Mike Bare, Anna Halverson, Chad Kemp, Doug Steinberg and Dale Yurs are running for Wisconsin’s 80th Assembly seat, which is currently held by Rep. Sondy Pope (D-Mount Horeb). They will face off in the Democratic Primary August 9. The winner will go on to face the Republican challenger in November’s General Election. The Post Messenger Recorder published the answers of Republican candidates Jacob Luginbuhl and Nathan Graewin last week.
Mike Bare: I am a public servant, community advocate, and small business owner.
I am a former longtime aide to U.S. Senator Russ Feingold. I currently serve on the Dane County Board, where I am a Progressive voice for transparent government, fiscal responsibility, supporting County workers, solutions to housing insecurity, broadband access, environmental conservation, and relief for families, businesses, and healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. I formerly served on the Verona City Council, the Verona Plan Commission, and Verona’s Parks Commission.
Growing up with my sister, Sue, who has a profound learning disability, made me the advocate I am today. I learned early that I had to be an advocate for Sue and I’ve been standing up for people ever since. Since 2010, I have been a full-time advocate for low-income people at the Community Advocates Public Policy Institute. My areas of expertise include housing, expanding health coverage and access (including reproductive and maternal care), paid leave and equal pay, and justice reform.
In 2017, I started a community-focused and family-friendly business: The Biergarten at Olbrich Park. The Biergarten is enjoyed by tens of thousands of families every year, and it has raised a significant amount of money for public parks and community causes.
I met my wife while interning for Russ Feingold, and we now have two sons, ages 7 and 4, and we live in Verona.
Anna Halverson: Address: Mount Horeb; Family: Married, one daughter and two rescue dogs; Job: Program Manager, Progressive Community Services; Public service: Moms Demand Action Volunteer and Organizer (2017-present); Department of Workforce Development, Iowa County Vocational Rehabilitation Assistant (2014-2015); AmeriCorps Volunteer including service with Schools of Hope, Special Olympics, and Easter Seals Respite Camp (2012-2013); Education: MA, Rehabilitation Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison; BFA, Theater Performance with Psychology Minor, Ohio University.
Chad Kemp: Born: Madison, WI; Children: Elliott (13), Kellen (10), Noelle (7); Occupation: Attorney; Education: UW-Madison B.A. (Political Science and Afro-American Studies); University of Wisconsin Law School; Elected Office: Verona Alder, City Council President, Finance and Personnel Committees; Community Service: Verona Area Swim Team – Board Member; Little John’s Kitchens – Board Member.
Doug Steinberg: I am 58 years old. I was born in Manitowoc, WI. I grew up the son of a shipbuilder. I graduated from Lincoln High School. I continued my education at Lakeshore Technical College, Cleveland, WI, obtaining an associate degree of Sales and Marketing. I decided to continue my education graduating from Lakeland College, Howard’s Grove, WI, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. I recently completed one year of a two-year program at Madison Area Technical College: Applied Science/Automated Manufacturing. Most of my work experience was with the Department of Corrections. I worked as a Corrections Officer inside the WI prison system and then moved onto working as a Probation/Parole Agent with the State of WI supervising high-risk sex offenders. I currently work at Franklin Electric in Quality Control.
Dale Yurs: I work as a special education teacher at Belleville High School. I am the current Belleville Village Board President, and I previously served on the Verona City Council. I spent six years as a volunteer firefighter, I’m active in my local church, and I care deeply about serving the wider community.
I grew up in the 80th Assembly District and graduated from Verona Area High School in 2005. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in History from Lakeland College, a Master’s Degree in U.S. Constitutional History from the University of Northern Iowa, and I am finishing up my Doctorate in Educational Leadership at Edgewood College. My spouse, Bethany, and I have planted our roots here in the district where we are raising our two young daughters.
Why are you running?
Bare: I am genuinely concerned about the present and future for my children and for everyone. I have the experience, expertise, and energy to take on our challenges and get results for you.
Halverson: This is a critical time for our State. We need State Representatives who will fight for our shared values, including protecting reproductive rights, ending gun violence, and ensuring access to health care. I am the only candidate in the race with the combination of first-hand, lived experience as an organizer working to end gun violence, as a teacher, and as a mom who is deeply affected by the war on our rights being waged by extremists in Wisconsin and around the country.
