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Seven candidates – five Republicans and two Democrats – are competing in Tuesday’s primary election for their parties’ nominations in the newly defined 37th Assembly District.

The Republicans are Jim Braughler, John Jagler, Steve Kauffeld, Jim Romlein and Chris Ruetten, and the Democrats are Mary Arnold and Laura Cotting.

Here is information that each candidate supplied to the Columbus Journal.


Jim Braughler of Watertown is running for the open 37th seat in the Wisconsin State Assembly. The district covers rural and residential areas in northern Jefferson and southern Dodge Counties including Watertown, Waterloo, Ixonia, Columbus and DeForest.

Braughler, 52, has lived in Watertown for 35 years, where he has been an active volunteer in many civic and church functions with his wife Heidi. He is a librarian and former high school teacher who has served on the Watertown City Council and the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors.

“We live in tumultuous times,” Braughler said. “Many friends and neighbors have encouraged me to run and use my experience and reputation as an ethical, level-headed, calm, polite person to represent our community in the state legislature,” he stated of his decision to join the race.

“I’m beginning my campaign with the goal of meeting more people in the district, listening to their hopes and desires for our government, and learning how we can work together to have our ideas and values represented in the legislature,” Braughler said. “One of my main goals will be to create an open door between the local governments of city and county with the state legislature. There seems to be a disconnect between the two and my experience at the local level is the natural bridge between the two.”

Braughler was raised on a beef farm where he participated in 4-H. He was lured away from his native Pennsylvania to attend college in Wisconsin, where he stayed after graduation and taught high school civics and speech for 24 years, as well as some college courses.

“The 37th Assembly district has a mix of rural and residential citizens. My diverse background helps me understand the issues and concerns of folks living in both those areas of Jefferson and Dodge Counties,” Braughler said of the district, which was newly created under redistricting required after the 2010 census.

“My rural upbringing, classroom experience and service on the city council and county board give me the knowledge of Wisconsin government without being a political insider,” Braughler said.

Braughler has both a bachelor of science and an MAT from Maranatha Baptist Bible College and is completing a master’s degree in library science at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He worked as an intern with the Wisconsin State Assembly while he was an undergraduate.

After graduation, Braughler taught at Maranatha Baptist Academy for 24 years. During the summers, he traveled across the entire United States for Maranatha in promotion and public relations.

Trading textbooks for library books in 2006, Braughler joined the L.D. Fargo Library in Lake Mills, where he is currently employed in cataloging, interlibrary loans and the circulation desk, where he interacts with folks from both Jefferson and Dodge Counties.

When not at work, Braughler’s list of volunteer civic activities include playing in the Watertown Municipal Band, serving on the Watertown Historical Society and the Fourth of July Parade Committee and singing as a regular soloist for the memorial service at the Main Street Bridge on Memorial Day.

Braughler was first elected to the Watertown City Council in 2002. His duties included working on the public works committee and community development authority board. When his term of office expired, he was re-appointed as a citizen volunteer on the community development authority and has been chairman ever since.

Braughler was first elected to the Jefferson County Board in 2008, where he continues to serve. He has been appointed to the infrastructure, finance, administration and rules and human resources committees, where his county board colleagues elected him chairman.

This past year, under Braughler’s leadership, the human resources committee played a key role in guiding the county board through the complicated negotiations and revision of the staff manual triggered by the historic 2011-13 state budget bill.

Braughler was also heavily involved in Jefferson County’s 2009-10 strategic planning process, which included substantial citizen input and set the county’s goals and guidelines for the future.

He is chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party and leads its many voter education efforts throughout the area.

The candidate says he would love to hear from citizens and get their input and help with the campaign. He can be contacted at or (920) 342-4758.


For the last two years, I have been communications director to Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald. I have been on the frontlines of history in the most dramatic session of the Legislature in our lifetime.

