October 21, 2010

Wanggaard and Wright hold a political debate with themselves

State Senate candidate Van Wanggaard, left, and State Rep. candidate Chris Wright

Picture this: You get to Lambeau this Sunday and there's just the Packers on the field. Vikings? Nowhere to be found...  Kind of a letdown, right?

Well, it was sorta like that Wednesday night at the pre-election "Town Hall" presented by Republican candidates Van Wanggaard and Chris Wright in Sturtevant. Rather than participate in the both-sides-on-the-field-at-the-same-time contest proposed by the AAUW, Sierra Club and Community for Change, Wanggaard and Wright avoided a face-to-face meeting with their opponents in the Nov. 2 election -- Democratic incumbents State Sen. John Lehman and State Rep. Cory Mason -- and held their own forum instead. Scheduling difficulties, donchaknow. (Wright and Mason did appear together before about 20 members of Rotary West on Monday.)

As it began, even Wanggaard could feel the letdown. Looking out at the nine people in the audience (five of them his wife and daughter and three campaign aides) he could only lament the apparent ineffectiveness of the 1,000 postcards he'd mailed to prospective voters. By the end of the evening there were 23 in attendance (although that number included some of his colleagues on the County Board, including County Executive Bill McReynolds, and some of Wright's fellow Sturtevant supervisors).

Nonetheless, the two candidates took questions from me and the audience, and gave clear answers. All that was lacking, of course, was the response and presumably opposing viewpoints  their opponents in the upcoming contest could have provided -- and now will have to offer at the forum Wanggaard and Wright are going to skip on Oct. 28, 7 p.m., at Gateway Technical College.

Some of the issues discussed in the two-hour session included:

KRM: Wanggaard said he does not support it because of the expense. "There are people who can't put food on their table (a line he would repeat throughout the night). It would need a tax to support it, and I don't agree with any new taxes." He said there are too many unanswered questions, "moving target numbers." And once you get people here, he said, "how will they get anywhere with just nine BUS routes (and usually only two people on two of them)."

COMMUTER RAIL BETWEEN MILWAUKEE AND MADISON: "This is absolutely worse than KRM," Wanggaard said. The $810 million in federal funding is "free money" he said -- "I don't believe in free money; it's coming from my back pocket."

Wright agreed with Wanggaard on both projects, saying he knocked on hundreds of doors "and only three people told me we need KRM and high-speed rail."  Residents told him "time and again" they don't want the added expense and tax burden.

"We are a republic, and I'll represent the people and their wishes," he said.

When asked how the county can bring in business when there's no effective transportation infrastructure, Wanggaard agreed "we have to improve our local transportation first." He suggested "thinking outside the box, maybe an on-call shuttle system." He wondered why Racine can't seem to keep a viable taxi in business, when other communities have more than one, and decried "these huge buses with nobody on them." He even suggested "an upscale bus that does pick-ups throughout the county" because "you're not going to see some executive making $500,000 getting on a city bus to get to SC Johnson."

Wanggaard brushed off a followup question about KRM's support from both unions and major businesses by invoking the Petak Rule: "People in Racine will not accept a sales tax." (State Sen. George Petak, as everyone no doubt remembers, was ousted after providing the Legislature's crucial 4 a.m. vote imposing a one-tenth of a percent sales tax for Miller Stadium; the sales tax proposed for KRM and regional transit was a much bigger half-percent. Had Wanggaard's opponent, John Lehman, been present, they would have been in full agreement on the sales tax issue.)

HOW DO YOU SET PRIORITIES? A questioner asked, "Given the damage that's been done by past legislatures -- fees and taxes -- how do you begin to prioritize?" Wanggaard said, "You stop the bleeding, you stop the spending." He cited the "arrogance of government" and insisted "there hasn't been accountability." He would come back to accountability a number of times. Asked if he'd support zero-based budgeting, proposed by Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker, Wanggaard said "I think so."

Wright added that lawmakers must "clearly define what specific dollars can be spent for," a reference to the "raiding" of the transportation fund by the present administration. "We have to cap our spending," Wright said, adding: "If it doesn't get someone back to work, that's got to be the top priority."