Kemp: As President of the Verona City Council, I understand how to work with people you might disagree with in order to get something done. I am raising my children here, so I have a real stake in ensuring that our community thrives. Finally, as a lawyer, I bring a professional understanding of the law and how laws work when they are actually implemented and not just words written on paper.
Steinberg: I am running for several reasons. I am a candidate people have been desiring for a long time. I have an elevated level of integrity and ability to do the job. I, like many of us, have witnessed politicians who have turned their public position into power grabbing, empire building, and financial personal gain. I am one person who is motivated to change that fulfilling the position needs by working for the people. I like working with and for people as demonstrated by my long history of public service. I can and will do an excellent job. I will strive to make my constituents proud of the work I do for them.
In addition, and like so many people, I have experienced being on the bad end of shady people doing unthinkable things in the workplace causing life-altering experiences and financial ruins to employees. This is the cornerstone of my platform because I want to see to it that working men and women are protected from employer abuses. Just one of many concerns is the firing of older people just prior to retirement.
Yurs: Being a public servant has been my dream ever since 8th grade civics class at Verona Area Middle School. I believe that government can do good and that it can work to make life better for everyone, not just the powerful. I am running for Wisconsin State Assembly because I believe that our highest good is to do right by our neighbors. We don’t lose anything by going out of our way to help each other. I am running because I believe we need leaders in every level of government who refuse to settle for an unjust system. Our democracy needs champions who believe in fairness and who understand that elected officials have a responsibility to tell the truth, listen with compassion, and ensure equal justice for all.
If elected, what would be your top priorities?
Bare: Making progress on our challenges-fixing our democracy, and protecting our rights, schools, and environment-would be my top priority. I would do this by building bipartisan and stakeholder-driven coalitions, which is the work I have been doing effectively for many years.
I would also be sure that my constituents can contact me and get replies and get help accessing state services. I’m committed to leaving the State Capitol building to see folks in the 80th District where they live and work.
And I would also invest energy into helping strong and effective local candidates win elections at the school board, municipal, and county levels. We need leaders who will advance the public interest.
Halverson: Defending access to abortion and reproductive rights; ending gun violence; investing more in our public schools and UW system; protecting our environment; enacting family-supporting policies including paid family leave, more affordable housing, increased access and affordability of childcare, and raising the minimum wage.
Kemp: We must aggressively fund our public schools. Our children deserve the best education available and, for far too long, schools have been told to do more with far less. This includes not only K-12 education, but also for students that choose to explore the trades following high school. We also need to do everything that we can to expand Medicaid in the state of Wisconsin. Individuals and families are often struggling to make ends meet and have to choose between feeding themselves and getting the necessary medical treatments that they need. There is no reason why in this day and age why that should be an accepted norm. Protecting a woman’s right to choose in the state of Wisconsin is, without question, a top priority. I would work to codify language that would protect women from criminal prosecution in the state of Wisconsin should they exercise their right to choose and work toward a state constitutional amendment guaranteeing that right.
Steinberg: Working for men and women to raise household incomes and to protect their interests. I will back our police and fire departments…our nurses and teachers because they need a voice. However, as working people, we all need to have a voice.
Yurs: My top priorities are: 1.) ensuring equity in public education; 2.) guaranteeing healthcare as a human right by securing every Wisconsinite access to quality, affordable care, including mental healthcare and safeguarding a woman’s right to full reproductive healthcare; 3.) restoring and protecting voting rights; 4.) advocating workers’ rights to a living wage and collective bargaining; and 5.) passing commonsense gun safety legislation. I’ll also take a strong stance on other important issues of basic human dignity like protecting the rights and safety of the LGBTQ+ community, supporting climate justice and investment in a green economy, and addressing the housing crisis by working to make affordable housing more widely accessible.
What are the most important issues the 80th district is currently facing?
Bare: We must first defend and strengthen our democracy. I’m ready to fight for the right to vote, to end partisan gerrymandering, and to stop the purposeful spread of disinformation.
We also must protect and expand our basic rights. Unfortunately, our rights to voting, a quality public education, healthcare, and abortion access are under attack. We’re not making enough progress on others, like housing, broadband internet, and the right to assemble free from fear of gun violence.
Finally, Wisconsinites are feeling the effects of our changing climate with more frequent severe weather events, and necessary changes in agriculture practice. We must take action on environmental threats now to ensure our planet will be safe for the next generation. Expanding wind and solar energy, and striving for environmental sustainability come with an abundance of economic opportunity. We all prosper when our planet is well.
