Six vying for GOP nod in 32nd District
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ELKHORN — Six Republicans make up a crowded primary-election field for Wisconsin’s 32nd District seat in the Wisconsin Assembly.
The district encompasses the southern half of Walworth County, excluding the city of Elkhorn and including Wheatland Township in Kenosha County.
State Rep. Tom Lothian, R-Williams Bay, is not running for re-election. It is the first time in eight years that an incumbent is not in the race.
Republicans on the Sept. 14 ballot are Adam Gibbs of Burlington, Tyler August of Walworth, Thomas Stelling of Lake Geneva, and Mel Nieuwenhuis, Dan Necci and John Finley, all of Delavan. One advances to the November general election.
Doug Harrod of Genoa City is the only Democrat in the race. Daniel Kilkenny of Delavan and Rick Pappas of Fontana are running as independents, meaning their names also will be on the ballot Nov. 2.
Following are capsules of each candidate. Pappas declined to participate.
Address: 120 Fox Lane, Walworth.
Family: Father Steve, mother Gail, three sisters, brother-in-law, 1-year-old nephew, grandfather, two grandmothers, one great-grandmother, all of whom live in the district.
Occupation: Chief of staff for state Rep. Tom Lothian.
Why are you running? I am running because as a lifelong, seventh-generation resident of this district, I am concerned how the misguided liberals in Madison have negatively affected our community, and I feel strongly that the next representative must have proven, conservative leadership and the necessary experience to fight for our community.
What are the most important issues in this campaign? Jobs, spending and taxes. My nearly six years working alongside retiring Rep. Lothian, as well as my time as Republican chairman of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s 1st Congressional District, have prepared me to go to Madison and fight against policies that are wreaking havoc on our economy.
There is no single answer to fixing the mess that Madison has created. We must reduce government spending. We must reduce regulations on job creators and we must reduce taxes on everyone. I believe so strongly that taxes are too high that I am the only candidate in this race who has pledged to resign from office if I ever vote for a tax increase of any kind. I simply will not do it and if I do, I will know it is time for someone new to take over.
The politicians in Madison have a bag full of tricks, and it will take a representative with proven, conservative leadership to help right the ship and help make our community an even better place to work and live. I will need no learning curve, and will hit the ground running on day one.
John K. Finley
Address: 127 S. Terrace St., (P.O. Box 127), Delavan.
Family: Two adult daughters, Jeanne and Georgia, and one granddaughter, Bobbie.
Occupation: I am a semi-retired security consultant and landlord.
Party: Republican (with an independent thought or two).
Why are you running? I am running because I believe I have the right combination of experience to truly represent the citizens of the 32nd District. I have worked in many of the occupations that ordinary people in this district employ themselves at. I have been a farmhand, newspaper reporter and a resort cook. I have worked in factories and in gas stations as a mechanic. I have driven taxis and sold photography out of my studio. I have built two businesses up from nothing and sold them both at a profit. I have been a college student for more than 30 years part time.
In the process of building the two businesses, I learned about dealing with banks, employees, governments and state agencies. I have deal with the laws and regulations and their effects on ordinary people.
While running the businesses, I bought, remodeled and rented out several buildings. For a decade I paid as much as $16,000 a year in property taxes. (I know about property taxes.) One of the buildings was a U.S. post office, which gave me some insights into the federal government’s inner workings. My wife, with her business degree and knowledge, was very helpful in all of the above. In short, I feel well versed in the problems faced by ordinary working people and small businessmen in the 32nd District.
What are the most important issues in this campaign? Jobs, taxes and property taxes. We need to create employment and educational opportunities. The industrial revolution is rolling down the track of history, and our elected officials have to plan a brighter future for the citizens of this district. I am young enough to want to and old enough to know how.
Address: 6433 Briarwood Drive, Burlington.
Family: Parents Michael and Ellen Gibbs.
Occupation: Sales manager, Endurance House.
Why are you running? I am running for this position because I love people and am passionate about this district and state. We are in tough economic times as a direct result of the policies of the current administration, and I feel that I need to take personal responsibility for the changes that need to happen for the people of this state to prosper. We need a representative who has the time, energy and desire to make this position a full-time mission. I desire to connect with people, solve real-world problems and serve this area with integrity and character.
What are the most important issues in this campaign? Our state budget is the biggest issue. We are $2.5 billion in debt, and that number will continue to rise if we do not take swift action to eliminate wasteful, fraudulent and frivolous spending.
I will work with our next governor to stop this train project from Milwaukee to Madison. This train will send our state into further debt and will burden our taxpayers. We cannot afford this train.
Our business climate is currently ranked as the third worst in the nation. My three-step plan to reinvigorate our state’s economy is to lower taxes on businesses and individuals, streamline the regulatory process and lower litigation costs for businesses. If we implement these proven, pro-business principles, the private sector will have more confidence to invest in business.
Address: 924 Center St., Delavan.
Family: Wife Brittany, children Lillian, 3, and Isabella, 18 months.
Why are you running? I face many of the major issues of the day each day in my own home, such as taxation at all levels, health care and education. When I put my personal problems aside, I go to the office and see the damage done by the policies and laws coming out of Madison in the stories of my clients. It is these circumstances, my background and station in life that I believe creates a special trust between the voters and me.
