Mr. Walker’s move will solidify some of the policies that made him a hero to many conservatives nationally and, for a brief time, a leading presidential candidate. But participating in what many Democrats consider a legally dubious power grab also cemented another widely held view: that Mr. Walker is a bruising partisan willing to break precedent and ignore protests for political gain.
“The last eight years have been very much characterized by the view of, ‘We’ve got the power, we’re going to do what we want and anybody else, that’s too bad,’” said James E. Doyle, Mr. Walker’s Democratic predecessor as governor, who called the last-minute bills “unseemly.”
The tactic by Mr. Walker and his allies was seen as carving a path for other states, like Michigan, where Republicans are similarly contemplating limits on incoming Democrats. But it also risked energizing Democrats ahead of a 2020 presidential election in which both parties will battle for the Midwest, as well as shaping how people remember Mr. Walker, 51, who leaves the governor’s job on Jan. 7 having spent most of his adult life in elected office.
“What didn’t he do?” said State Senator Fred Risser, a Democrat who was first elected to the Legislature in 1956. “He reversed the progressive, innovative state we used to be proud of.”
.. Mr. Walker, a former legislator and county executive who then was little known outside of the Milwaukee area, won a crucial advantage when he became governor in 2011: Voters not only flipped the governor’s seat to Republican, but also both chambers of the Legislature.
.. Just after signing the bills, Mr. Walker insisted that he had been gracious and helpful to Mr. Evers since the election. “We have been very purposeful in wanting to make sure that this next governor has a good transition,” said Mr. Walker, who added that he had allowed the governor-elect to tour the executive mansion and provided office space for his staff.
.. He posted 21 tweets in 25 minutes, each starting with “OUR LEGACY” and listing an accomplishment. Facing angry accusations on Facebook, he wrote that “our real legacy” was job growth. And in a speech on Thursday to manufacturing workers whose positions had been spared by new tax incentives, he said “I want this to be my legacy.”
.. “It’s tough to lose,” said Jim Villa, a longtime friend and former political aide to Mr. Walker. “But I’ve always said that Scott has one of the calmest demeanors of anyone I know — not a lot of highs and not a lot of lows.”
.. Just three years ago, Mr. Walker had a spin as a front-runner in the presidential race, but his campaign ended quickly as Mr. Trump suctioned support from more traditional candidates. Mr. Walker’s return to Wisconsin was difficult: People complained that he had been too focused on his own ambitions, and he spent months making up for it with parades, local meetings and ribbon cuttings. As he set off this year in a bid for a rare third term as governor, Mr. Walker warned of signs of a “blue wave” and pleaded with Republicans not to be complacent.
.. To Mr. Walker’s supporters, the bills Mr. Walker signed on Friday were pragmatic ways to shore up Republican policies and establish reasonable checks on the incoming Democrats. By signing the bills, he had secured his legacy, they said, not sullied it.
.. “‘My constituents will say, ‘Thank God you’ve protected the reforms, thank God that our state will be able to continue on the path we are on,’” said State Senator Alberta Darling, a Republican from suburban Milwaukee.
But to opponents, the bills represent something sinister. Several warned Mr. Walker that the measures were an unflattering epilogue to his tenure.
“This just goes to show what type of leader he actually was,” said State Senator La Tonya Johnson, a Democrat from Milwaukee. The legislation, she said, “will definitely go down in history as being the biggest power grab ever.”
.. Even some conservatives have spoken out. Sheldon Lubar, a Republican businessman who once supported Mr. Walker, said Mr. Walker’s record would be destroyed by this.
“I think as a relatively young man, he should be very concerned of what his legacy is,” Mr. Lubar said.
.. Among the new restrictions on Mr. Evers: Future governors who negotiate tax incentives like those would need legislative approval for their deal.