Halverson: One of the most important issues in this beautiful district is the lack of affordable housing. Verona is one of the fastest growing cities in Wisconsin. So are Middleton and Fitchburg-parts of each are in this district.
Safe, affordable, housing including workforce housing is foundational for families to thrive. Kids do better in schools. Parents can keep their jobs. Building housing provides construction jobs and positively affects the economy when workers can afford to live in the community in which they work. Wisconsin is behind in building affordable housing. State and local governments must partner to find ways, and options, to build more housing and respect all stakeholders in the process.
The other important issues facing our district are those facing our State and our Country: protecting reproductive rights and ending gun violence. I will fight to repeal Wisconsin’s 1849 law criminalizing abortion. I will continue to advocate for universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons, and red flag laws that will keep us safer. Our children deserve to grow up in a country where they have the freedom to make decisions about their own bodies, and the freedom to attend school, worship services, concerts, sporting events, and even simply walk down the street, knowing that they will be safe from gun violence.
Kemp: As I mentioned previously, education, the expansion of Medicaid, and protection a woman’s right to choose are very important issues, but we can all agree that the rising level of gun violence across the country is an issue that touches all of us. We must do all that we can to protect the general population. The majority of Americans believe that we should expand background checks and close loopholes at gun shows. These are reasonable proposals and there is much to do on this issue, but we should at least start here to protect Wisconsinites from senseless violence.
Steinberg: Child safety in our schools. The rich not sharing the wealth creating a few rich people while the rest of us live paycheck to paycheck. Real health care that is truly affordable to include the cost of medications. Our decaying youth due to drug and alcohol abuse. Making sure we take extremely diligent care of our aging population to include our veterans. Racial divides.
Yurs: Education: As a public high school special ed teacher, ensuring every kid, regardless of where they live, has equal access to an excellent public education is a priority for me. I’ve seen firsthand the inequity that results when there are disparities in available resources based upon where students live. I’m committed to expanding opportunities for all kids, rural and urban, across backgrounds, and I’m dedicated to honoring the work of support staff and teachers. I support investing State money in public schools to ensure equity across districts and multiple pathways to success for all students, including: expanding school-to-career opportunities, restoring value to the trades, encouraging the pursuit of higher education and making it more affordable, and providing universal broadband. Workers’ Rights: People who work a full-time job should never have to struggle to get by, which is why I support setting a fair, livable minimum wage and ensuring equal pay for equal work. Raising the minimum wage to a living wage is a matter of basic human dignity, and it’s essential to building thriving communities. We also need to restore full organizing and collective bargaining rights to Wisconsin workers by repealing Act 10 and the so-called “right to work” law. Government should never make it harder for workers to unionize and to demand safe, just working conditions. Affordable Housing: We are facing a lack of affordable housing in the 80th district. We need to empower and work alongside local government bodies to ensure that families can afford to live where they work. Housing is a human right, and access to a decent, safe place to call home should never be out of reach in the 80th district.
What are the most important issues the State of Wisconsin is currently facing?
Bare: It seems everywhere you look our families and communities are being hurt by our dysfunctional government. A lot of what’s happened the past couple years with the pandemic, gun violence, George Floyd’s murder, and losing access to abortion in Wisconsin, has been difficult and disturbing. Wisconsin has a history of moving forward, but we’re slipping into what some are calling “The Great Regression.” But I’m not giving up! I’m relentless about making progress on our challenges.
We should work to expand voting rights, not suppress voting. We should eliminate gerrymandering in favor of a nonpartisan process similar to the one I participated in as a Dane County Board member. We should guarantee the right to a strong public education. We should expand BadgerCare to cover more people and spend the savings from expansion on health inequities and other pressing needs. We should be certain that anyone who wants to buy a home in any community they want to live in can afford to do so. We should guarantee a right to abortion and reproductive healthcare. And we shouldn’t have to give our kids extra hugs at drop-off because we fear gun violence.
I have expertise on each of these issues and a record of accomplishments on them too. I will continue to strive for progress.
Halverson: Our most pressing issue is to re-elect Governor Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul. We will move backwards on any of the other issues that we care about – funding education, transitioning to clean energy, protecting our water, expanding access to health care, ending gun violence, and doing all we can to protect reproductive rights – if any of the Republican candidates for Governor or Attorney General are elected.
