The campaign for the soon-to-be empty seat of Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., is in full swing, and as many of us now know, Wisconsin’s next senator will be either Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., or former governor Tommy Thompson. Already there is a non-issue being brought to the forefront of voters’ minds – the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Baldwin’s campaign has chosen to make Thompson’s refusal to release his tax returns the crusading issue of their campaign.  

In August, when asked about releasing his tax returns, Thompson defiantly told reporters, “The answer is ‘no’. No. The answer is ‘N-O.’ what part don’t you understand”? The Wisconsin State Journal reports that Democrats have released an advertisement containing this controversial soundbite. 

Thompson’s taxes are a distraction from the real issues in this ongoing election. While running for public office, Thompson is still a private citizen and therefore not required to release any of his tax returns.  While doing this would make him a more trustworthy candidate, Baldwin’s decision to make this the big issue of the election is a weak strategy. 

 Baldwin needs to get her image out to the public, and considering her upcoming speech at the Democratic National Convention, I can think of no better time for her to put her campaign back on track.  

Baldwin, who has been taking care of her aging grandparents throughout her political career, has the ability to electrify the Democratic base in Wisconsin. In an America where the budget plans of the GOP vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, have many voters who rely on Social Security and Medicare scared for their medical and financial futures, Baldwin is a candidate who understands the importance of these programs and will fight to keep them. Baldwin even told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that “I regard them more as
promises than programs.” Baldwin has the correct ideology, history and personality to rival that of Paul Ryan. 

This should be the big issue of the campaign, not casting doubt on Tommy Thompson’s character over his refusal to release tax returns. Baldwin’s criticism is unnecessary, as Thompson’s character was already questioned during the Republican Senate Primary. The Washington Post has reported that former candidate Eric Hovde, a hedge fund manager, portrayed Thompson as an “establishment figure.”

Baldwin needs to bring the real issues about Thompson to the table, tell the voters of Wisconsin who she is and what she stands for and convince voters that she has what it takes to fight against the extreme proposals being brought forward by the congressional Republicans. 

In an election where Wisconsin promises to play a pivotal role – deciding not only who wins the presidency, but also which party gains control of the Senate – Baldwin must make a big leap forward to the center stage of this campaign. In no situation should any single party hold a majority in both houses of Congress and control the executive office – we have seen the results of this from both sides of the political spectrum, in the Republican effort to strike down collective bargaining in Wisconsin and the Democratic effort to pass Obamacare. 

I urge Baldwin to bring the fight back into this campaign. She is needed not only as a voice that represents Wisconsin values in Washington, but also to make it possible for all American values to be present and heard in our national government.

Jared Mehre ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in political science.