GAYS MILLS - On Wednesday, May 16, three candidates for the office of Wisconsin Governor spoke to a crowd of about a dozen interested citizens at the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center. Those three candidates were Dana Wachs, Andy Gronik, and Mike McCabe.
A partisan primary election for the state offices of Governor, U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative, odd-numbered Wisconsin State Senate seats, and all Wisconsin Assembly seats, will be held on Tuesday, August 14, 2018. The general election will be held on Tuesday, November 6, 2018.
Democrat Dana Wachs is currently serving in the Wisconsin Assembly District 91, from Eau Claire. He had previous experience in government, serving on the Eau Claire City Council, and his profession as an attorney provided him with “30 years in the courtroom fighting a rigged system.”
“In 1982, I went to law school and spent the 30 years after graduation fighting for regular folks in the courtroom,” Wachs said. “Upon beginning to serve in the state legislature in 2012, I quickly found out that our state is being run not for regular folks, but for wealthy special interests.”
Wachs detailed some of his work since being elected to the Assembly.
“As a conservationist, I wrote the CWD legislation that Governor Walker eventually adopted and presented as his own,” Wachs said. “I also served on the board of the Wisconsin Economic Development Council, where I have been fighting Foxconn since day one.”
Wachs described the Foxconn deal as “a tragic mistake, and $3 billion in wasted tax dollars. “Wisconsin is currently 50th out of 52 states in new business development,” Wachs pointed out. “That $3 billion would have been better spent as $300,000 seed money for 10 new businesses.”
Wachs stated that his vision for Wisconsin includes a clean environment, an economy that is not rigged, and healthcare for all. If elected, Wachs would move to accept the Medicaid expansion money to make Badgercare a public option in a state health insurance exchange.
Wachs supports raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and would also re-enact the State Wage Board, which was eliminated by Governor Walker. Further, he would bring back collective bargaining and work with the legislature to enact legislation rolling back Wisconsin’s ‘Right to Work’ law.
“In Minnesota, just across the river, the average family earns $8,000 more per family than in Wisconsin,” Wachs pointed out. Wachs also expressed support for helping and retaining Wisconsin youth by working to refinance student loans.
Responding to a question from moderator Dale Klemme about Wisconsin’s high rate of incarceration, Wachs expressed support for ‘alternative courts,’ to work for community-based solutions to the overload of the criminal justice system with cases related to substance abuse.
“I would also support legalizing marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes, and I’d tax it,” Wachs said. “We need early identification and treatment of substance abuse problems before people get into the criminal justice system – prisons are not a cost effective solution to these kinds of problems.”
Wachs, who has been endorsed by former U.S. Representative David Obey, says he is running “because I can actually win this election.”
Andy Gronik was quick to tell the crowd that he believes he is the best candiate to beat Scott Walker in November. His campaign literature states, “I’ll beat Scott Walker and end the era that’s hurting Wisconsin families, and I’ll stand up to Donald Trump!”
Gronik emphasized to the crowd that when the Wisconsin Republican Party recently held its state convention, he was the only gubernatorial candidate to ‘show up.’ Gronik described employing a ‘rolling bill board’ outside the convetion with messages about Walker’s many failures, and about how families have suffered while Walker has been governor.
“I was the only one that showed up,” Gronik said. “Where were the rest of you?” he asked the other candidates present at the forum. Gronik told citizens present at the forum “the surest way to lose to Scott Walker again this November is for the Democrats to put up another ‘Establishment Democrat’ to run against him.”
Gronik’s campaign literature lists his priorities as: creating good-paying jobs statewide; making public schools the best choice for learning; guaranteeing affordable healthcare as a right; fostering entrepreneurialism and small business growth; training programs for workforce development that pay a living wage; honoring higher education as a partner; recruiting young people to be the architects of Wisconsin’s future; investing in transportation infrastructure and high-speed internet; and restoring local control.
Gronik supports a $15 per hour minimum wage, with a regionalized job plan and a tailored approach for each region. He would support programs, which would halt and reverse the flight of youth from the state, which he views as a crisis, with the state’s population aging.
When asked about the problem of high rates of incarceration in the state, Gronik stated that his first priority would be to increase the quality of prenatal care available to pregnant mothers.
