The candidates in the 87th Assembly District race are far from career politicians.
Incumbent James Edming, a Republican, is an entrepreneur who founded OvenWorks Pizza and continues to operate several businesses at the age of 74.
Challenger Richard Pulcher, a Democrat, is a 69-year-old retiree who takes pride in the blue-collar jobs on his resume. He’s also been a volunteer firefighter and has worked at camps for disadvantaged children.
Pulcher’s interest in politics began nearly 10 years ago when Act 10 under the administration of former Gov. Scott Walker eliminated union rights for most public employees. Pulcher was a union steward for almost two decades.
“(Act 10) really messed up where I worked and the people I was working with,” he said. “And, to some extent, the whole economy of the state.”
Pulcher still attends union meetings.
“Companies are coming to the union and asking for help from them,” he said. “(Companies) raise beginning wages to draw them in but have a hard time keeping them for six months. The union keeps people there.
“To have that protection keeps the employee loyal to the union and to the company.”
Edming describes his time in the Assembly as “the best job I’ve ever had.”
“Ninety percent are people just like me,” he said of his district. “Be honest, be good and (and we) don’t want to go pick a fight with everybody we see. I get along with everybody really well here.
“I use the tongue in my shoe more than I use the tongue in my mouth. I try to listen as much as I can.”
Edming highlighted access to broadband internet as a concern for a district that stretches across a significant swath of northern Wisconsin. He said he has to sit by a certain window at his Glen Flora home to get a cellular signal and that poor service has put many businesses in the region “at a standstill.” Streamlining grant processes and other efforts should be pursued, he said, but “government has no business telling businesses what they should and shouldn’t do.”
Pulcher supports Wisconsin United to Amend, an effort to help get big money out of politics, and has signed on to the Fair Maps Pledge, which favors independent redistricting in Wisconsin.
Both Edming and Pulcher say they’ve taken precautions — such as face masking and social distancing — while campaigning during a pandemic. Edming, however, said that if he had voted for a mask mandate, he wouldn’t be in office today because of objections from his constituency. He added that most of that group wants schools kept open as well.
“I think some of these mandates they have ... it should be up to the individual,” he said.
Pulcher’s grandfather died from the 1918 Spanish flu, leaving behind a wife and young children.
“How many wives or children are losing people because of this?” he said. “I spent time as a first responder. We do not want to put those people at risk, treating people who could’ve worn a mask or stayed at home.”