Building on Walworth County roots, GOP rivals heat up race for governor
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FONTANA — The Wisconsin gubernatorial campaign came home to Walworth County Wednesday when Republican Mark Neumann and a representative of Scott Walker spoke at a fund-raiser sponsored by the Lakeland Builders Association.
Neumann, who is squaring off against Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker in the September primary, said the competition is good for the party.
“I think it’s a help for the Republican Party to have the opportunity to have this debate about where we’re headed as a state,” Neumann said at an event that attracted about 70 people to the Abbey.
Neumann, an East Troy native and former member of Congress, is a homebuilder and developer. He is pressing an increasingly combative challenge to Walker, a Delavan native who generally is regarded as the frontrunner in the GOP primary. That strategy has some political observers wondering whether the eventual winner will be too badly damaged politically to mount an effective statewide campaign against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who is widely expected to be the Democratic candidate in the general election.
Neumann said a competitive primary allows voters to closely examine the records of the candidates.
“I represented this district in Congress, and a lot of folks (here) are remembering that when I was there, I fought the good fight,” he said. “I stood up to even our own party leadership, and we, in fact, did get the budget balanced, and we did cut taxes. We’re running really on a record that we’ve done this once before and we can do it again.”
Neumann also touted his experience as a small-business owner in Wisconsin.
“I’m a homebuilder,” he said. “That small business is the difference between (Walker and me), and it’s going to come down to that — what the people in this state want.”
Neumann said state government imposes unnecessary costs on public education.
“I have talked to superintendents already that tell me 25 cents out of every dollar they spend is going to comply with rules, regulations and reports that relate directly to Madison,” he said. “As governor, I want to get government out of the way so our local school boards can be in control of their local education.
“I don’t want people in Madison telling the folks here in Walworth County how to run their operation, whether it be schools or municipalities, and I think they’ll save a lot of money doing that.”
Although Walker didn’t attend the fundraiser, state Rep. Robin Vos, R-Racine, spoke for Walker’s campaign.
“Mark Neumann’s done a good job in the private sector, but I can tell you, because I own a business, too, that it’s not always easy to take and translate being the CEO of a business to state government and actually getting things done,” Vos said. “I think Scott Walker just has a unique skill set of having accomplished things, having the connections and also having the passion to change Wisconsin, which makes him a better candidate.”
Vos said he’s known Walker for some 20 years, and that as a Delavan native, Walker understands the area better than most.
“Scott would make sure we boost tourism,” Vos said. “Governor Doyle has actually cut the budget for tourism. Well, that’s hurting Walworth County directly because every dollar spent here has a multiplier effect. …
“I want somebody who can deliver results, and I know Scott Walker is one of those guys who has done it.”
Ben Collins, a Republican running for lieutenant governor, also attended the fundraiser. He does not have a political background.
“I think right now that’s a plus,” said Collins, a Lake Geneva resident and owner of a software defense-technology business. “We need some new thinking in the political process, a different way of looking at it.”
Collins is a former U.S. Army Green Beret officer; he served in Afghanistan and Iraq. His background in the military and as a small-business owner, he said, gives him the kind of skills and perspective required to be an effective executive.
“If you make a poor decision in combat, people lose their lives,” he said. “You make poor decisions in Madison, and it’s our livelihoods that are affected.”
Read the full story in the e-edition of Walworth County Sunday, HERE.