Madison, Wis. – For more than a week, the protests here in this college town have been peaceful. Now, police are actively searching for Democratic state senators and questioning Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, about comments made in a prank phone conversation.
Earlier today, state police were sent to the homes of 14 upper-chamber Democrats. The dispatch was prompted by a state senate motion this morning to issue a “call of the house,” which enables law enforcement to search for missing members. The Democrats, who have been on the run for days, are said to be in northern Illinois and Chicago as they work to avoid a vote on Walker’s budget-repair bill, which would limit collective bargaining for most state employees. According to the Associated Press, officers cannot arrest members if they are home, but state Republicans hope that the increased police presence will stir lawmakers to return to Madison.
Meanwhile, Governor Walker now faces questions from local police about what he told a blogger, who was posing as industrialist David Koch, on a phone call earlier this week. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Madison Police Chief Noble Wray has asked Walker to explain his “troubling” and “unsettling” statements, specifically Walker saying on the call that he “thought about” planting troublemakers at the capitol as labor supporters rallied.
“I spent a good deal of time overnight thinking about Governor Walker’s response, during his news conference yesterday, to the suggestion that his administration ‘thought about’ planting troublemakers among those who are peacefully protesting his bill,” Wray said in a statement. “I would like to hear more of an explanation from Governor Walker as to what exactly was being considered, and to what degree it was discussed by his cabinet members.”
At a Wednesday press conference, Walker pushed back on the notion that he looked into causing unrest. “People have brought up all sorts of different options,” he said. “As you saw if you’ve listened to the tape, we shot that down.”
UPDATE: On the morning search:
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said no Senate Democrats have been found by State Troopers Thursday morning.
Troopers were dispatched to the homes of all 14 Senate Democrats after Fitzgerald said he heard of reports that a few of them were going home nights and driving across the state line to Illinois.
Senate Democrats said they left the state to slow-down Gov. Scott Walker’s budget-repair bill.