Jul 6, 2015 by

Tonette Walker

7.5.15 – “Scott Walker’s Wife, Toughened by Life, Adds Steel to Candidate’s Spine” – by Mary Jordan — Washington Post —


Excerpts from this article:


WAUWATOSA, Wis. — Tonette [wife of Scott Walker], who at 59 is a dozen years older than her husband and comes from a pro-union Democratic family, is part of a 2016 class of political spouses who are more visible and unusual than ever.

…“She is not a political junkie who gets up in the morning and reads RedState, Drudge, Politico or The Washington Post,” Kleefisch said about Tonette. She gives her husband “the perspective of the smart, average voter . . . she is the ‘first listener.’ ”

On opposite sides

“Do I agree with him all the time? No,” said Tonette. “But most of the time things work out a lot better than I think they will.”

A particularly tough day for the family came a little more than a week ago, when the Supreme Court issued its ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. Scott Walker, a favorite of Republican conservatives and the son of a Baptist preacher, issued a statement calling it a “grave mistake” and supporting a constitutional amendment to allow states to determine who can marry.

In the political world, Walker drew immediate scrutiny for being particularly strident. In their house, Tonette Walker heard immediately about her husband’s response from the couple’s two sons, Matt and Alex, who are taking time off from college to help their father’s campaign. She told them to talk directly to him.

“That was a hard one,” Tonette said, pausing and choosing her words carefully. “Our sons were disappointed. . . . I was torn. I have children who are very passionate [in favor of same-sex marriage], and Scott was on his side very passionate.”

“It’s hard for me because I have a cousin who I love dearly — she is like a sister to me — who is married to a woman, her partner of 18 years,” she said.

She said her son Alex was her cousin’s best man at their wedding last year.

The couple, Shelli Marquardt and Cathy Priem, have vacationed and hosted parties with the Walkers, according to friends.

The day after the Supreme Court ruling, Tonette flew with her husband to Colorado, where he addressed a group of 4,000 conservatives and met with donors. It was widely noted that, despite a perfectly receptive audience, Walker did not repeat his sharp criticism of the Supreme Court decision.

Instead, Walker spoke more vaguely and was quoted as saying, “We should respect the opinions of others in America. But that in return means that they not only respect our opinions, they respect what is written in the Constitution.”

Asked at the Camp Bar what effect it has when his family disagrees with him, Walker said, “It doesn’t mean I change my position,” but it may lead to “finding a different way of explaining it, so they can appreciate where I am coming from.”

…Tonette Walker grew up in a working-class neighborhood on the east side of Milwaukee. Her father’s family came from Sicily and her dad, Tony Tarantino, held a string of jobs, including owning beauty shops. It was her father who came up with “Tonette,” naming his baby after a favorite home permanent kit.

…After she graduated from an all-girls Catholic high school, she took a job at an insurance company, where for years she processed claims.

“My family didn’t know anything about college. They were both union workers and poor. It wasn’t even on their radar that you went to college.”

Tonette was married at 23 and widowed at 30, supporting her sick husband at the end.

Then six years later, in April 1992, she and a friend went to karaoke night at Saz’s, a Milwaukee bar known for its barbecue.

There, as she chuckled at the amateur singers, she spotted a young man looking at her, and they kept locking eyes.

Scott Walker, then only 24, scribbled a note on a napkin and handed it to Tonette as he walked out, without saying a word.

“Forgive me for being rude. I have to go to get up early for work,” he wrote. “If you want to have dinner, please call,” he said, as the two recounted their first meeting laughing as they quibbled over how many days it took her to phone him. (She says a week; he says two days.)

Despite their differences — she was a Catholic Democrat, he was the son of a Republican Baptist preacher — they hit it off immediately. But she said her parents were concerned about the age difference.

“But he had an answer for everything — that’s Scott Walker,” she said. “I said, ‘I want kids,’ and he said, ‘Okay.’ I said, ‘I want kids now,’ and he said, ‘Okay.’ ”

She said she looks back now and thinks that if her son Matt at 24 brought home a 36-year-old woman, “I would say, ‘Really, Matthew?’ ”

But just months after they met, when the couple went back to Saz’s, Walker pushed another napkin-note toward her. This one was a marriage proposal, and she said yes. And on their wedding day in February 1993, they returned to Saz’s again, stopping in their wedding attire for a drink before the reception.

…Four months after the wedding, Scott Walker was elected to the state assembly, where he served until 2002. He then became Milwaukee County executive and in 2010 was first elected governor.

Jim Villa, Walker’s chief of staff when he was county executive, said Tonette was the one in the car after a speech asking him, “ ‘Have you thought about this?’ She isn’t just in the background. He values her input.”

…Much of the charity work she does is related to her own experience, including a gala she runs for the Lung Association. Her father carted an oxygen tank to campaign events before dying of lung disease. She works with Teen Challenge, a faith-based rehabilitation program for young people with substance-abuse problems, and has talked there of her mother’s struggle with alcohol.

…He mentions, too, that she has Type 1 diabetes and an insulin pump.

“It’s fine. It’s fine,” she says, waving off talk of that, preferring to chat about the Rolling Stones concert she attended in Milwaukee — 11th row! Then she was off with someone in the bar following her to ask if she wouldn’t mind posing for a picture.

Donna Garner


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Related Posts


Share This


  1. Avatar
    Bob Green

    Pay attention people. Five members of the SCOTUS exceeded their jurisdictional authority by ruling on this case. It’s way outside their federal “wheelhouse.”
    (In addition 2 of them should have recused themselves because they previously officiated at a gay marriage. Can you say “conflict of interest?”

    Regarding the recent abuse of jurisdiction by 5 SCOTUS Justices: “Sadly, the political reaction from the leaders of my party is all too predictable. They will pretend to be incensed, and then plan to do absolutely nothing. That is unacceptable.” – Sen. Ted Cruz

    “By redefining the meaning of common words, and redesigning the most basic human institutions, this Court has crossed from the realm of activism into the arena of oligarchy.” – Sen. Ted Cruz

    To quote Cruz one more time: “Enough is enough. The time has come, therefore, to recognize that the problem lies not with the lawless rulings of individual lawless Justices, but with the lawlessness of the Court itself.

    And this, my friends, is why Ted Cruz, the “anti-Obama,” should be the 45th POTUS.

  2. Avatar
    Bob Green

    “The Supreme Court’s twisting of the Fourteenth Amendment–enacted after the shedding of blood of over a half a million Americans for equal rights for black Americans–into a mandate for same-sex “marriage” must be challenged immediately and effectively. Many millions of Americans who voted to support and adhere to the millennia-old consensus on marriage must question the authority and judgment of the Court.” — Robert Marshall, Virginia House of Delegates

  3. Avatar
    Beverly Uhlmer

    This is VERY concerning! He could easily do an “Obama” and allow his position to “evolve” after he enters the White House.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.