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Monday, July 14, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 74.0° F  Fair
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In defense of Tonette Walker

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It can't be easy being Scott Walker's wife. What other Wisconsin governor, at least in recent memory, has gotten booed at the State Fair of all places?

But the zingers Tonette Walker herself has received for hosting a fundraising party and croquet tournament this week to pay for remodeling at the Governor's Mansion haven't been entirely fair, says one member of the Wisconsin Executive Residence Foundation.

"Thousands and thousands of people come through the house each year, and there is upkeep that needs to be done," says Patty Elson, a local real estate agent who was appointed to the commission in 2001 by former first lady Jessica Doyle when Jim Doyle, a Democrat, was elected governor. "It's a public house."

The Wisconsin Executive Residence Foundation was founded in 1965 to raise funds to refurbish, redecorate and preserve the executive residence. All first ladies serve as the foundation president. The outrage directed at Walker likely derives from the letter she wrote to "leading ladies" asking for raffle items for the fundraiser. She noted she would be donating a designer handbag filled with designer hand cream and lipstick - items she said she could not live without. Those choice words did not sit well with a lot of people, given the crushing budget cuts engineered by her husband.

But Elson says that's not a fair equation. The foundation's fundraising is a nonpartisan affair, and necessary to pay for things the Department of Administration can't afford. And there are some real needs at the historic executive residence, says Elson, who notes the kitchen - which hosts parties for hundreds of people - does not even have a full complement of working appliances.

How dire are the needs for the house? It's hard to know. Lisa Kulow, who runs the executive residence, said she was not able to immediately comment when contacted by a reporter. A promised quote never arrived, either.

Editor's note: This statement by Tonette Walker was by submitted by spokesperson Annie Nolan: "The Wisconsin Executive Residence is truly the people's home. At times like these, we are trying to preserve this beautiful and historic landmark of Wisconsin's history without using any taxpayer dollars."

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