As a veritable brigade of Republican candidates enter the 2016 presidential race, the focus also shifts to the many spouses who will endure a grueling campaign schedule, personal secrets exposed, and the need to constantly be "on" for the cameras. When Scott Walker entered the race Monday, his wife, Tonette, also had to step into the spotlight — for the next few months, at least.
Scott made his presidential announcement Monday via a tweet (how very millennial of him) and campaign video. The two-term Republican Governor of Wisconsin is joining 14 other conservative candidates. His relatively late start does not mean that the election will be any easier on his wife and two sons.
Tonette is a fascinating figure — not one to simply follow her governor husband around and smile when need be in the election. Branded a "spitfire" in a Washington Post profile, the First Lady of Wisconsin will likely have a lot to say in the coming months if her husband is lucky enough not to get stamped out by the flashier candidates of the GOP.
Like Scott, Tonette will probably receive comparisons, but hers will be to the other candidates' spouses. She is in the company of Jeanette Dousdebes Rubio, a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader; philanthropist Columba Bush; former engineer Supriya Jolly Jindal; and former model Melania Knauss-Trump, among others. However, something tells me Tonette will stand out. Here are eight things you need to know about Tonette Walker.
She Has Her Own Career
Tonette works in the development in the American Lung Association. Before that, she spent 20 years in the insurance industry and worked for the American Diabetes Association, according to her website. The governor has said that he opposes the Affordable Care Act. Perhaps he will use his wife's knowledge of the healthcare world while campaigning (or, God knows, if he becomes president).
She's An Advocate
Tonette has been an advocate for Wisconsin's tourism industry, domestic trauma victims, teenagers with substance abuse problems, and Japanese tsunami and earthquake relief.
She Knows How To Handle Backlash
Scott and people who know her are quick to cite Tonette's toughness. When her husband faced a 2012 recall election, she faced protesters at her home and many death threats. One person even threatened to "gut her like a deer," according to The Washington Post. The Hill says that she and her sons once had to seek overnight refuge in a mall when protesters ambushed them.
Wellness Is A Big Theme In Her Initiatives
If she moves to the White House, Tonette would likely follow in Michelle Obama's footsteps by making health a focus as First Lady. She put together a women's wellness weekend event and has walking trail meet-and-greets, according to the First Lady of Wisconsin website.
She's Faced Real Tragedy
When Tonette was 30, she lost the grandmother who helped raise her. Only weeks later, her brother died of bone cancer. Still within the year, her husband died, according to The Washington Post. She said that the tragedy toughened her for politics.
The Walkers Have A Pretty Cute Romance
The two met at a Milwaukee karaoke bar when Tonette was 36 and Scott was 24. He left her a note on a napkin that asked her to dinner. Later, he proposed by taking her back to the same bar and popping the question on a napkin. In true Republican fashion, they married on Ronald Reagan's birthday and celebrate their anniversary every year with a Reagan-themed party, according to the International Business Times.
She Distanced Herself From Her Husband On Gay Marriage
In her interview with The Washington Post, Tonette told the truth, which no GOP politician's wife ever seems to acknowledge — they don't always agree with their husbands. When the Supreme Court made gay marriage legal everywhere in the country, Scott said it was a grave mistake. Tonette said, "I was torn." The couple's sons are supportive of gay marriage, and Tonette said they were disappointed in their father's reaction.
She's Part Of The Team
According to The Hill, Tonette gets briefed on Scott's political strategy and follows the issues closely. She is a key figure at Walker rallies, especially the female-centered events that she hosts. Tonette is clearly not content to watch all the political action from home. The First Lady of Wisconsin might be front and center soon.