As a top aide to the speaker, I played a key role as we closed a $3.6 billion budget hole without raising your taxes. We were able to pass Act 10, voter ID, concealed carry, the castle doctrine bill, a property tax freeze, the defunding of Planned Parenthood and a series of bills aimed at getting Wisconsin back to work.

All of this was done despite the screams, drums and protests of thousands of people in our State Capitol daily. It was done despite death threats to members of the Legislature and aggressive tactics of special interests threatened by the necessary changes.

This experience in the Legislature, combined with more than 20 years as a radio news person, has given me a unique perspective on how the legislative process works. I will be able to hit the ground running to represent the people of the 37th Assembly District and keep the momentum going to move Wisconsin forward.

The Assembly Republican leadership team has endorsed me, along with 38th district Rep. Joel Kleefisch and 30 other GOP members of the state Legislature. They know my values and work ethic and they agree that I am the person they want to join them from the 37th Assembly District.

I am running to help make Wisconsin a great place to live for my children. We were headed down a dangerous path of high taxes and extreme unemployment. We need to continue the changes made last session. I literally “Stood with Walker” at the Capitol and now I want to be elected to the Assembly to continue the job of turning this state around.

Priority number one should be getting people back to work. While government cannot create jobs, it can improve the atmosphere for job creators. Cutting red tape and reducing regulations will help encourage companies to expand or relocate here. Now that the uncertainty of the recalls is passed us, businesses are ready to grow and hire and will if they are assured the changes we have put in place won’t be reversed.

My faith has taught me that all human life is to be valued and cherished. I am endorsed by the Pro-Life Wisconsin Political Action Committee. As a father of three, including a daughter with special needs, I understand the importance of providing services to our most vulnerable citizens, while also balancing the need to provide opportunity and prosperity to all.

With that in mind, we need to focus on reducing taxes in the upcoming session, reduce government spending and look to find more ways to make it easier for companies to expand.

We should also look at improving education by urging more school districts to adopt a merit pay system so our best and brightest teachers are rewarded for their hard work, not just their length of service. The state should also look at expanding school choice programs, providing more parents the opportunity to have a say in where their child is educated.

I am the only candidate in this race to be endorsed by the National Rifle Association. They have taken the rare step of giving me an “A” rating, despite not having a voting record. This is because the NRA knows I will reject any attempts to further limit the Second Amendment rights of lawful citizens.

I am proud to call myself a “Walker Republican” and would be honored to represent you in the State Assembly. For 16 years, I was a voice on your radio on Newsradio 620 WTMJ. Now I am asking to be your voice in Madison. I respectfully ask for your vote Aug. 14.

Steve Kauffeld

I moved to Watertown in 1966 with my family, my father having accepted a call to Pastor St. John’s Lutheran Church. I graduated from Watertown High School in 1970 and attended the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh for two years. I took time off of school to work and in 1974 married Linda, my high school sweetheart. We’ve been blessed with three wonderful children and two grandsons.

For the past 37 years, I’ve worked as a line clearance arborist as a crew lead for utility companies throughout the United States. I dearly love the outdoors. This passion has led me to become involved in areas of conservation as a member of the Izaak Walton League of America, where I served as board member, recording secretary and, for the last 10 years, as chapter president. Having spent my entire life up until this point on raising a family and working in the private sector I found myself increasingly frustrated in the direction our nation is going, though recent reforms have helped Wisconsin greatly. Being in the private sector, I haven’t been focused on the government beyond evaluating candidates and casting my vote. However, having the government increasingly intrude on my and my neighbors’ lives in the form of taxes, fees, rules and regulations has greatly increased my awareness and frustration.

Unfortunately most of our present and past leaders have been more diligent in building their own power base and aggrandizing themselves than serving their fellow citizens’ best interests. I am a result-oriented kind of person. Seeing our government run away from the values that this state and country were founded on has driven me to take action after years of complaints and frustration.