Kemp: The state of Wisconsin under a Republican governor and a Republican controlled legislature is a threat to all of the priorities that I mentioned above. Should we fail to reelect Governor Evers, education, the expansion of Medicaid, a woman’s right to choose, the preservation of our democracy, and a living wage are all in jeopardy. We all must do all that we can to elect Governor Evers to a second term.
Steinberg: Child safety in our schools. Real health care that is truly affordable and having a good relationship with our brothers and sisters of color.
Yurs: Access to Healthcare: Every Wisconsinite deserves the dignity of access to quality, affordable healthcare because healthcare is a human right. We cannot rest until we live in a Wisconsin where people don’t suffer simply for want of access to quality, affordable care. I believe Wisconsin needs to accept federal Medicaid expansion funds in order to expand BadgerCare programs and to create an affordable public option. Ensuring equitable access to quality mental healthcare is a must for Wisconsin, as is safeguarding full reproductive healthcare, including abortion care because abortion is healthcare. If elected, I will work to repeal the 1849 statute that bans abortion, and I’ll work to pass a law in its stead that safeguards access to abortion care so that the right to choose is respected in Wisconsin. Gun Violence: We need to end the gun violence epidemic now. We should all be able to get behind commonsense, widely popular legislation that keeps our communities safe from gun violence. Failure to take immediate steps to regulate guns and keep them out of the hands of those who should not have them is nothing less than complicity in any future gun violence-related tragedy. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to have an assault weapon. I am proud to be listed as a Gun Sense Candidate, and I will do everything in my power to pass gun safety legislation in Wisconsin. Voting Rights: We need to work to restore and protect voting rights in Wisconsin. Every Wisconsinite’s voice deserves to be heard, which is why I support a variety of efforts to make it easier to vote, including: automatic voter registration, getting rid of photo ID requirements, opposing voter roll purges, extending early voting, encouraging vote by mail, and expanding access to no excuse absentee ballots. I believe we need to get big money out of our elections and political system so that elections are owned by the voters. We need to put an end to partisan gerrymandering and restore basic fairness to its rightful place in our system. We cannot stand for the drawing of lines that diminish the power of our collective voice, which is why I support the creation of a non-partisan body responsible for drawing legislative maps.
What is the state legislature currently doing well?
Bare: Despite the dysfunction in the Legislature, 1,100 bills were introduced in this session and 267 became law. When I hear 267 bills became law, I think opportunity. Those bills covered environmental issues, affordable and workforce housing, justice reform, and more. I have made a successful career of advocating for incremental bipartisan progress, and while it’s not the transformation I would ideally like to see, it does allow for opportunities.
Halverson: Individually, there are many caring, compassionate, and hardworking members of the State Legislature, from both parties. Most legislators seek election because they genuinely care about their communities and want to make a difference. Democratic leaders in both the State Assembly and Senate are working extremely hard to put forth an agenda built on shared Wisconsin values including increasing access to health care, protecting clean water, transitioning to green energy, closing gaps in maternal and infant health, protecting our right to vote, and reforming our criminal justice system. Gerrymandering hampers the legislature’s ability to enact laws that reflect the views and positions of the majority of Wisconsin residents.
Kemp: The continued control of the legislature by Republicans leaves this list woefully short. Their continued efforts to cut education funding, curb workers’ rights, refusal to accept federal Medicaid funding has left Wisconsinites behind much of the country. Additionally, they have spent a substantial amount of taxpayer money on the 2020 election probe which has proven to be an embarrassment to the state of Wisconsin. The Democratic minority has done a fine job shining a light on these policies and will continue to do so.
Steinberg: There are diverse bills and legislation in progress that demonstrates there are ideas taking place.
Yurs: The best thing that the state legislature currently has going for it is the people of Wisconsin – people who are passionate participants in the democratic process, who vote, call and write their legislators, speak truth, protest injustice, and persist in trying to change the status quo even in the face of the Republican supermajority’s efforts to dilute the people’s power through partisan gerrymandering. As easy as it is to get discouraged because the legislature seems to be accomplishing precious little, I have hope. I have hope because I know that more powerful an any political party’s schemes are the people of Wisconsin themselves. As long as there are Wisconsinites who dare to be involved, to care, and to give of themselves for the good of their neighbors, I won’t give up on the hope that transformation is possible and that empowered citizens just might inspire the legislature to live up to the call of service the common good.
In what areas could it improve?
