouts, so I still like it. If I get camping somewhere, I’ll go and hike. Those are enjoyable times.”
Walker’s Family Establishes Themselves In America
Scott Kevin Walker was born on Nov. 2, 1967 in Colorado Springs to Llewellyn Scott “Llew” and Patricia Ann “Pat” Walker. The eldest of two sons, the soon to be governor of Wisconsin was raised in the small town of Delavan by his Baptist minister father and bookkeeper mother.
The Badger State Republican regularly ditches speaker podiums during his remarks to large venues and strolls around stages with rolled up shirtsleeves. He relishes telling audiences that his family history is an illustration of American hard work and morality.
“My grandparents on my mom’s side — they were farmers. They didn’t have indoor plumbing on the farm until my mom went off to junior high school,” he said to attendees at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference on Saturday.
Walker noted that his great-great grandparents came to Philadelphia, where he gave his speech that day, from south-central Wales during the 1800’s. His great-great grandfather, whose own father was a miner, found work at a local factory as a blacksmith.
“They had four children — two boys and two girls and then they eventually moved to the big west just like people did in those days and they had five more daughters on top of that,” he said.
The family eventually moved to Concorde, Ill. Walker calls it “one of those great American success stories.”
“When I think about my family, I think about my parents my grandparents and the story of my great-great grandfather. My brother and I did not come from fame or fortune. But we got something more important,” he said. “We got the belief that if you work hard and you play by the rules, you can do and be anything you want in America. That’s the American dream.”
Bar Napkin Note Helps Walker Meet His Future Wife
Walker met his own wife Tonette in 1992 on karaoke night at a Milwaukee bar called Saz’s. After being coaxed by a friend to ask her out, Walker wrote on a bar napkin: “Forgive me for being rude, but I’ve got to get up early tomorrow morning. So I’m going home, but if you would like to have dinner sometime…” Walker added, “And I put my name and my number on it and gave it to her on my way out.”
Tonette, who was a widow at the time as well as 12 years older, called him back two days later. He asked her to marry him in a similar manner — at the same location with a bar napkin note and ring on top of it.
“I’m not that romantic. I lucked out with that one.”
What does Walker think about having a wife 12 years his senior?
“The funny thing is everyone assumes that I have to be older to be governor. They assume that she’s either my age or younger. But it actually works out pretty well there.”
‘Batman Was Probably My Favorite’
Growing up in a period when the term “latchkey kid” started to become more commonplace, Walker and his younger brother David would return home from school each day and their mother Pat would be there. However, on some days Mrs. Walker would work as a part-time secretary/book-keeper and did not always make it back before her young children came home.
“I can remember once coming back and she wasn’t home yet and usually there was a spot where the key was and for whatever reason the key wasn’t put back,” Walker recalled when thinking about a moment, when he felt immense fear in his life.
“So I just remember sitting out by the house behind a bush kind of in the front, when I was young, waiting for my mom to come back, which normally would not have been a big deal, because I would have been inside the house but the key was gone.”
On most other days, Walker would come home from school, switch on the TV set, and watch reruns of shows like Gilligan’s Island, The Brady Bunch, and the 1960’s Batman TV show. The governor remains a Batman fan to this day.
“I love Batman. As a kid I dressed up like him all the time. I suppose it was just part of all that. I liked him, because he was tough. I liked the whole league — all the different superheroes, but Batman was probably my favorite,” he said, adding that he looks forward to the latest “Batman vs. Superman” film that will be released in theaters next spring.
“Yeah, there have been so many variations [of Batman]. I’m a sucker, though, for Batman movies. Even these latest ones if they’re on again, I’ll watch it for the 20th time.”
As much of a Batman fan as he is, Walker says his favorite film is still Star Wars, saying he identified most with the character of Luke Skywalker.
With such a mid-western, all-American upbringing, one would expect a dog or at least a cat of some type that was part of the Walker household, but that is not the case.
“I’m allergic to dogs and cats. Unfortunately the only pet I had as a kid was a goldfish. We had goldfish.”
As a teenager, Walker enjoyed playing Pac-Man and Space Invaders at the local Pizza Hut in Delavan. Video game consoles, that were just becoming popular in the United States, also interested him.
