Since 2006, Republican Gary Tauchen of Bonduel has served as Assemblyman for the 6th Assembly District, covering the majority of Shawano County and parts of Waupaca, Outagamie and Brown counties in northeastern Wisconsin. Tauchen is the oldest of 10 siblings in his family, and farmed with his three brothers and their parents until he became a legislator, training others to tend to the farm’s 1,200 milking cows and to take over his former job as the herdsman.
“I’m running for re-election for the same reasons as when I ran the first time,” he said. “Government policy ought to be common sense. We need to expand opportunities for people that lead to a better life for all of us.”
To Tauchen, these opportunities include educating students so they are prepared to work at 21st century jobs, protecting water resources, lowering taxes to stimulate the rural economy and ensuring people have access to affordable health care.
“Health care is the most important issue individuals have,” Tauchen said. “If you feel good, life is good.”
For the past 15 years, Tauchen has been involved in a non-profit rural health initiative supporting residents in Shawano, Outagamie and Waupaca counties. With a special focus on helping to remove barriers of understanding and managing health and health care for the agricultural community, the initiative has provided free preventive screenings, health coaching, referral information, health risk assessments and information on health literacy.
Results have been favorable, with farmers following up with physicians when referrals are given, acute conditions detected and over 300 health screenings performed annually.
“Farmers tend to take great care of livestock and land but they let themselves go sometimes. It’s the culture of farming; everyone is proud of the work they do,” he said. “We have to change that attitude in order to improve their health.”
Health care is also an important issue to Tauchen’s Democratic challenger, rural doctor Richard Sarnwick. Sarnwick works in family medicine at the Aurora Health Center in Shawano, and although this is his first campaign for political office, he envisions a healthy future for his area and for Wisconsin, made possible only when there is a healthy economy, healthy environment and healthy community.
“I see people in need every day — people with no health insurance, business owners struggling to make ends meet, parents concerned for the educational future of their children and residents worried about the environment,” Sarnwick said. “I’m running to represent them.”
In the 6th Assembly District, high deductibles and high co-pays are a concern for Sarnwick. So is the opioid crisis, so much so that Sarnwick has interest in starting an opioid treatment clinic in Shawano to serve District 6.
Sarnwick also advocates for the middle class and supports a living wage. He believes unions continue to serve a purpose in advocating for a living wage and for safe working conditions — things he also believes will help lead to a healthy economy.
“I’m certain a healthy future is within our reach,” he said. “One where the middle class makes a living wage instead of just scraping by. One where affordable health care is a right rather than a privilege. One where the environment is protected as the precious finite resource it is. One where we are no longer passed over for the most basic of technology needs.”
Tauchen and Sarnwick also have a Libertarian challenger in Mike Hammond, who is running for office because he isn’t satisfied with what the government is doing.
“I am running as a Libertarian because I do not believe either of the Red or Blue parties has the answers and both are unwilling to compromise in looking for those answers,” Hammond said.
Hammond is also from Shawano and has dairy farmed for the past 30 years, although he is mostly retired from farming now and has invested in a small greenhouse business.
To stimulate the rural economy, Hammond believes there are rules and regulations that could be eliminated or relaxed to make it easier for small or family businesses to start and grow, especially in niche markets and areas of specialized services.
He also believes in letting the free market work, and that it is the best way to solve health care issues — both rural and otherwise.
“I believe more government influence, involvement and control is not an answer to most issues,” he said.