With the primary election just over a month away, locals had a chance to hear from six of the eight Democratic candidates for governor at a forum Sunday at the Reedsburg CAL Center.
Democratic candidates Matt Flynn, Mike McCabe, Josh Pade, Paul Soglin, Kelda Roys, and Kathleen Vinehout provided their views on a variety of topics including roads, public education, and internet access. Candidates Tony Evers and Mahlon Mitchell did not attend.
The Democratic primary will be held Aug. 14, with the winner advancing to take on two-term incumbent Republican Gov. Scott Walker in the general election in November.
Each candidate was given 3 minutes for introductory remarks, 2 minutes to answer each question, and 3 minutes for a closing statement. Michael Crute of The Devil’s Advocate Radio served as forum moderator. Questions were selected from those submitted in advance through the Reedsburg Area Concerned Citizens Facebook page.
All candidates spoke out against the state’s massive deal with Tawainese electronics giant Foxconn, expressing concerns about the environmental impact and pledged job growth of the massive Racine County project that was made possible by $3 billion in tax incentives. Candidates discussed ways they would renegotiate the contract or altogether stop the process, which company officials and the Walker administration boast could create up to 13,000 jobs.
McCabe, an activist who is the former director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, said the deal is a representation of corporate welfare at its worst and the “wrong approach to building a study economy.” Vinehout, a state senator from Alma making her third bid for governor, said the money used for the project be used elsewhere for communities and there is uncertainly with the project.
“There’s nothing in the bill that could gives any promise of jobs, there’s nothing in the contract that gives any promise of jobs,” Vinehout said. “There’s no environmental impact statement, so we don’t know what the impact is about this absolutely huge company.”
On the topic of roads, infrastructure and transportation, candidates had proposals ranging from reindexing and increasing the gas tax as well as creating more of a plan to pay for proper upkeep. Others spoke against Walker’s decision shortly after taking office in 2011 to turn down more than $800 million in federal money for high-speed rail.
Pade, a corporate attorney who was the last candidate in the field to enter the race, espoused a 10- to 20-year plan, instead limiting plans to a two-year budget cycle or four-year term, to create sustainable roads and structures for all communities around the state.
Flynn, the former chair of the state Democratic Party, said communities and counties need more local control in the permitting of corporate farms. McCabe, who comes from a family farming background, said it “breaks his heart” to see the way agriculture has evolved to include massive scale farms rather than small, family-owned ones. He also advocated for more protection for communities from the environmental impact of large farms.
“We have to protect the neighbors of these operations,” McCabe said. “We have to commit ourselves to a model of agriculture that is sustainable for the land, the air, the water, for the animals and for the people of our state.”
When the topic switched to public education with budget cuts to K-12 schools, expansion of private voucher schools and the cost of college and technical schools, Soglin, the longtime Madison mayor, said enhancing the quality of education for students is critical. Soglin said Walker has issued a “string of lies over his political career” when it comes to education funding. He criticized the governor for a lack of understanding regarding the importance of a quality education.
Pade said he is against expanding the school voucher system, which allows for some parents to receive taxpayer-funded vouchers to send their children to private schools. He said vouchers that do not work should be phased out.
“We need a governor who is actually focused on education,” Pade said. “We can’t have another election where Scott Walker defines the issues. We need to define them. We can define them on education and that means 100 percent funding our education system.”
The event was hosted Reedsburg Area Concerned Citizens and sponsored by the Progressive Caucus of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, Our Wisconsin Revolution of Sauk County and the Democratic Party of Sauk County. Reedsburg Area Concerned Citizens Chairperson Judy Brey said the reason to host the forum is to bring to candidates to Reedsburg to give the public a chance to make an “informed choice” in the Aug. 14 primary election.
“It’s to bring these candidates to our home so people can easily get here and hear what they have to say,” Brey said.