HOW WOULD YOU PROTECT SENIOR CITIZENS SO THEY DON'T LEAVE WISCONSIN? Wanggaard said, "I'd look at phasing in elimination of taxes on seniors -- sales tax and income tax. That's one of the first things I'd look at to help our seniors." Reminded by an audience member that the state already faces a $4 billion budget shortfall and asked how he would raise revenue, Wright said, "The best way to raise revenue is to get people back to work. That has to be the focus: good-paying jobs." He noted that Wisconsin's corporate income tax rate of 7.9 percent is slightly higher than that of Illinois, and far higher than Ohio's .24 percent rate. Wanggaard agreed, saying "we haven't created an environment that people want to stay here," noting that Texas has no corporate tax and no personal income tax.

When his questioner rejoined that Texas has no health care or educational system worth discussing, Wanggaard returned to his accountability argument -- "the Big A" --  insisting that Wisconsin's "state level" approach is to "throw dollars at things." He said the Dept. of Corrections has forced its workers to take furloughs -- and filled their spots with other workers earning time and one-half. "State workers are told to spend money by this week, or lose it." And he criticized such spending as $5 million on a new scoreboard "while we have people who can't put food on their table."

Reminded that fixing fraud and waste are unlikely to make up the $4 billion shortfall, Wanggaard suggested that the state will have to "push a lot of services down to the local level. Get people invested, get churches to help. Government does not do it better. Are there going to be cuts to programs? I sure there are. I don't know what they will be," he said.

Wright proposed "working to get state employees and teachers to contribute to their own pensions." The move would save the state $250 million a year, he said.

EARLY RELEASE OF INMATES FROM STATE PRISON: "I'm against it," Wanggaard said. "Just because you want to save $2." It's a tax-shift issue, he said: saving money on the state level and shifting it to the local level where the offenders will commit new crimes: "Ten to twelve burglaries before he's re-arrested" and then more costs for local jails, public defenders and prosecutors. "And all these new victims." He also criticized the "80 pardons granted by Gov. Doyle in the last year -- more than the last two governors.  I just don't understand it."

Other points: Wanggaard said the Department of Natural Resources is an "out-of-control" department. Asked whether there is "any chance of getting abortion on demand repealed," Wanggard did not appear optimistic, saying the state has had "a governor who appoints liberal judges," something that will change "when we get Scott Walker in." He added: "For me, abortion is not acceptable." Wright is also "100 percent pro-life."

Wright said that if elected he would establish regular office hours in local communities.

Van Wanggaard's website is here. 

Chris Wright's website is here.

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  1. Wanggaard-Lehman appearance on UpFront with Mike Gousha:

    WGTD radio debate between Wanggaard & Lehman:

    Also, Senator Lehman has not held a Town Hall in the 14 years he has been in office. Van has held several, as a challenger candidate.

  2. Pete,

    Are you capable of writing an unbiased article? I mean seriously?

    The Community for Change forum is in NO WAY non-partisan, and I wouldn't expect a spastic monkey to show up to that forum. Please don't pass this off as journalism if you can't keep your personal bias off the page.

  3. Possibly the most clear example of Pete's bias to date.


  4. I can't remember the last time I read an article without personal bias.

  5. The Gousha interview was 11 minutes.

    Choosing to become a candidate for office is a contract with constituents that states you understand the issues and are able to offer an alternative to your opponent. Public forums with opponents are the best way to test those ideas.

    That there will be no public forum where constituents (not Mike Gousha) can ask those questions in the presence of all the candidates on the ballot is a failure for everyone.

  6. Ricardo says: Pete does a good job and at least gives Wright and Waanggard some light on their stands on issues. Those who complain about extraneous issues, don't look at the real facts - these two guys are afraid to debate and show their lack of depth on the issues while only giving negative spins and taking issues out of context!

  7. This tabloid is so bias I get sick just reading it! If this was you boys Obama, Leiman or Mason you would be singing their praises for hold a listening session! You really need to get your priorities straight and report the news from a neutral position! You are a p rime reason I would never support your boys!

  8. @10:08

    I know both personally and neither are afraid to debate. They weren't given an opportunity to do so in a legitimate forum.

    How'd they take issues out of context? Were you there yesterday? Probably not, so you're merely talking out of your back side.

  9. Five people and friends,what debate. Like talking to the wall.

  10. Five of the seven candidates are coming to the only public forum being held. The reason they are not coming is because it is the County GOP meeting. Another opportunity to basically talk to themselves and not the public.

