Telling stories about the everyday people they meet on the campaign trail is a favorite of candidates looking to humanize their policies and connect with voters. But the aftermath of a random name-drop can be a nightmare for the person mentioned. In short order, what started as a quick interaction with a candidate can lead to a swarm of calls, emails, or tweets about your private life. So it's easy to imagine why someone would shy away from all that attention. What's more difficult to understand is why a candidate would ignore the wishes of someone who clearly doesn't want their story told. But, that's exactly what happened on Monday when Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker ignored the teacher who doesn't her story used by his campaign and recounted details of her story in a speech at a Las Vegas town hall.
Walker was in Las Vegas to unveil his national proposal to restrict collective bargaining and organizing, drawing on his experience as governor of Wisconsin, when he rolled back the powers of public employee unions. Megan Sampson was a local English teacher who — to paraphrase Walker's version of her story — was fired because of an arbitrary staffing policy set by the state's teacher's union.
Here's how Walker told the story in a June op-ed for The Des Moines Register:
Megan Sampson was named the outstanding first-year teacher by the Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English in June of 2010. A week later, she received another certificate: a layoff notice from the Milwaukee Public Schools system.
Why would they get rid of a new teacher like Sampson — especially in Milwaukee, which was one of the most troubled urban school districts in the nation? Well, under the old union contracts, the last hired was first fired.
The story of the young, talented teacher terminated in the 2011 showdown between the then-governor and the state teachers' union was a favorite of Walker's, even before his presidential campaign. For the past several years, when Walker has spoken publicly about his ability to reform collective bargaining and education policies, he has usually recounted details of Sampson's story. And since Walker launched his bid for president, he's used Sampson's story several times. But Sampson has reportedly told Walker's office nearly as many times that she wants no parts of the limelight.
After The Des Moines Register article ran, Sampson emailed the Associated Press to explain why she wanted the governor to stop telling the story:
I do not enjoy being associated with Walker's political campaign. [Walker did] not have permission from me to use my story in this manner, and he still does not have my permission.
If her request seems a bit curt, it may be because she's had to make it so many times. Here's what Sampson told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel back in 2011:
My opinions about the union have changed over the past eight months, and I am hurt that this story is being used to make me the poster child for this political agenda. Bottom line: I am trying to do my job, and all this attention is interference and stress for me.
Ignoring a private citizen's wishes — no, invading the privacy of a woman who clearly wants to be left alone — can't be a good idea for a presidential candidate. And some have argued that the former governor is able to do so only because so few people know about Sampson's wishes.
Speaking to the Associated Press recently, Walker said the goal of his new labor plan is to achieve fairness for all American workers. Specifically, he wants to cut off "the union bosses and the politicians they puppet" who have "long benefited from Washington rules that put the needs of special interests before needs of middle-class families."
It seems that putting this Wisconsin teacher's need for privacy above his own interests might be a decent place to start.