Bare: The Republican-led Legislature has been extreme in its prioritization of preserving political power over helping people they serve. They refused to lift a finger to help Wisconsinites in any way during the pandemic-meanwhile, I was helping shape and secure Dane County relief funding for pressing needs to keep our businesses afloat and people fed and housed.
They have eroded voters’ confidence in our institutions and have attacked our elections with the sham investigation by Michael Gableman.
They refused to even hold a debate about the abortion ban from the year 1849 going back into effect.
Communication between the parties, and between the Republican legislative leadership and the Governor, needs to improve. Bipartisanship should be easy to find.
I have experience and a list of accomplishments as a policy advocate. I will put that experience to work on getting things done for you.
Halverson: The legislature needs to put aside the majority’s focus on political power and gamesmanship and get to work on the issues that Wisconsinites care about. Refusing to convene special sessions on gun laws, how to use the surplus, and reproductive rights while spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on the antics of Mike Gableman is one clear example of how out of touch the extremists in the legislature are. In the past legislative session, only seven bills out of a total of 369 with a Democratic Representative as a primary author received a public hearing.
Kemp: With Republicans in control of the Legislature for more than a decade, they have gotten away from work that actually addresses the needs and concerns of the people of Wisconsin and instead are focused on hot-button, divisive social issues that appeal to their conservative base. A nonpartisan redistricting process that increases competitiveness in individual districts would be a good step forward.
Steinberg: Bipartisanship. Instead of drawing lines, and walking lockstep with one’s own party for the sake of following your own party, is counterproductive. Rather than doing this, each member could be challenging their own party to produce alternatives to promote compromise.
Yurs: In order to move Wisconsin forward, we need every single one of our state legislators to put people and principles over party, and we need them to public service over power. We need all our legislators to care about the common good more than they do campaign contributions, and we need them to never lose sight of the fact that it is the legislators who serve the people, not the other way around. Our state legislature needs to do a better job of looking beyond the walls of the Capitol building so that it can be reminded that its job is to honor the will of all the people – equitably represented and rightfully heard – and there is nothing to fear in fair representation. If the Republican majority would put as much care and effort into making life better for the people of Wisconsin as they do into their partisan power games at the Capitol, there is so much that we could get done – like repealing the archaic 1849 abortion ban and passing common sense gun safety legislation, both of which are ideas that have widespread support across the state.
Which qualities, skills and/or experiences make you stand out as a candidate? Why would you be a good lawmaker?
Bare: My experience, record of accomplishments, and unique perspectives will make me a good lawmaker.
I have the most experience working with the issues the Legislature handles, and I would hit the ground running on day one. I have worked at every level of government. I was a longtime aide to Senator Russ Feingold, where I learned the value of integrity, listening, and making policy using facts, science, and evidence. I have served on the Verona City Council, and I’m currently on the Dane County Board. For the past 12 years, I’ve been working full-time as an anti-poverty advocate at the local, state, and federal levels. I have worked in partnership with community organizations to advocate for progress, including Planned Parenthood and the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health, labor unions, and others, on access to maternal health, maternal mental health, paid leave, equal pay, and expanding health coverage.
I also have the strongest record of getting things done for the people I represent. I pushed developers to dedicate more land for park space as a member of the Verona City Council and its commissions. On the Dane County Board, I created a program to ensure that anyone facing eviction in Dane County has access to legal counsel. I have advocated for fair pay and treatment of County workers. I have supported efforts to clean up our environment and preserve more Dane County land. I helped secure Dane County COVID relief funding for local businesses, childcare centers, hunger relief, and housing for the homeless.
I also have unique perspective as the only candidate who is a small business owner. As an owner of the Biergarten at Olbrich Park, I’ve had to set wages and benefits, and deal with supply chains, vendor relations, budgeting and accounting, our state’s unemployment system, business taxes, and government interactions at every level.
