Darren Walker was moderately successful in business when he was called upon to head up the state’s Bureau of Air. Even though he made little progress there, his passion for the job and common sense solutions to problems led him to be appointed head of the state’s Environmental Protection Agency. From there he made a lot of pronouncements about enforcing the state’s laws and cleaning up the rivers, lakes and the air as well. There was a big problem with Darren’s dreams, however. He had a small staff and a small budget. So Darren decided to dream bigger.
An entire year before the general election for governor, Darren announced that he would be a candidate. He told the press it was the only way for him to move reforms forward in the state. His own party was stunned at this and especially at the use of a dirty word to career politicians, “reform.” The governor who appointed Walker felt this announcement to be a personal betrayal of his trust in Darren and withdrew all support of anything Darren wished to do.
As he was accomplishing very little anyway, Darren resigned from his position to concentrate on his campaign. His own party felt that was pretty much the end of Darren. Without party backing or major donors, they were convinced he had no chance. They went on with business as usual.
Darren, however, was more determined than his rivals could possibly imagine. When asked about fighting a campaign with less money than his opponents, Darren would always reply, “We will just have to outwork them. We will knock on more doors, make more calls, hold more meetings than all of them combined. We will take the campaign to all of the people statewide.”
And so, he did just that. With his good looks, boundless energy and pleasant personality Darren started to become a good interview for the press and he gave a lot of interviews. This added media attention meant his opponents would fight back the only way they knew how, with attack ads. While other candidates were spending money on negative ads, Darren was shaking hands, kissing babies and smiling for the cameras.
“We will not wallow in the mud like our distinguished opponents,” Walker declared. “Distinguished” was probably an overstatement.
When the primary election arrived along with the winter thaw, pollsters showed a tight race and some even thought Darren could win. This, of course, scared those in his own party as they clearly wanted to return the sitting governor to office. When the results were in, however, Darren rode his bright smile onto the fall ballot as the candidate of his party. Immediately, party leaders were announcing that they would support the will of the people and get behind their party’s candidate for governor.
“We will not let our opponents take back the governor’s office and march the state backwards with their regressive ideas,” the Senate president announced.
“The people have spoken,” the House majority leader declared, “and we intend to see that their candidate is a big success.” In truth, they did little to support Darren as they were not so sure that an opponent in the governor’s office would be worse than a reformer from their own party.
Soon after the primary victory, Darren announced he intended to live up to his name and walk from one end of the state to the other, right down the middle. Considering the size of the state, this idea seemed insane. The opinion of experts was that it would take most of the campaign for Darren to do it. He would lose precious time while wandering down rural back roads and he would get no press outside the big cities. His party was convinced he was doomed and tried to determine if they should start acting friendly toward the opposing party candidate.
Darren lost no time in organizing his walk. He held a press conference at the south end of the state to declare the beginning of “Walking to the People.” He set out with a small entourage and an advance team that headed off to the towns along the way to line up interviews, town hall meetings, and “meet and greet” sessions with local residents. To lose no time on the road, they invited local press to walk part of the way with the candidate and they would drive the reporter back to his or her own town when he or she got tired.
There were a lot of reporters who could brag that they walked with the candidate, although they might not always admit it was just a short distance. At other times his small staff, would throw questions at the energetic candidate as he walked, so he could practice giving good answers. Darren was prepared for everything the press and the people of the state could ask.
The unique campaign tactic gained national attention. By the time Darren was half way across the state, he was a nationwide sensation. News crews rode along side Darren. The crew of “Walkers for Walker” grew and when they walked into the northern half of the state, they walked with students, parents, idealists, dreamers, and a whole contingent of people who believed that Darren was going to return government to the people.
By election night, Darren was unstoppable. Party leaders were at his campaign headquarters to grab some of the spotlight for themselves and to congratulate the new governor.
After Darren took office and gave a rousing inaugural speech promising the people of the state just about everything, he went right to work. He summoned his party leaders to his office. He spoke about campaign reform and the need to limit spending, but legislative leaders explained that their opponents had many wealthy friends and they would get around the laws through political action committees. When the new governor spoke of term limits, he was told that was unfair to those who already dedicated their lives to the public.
When Darren offered to raise the limit of terms, they countered with the same explanation and when he offered even higher limits or to exempt sitting legislators, they had a counter argument for that too. Over his time in office he tried to get his leaders in the legislature to pass a variety of reforms. He soon learned through his many meetings with his own party, that they were the stumbling blocks to success not the other party. A governor could not do much if he could not get legislation passed.
When it was time for the next election, Darren had little success in office and worried that he would be perceived as a failure by the people. Party leaders explained to Walker if that he wanted to have a chance at reelection, he needed to support the legislation of his own party and stop putting his veto to measures they passed. They would in turn support him. They could blame any lack of his legislation on the opposition, even though they controlled the legislature.
“You support us, Governor, and we will support you,” Walker was told. From that point on the only chance for the Walker for Governor campaign was to avoid telling the truth about what Darren learned during the first term.