In state government, Wisconsin has been blessed with leaders who have fought for legislation that I personally support along with millions of other Wisconsinites, namely Act 10 and other public sector reforms. There have been successes in other areas as well, such as protecting our Second Amendment rights. Unfortunately, towards the end of last session, our brave men and women lost focus, and our Legislature fizzled to a stop. There are several major topics of concern for Wisconsin. We need to continue to deal with the issues of the economy and the growth of jobs. Our entire tax code needs overhauling to streamline it for the betterment of business and the citizens of this state. We need to continue to pare down the budget and look at non-essential services and state agencies with overlapping jurisdictions. Also health care reform is going to be a major concern because we have limited dollars available. It is most important that government insures that the vulnerable of our population, the very young and elderly, have access to health care. I also support preserving the family farm by allowing our farmers to utilize the free-market system by doing away with unnecessary regulatory oversight and mandates.

I support traditional, proven energy production. We need to maintain and improve our hydro-electric system and promote the use of our abundant coal and natural gas as our primary power source, which is also the least expensive for our state’s industries and citizenry.

I also support the mining bill for northern Wisconsin, which would have a positive impact on our economy throughout the state. I support gun rights (Wisconsin Act 35). I will oppose any efforts by federal, state and local authorities to infringe on peaceful, private use and sale of privately, lawfully-owned firearms and ammunition.

I support traditional marriage and I’m pleased to have received the Pro Life Victory PAC and Pro-Life Wisconsin endorsements, as well as Republican Assemblyman Evan Wynn’s supporting my election campaign. The financial, economic and social problems before us are complex, but can be addressed with hard work, honest dialogue within the political process and, just as importantly, sharing the problems truthfully and openly with the public. With this in mind, I offer my time and ability in serving the 37th Assembly District as their representative.


As an “Army brat,” I had the privilege of traveling with the family to a new duty station somewhere in the free world every three years and to live in countries where our freedoms are unknown. Some of these places like Haiti, where I spent three years, didn’t have stable electricity, clean water or good roads. Commerce and jobs were tough. As I made friends, the words I would often hear are: “Jim – someday I would like to live in America;” and this is why I am running. I want to help take America back to being The Land of Opportunity, the place they were talking about, a place where your dreams can become real and you can succeed with ambition, a goal and hard work.

Now, let me draw out a section of the roadmap that I see to lead us back to The Land of Opportunity.

In Haiti for example, all but a very few streets in Port O Prince, the capital, were gravel. In the early ‘50s when I was there roads were the backbone of commerce. Good roads meant good commerce, meant good jobs. In the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, when I lived in France, and traveled through Germany and Switzerland, rail also played a big part in commerce. As we moved things faster and cheaper our markets expanded and new jobs were created.

Then in the Korean War era when I was discharged from the 101st Airborne Division, the airplane joined the mix and we again expanded and moved goods even farther and jobs again changed. Well, you see where I’m going. Our infrastructure is key to our economy.

By the time I left college, worked for Page Communications Engineers on a five-year contract building the telecommunications network in Iran, received my Wisconsin Professional Engineer registration and started MIS Labs, a professional engineering firm specializing in information technology infrastructure, we had containers that would move from truck to train, to boat, and even to plane, and we were in a global market.

I share this with you because after the recall election Wisconsin can become “the tail that wags the dog.” With the focus of the nation centered on Wisconsin, we can show how to innovate and bring jobs by building on the foundation that has been put in place. For the most part, these will not be the traditional, labor-intensive, hard work and sweat jobs that have left. There will be some of them but the really good-paying jobs will be information technology-rich jobs that take place within the framework of the latest in collaborative technologies to connect the subject matter experts with live audiences and a virtual community physically located all over the world. I know that sounds like a real mouthful, but if you want to see one of these in action, watch your kids playing one of the new collaborative computer games. As these jobs lift the Wisconsin economy all sectors will benefit. A rising tide truly lifts all boats.

