By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker hinted Wednesday that he may run for a third term.
Walker hasn’t said yet whether he plans to run again after his current term ends in 2018. But in a speech to the state chamber of commerce, one of his biggest backers, he seemed to open the door wider than he had before.
The governor’s political future came up when he talked about an initiative he planned to unveil in next month’s State of the State address. Walker said he wants to gather input from Wisconsin residents about the future of the state to determine what people’s shared values and goals are.
He compared the state to the growth of a tree.
“For us, we want a state that grows upward, that grows out full, that includes everyone, that lifts everyone up with freedom and prosperity, not just for today but for generations to come,” Walker said. “I’m certainly committed to that through the remainder of my term or whatever terms I’m blessed to serve thereafter.”
In September, after his failed presidential run, Walker said he had not decided whether he was going to run for a third term.
“I haven’t ruled anything out in that regard,” he said then. “I enjoy being governor. I’ll be focused on being governor the next three years and sometime between now and November of 2018, I’ll make a decision as to whether or not to seek a third term.”
Walker’s spokeswoman did not immediately return an email asking whether he had now made up his mind.
The governor has some work to do over the next three years if he hopes to be elected again. His approval ratings fell to record lows during his short-lived presidential campaign, and they haven’t rebounded much since he dropped out on Sept. 21. The latest Marquette University Law School poll released on Nov. 19 showed Walker with just 38 percent approval.
Wisconsin Democratic Party spokesman Brandon Weathersby pointed to the poll numbers as evidence there’s no interest in a third term for Walker.
“The voters know it wouldn’t be a blessing to see Scott Walker as governor for another four years — that’s why his approval rating continues to sink to lower and lower,” Weathersby said.
After his presidential campaign imploded from a lack of fundraising and lackluster poll numbers in early voting states, Walker recommitted himself to spending time in Wisconsin. He also got behind divisive measures in the Legislature, signing into law a bill that does away with secret John Doe investigations into public misconduct.
He said he intends to sign a bill next week that passed without Democratic support to do away with the state’s nonpartisan elections board, replacing it with a pair of commissions that include partisan appointees.
Walker also plans to sign a Republican-backed measure that will rewrite the state’s campaign finance laws to allow for coordination between candidates and independent advocacy groups, double candidate contribution limits and do away with a requirement that donors disclose who they work for.
The governor is also behind a bill opposed by Democrats and unions that would rewrite protections in place for state workers, making it easier to hire and fire those who work for the government and aren’t political appointees.
Walker became the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election in 2012. That recall was spurred by anger over his proposal that effectively eliminated collective bargaining for most state workers, a measure that roiled the state and brought weeks of protests as large as 100,000 people to the Capitol.
But in his speech Wednesday to Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, Walker talked more about bringing people together than the contentious measures he’s backed that have been the hallmark of his tenure as governor.
“Together we need to work on saying what are our goals for the next five, 10, 15, 20, 25 years beyond,” Walker said Wednesday. “What is our goal for the state of Wisconsin? What are our multiple goals for the kind of state we want to be?”