Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, hero to small-government conservatives and villain to organized labor, is stopping by conservative bastion Newport Beach on Thursday while he visits Southern California for the Rose Bowl game.
In any other year, the governor of a state represented in The Granddaddy of Them All wouldn't bring much reaction from locals outside of a friendly welcome.
But Walker is facing a sustained recall effort from constituents who have targeted him after, in an effort to help balance the state's budget, he successfully pulled back some collective-bargaining rights for state workers.
It's the kind of dramatic, controversial action that observers have said inspired the Costa Mesa City Council's current direction.
"Wisconsin wasn't a controversy; Wisconsin was an awakening," said Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, who has led a council charge to outsource much of the city's workforce to offload future pension costs and divert money to capital improvements. "I feel bad I'm not going to be in town to see him."
Since a majority of the council voted in March to outsource more than 40% of the city's payroll, Costa Mesa has been called a "mini-Wisconsin" by the media and critics alike. Opponents claim it's part of a broad Republican agenda. Others argue it's fiscal responsibility.
"The majority of Americans are disgusted with Scott Walker and his attacks on working families," Orange County Employees Assn. spokeswoman Jennifer Muir said in an email. "He is facing a recall in his home state. So we as Californians are pretty lucky because he is leaving the Golden State after the Rose Bowl is over. Unlike us, the people of Wisconsin unfortunately are stuck with him for now."
Walker will be at a closed reception Thursday evening hosted by Orange County GOP Chairman Scott Baugh at his offices.
"The governor looks forward to sharing the successes seen in Wisconsin as a result of the recently enacted budget reforms and his plans to help Wisconsin's private sector create 250,000 jobs with fellow conservative grass-roots supporters," said Tom Evenson, spokesman for Walker's campaign arm.
The University of Wisconsin Badgers, ranked 10th in the nation, are playing the No. 5 University of Oregon on Monday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.