This is the technology infrastructure that we need to deploy to all our pristine north woods, our lake communities, our glacial drumlins and, yes, our cities, towns, villages and our rural areas.

This technology infrastructure is the transportation of our future. It will bring innovation and good jobs back.

Our small businesses, entrepreneurs and innovators need access to capital, an educated workforce and a technology infrastructure to sprout and grow.

As I’ve said, I have the privilege to have lived in countries where our freedoms are unknown. I believe that it is this freedom that breeds innovation. As we in Wisconsin take the next step to bring jobs back, both government and private industry have a part to play. We need people in government with real life experience and understanding of the issues that are key elements of your future success. Paul Ryan, for example, understands the economic issues we face and is providing a roadmap to restore fiscal stability. I can help guide this next step in developing our information technology infrastructure roadmap, which will become a catalyst for Wisconsin to lead the rebirth of our nation.


Chris Ruetten, from Watertown, has announced his candidacy for the 37th Assembly District on the Republican ticket.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to represent all the people in the 37th district,” said Ruetten. “As an average working-class person, I feel that I can relate to the topics and issues that most affect the folks in this district. I did a little research of the demographics of the district, and I fit in with the average age, income, political beliefs and other areas.”

The 37th Assembly District currently consists of the cities of Watertown and Columbus, the villages of Waterloo, Lowell, Reeseville, Lebanon and Ixonia, the townships of Ixonia, Lebanon, Emmet, Shields, Portland, Elba, York, Bristol and part of Windsor and part of the village of DeForest.

“I grew up on a dairy farm, and worked at Farm and Fleet for a few years. I’ve worked as a land surveyor for the last 10-plus years,” Ruetten said. “Everyone I’ve met in this area, I can relate to, because I am one of them – a hard-working, middle-class guy, trying to provide for his family.”

I grew up in Columbus where my parents, Clarke and Julie Arnold, lived for more than 60 years. I’m married to Henry St. Maurice and we have two wonderful children. Three years ago my family and I moved back to live in my childhood home because we wanted our daughter, Emma, to have the same close-knit small- town experience growing up that I did.

After graduating from Columbus High School, I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I spent a year in Nebraska as a VISTA volunteer working with Hispanic families, and then moved to California to work in child protective services. I received my master’s of social work degree from California State University-Sacramento.

I have worked in a number of states and have designed, funded and directed programs in both the public and private sectors, including services for pregnant and parenting teens, adolescent alcohol and drug abuse, youth employment, troubled families, homeless families and employee assistance programs. Henry and I decided to return to Wisconsin 25 years ago after our son Andrew was born because we wanted to raise our family here in this tremendous state. Before coming home to Columbus, we lived in the Stevens Point area, where I was a school social worker and Henry was a professor of education at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

My husband and I have enjoyed becoming part of the community and have been involved with the Rotary Club, the Columbus Area Endowment, the Columbus Clubhouse and the Columbus School District Facilities Committee. I now serve as vice-president of the Columbus School Board.

Eighteen months ago the governor and his administration enacted many disturbing changes in Wisconsin. Of equal concern was the manner in which these changes were made, contrary to the Wisconsin way of openness, fairness, honesty and respect. The cuts to education were the largest in our state’s history. This led me to declare my candidacy for the open 37th Assembly seat.

I have been knocking on doors all across our new district for several months, talking with constituents. The biggest issues for them are the economy and jobs, affordable health care, education, protecting our natural resources and returning civility to politics.

When elected, I intend to support small businesses and to provide incentives to state manufacturers and corporations to use Wisconsin-made products. This will stimulate our economy and create local jobs. I plan to support a fully-funded public education system. I believe the Affordable Care Act has already provided relief for many of our citizens and should be implemented as soon as possible. I support protecting our natural resources, which provide so much enjoyment to all of us, and bring in millions of tourist dollars every year. I will begin my Assembly term by making friends with all legislators and working to find common ground on issues that matter to all of us.

