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Republicans call for Missourians to emulate Walker policies, victory in Wisconsin

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 5, 2012 -  Even before Wisconsin’s vote-counting was completed, Missouri Republicans were lauding the strong showing of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker – and calling on Missouri lawmakers to emulate the policy changes that prompted Tuesday’s unsuccessful effort to recall him.

Republicans also saw the GOP turnout in Wisconsin, generally Democratic-leaning, as a hopeful sign for November. And they jabbed at the unions that had targeted Walker.

That was particularly true of Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and his fellow Republican rival in the Aug. 7 primary, state Sen. Brad Lager of Savannah. Both issued statements almost simultaneously.

Said Kinder: “Tonight, with a huge voter turnout, Wisconsin voters have made history. Fighting a courageous battle, Gov. Scott Walker has become the first governor in American history to survive an attempted recall.

“Gov. Walker’s smashing victory is proof that successful, mainstream fiscal reforms will triumph over union bosses and their selfish, special-interest agenda. Congratulations to Gov. Walker, Lt. Gov. Kleefisch and the people of Wisconsin.”

Kinder got a bit pithier on Twitter, recalling the bitter fights in Wisconsin's legislature last year. Tweeted Kinder: "Hey, that fleeing-the-state caper by #WI Dem lawmakers sure worked well, didn't it?"

Lager said: “Tonight’s election results in Wisconsin reflect a major victory for people all across the country. Today, Missouri’s economy is stagnant and many of our friends and neighbors are seeking employment. The lessons from Wisconsin are very clear, the policies of yesterday must go and we need bold leaders who stand up to the special interests and politics as usual.”

State Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, called for a renewed focus on eliminating certain labor protections. He tweeted, "Right to Work; Pay Check Protection must be on Missouri's agenda."

(Start update) The Missouri Republican Party and its candidate for state treasurer -- state Rep. Cole McNary, R-Chesterfield -- also chimed in on Wednesday.

McNary's campaign contended that the unsuccessful recall "foreshadows a climate voters can expect in states where economic issues take center stage.   With upcoming elections in five statewide offices in Missouri, voters here will be forced to make choices similar to those in Wisconsin."

McNary, who says he "has campaigned on an austerity platform," believes that "taxpayers are ready to make the tough choices needed to secure our state’s economic future."

Said Missouri GOP executive director Lloyd Smith: “It is clear that, across America, voters are ready for leaders like Gov. Scott Walker who talk about making tough choices — and then keep their word. Here in Missouri, the Republican Party remains strong, organized and prepared to elect candidates like Cole McNary, who have the courage to stand up for economic integrity and end the failed policies of the Democratic agenda.”

But Bob Soutier, president of the Greater St. Louis Labor Council, warned against such talk. Although he's not happy with the outcome of the Wisconsin recall effort, Soutier said that it would be unwise for Missouri Republicans to see Walker's victory as a license to go after the labor movement here.

"The Republican Party spent $60 million to keep that governor in office," Soutier said. "We spent $9 million. I'm not taking this (loss) as a negative, in any shape or form."

Several labor groups in Missouri, including the state AFL-CIO, sent volunteers up to Wisconsin to help the campaign against Walker, Soutier said. 

Soutier added that he was struck by a comment that he'd heard from another labor activist: "What is it about the state of the world that while the Democrats are fighting al-Qaeda, the Republicans are fighting teachers, police and firefighters?"

Patrick Werner, head of the Missouri arm of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative free-market group, said it sent all five of its Missouri field representatives to Wisconsin, as part of a broad effort by the national organization.

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.