On Aug. 14, just a few weeks before classes begin at the University of Wisconsin, voters throughout the state will go to the polls for the 2018 primary elections. This year, both the governorship and one of Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate seats are up for grabs.
In the gubernatorial race, eight Democrats are competing for their party’s nomination, while the Republican incumbent Gov. Scott Walker faces only one challenger.
Below is a brief preview of the contenders and their positions.
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Gov. Scott Walker, R
Walker has focused his campaign on the state’s job growth, investments in education and tax cuts, as seen in a recent ad.
Last year, Walker was heavily involved in a deal expected to bring an estimated 13,000 jobs to southwest Wisconsin from Foxconn, a Chinese electronics manufacturer.
In exchange for building a large factory in the Racine County village of Mount Pleasant, Foxconn received roughly $3 billion in financial incentives — something which Walker and state Republicans have been criticized for by state Democrats.
Closer to campus, Walker’s campaign website emphasizes the investment his administration made in the UW system last budget cycle, which saw the system’s budget increase by $36 million, and the six-year tuition freeze, which has kept tuition at a flat rate for in-state students
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Robert Meyer, R
Meyer, a businessman challenging Walker in the Republican gubernatorial primary, said the Walker administration represents a small faction of “radical libertarian extremists,” who he claimed are fueled by small groups of people like the Koch brothers.
Meyer said the state lacks long-term planning and has failed to make financial investments in its future, which is why he believes the state needs to set long-term economic and environmental goals with bipartisan support.
“We want Wisconsin moving forward again, which happens when we’re working together,” Meyer said.
Along with a reinvestment in the university, Meyer said he would establish a blue-ribbon commission on higher education. The Blue-Ribbon Commission currently in place for K-12 education is designed to make sure that the school budget is utilized effectively and responsibly. Meyer said he would also work towards making college affordable for students.
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Mike McCabe, D
With years of experience working for watchdog groups, McCabe said his goal is to restore Wisconsin’s reputation for “clean and honest government.”
To demonstrate his commitment to this objective, McCabe said he refuses to accept any donation over $200.
“We don’t have the big money,” McCabe said. “But when it comes to grassroots organization and people power, we’ve got the richest campaign in the race by far.”
McCabe urged Wisconsin to invest more money in “regular people” by cutting tax breaks and subsidies for the wealthiest state residents. Instead, McCabe said that money should be redirected into things like college affordability, high-speed internet in rural communities and clean energy jobs in Wisconsin.
McCabe also said he will increase the autonomy of the UW school system from the state government and give the university more freedom to decide their curriculum. He also said that he will invest more in the UW, with the goal of a debt-free college education for UW students.
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Kelda Roys, D
Roys, who represented Madison in the state Assembly, is one of the youngest Democratic candidates on the ballot. Roys said her focus is on helping young people, because she believes they are the key to Wisconsin’s future.
“People grow up here, get educated here, and then they leave,” Roys said. “We have to figure out a way to reverse that trend.”
Roys said she believes politicians must work past hyper-partisanship in Wisconsin, and stressed that Democrats need to energize their base by giving their supporters things to vote for instead of against.
As a state representative, Roys passed legislation that extended BadgerCare access to 80,000 Wisconsin residents and helped pass the first pro-choice bill in three decades through a Republican-controlled state legislature.
As governor, Roys said she will increase the university’s institutional autonomy and invest in affordable higher education, like free two-year college.
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Mayor Paul Soglin, D
Soglin said he has the best chance of beating Walker, pointing to his 21 years of experience as Madison’s mayor and three election victories over incumbent mayors.
“It’s one thing to talk a good game,” Soglin said. “It’s another thing to actually implement successful programs.”
As mayor, Soglin said he’s learned that a successful community needs access to affordable housing, transportation, education and career development, childcare as well as behavioral and nutritional healthcare. He says these are the central issues of his campaign.
As governor, Soglin said he would work to increase funding to the university, reduce student debt, retain faculty in the UW system and increase class availability to incoming students so they can graduate on time.
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State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma
As a state Senator, Vinehout began writing her own alternative versions of the state budget after the 2011 Act 10 bill eliminated the collective bargaining rights of most public sector employees.
Vinehout said the budget was being written to help the interests of the wealthy and with some help, could be better written to help Wisconsin residents in need.
“[My mom] would say ‘if you don’t like someone’s idea, come up with your own,’” Vinehout said. “So, I did.”
In Vinehout’s most recent budget, she introduced proposals to make two-year universities and tech schools in Wisconsin free, fully re-instate funding to the UW system and expand need-based financial aid.
Vinehout said Walker’s previous budgets, which have cut state funding to the University while also freezing tuition, have left the UW system inadequately funded and created tension in higher education.
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Mahlon Mitchell, D
Mitchell has been a Madison firefighter for more than 20 years. He is the youngest and first African American person to serve as president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, according to his website.
Mitchell’s union joined the 2010 protest of the Act 10 law, which ended collective bargaining for most public-sector workers. Mitchell ultimately ran unsuccessfully against Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch during the 2012 recall elections.
As governor, Mitchell said he will invest more money into the UW system, allow refinancing for student loans and create a student loan forgiveness program.
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Tony Evers, D
Evers, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, is currently leading in the Democratic primaries, according to a July Marquette Law School poll. Evers said his name recognition and track record of winning statewide elections has propelled him to the front of the pack, but stressed it will take more than that for him to win.
“This race has to be more than just beating Scott Walker,” Evers said. “This race has to be about a positive vision for the future and making sure that we have a Wisconsin that we can be proud of.”
Evers said he believes he’s focused on issues that are important to everyone — like education, healthcare, infrastructure and Wisconsin’s natural resources.
Evers, a member of the UW Board of Regents, said the university system needs to be detached from the state’s politics, citing the controversial UW free speech policy which threatens to expel or suspend students seen to disrupt free expression as an example. He also wishes to see more student and faculty input in university decision-making.
Josh Pade, D
Pade, a political newcomer, is an attorney who worked for J Crew for almost eight years and also spent time in the offices of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, and former Sen. Russ Feingold, D-WI.
In an interview with WFRV-TV, Pade said as an outside contender he brings a “fresh, global” perspective to the campaign.
Pade could not be reached for comment at this time. His website does not mention any policies relevant to UW or Wisconsin students.
Matt Flynn (D)
Flynn is the former chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party. Through his experiences, Flynn said he learned the party needs strong leadership and unity.
“You have got to unify the party before you can get elected to the state government,” Flynn said. “Unifying the party will be something that’s at the top of my agenda.”
Flynn set out a plan as governor to free Wisconsin from the Foxconn deal by rescinding the deal on the grounds that the contract exempts Foxconn from existing environmental regulations.
Flynn also plans to legalize marijuana, which he said he will implement by pardoning offenders if necessary.
As governor, Flynn also plans to implement a student loan refinance committee modeled after other states to refinance student loan debt. He said he plans to redirect the money rescinded from cancelling the Foxconn deal toward making higher education in Wisconsin free for two years for in-state students.