    Kleefisch is getting lots of bad press for refusing to debate. These guys should skip their meeting and go to the forum.

  11. And Pete is editing comments too. My first one was deleted, so I'll say it again. Was this your own writing Pete, or did Kelly Gallagher from C4C write this for you?

    I cant remember the last time I saw either Mason or Lehman in the village of Sturtevant to meet with voters.

  12. Van turned down the Taxpayers, the Rotary, Sierra Club, AAUW and C4C. At least he's an equal opportunity decliner. He just ain't comin'!

  13. @10:50 - They had already committed to going long before C4C invited them. Again, the C4C forum is not a legitimate forum to debate. And Mason showing up - wooo big shocker. He and Lehman picked the date.

    Have a legitimate group host a debate, at a time that's not already booked.

    Also, would their showing up possibly change your mind? If so, I can give you Chris or Van's number and you can ask your questions.

  14. George Meyers is going to be hurt that he's not part of a legitimate group.

  15. 1000 postcards? 23 in attendance that includes family, staff and friends. Not a stunning success.

  16. He wanted to host his on the same day Kelly was going to host hers.

  17. Probably because most people have made up their mind.

  18. As I recall from the JT, Van turned down Meyers first- resulting in his hilarious quote that he didn't get the impression Van wanted to debate.(lol) Then they were given the chance to name any date available and didn't.

    If you think a "town hall" style forum is what voters want, the small turnout plainly indicates otherwise.

  19. Seeing this liberal garbage makes me wonder what has happened to the moral core of this county, state and country. If you are not for abortion (murder), give me more money so I do not have to work, tax everyone else so we can have budget blowing entitlements, your money in mine, spend, spend, spend democrat mindset, you are unamerican. This is all I hear from Mason, Leimen, and the Obama cronies. It is a shame!

  20. I'll take these two over a carpetbagger and a time serving draft dodger.

  21. (Wright and Mason did appear together at the Rotary Club)... funny how you snuck that in without making a fuss about it. What, blows your theory that Wright is scared to debate out of the water? Chris and Van had prior commitments on that night. Do you want representatives who go back on thier word when a better opportunity arises? I don't.

  22. OK accountants out there. How many seniors are there that Wangaard wants to begin NOT collecting taxes from? How many additional jobs would have be gained to make up for that shortfall not to mention the $4B that is already out there?

    His proposal is rhetoric only and most likely can't bear the light of real financial scrutiny...just like most of the conservative "fiscal responsibility" proposals.

  23. Don't forget about the fancy coach bus for CEO's who would never ride the bus with regular people.

    Cutting taxes don't raise revenue. Can you say $4 billion?!

  24. Cut the chatter. We're tossing the bums out in 12 days, and that's that!

  25. These are two of the most shallow candidates I've even seen. They only know how to spout the party line and use the well worn cliques of timeless republicans (small r please)- "Cut taxes, cut spending". REpublicans created the deficits we have at both the state and federal level thru this irresponsible. The GOP may win elections by pandering to self interest and bigotry- But they can't govern. And when replaced by adults- they leave distruction and discord in their wake.
    Wandgaard's answer in asking churches to do more is simply moronic. Churches are already doing much in this community - at the same time as they are experiencing stress due to increased charitable requests and decreased financial support caused by the economy. How did this guy get elected to the county board in the first place? Let Van eat cake!(or even better- crow).

  26. One of the characteristics of a good candidate and a good politician is the ability to talk with all kids of people with different ideas and positions on a variety of issues. A politician who can stand up and defend his or her ideas no matter the "leaning" of the crowd earns respect across the board.

    Wanggaard has turned down ALL offers for public debate and discussion with his opponent. That isn't send a very good sign for what kind of representative he'd be in Madison.

    You won't last a week in Madison if you restrict yourself to only those who agree with you and you won't get much done either. A town hall with your buddies isn't a good rehearsal for the State Legislature.

  27. This is so "Partisen Pete", he writes an article based on his personal pulitcal views and not based on how things evolved at the Q&A session. Pete when will you become a journalist and not a story teller. It never stops amazing me how someone can twist a story like you can. Pete why don't you tell all of your readers were you and Dustin get all your big headlines, I know personally the two guys that feed you any newsworthy materials, and all of what you supposedly "broke in 2010! The Post is such a joke ranks right up there with the JT.