Halverson: I have a unique combination of skills and experience that will make me an effective legislator from day one. I am not a career politician. I understand government, how government works, and its impact on people’s lives, having met with legislators many times in my advocacy role with Moms Demand Action, through my work with Wisconsin’s long-term care system and as a former State Employee. I have also been a teacher and an AmeriCorps volunteer. My work with people with disabilities and their families has given me a unique perspective on the challenges in providing community-based, Medicaid-funded services. As a mom, the issues of reproductive rights and gun violence are deeply personal to me. It is unacceptable to me that we now live in a world in which my daughter has lost the right to make decisions about her own body. It is also unacceptable that our kids are growing up unsure if they will be safe from gun violence while at school. I am the only candidate in this race, and one of only two candidates in Wisconsin, to earn the endorsement of Everytown for Gun Safety in recognition of my work organizing and advocating to end gun violence. I have also been endorsed by four outstanding State Representatives who know firsthand what it takes to be an effective legislator: Lisa Subeck, Deb Andraca, Kristina Shelton, and former Assembly Leader Gordon Hintz.
Kemp: I go back to my role as President of the Verona City Council. I have the ability to work with others of different beliefs and backgrounds in order to build consensus and get things done. The fact that my colleagues on the Council chose me to serve as President shows their faith in my ability to lead.
Steinberg: I don’t mean to fault other candidates in this race because I do not know them very well, and I am sure they are all good people interested in doing an excellent job. However, in order to distinguish my candidacy from theirs, it may seem as though I am stepping on toes. I assure you that is not my intention, and I’ll make this part brief.
I do not think we need another attorney in office because many of the current politicians, both state and federal, who have this background are the reasons we see the power grabbing and extreme wealth. The work they do becomes about them and only them. They cannot relate to everyday-average Joes, and I question if they really care.
I am against career politicians because this allows them to sit on the work they could be doing; no urgency to get it done. When someone goes to school for political science, that concerns me because the goal would seem to be getting elected and then becoming a career politician.
Running for office with the teachers’ background is commendable. I appreciate this because teachers are real people with everyday problems they can relate to with their constituents. With all things being equal, teachers are the backbone of our communities; however, it seems to me that teachers sometimes overlook other professions and people focusing too much on their profession. I back teachers 100 percent. But they need to widen their focus and that may be a challenging task for that population.
What separates me and my background from the above-mentioned backgrounds is that I have had professional jobs for years. I have also had, not so long ago, the lowest paying jobs available, and everything in between. Due to unfortunate circumstances, the jobs where not of my choosing but forced upon me. Nonetheless, I learned what it means to be an everyday-average Joe. I know what it’s like living paycheck to paycheck. I know what it’s like to figure out what bills I will not be paying for any particular month. My children went without. For a period of 10 years, there was nothing extra that came into my house. For that time, I have created no new debt. I managed keeping my house, and now have an excellent credit score. This all took place because my job was wrongfully terminated.
I am you. I know you and what you go through. I am everyday-average Joe who wants to help make things work and be easier for you. The rich cannot do this for you. They have no idea. The only way one can utterly understand this is to be someone who has gone through it. I can relate to you, and I want to fight for you so that you can not only exist paycheck to paycheck but be in the position to thrive and prosper.
Yurs: At my core, I am an optimist – unyielding in hope and relentless in my commitment to the common good – and it is that hopeful optimism and dedication to the common good that I believe make me the best person to serve as Representative of the 80th Assembly District.
As a teacher, dad, and former volunteer firefighter, I bring the fierce compassion and sincere care for others that our system of government needs right now. Being a teacher and a dad also means that I have patience and fortitude, and it means that I am not afraid to be a tireless advocate for those entrusted to my care. As a municipal government official, I have learned how to work collaboratively with others to accomplish something for the wider community. On the Belleville Village Board and Verona City Council, I have had the opportunity to gather with my neighbors to imagine and then get busy building and maintaining a thriving local community where, despite the occasional and inevitable difference of opinion, we seek to give our best by listening, learning, and leading with compassion. If elected, I will bring my local government experience to the broader arena where I hope to continue working with neighbors to forge a way ahead, lift each other up, and invest in a shared future where we make fairness our aim and where we count our neighbor’s good our own.
I will also bring my knowledge of the 80th District and its communities. This District is where I grew up, and it’s where my wife and I are raising our daughters. Having grown up in the 80th Assembly District, I know it is made up of communities of people who gladly give of their gifts to leave behind them a better world. My deep roots in the district have helped to shape my hope for our shared future, and my commitment to the people of the 80th will be an asset to my work if I am elected to the Assembly.
Polls and public sentiment have long held that Wisconsin is a purple state, neither deeply blue nor deeply red. Can Democrats and Republicans find common ground in Wisconsin? If so, what steps need to be taken for them to create fruitful policies? Are you capable of showing kindness and compassion to people with whom you disagree on political issues?
