Gov. Scott Walker hails man who turns out to be sex offender

In his State of the State speech this week, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) praised the moxie of a man who climbed out of the ranks of the unemployed to earn full-time work as a welder.

But it turns out the man is not only an economic success story; he's also a sex offender with a lengthy rap sheet.

From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

But there is a reason that (Christopher) Barber -- a resident of Two Rivers -- has had trouble finding steady work in the past.

Records show that he is a registered sex offender with two felonies and three drunken-driving offenses. Because of his checkered past, Barber has been in and out of jail and prison for much of the past decade, with his probation having been revoked at least twice.

Tom Evenson, a spokesman for Walker, said Wednesday evening that the administration had contacted employers in the state to see if they could recommend workers hired since Walker took office in 2011 who would be interested in being mentioned in the annual speech.

Barber fit the bill.

"Obviously, if we had been aware of this individual's prior convictions, he would not have been invited to participate," Evenson said by email.

Barber was in the first of two sets of people invited to join Walker briefly on the dais as he delivered his State of the State address Wednesday evening in the state assembly chambers. The other group included young people who had completed a job training program. He also called out several invited guests in the balcony above, including disabled people who had completed a job training program.

Most of Walker's address focused on the state's improving economic condition and declining unemployment rate. He also frequently touted his "Blueprint for Prosperity," a plan to trim about $150 from the average resident's tax bill, place about $100 million of the state's budget surplus into a rainy-day fund and slash property and income taxes by roughly $500 million in the next 18 months.

At several points, Walker explicitly contrasted his record with his predecessor, Gov. Jim Doyle (D), in a subtle nod to his reelection bid this year and a possible 2016 presidential campaign.

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Aaron Blake · January 23, 2014

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