All three candidates in the Tuesday, Aug. 14, Democratic primary for the 31st Senate District seat said a new direction is needed for state government.
Rural Wisconsin has not gotten its fair share for schools, roads and broadband access, said Steve Boe of Taylor.
“It’s had a negative effect on what we value here in western Wisconsin,” he said.
The opportunities for students in rural school districts continue to diminish, Boe said.
“We have to bring forth new leadership and a new approach,” he said. “Quality education shouldn’t be based on the ZIP code students live in.”
Jon Schultz of Arcadia is concerned about the representation Wisconsin is getting from Republican leadership in Madison.
“I consider myself an independent voter,” he said. “And I frankly feel the Republicans are on the wrong side of what I feel are nonpartisan issues.”
Schultz said his experience working in local government will be the key to helping his district’s residents.
“My experience is recent and relevant,” he said. “State government is not helping local governments where the rubber meets the road.”
Jeff Smith of Eau Claire said too much partisanship in Madison and unfinished business from when he left the state Assembly in 2011 are the reasons he’s running for the state Senate.
“When I left the Assembly, I didn’t feel we accomplished the things we should have accomplished. I have the leadership to get something done in the Legislature,” he said.
“There’s no motivation to work together, and that’s something I can do,” Smith said. “We’re going in the wrong direction.”
The winner of the Boe, Schultz and Smith Democratic primary will face Republican Mel Pittman of Plum City in the November election.
State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor and is not running for re-election in the 31st Senate District.
While they generally agree Wisconsin is headed in the wrong direction, Boe, Schultz and Smith said there are differences among the three of them.
“I’m a candidate that understands the unique challenges in western Wisconsin,” Boe said.
He said he can balance the needs of the rural areas of the district and its urban areas like Eau Claire.
“We have to balance both, and that’s something I believe I can be good at,” Boe said. “I want to be a progressive champion for the city of Eau Claire.”
Schultz said his key difference is experience on issues.
As a local elected official, he said he has worked to protect groundwater and has dealt with tourism and economic development at the county level.
“I have won elections in a fiscally conservative community,” Schultz said. “I’m not running against the Republicans. I’m running to serve everyone.”
Schultz said he can work with both sides of the political aisle.
“That’s our job,” he said. “That’s what we’re elected to do.”
Schultz said his educational background and blue collar work experience separates him from the other two Democratic candidates.
Smith said there’s a possibility the Democrats could take majority control away from the Republicans in the state Senate in the November election.
“My legislative experience sets me apart,” he said. “I can hit the ground running.”
Smith said he was born and raised in Eau Claire and is quite familiar with the majority of the 31st Senate District through his previous work in the state Assembly.
“And as an organizer (for Citizen Action), I know all of western Wisconsin,” he said.
All three candidates say they have the necessary background to be a good state senator.
Boe said he comes from a rural area.
“I understand what it’s like to get things done,” he said.
“I can reach across the aisle to find common bonds and accomplish tasks,” Boe said. “At the end of the day, we’re not Democrats or Republicans; we’re Wisconsinites.”
As a Trempealeau County supervisor, Schultz said he had to deal with the issues surrounding sand mining, including aesthetic and environmental concerns, highway and rail traffic, and property values.
“It’s like a training ground, dealing with those issues,” he said.
As a local government official, Schultz said he has experience dealing with road and social service issues.
“We keep having to adopt to new rules and standards. County government is pretty eye-opening and frustrating,” he said.
“I’ve done double duty on the town and county levels and I’ve delivered results for the people,” Schultz said. “I’ve been in the middle of the proving ground and I’ve proven myself.”
Smith said he has the perfect mix of legislative experience, being a former town board chairman and as a former longtime small-business owner with Bob Smith Window Cleaning.
“I’m frustrated with the state taking power away from local elected officials,” he said.
Boe said he has earned the support of Democratic voters in the Aug. 14 primary election because of his new ideas.
“We are in need of new leadership and a new approach,” he said.
Schultz said he offers voters the total package because he knows how the actions of state government affects local units of government.
“I’m going to serve all people first before the party,” he said. “I’m looking to get things done for people. I think I’m just the stronger candidate.”
Smith said he deserves the vote from 31st Senate District residents.
“I’m the best prepared to take this seat and take it to another level of leadership. I’m proven to get things done,” he said.
“People can count on me,” Smith said. “I just think I am wholly prepared. I have the inner strength and boldness to stand up to anybody.”
The 31st Senate District consists of most of the city of Eau Claire and all or parts of Eau Claire, Pierce, Pepin, Buffalo, Trempealeau and Jackson counties.
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