During my career, I have been both a leader and a team player. My experience on the Columbus School Board has provided insight into our community’s needs and the importance of everyone’s input into our decisions. Social workers are trained to help people come to agreement and find consensus. I look forward to listening to my constituents, always being responsive to their needs first, and collaborating with other legislators to move Wisconsin forward. I have been endorsed by the Wisconsin Education Association Council, Madison Teachers Incorporated and the League of Conservation Voters.

I was born and raised in a rural area near Fort Atkinson. Five generations of my family (Niemeyer and Fischer) lived in the Waterloo, Columbus, Reeseville and Lowell area.

My husband Eric and I have been married for 17 years. Eric works in Beaver Dam as a software developer and database administrator. He has been a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical services responder for the Waterloo Fire Department for more than five years. We have two teenage sons. We’ve lived in Waterloo for six years.

I am 53. I earned a graduate certificate in geographic information systems, a master of science in natural resources management and a bachelor of science in psychology.

I am a consultant specializing in geographic information systems and business analyst contracts. I chose consulting because its flexibility helps me balance career ambitions with my deep commitment to my family. I am in my fifth year on Waterloo’s City Council. I serve on the finance, insurance and personnel committee, the public safety committee, the parks commission, the CATV board and the Glacial Heritage Area Implementation Team. My business is a member of the local Chamber of Commerce.

While on the city council, I wrote grants that brought in nearly $1,000,000 of public/private funds toward economic development, a worker re-training center downtown and renewable energy projects. I worked as a team member toward bringing in about $800,000 more toward downtown rehabilitation and municipal improvement projects.

My resume includes successful public/private partnerships, nine years of professional experience and education in natural resources management, small business advocacy and economic development experience, consensus building, expertise in local government and social services for elderly and mentally-ill clients. I am pragmatic and an independent thinker. My strengths lie in my ability to hear all sides of an issue, my compassion, my patient, thorough approach to decisions and leadership and my tenacity.

I’m running for the 37th Assembly because I believe rural and small-town Wisconsin does not get strong enough representation in state government. It seems we get attention only when our votes are needed. Afterward, our concerns are pushed aside. My belief is based on my observations and experience on the Waterloo City Council. I believe my experience and proven track record of successful projects in Waterloo will help me be an effective advocate for our interests in the State Capitol. I intend to continue serving my term on city council if elected.

The 37th district has changed a lot, due to redistricting. The new 37th is composed of small towns and rural townships, and includes large sections of the state-owned rail corridor. It is so new it doesn’t have an identity as a district yet. I spent most of my campaign talking with residents, attending town board meetings, meeting with local groups and doing research to get to know the new district and find what concerns we all have in common. From this, I formed ideas for solutions for moving forward.

The top two citizen concerns were job loss, and survival of small businesses, and access to affordable health care. The third concern was how to maintain high quality in our rural public schools, and angry confusion over the hostility directed at our public school teachers and other public employees over the last year.

The top local government concerns included consequences of Act 10: loss of local control, punishes fiscally-conservative municipalities and will destroy slow-growth or no-growth communities. Road maintenance and repair now consume 80 percent of a typical township’s budget, and initiatives for economic growth in rural areas (broadband infrastructure) were cut.

After talking with everyone, I created a platform that represents your concerns, and solutions that I have seen work in the past, or that I believe form a good place to start. My platform blends elements usually thought of as opposites. I am a Democrat with an economic development agenda. I am an environmentalist who knows public/private partnerships can truly benefit business interests without harming our precious natural resources. I am a fiscal conservative who supports quality education and giving succor to vulnerable and disadvantaged citizens.

For details, visit my Facebook page:

The primary election will be held on Tuesday, and the general election will take place on Nov. 6.

Democrat Andy Jorgensen currently represents the 37th District, but he will no longer be in that district, with its lines being redrawn.

The city of Columbus has been represented until now by Joel Kleefisch in the 38th District.