At a time where the state Legislature and federal government is entirely Republican-controlled, a panel of state representatives and experts came together Tuesday evening to discuss the overarching question of whether or not a Madison progressive can win the next governor’s race.
The panel, hosted by The Capital Times at at High Noon Saloon, discussed what it means to be a progressive, examined the political scene of Wisconsin and what it takes to be successful in the new political environment.
Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said being a progressive means going out in the public with a progressive agenda. Having a vision of what her constituents want to see is also a part of this, she said.
Democrats, however, are not usually bold enough to do this, she added.
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When Taylor ran for office, people doubted she could win due to her progressive background with Planned Parenthood, she said. During her campaign, she said she discussed issues she worked on in her career and went around the state getting to know people.
Going around the state and meeting other representatives to discuss issues is important for gubernatorial candidates as well, Rep. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee, said. To better understand where the issues are within certain districts and how to solve them, Johnson said the candidates must talk to current representatives.
“We get so hung up on the amount of money that we need to raise to run a viable race that we forget about the important part, and that’s connecting with the people you want to vote for you,” Johnson said.
In the same vein, Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, added how candidates need to rethink the political landscape of Wisconsin. He said there are many people who talk about red states and blue states, but added how the focus should now be on rural and urban areas.
Hintz said urban areas tend to vote for Democrats and rural areas tend to vote for Republicans. Candidates should be focusing on where they are getting their votes if they want to win, he added.
Data is important in any election, said Brian Nemoir, president of Full Impact Communication. But, having the right message as a candidate will break any divide out there, he added.
Hintz said candidates also need to make sure they are not counting any voters out. He added how the state has become more volatile, with shifts in how particular areas vote.
During the 2016 presidential election, Hintz said Hillary Clinton’s dismissal of certain areas may have contributed to her loss of Wisconsin.
“Progressives need to stand for their values,” Johnson said. “The values have become sugar coated and candidates need to not be ashamed of what they actually stand for.”