Questions of the week for Democratic hopefuls
::By Louis Fortis and Lisa Kaiser
On Tuesday, May 8, Wisconsin voters will be able to select the Democratic candidate for governor in the state’s historic recall election.
Under Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s leadership, Wisconsin has become severely divided, causing major family fights over the holiday dinner table.
Walker has made historic cuts to education, which is the engine of the 21st-century economy, and his strategy for creating jobs has seen Wisconsin endure the largest percentage of job loss in the nation over the past year.
All four of the legitimate Democrats vying to take on Walker in the June 5 recall election would make a better governor than the current one.
All of these Democrats want to protect public education, spur job growth and invest in Wisconsin’s future.
Most importantly, the four Democratic candidates want to stop the toxic polarization in this state, which hadn’t existed before Walker, his ultraconservative Republican allies in the state Legislature and four extremist justices on the state Supreme Court took power. Wisconsin can only begin to heal our current division when those who sowed the seeds of destruction have been voted out of office.
That’s why we are encouraging you to vote on May 8.
The same people who drafted our state’s constitution made sure there was a recall provision for times like this.
You have a constitutional right to recall elected officials when they have failed you as badly as Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican senators have failed you.
Now you have a chance to vote for the Democratic challenger to take on Walker.
Below you’ll find our final two questions for the four candidates. To read our earlier candidate questions, visit expressmilwaukee.com.
Question: In the general election, the Republicans will argue that if you elect a Democratic governor, Wisconsin will have bigger budget deficits, higher taxes, fewer businesses and fewer jobs than under Gov. Walker. How do you respond to that?
Tom Barrett, Milwaukee mayor: Under Gov. Walker, Wisconsin still has a $140 million deficit, saw fees increase by $110 million, and in 2011 lost more jobs than any state in the country, and over the past 12 months lost 24,000 jobs. The people of Wisconsin now know that the Walker way is failing. We need a leader who will reject this ideological agenda, restore Wisconsin values and get our state’s fiscal house in order. I will be a governor who will focus on jobs, bring our state together, heal the political wounds caused by Walker’s turmoil, and restore trust in state government. And we will do all of this by passing responsible, balanced budgets that invest in priorities like education, the economy and health care.
Kathleen Falk, former Dane County executive: Gov. Walker’s way has failed Wisconsin on jobs, while my county had the highest job growth in the state over my 14 years as county executive, and it’s why I’m the best candidate to go toe to toe with him. My record shows you can respect workers’ rights and get the job done for taxpayers. I balanced 14 straight budgets, more than any of the candidates, including Gov. Walker. When the market crashed in 2007 and 2008, I negotiated three years in a row with the eight unions in my county $10 million in savings for taxpayers, while protecting public services. Gov. Walker gave out billions in new corporate tax breaks while making the biggest cuts to public education in our state’s history, more than $1 billion. I am the only candidate with a jobs plan that will invest in the unique opportunities in Wisconsin to create 21st-century manufacturing jobs that can’t be outsourced and can only be done in Wisconsin.
Doug La Follette, secretary of state: I would strive to bring us together around support for education, research, health care and investments that would lead to an improved economy.
I would work on plans and solutions to propose to the Legislature that would repair the damage. For example, I would examine corporate tax loopholes to fund our technical, university and public education system and BadgerCare.
Our taxes should be fair and equitable. Wisconsin citizens don’t mind paying for police and fire protection, for good roads, health care and education if the tax system is fair. I would suggest raising some taxes on the wealthy and closing some loopholes to help fund education and health care.
Also [I would] promote infrastructure work to improve our state and create jobs.
Much of our current infrastructure of roads and bridges and water treatment facilities are in need of repair. Agriculture and tourism, to name just two industries that provide jobs in our state, depend on good infrastructure.
Kathleen Vinehout, state senator: About the same way I would respond to a statement that the moon is made of blue cheese. Just because a statement is repeated hundreds of times in 30-second advertisements paid for by out-of-state millionaires doesn’t make it true. The Republicans make the same statement at the national level.
The facts are these. During the Clinton Democratic years, the nation added 27 million jobs, 8 million more than during the Reagan years and 13 million more than during the Bush (the son) years. The Great Recession of 2008-2009, starting under Bush and caused by Wall Street speculators run amok, saw the loss
of 9 million jobs before the economy hit bottom and began to turn
around. Since then, under Obama, the nation has added 3.5 million jobs,
while under Walker, Wisconsin is still losing jobs. The moon is not made
of blue cheese. Democrats don’t ruin the economy.
Question: Why are you the best candidate to take on Scott Walker?
Tom Barrett: Wisconsin
is looking for a leader who will bring us together after months of
turmoil caused by Scott Walker’s ideological civil war. They are looking
for someone who will focus on jobs, not an extreme partisan agenda—
someone who will heal our state, instead of governing with a “my way or
the highway” mentality. Most of all, the people of Wisconsin are looking
for someone who will restore Wisconsin values, like creating jobs,
defending education, restoring worker rights and ending the war on
women. This is the leader I will be for the people of Wisconsin. And
it’s why Scott Walker and his right-wing allies are terrified to face me
in the general election and are spending hundreds of thousands of
dollars to defeat me before the primary is even over. I am the candidate
who will beat Scott Walker, and restore Wisconsin values.
To learn more, go to www.barrettforwisconsin.com.
Kathleen Falk: I
am the best candidate to beat Scott Walker because of my record on jobs
and the big tent of support I have built—which is the only way to
defeat Walker’s unprecedented millions. I have been in this fight
against Walker’s extreme agenda from Day One, and it’s why I’ve earned
the support of organizations that led this movement representing
hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites, including: the Wisconsin State
AFL-CIO, WEAC, EMILY’s List, AF- SCME, SEIU, SEIU Healthcare WI, AFT,
Clean Wisconsin Action Fund, UFCW, IBEW Locals 159 and 158, Young
Progressives of Wisconsin, the Sierra Club, the Women’s Campaign Fund,
the Building and Construction Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin
and Voces de la Frontera. Remember when Gov. Walker’s agenda failed, he
turned to this “War on Women” that, among other things, repeals the
Equal Pay Enforcement Act. Who better to end the “War on Women” than a
To learn more, go to www.kathleenfalk.com.
Doug La Follette: I
am the best candidate to win in June because I have the strong
statewide recognition and grassroots support that will be needed to win.
am an independent Democrat who has the support of progressive
Republicans, independents and Democrats throughout the great state of
Wisconsin. This grassroots support will be a critical asset in this
election. I won in the last election, when Walker won and Feingold lost,
and four straight times when Tommy Thompson was winning.
I am doing this “A Better Way”; please read about this on my website.
To learn more, go to www.douglafollette.com.
Kathleen Vinehout: Because
by personal experience I provide the strongest contrast to Scott
Walker. I am not a lifelong politician. Before running for public office
the first time at age 47, I milked cows and ran the family dairy farm
for 10 years, and the 10 years before that I was a college professor. My
father was a laborer, my mother a nurse. I am not afraid to get my
hands dirty or my boots muddy.
in this election I have talked about specific solutions to the problems
facing Wisconsin: the budget, building thriving communities, access to
affordable health care, investing in our human potential, rebuilding our
infrastructure and changing state management practices. Voters want
details. With me they know what they will be getting.
I have won in areas of the state that Democrats have to carry to win
statewide. Voters who are not strong Democrats have supported me. Both
dairy farmers and teachers can identify with someone who has shared
To learn more, go to kathleenvinehout.org. Comment on this article at expressmilwaukee.com.