- Views & Opinions
Donald Trump’s transition to the White House has a very distinct Wisconsin feel. And his first Cabinet and administration may as well.
Wisconsin native and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is on Trump’s transition team and could be in line for a top position in his administration. Trump was meeting Thursday with House Speaker Paul Ryan, of Janesville, and other Wisconsin Republicans are being mentioned for possible high-level jobs.
“You have a definite bias in favor of Wisconsin,” former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson told The Associated Press.
Thompson knows what it’s like to get a phone call from an incoming president. He left midway through his fourth term in 2001 to serve as health and human services secretary under President George W. Bush.
Thompson said he expects Priebus to become Trump’s chief of staff and fill the administration with people from Wisconsin.
“When I became secretary I took just about the whole governor’s staff out with me,” Thompson said.
Gov. Scott Walker has insisted he’s not interested in a Trump Cabinet position, even though he was closely aligned with Trump after running against him in the GOP presidential primary. Walker said during the campaign that he intends to serve out the remaining two years on his second term and reiterated it Wednesday.
“I take him at his word. He put that out there pretty fast,” Thompson said of Walker. “But anytime the president asks you to serve, it’s hard to turn down. The president has thousands of people to choose from and he has selected you, he’s chosen you. It’s hard to turn down.”
Walker told WTMJ-AM on Wednesday that the best way he could help Trump would be to remain as governor and serve in his new role as head of the Republican Governors Association. Walker also put in a plug for Ryan remaining as speaker, saying he can work to implement Trump’s agenda.
Ryan has had a tense relationship with Trump. He publicly criticized some of Trump’s more outlandish comments and did not campaign with him. Trump blasted Ryan as disloyal, “weak” and “ineffective” during the campaign.
Thompson said the fact that the two were meeting just two days after the election shows they’ve already moved on.
Ryan has his own political future to consider. He sometimes appears to have a tenuous grip on the fractious House GOP conference and there’s grumbling among tea party conservatives that he doesn’t fight hard enough for conservative wins. There’s also talk that the hard-right Freedom Caucus might try to topple Ryan.
But Ryan has an ally close to Trump in Priebus. The Kenosha native, who ran the state Republican Party before leaving to head the Republican National Committee in 2011, was a forceful Trump defender during the campaign. His closeness to the future president was evident when Trump called him to the podium early Wednesday to say a few words during his victory celebration.
Priebus, Walker and Ryan aren’t the only Wisconsin Republicans who could play a significant role in Trump’s administration.
Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, the cowboy hat-wearing, conservative talk radio fill-in host, is not quashing rumors that he’d be interested in working for Trump.
“Let me make this clear — I am the Sheriff of Milwaukee County,” Clarke said in a statement Wednesday. “I will continue to be the Sheriff of Milwaukee County until I am no longer the Sheriff of Milwaukee County, at which time I won’t be the Sheriff of Milwaukee County. Anything other than that is pure speculation.”