“Sadly, my first video game was Pong. We literally had those lame little things on an old black-and-white television. Then we saved up, and it wasn’t when it first came out, I think we got it used — the Atari set.”
His sons Matt and Alex play the video game “Call of Duty,” but the governor says he does not indulge in the modern warfare game. Walker did make a reference to the game in his book Unintimidated, where he describes the threatening scenes of the labor protests at the state house in the Capitol in 2011. “It was like a scene out of Call of Duty,” Walker remembered it as.
Growing Up In Delavan
The governor appears to have fond memories of the schools he went to in Delavan and although he was sent to a speech pathologist in the 3rd grade for annunciation difficulties, he says he did not have to deal with any bullies as a result of it at the time.
“I think I was fortunate in terms of that I hung out with enough different kids, and that probably put [me] into a good situation,” he said. “Although I was a kid I didn’t remember [any bullying]. As a parent you notice it more with your own kids.”
Involved in football, track, basketball, student council, and two different music programs, Walker says it is difficult to peg him as someone who had friends in only one group at Delavan-Darien High School, noting the exchange student from Bogota, Colombia who stayed with his family also connected him with others.
“You know, with all those different things. I probably wouldn’t fit any one particular characteristic. I had a bunch of friends that I did a lot of things with. Sometimes on Friday and Saturday nights we would go over — either to our house or go to one of the other houses and hang out.”
Social studies, not surprisingly, was the governor’s favorite subject in high school, while he admits that calculus gave him trouble.
“But I loved the social studies classes. Actually, in one of my favorite individual classes there was a teacher named Mr. Scott who did the speech class and he was just really compelling.”
Walker claims his sons says he is “stuck in the 80’s” for listening to music artists of that generation X era.
“I love Van Halen, Journey, Tom Petty. U2 is nice in the sense that it was the 80’s. When I was a kid when my first album was Sunday Bloody Sunday, the Live from the Red Rocks, but it’s nice to have a group that I knew then that’s still relevant now.”
Christianity In Walker’s Life
Throughout Walker’s life, his Christian faith is present in some way. As the young son of a preacher in a small town, he wondered why some assumed he was as knowledgeable as his father when it came to the Bible.
“Anytime someone was asked to say a prayer they would turn to me, and I would ask, ‘what? Just because my dad is a pastor?’ Even teachers would sometimes ask me in class about stuff from the Bible and I would be like, ‘Why do you assume that I know?’ It’s like asking someone whose dad is a police officer to recite the law or something like that.”
He says he loves the book of Psalms, calling it “the most inspirational” of all the books in the bible to him.
“They’re a great inspiration to me. It was interesting being in Israel just a month ago. Trips like that are helpful because psalm 23 you think about most frequently most of us hear at a funeral — talking about going through the valley of death.”
He continued, “When I was in Israel I went to the Mount of Olives, literally, that’s where The Valley of Death is. It was just interesting to think about King David up on the hill where the temple eventually built by Solomon and just look down and see what he was seeing and see how his inspirations [came to be].”
Two items that Walker regularly carries, a small smooth stone and a cross, in his pocket, which help the governor re-connect spiritually from time to time.
“The stone is actually from a pal of mine who goes running every day at Long Lake Michigan. He picks up a stone like this,” said Walker as reached into his pocket to display both the cross and small stone.
“He actually picks up two at a time and he gives one to someone he wants to pray for and the other one he puts in a jar on his desk,” he said. “It’s a great reminder. Actually, I saw him two weeks ago. So I put it in my pocket. I carry it as a reminder. Every once in a while when times are tough I stick my hand in my pocket and it’s a good reminder that people are praying.”
Outside of his family and politics, Walker says his Sunday school teacher Mrs. Johnson, who passed away when he was in high school, impacted him.
“The role model she was and how she treated others — it was certainly very similar to how my parents were, but she was just somebody outside of my family circle.”
Walker is expected to announce his candidacy for the presidency on July 13 in Wisconsin, as he announced over the weekend he is in the “testing the waters” committee phase. He was embraced by activists at the recent Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference as well as by Republican County officials at the Northeastern Republican Leadership event this weekend—cross sections of the party he hopes to capture simultaneously.