  28. Pete,
    I realize that your daughter works for Rep. Mason, but as a journalist shouldn't you let your bias aside? If not, at least put this on the opinion page.

    I think the RacinePost does a good job reporting on local events in Racine (and has given the JT some real compeition). However, you need to be able to separate your reporting from your opinion. Like it or not, your readership (Racine County) is purple and people don't want a partisan swing either way when reading stories.

  29. Ricardo says: Pete - you present the facts: there were few people at the forum; there was no possibility for both sides to debate; and it was a non-event. No matter how the conservatives spin and wine about the article and happenings at the forum, I guess the truth hurts! America was founded on free speech and open debate - but it didn't happen at this gathering!

  30. clueless van and chris.......krm too expensive. no new taxes. no way for the madison high soeed rail. atleast that i agree with. then say.....we need transportation to get people around the county but have no answer.....yes elect this man by all means.

    why does racine not work as a city and county but keno county gets all the business?

    why does paul ryan think he can be pres when his roadmap for america includes unemploying people in keno, janesville and the delphi plants? yep re elect this guy too.

  31. Josephus says that Wangaard and Wright like Robin Vos and Paul Ryan want to go back to the past. This is what right-wing extremism and tea party politics is all about. I have four grandchildren, and I want them to embrace the future with all of its possibilities. Economic growth and job creation does not occur by fearing the future and reliving the past. For me it is a non-starter. If these people succeed locally, state-wide, and nationally, we certainly will become a declining economic power and Asian and European countries will continue with scientific advances, educational prowess, and surpass us economically. While the Republicans continue their war of ideology, our competitors will continue their war of pragmatism. Guess who wins. Besides, all of you whiners out there do not have to read the Racine Post.

  32. Firefly, clueless is n ot using the education given you. You do not know how to spell or form an sentence. If this is the result of liberal demcrate education and vision, we are lost!!!

  33. Quote: Wright said, adding: "If it doesn't get someone back to work, that's got to be the top priority."

    Mr. Wright, just about everything the State spends keeps someone at work or adds to jobs. That can't guide your setting of priorities. If you reduce the State spending, someone will have less work to do. the trick is to figure out how to get spending down some (not all) and keep most of the spending for WI jobs.

    I suggest you look at alternative energy sources - they are all local.

  34. Please, Mr. Wangaard, do some homework on 'zero based' budgeting, and some alternatives, especially since you anticipate working on a budget with a governor who uses the term (and presumably has a meaning for it).

    One meaning: Each department must justify its continued existence on the basis of what it delivers, to taxpayers in this case, which is a non monetary item or service. Someone has to balance each justification against the other departments, which is your (the legislature) and the Governor's job. But you can't use dollars for comparison - you have to use the 'value' to the taxpayers. It ain't easy.

    So far, the standard 'party line' phrases haven't gotten close to what you will have to do. Until you can get specific about what might be cut in the budget, you are spouting empty phrases. It's no wonder that you 'don't have time' for the honest debate.

  35. Quote: He [Van Wanggaard] even suggested "an upscale bus that does pick-ups throughout the county" because "you're not going to see some executive making $500,000 getting on a city bus to get to SC Johnson."

    Very good point, Van. We know from lots of experience, including data from Chicago, that train riders generally earn a good deal more than bus riders. But you should also know that Tom Rubin, who spoke to the County Board when you were probably present, proposed a bus service for Racine that cannot justify its own costs, much less compare with KRM. Your suggestion of 'upscale buses' won't last past the first time someone asks about cost unless you have another funding source. Perhaps you could use some of the transportation funds such as the gasoline tax, if that won't violate your goal to reduce gov't spending.

    In the larger area of the County we increasingly need transportation aimed for people who cannot, or should not, be driving. A 'dial-a-ride' system costs much less than 'upscale' buses, but it also was informally turned down by County administrators for cost reasons.

    As for cost of gov't, transportation, KRM, or Dial-a-Ride, remember that we could hire college kids to stand by the I-94 in Racine County, and pass out $10 bills to each car that enters the highway, for the next 30 years, and still spend less than the cost of rebuilding the highway. Is this not our tax money, too? If we had delayed the rebuild by 2 years we could have paid for all of KRM and still saved money.

    At least if we hired the kids to pass out $10 bills, we would have benefited ourselves a little, and kept all those kids in school.

    How are you going to keep government costs down if you _don't_ cut down on road spending?