“In the Southeast corner of the state where I’m from, I see huge problems for kids that start with their mothers not having had adequate care during their pregnancies. Gronik also supports improving early childhood education,
Regarding the prison system, Gronik observed that the state is currently spending more on our prison system than we are on higher education. “We need to legalize marijuana, and stop sending people to prison for non-violent crimes.” Gronik also supports a job plan within the prisons.
Regarding rural school funding and broadband, Gronik stated that “there is no equity in the way schools in Wisconsin are funded” and that his goal is to fully fund public schools. “I want to stop the expansion of vouchers, restore local control, and get teachers back to the bargaining table.”
On the subject of healthcare, Gronik observed that to fix the problems of the Affordable Care Act, “we need a shovel, not a bulldozer.” He pointed out that the latest Republican budget had eliminated the ‘individual mandate,’ which required every citizen to have health insurance. “Elimination of the individual mandate is destabilizing rural healthcare,” Gronik observed. He said that healthcare is an enormously complicated issue, and agreed that while he thought we should explore single payer insurance, we need to be careful to look at “all the angles.”
Mike McCabe, who currently works as the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign (WDC), told meeting participants that he is currently the only candidate for Wisconsin Governor that was raised on a farm. McCabe was raised outside of Curtiss, Wisconsin, just east of Chippewa Falls.
“Curtiss used to be an area that voted Democratic, but in recent years has gone almost 90 percent for Scott Walker,” McCabe said. “It used to be Democratic, and now it is redder than Waukesha.”
McCabe said he understands the reasons why his neighbors have changed, and emphasized that “we have to make them a better offer than they’ve been given in a very long time.”
McCabe, who has never previously been affiliated with a political party, has spent his career working on issues related to the fundamental health of the state’s democracy. As executive director of WDC, he has worked on fair election maps and fighting partisan gerrymandering, and against big money in politics.
“One of the biggest problems in politics today is the habit most politicians have of accepting big checks in campaign donations,” McCabe observed. “My campaign won’t accept any campaign donation greater than $200.”
McCabe’s campaign is focused on the “tremendous number of forgotten people living in forgotten places all over the state that are hungry for real representation in state government.” He believes that the state has got to break free of the current pattern of big money in politics and ‘government for the few.’
“We’ve allowed the development of a system of cronyism, corruption and legal bribery,” McCabe said. “No other state in the nation has seen the shrinking of the middle class like Wisconsin has since Scott Walker took office. Our state has lost its way, where we used to be a shining beacon of democracy.”
McCabe explained that Scott Walker, as in previous elections, will have all the money he needs to run his campaign.
“No Democratic candidate is going to be able to raise that kind of money, and we can’t beat Scott Walker with money,” McCabe noted. “We can’t just be against Scott Walker – we have to be for something.”
McCabe’s vision for the state is to erase the reality of the ‘working poor,’ guarantee a living wage and healthcare for all. He believes that one way to create jobs is to focus on development of the renewable energy sector.
Crucially, McCabe sees a “cancer growing in the body of democracy in the state, and believes that we must focus on cutting the cancer out for the health of our democratic institutions.” He pointed out that one-half-of-one-percent of the population makes more than two-thirds of all campaign contributions in the state. “The U.S. has been through political trauma before and survived, and we can do it again.”
McCabe responded to Gronik’s question about where he was during the recent Republican convention.
“While you were outside the convention, I was in the Sherman Park neighborhood in Milwaukee talking to residents about the problems they have in their lives,” McCabe explained.
“The current drug laws are counterproductive and racially discriminatory,” McCabe said. “We need full legalization of marijuana, and we need to stop discrimatory enforcement of existing laws.” He pointed out that Wisconsin has two-times the rate of incarceration of Minnesota, with virtually identical crime rates.
On the issue of rural schools and broadband, McCabe observed that the state is currently funding two parallel educational systems.
“If elected governor, I would end the voucher system,” McCabe said. “The voucher schools haven’t demonstrated any superior student achievement, and funding them has weakened the rural public schools.” McCabe pointed out that in rural Wisconsin, the school is the ‘heart of the community.’
“When you kill the school, you kill the community,” McCabe said.
Regarding the issue of healthcare, McCabe supports creation of a single payer system, and “would like to see Wisconsin be a national leader in that, creating a system that other states and the nation could follow.” McCabe wants to see ‘Badgercare for all Badgers,’ accepting the Medicaid expansion dollars, setting up a state health insurance exchange, and making Badgercare a public option.
“The cost of Badgercare insurance is about 40 percent lower than the cost of private insurance,” he noted.