A wide range of different ideas for the future of Wisconsin were on display Monday, as a dozen of the candidates in the race for governor appeared together in Eau Claire for a public forum.
The forum was hosted by the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans, and featured the candidates tackling issues ranging from corporate influences on agriculture to student loan refinancing. Many of the candidates also shifted the focus to Republican Governor Scott Walker, who is seeking a third term in 2018.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers argued the main concern should be beating the Republican incumbent, and voters need to consider who can beat Walker next year. “That’s the bottom line,” he said.
Former Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Matt Flynn said the race will be against Walker’s record, and voters need to decide who they want on stage next year to debate his policies. “Who can most aggressively and articulately prosecute the case against him?”
Former Wisconsin Democracy Campaign director and government reform advocate Mike McCabe said fighting against Walker’s financial resources will be difficult for any candidate, and made the case for trying to highlight what they stand for, not what they are against. “He won’t be beaten by simply telling the people of Wisconsin over and over again what’s wrong with Scott Walker,” he argued. “We have to tell people what we’re for. We have to…speak to people of our hopes and dreams…what we love, not what we hate.”
Several of the Democratic candidates are political newcomers in the Wisconsin – a fact some of them tried to highlight on stage. Disability rights advocate Jeff Rumbaugh noted that he’s not an experienced politician, but he “wears lenses that see individuals in a different way than anyone else.”
Decked in a Metallica t-shirt, salon owner Michelle Doolan noted that Democrats lost in 2016 because of 40 percent voter turnout, driven by people not feeling they have a voice anymore. “I assure you the people of Wisconsin will know the difference between the two candidates…between me and Scott Walker…because I’m more representative of the people of Wisconsin than he is,” she said.
Also appearing at the event were Milwaukee businessman Andy Gronik, business owner Kelda Roys, Barneveld-native and former California congressional candidate Bob Harlow, Professional Firefighters Association president Mahlon Mitchell, state Representative Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire), and information technology worker Dave Heaster, along with Republican candidate Ryan Cason, who is challenging Walker in the primary.