State schools superintendent Tony Evers, one of several Democrats challenging Gov. Scott Walker, said he would push for bipartisan solutions to transportation and education funding challenges.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers promises, if elected, to bring a less divisive style to governing than the man he hopes to replace.

Wisconsin residents are fed up with the “divide and conquer” approach Gov. Scott Walker brings to the job and are ready for a leader who gets things done without pitting people against each other, Evers said Thursday in Eau Claire. 

Evers, state schools superintendent since 2009, has led early polling in a crowded Democratic field of candidates and said he feels confident about his chances of prevailing in the Aug. 14 primary and then beating Walker in the Nov. 6 election.

“I think people are ready for someone who seeks common ground instead of always battening down the hatches for a huge fight,” Evers said in an interview.

Evers said he believes it is possible, with the right leadership, to reach bipartisan agreement on key issues such as protecting the environment, redistricting reform and funding for transportation and education.

Under Walker, the state Department of Natural Resources has abdicated its responsibility in a lot of areas, Evers charged, adding, “Our inability to protect our water is a problem with a lot of people.”

Evers noted that the success of the vast majority of school referendums in last week’s election shows voters recognize that cuts in education funding during Walker’s two terms have left public schools underfunded.

As for the state’s crumbling infrastructure, Evers pointed to some small municipalities scraping the asphalt off their roads because they can’t afford to maintain paved roads as a sad symbol that a solution is needed for transportation funding.

“I can’t imagine we’re going to attract millennials with the slogan ‘Move to Wisconsin. You can drive on gravel roads,’” he said, maintaining that investing in education and natural resources is one of the best ways to improve the economy and stop talented young people from leaving the state.

Evers said Democrats and Republicans need to take a “blood oath” to adopt a nonpartisan method of redistricting to end the kind of gerrymandering that led to legislative districts that currently give Republicans an unfair advantage in elections.  

State Republican Party spokesman Alec Zimmerman defended the governor’s record, saying, “Thanks to Scott Walker’s bold reforms, more people are working than ever before, and our unemployment rate hit the all-time low. Wisconsin’s comeback is real, and we can’t go backward now.”

Asked about Democratic momentum heading into the election and the potential “blue wave” the governor has warned Republicans about on Twitter, Evers pointed to Sen. Patty Schachtner’s victory in a January special election in western Wisconsin’s 10th Senate District, which previously had voted overwhelmingly for GOP President Donald Trump.  

Instead of a blue wave, Evers said, Schachtner, D-Somerset, won because she had good ideas, people knew her and she was authentic.

“We need to win on the issues and not on any blue wave, and I’ll continue to focus on the issues,” Evers said. 

In response to concern among some Democrats that he isn’t a fiery enough candidate to defeat Walker, Evers had a ready answer: “Screaming doesn’t translate to leadership. Just because you’re a loud talker doesn’t mean that you’re a leader. I just reject that.”

Evers added that Democrats have lost the last three gubernatorial elections by overemphasizing all the things wrong with Walker, and he doesn’t want to make the same mistake.

“Will I take him on? Yes,” Evers said. “But my main goal is to express a positive vision for Wisconsin’s future, and that’s where I’ll always be.”   

Contact: 715-833-9209, eric.lindquist@ecpc.com, @ealscoop on Twitter