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The Democratic gubernatorial primary has an outsider candidate vying for the nomination to run against Governor Scott Walker. Andy Gronik is a Milwaukee Businessman and a political newcomer. He lives in Fox Point.

Gronik, who entered the race in July, says his business background is just the right kind of experience for finding creative solutions to Wisconsin’s problems. “I spent 35 years in business,” Gronik said. “Helping them solve problems to help them grow capital and create jobs.”

Gronik said he “can’t wait” for the chance to face off against Walker. “Going toe-to-toe with Scott Walker is why I’m here,” he said.

He said Wisconsin has lost jobs, especially in manufacturing, and the state lags behind others in starting new businesses.

Gronik said Walker has “stripped communities throughout Wisconsin of local control.”

The Foxconn deal was, in Gronik’s view, mishandled. He described the deal as “an anchor around the neck of every single Wisconsinite.” Gronik felt there was not enough skepticism and fact checking done on the governor’s side, and figures provided by Foxconn were accepted without sufficient scrutiny. “When you do a deal, that you couldn’t take to a bank to get financed but it’s something that’s good enough for the taxpayers of Wisconsin, that to me doesn’t make any sense,” Gronik said.

Walker’s platform going into the 2018 midterms has been widely viewed as a pivot to the political center. Gronik said voters should “look at what he does, not what he says.”

Wisconsin’s public education system was a point of emphasis for Gronik who said it has “always been a jewel in the state of Wisconsin,” and hopes to increase funding.

Gronik’s platform aims to implement job training programs for the unemployed and underemployed. He also hopes to create an option to allow people who move to Wisconsin to put what they would pay in income tax towards their student loans. “If you come here, and you live and work here in the state of Wisconsin for a minimum of six months, then instead of paying the state your state income tax, we’ll pay that very same amount to pay down your student debt,” Gronik said. “It sends a message to our young people that you’re important to our state.”

Lead poisoning was something Gronik pointed to as an example of poor government performance. “We’ve got a huge issue with lead pipes in this state,” Gronik said. “There’s no safe level of lead in anybody’s blood.”

Gronik’s past does have at least one point that has been scrutinized. Court records show he was fired by his father and sued by his former business partner due to allegedly fraudulent behavior. In the 2012 lawsuit, Gronik’s former business partner sued him over “unjust enrichment” after Gronik missed hundreds of days of work but was still paid a salary and benefits worth more than $1 million.

“There were never any allegations that were proven,” Gronik said. “I sold him the business, and moved on.” Gronik sold his interest in the liquidation firm LiquiTec Industries and the appraisal company AccuVal Associates to Schmitt in 2013.

During the time of the lawsuit, Gronik, who has crohn’s disease, was made ill from mold in the house he was living in with his family. Gronik’s personal health and the health of his family were his primary focus during that time. “After seven months in that house, my entire family was sick,” Gronik said. The house was later torn down by a new owner.

As the outsider candidate, Gronik understands he has to work to do on name recognition. He has described himself as the candidate no one knew upon entering the race.

But Gronik feels an outsider may be just what is called for in Wisconsin. He often asks people he meets whether they think the current system is working. “In all my travels, not one person has raised their hand,” he said.

You can reach Jake Ekdahl on Twitter @JakeaEkdahl

Reporter

Juneau County Star-Times reporter

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