Bare: I have dedicated my career to helping make people’s lives better. That help is not predicated on whether the person is a Democrat or Republican. It’s rooted in a desire to ensure all people in our communities are treated fairly, and can get what they need to survive and thrive. I will never turn away a Republican colleague who wants to be part of making progress happen. I’ll never give up on finding bipartisan support for the solutions to our challenges.
When I worked for Russ Feingold in the U.S. Senate, I learned that very little progress is made unless it is bipartisan. We regularly partnered with John McCain and Lindsey Graham, among others. More recently, Feingold teamed up with former Republican Governor Tommy Thompson to call for bipartisan environmental stewardship. I agree that’s an issue primed for bipartisan progress, especially in Wisconsin. Other issues I have worked on, including housing and justice reform, are also issues I would strive to find common ground on. As a public policy advocate, I’ve been involved in several successful bipartisan efforts.
Finally, the scourge of gun violence requires a bipartisan response and public opinion on doing common sense reforms is bipartisan. Democrats cannot achieve the transformational progress we need on this issue alone. Victims of gun violence come from every political ideology and we must put their lives and everyone’s sense of peace and security above party affiliation and campaign donations.
Halverson: The people in Wisconsin are way ahead of the State Legislature. Polls consistently show Wisconsinites support Roe v. Wade, support common sense gun laws, support the expansion of Medicaid, and support fair maps. However, the majority leadership in the legislature is extreme. As I talk to voters at their doors, I hear clearly that people want elected officials to get things done. I will always be ready to listen to Republican colleagues who want to work collaboratively. There are some issues – access to broadband and affordable housing for example – where there has been some bi-partisanship. However, it is imperative that we engage in the longer-term work to build progressive power statewide to make more lasting and significant changes. We need to engage young people. We need to elect Democrats up and down the ballot and all across the State. I look forward to being an active part in changing the face of Wisconsin’s legislature.
I am enough of a realist to recognize the challenges of serving in a legislature controlled by extremists. But I am also an optimist. I know with passion, savvy, organizing skills, and a commitment to truly serving the people who elect us, we can make positive change happen. That is what I will bring as a State Representative from the 80th District.
Kemp: The biggest and most important step the Legislature could take to facilitate cooperation and bipartisanship would be nonpartisan redistricting reform. The current extreme gerrymander in place allows for politicians and candidates to appeal only to the extremes of their party, who often see bipartisanship as weakness. Instituting more fairly-drawn, competitive districts would not only be good for democracy but ensure that elected officials work more closely across the aisle because they will need support from Republicans, Democrats and Independents in their districts to win reelection.
Steinberg: I think we can find common ground with our Republican counterparts. We may not agree with each other at all times; however, we can start by recognizing both parties care very much about this state. Neither party wants this state to fail but to succeed. We can grow if we start from a place where we find our similarities.
The steps that could be taken are: enter discussions with open minds, hearing the other party out, do not say “No.” for the sake of saying “No.”, have good intentions, find the value in the ideas, remove the party as a hurdle, evaluate the benefit for all of the state’s people, compromise when necessary and maybe even if it is not so necessary. Demonstrate how willing you are to make something good happen. Remind others how you compromised when you need give and take. And celebrate good bipartisan work
I can show kindness and compassion to people I disagree with. I recall when people referred to this as professionalism. This is a two-party system and one can expect disagreement. If someone is trying to sell somebody something, in this case an idea, getting angry does not help.
Yurs: Elected officials have a responsibility to be not only fierce advocates, but also humble listeners who compassionately attend to the hopes, fears, and ideas of others. I am willing to work in good faith with anyone who understands that elected leaders are, first and foremost, public servants who have a duty to ensure equal justice for all. I am excited to work with anyone and everyone who believes that allegiance to the common good is a higher priority than allegiance to party and power. While I am not willing to compromise the principles of fairness and justice, I can commit to listening with humility to those who disagree with me and to trying to do right by everyone, even those who don’t vote for me.
If the legislature is going to be an effective body that works on behalf of the people of Wisconsin, conversation partners on all sides must be committed to dealing in facts and toning down rhetoric, open to actually considering ideas before shutting them down, and devoted to discerning a way forward that honors the dignity and will of all the people. Discernment is a communal process. A legislator cannot accomplish anything without working with and learning from the community, experts, activists, colleagues, and, most importantly, those whose voices have for too long gone discounted.