The Maryland Republican Party has booked Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a nationally known union adversary and former 2016 GOP presidential candidate, to headline its annual Red, White and Blue fundraiser in September.
The event, announced on the organization’s website earlier this month, could help the state GOP make up ground after Maryland’s Democratic Party ended the last campaign-finance reporting period in June with nearly six times as much cash as Republicans.
The fundraiser will also give Walker an opportunity to bolster the already strong support in Maryland for Gov. Larry Hogan (R), whose approval ratings in recent polls have been above 60 percent.
Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, spoke at the state GOP’s annual fundraiser last year.
Walker spokesman Joe Fadness said the Wisconsin governor will “highlight the reforms of Hogan and other governors that continue to put taxpayers first.”
The American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Maryland Council 3, the state’s largest union representing public employees, said middle- and working-class families are “deeply disappointed” that the party would invite Walker to raise campaign money in the state.
“At a time when Americans feel frustrated with an unbalanced economy, manipulated by corporations and CEOs, it is no surprise Governor Walker’s anti-working family campaign for president was clearly rejected by voters,” Patrick Moran, the Council 3 president, said.
Walker, who was elected to a second term in 2014, aggressively pushed for changes to the state’s public-sector unions in 2011. That made him a target of Democrats and labor leaders across the country but also a favorite of tea-party activists and conservatives.
In 2012, he won a recall election and was widely considered to be on the shortlist of possible vice-presidential candidates for then-GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Walker, who entered a crowded field of Republican presidential candidates for the 2016 election, was considered an early favorite to win the Iowa primary. But he dropped out of the race in September after Trump established himself as the front-runner.
Longtime supporters said at the time that they hardly recognized Walker, who struggled in polls and made some contradictory statements during the final weeks of his campaign, including about the issues of birthright citizenship, building border walls and accepting Syrian refugees.
Joe Cluster, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, said the party chose Walker for its fundraiser because he is a “huge national figure,” adding that the organization has tried to book him in the past but struggled because of scheduling conflicts.
“He’s a governor who has won in a purple state,” Cluster said. “He’ll have a good message to Marylander Republicans about what it takes to win in a tough state.”
The Red, White and Blue fundraising dinner is scheduled to be held Sept. 9 at Michael’s Eighth Avenue, a reception hall in Glen Burnie.