I don’t have to wonder what it might be like to own a small business and raise a young family in this state, and I don’t have to look wistfully back upon such times. The people of the 32nd District won’t have to wonder if I will go every extra mile every day for them because my motivation is clear for all to see. I will fight for me and mine and for those whose stories I have heard from across my desk and, by implication, all of our interests.
It is for this reason that I will be the strong, clear voice of our common voices and values in the Legislature.
What are the most important issues in this campaign? The most important issue facing the leaders of tomorrow is jobs. If our people cannot work, they cannot thrive and they will either vacate the state or become a dependent of it. That’s why I have proposed Dan’s “3-Get” Plan for Wisconsin:
1. Get out of debt. A $2.5 billion structural deficit, $3.5 billion in new borrowing, and massive expenditures endanger not only our futures, but our children’s as well.
2. Get government out of the way of business. Seemingly endless regulation and taxation of business, imported from the vacuum of Madison, has led employers large and small to ship out or shut their doors. By maintaining an active, engaged relationship with the various industries that make up our district, I can take the roadblocks off the highway to economic prosperity in this state.
3. Get our friends and neighbors back to work. As Wisconsin returns itself to solvency and ceases to micromanage businesses, they will see ever-increasing bottom lines, and the opportunities for expansion will arise. Such expansion will return Wisconsinites to work in the private sector, increasing economic prosperity for all.
Address: 720 Parish St., Delavan.
Family: Wife of 29 years, Peggy; seven children, Aaron, Mathew, Jesse, Hannah, Sarah, Chloe and Claudia, daughter-in-law, Amanda (married to Aaron) and one granddaughter, Hailey.
Occupation: Garbage hauler for the family business of Nieuwenhuis Brothers Disposal for 26 years.
Why are you running? I am running because I wanted to give voters a choice with someone who has experience serving at the local level in Delavan as an alderman and as mayor for the past 11 years. I believe that experience will carry me to the next level. All politics is local — that’s where it all starts, making a difference in your local community. I have served on most committees or commissions, such as planning (seven years), water and sewer (eight years), park and recreation, public works, finance, police and fire commission, etc.
What are the most important issues in this campaign? Jobs, economy and state budget. We need to change Wisconsin’s heavy-regulation and high-tax reputation. Too many folks I have talked to have lost their jobs and are on the verge of losing their homes. State government needs to live within its means, control spending, reduce taxes, promote business development and let the private sector do what it does best — create jobs. We as taxpayers have to tighten our pocketbooks. Madison needs to do the same.
We must have a true balanced budget, not smoke and mirrors. No more tax increases or hidden tax fees on people and businesses. We need to repeal many of Gov. Jim Doyle’s tax increases. Let’s put Wisconsin people back to work and back on track.
Address: 1304 Saratoga Lane, Lake Geneva.
Family: Married 36 years to Lorraine Bassett, Lyons; three grown daughters, Jennifer, Amy and Christina; and parents, Norman and Ruth Stelling of Fontana.
Occupation: Architect, president of Stelling & Associates Architects Ltd.
Why are you running? As a first-time candidate, I believe that with 30 years of business ownership experience and 59 years living and working in the area, I have a unique perspective of life’s learned lessons. The 32nd Assembly District needs a representative who is familiar with the entire district, its citizens who are full-time residents and those tax-paying property owners who enjoy the beauty and diversity of this district as a second home.
The district is comprised of many different entities — agriculture, industrial and the service industry. Each in its own way contributes to the success of the local communities and the district as a whole. My entire life has been spent in service to the area — as an architect for 30 years, and prior to that in the U.S. Air Force, serving in Vietnam from 1972 to 1973. I believe that I will be the best qualified to serve the district.
What are the most important issues in this campaign? Jobs — creating new opportunities, encouraging business expansion and promoting entrepreneurship in small business.
Business climate: Reduce the controls and expenses added to the operation on all business in Wisconsin and work with the Legislature to encourage businesses to stay in Wisconsin, not force them to leave with laws that attack their ability to profit in Wisconsin.
Stop taxing retired residents out of the state with taxes that force tough decisions — to sell and move or own but live six months and a day elsewhere? Or should they liquidate and move to a state that encourages the retired population with lower taxes?
Doug A. Harrod
Address: W1815 County Highway B, Genoa City.
Family: Wife Kate; son, Zachary; and daughters, Megan and Mikaela.
Occupation: High school educator for 43 years, presently health instructor.
Why are you running? I am running in order to represent all the residents of the 32nd District, which I do not believe has occurred for years. Further, my intention is to introduce something in Madison that few legislators practice — communication/cooperation/compromise in order to move the district and Wisconsin in a positive direction. The divisiveness, name-calling and the blame game accomplish little or nothing for our residents; it simply polarizes government and people.
What are the most important issues in this campaign? The most important issues from the perspective of the residents I communicate with are: 1. School-finance reform moving from property valuation of a school district’s area to a set per-student amount throughout the state based on availability of state funds. 2. Alternative-energy development and implementation to move away from nonrenewable energy sources and create jobs to improve the Wisconsin economy. 3. Access to affordable health care. Our Badger Care programs must be maintained to protect the most vulnerable in our district. 4. Fiscal responsibility begins by setting priorities for our available funds. We must live within our means. We cannot utilize designated funds for general revenue purposes (both parties are guilty of doing or attempting to do this). This may mean budget cuts until the economy improves further. 5. Job creation must begin with small businesses, which drive the economy. Unless we provide existing and potential small businesses with real incentives to start or grow, the economy will improve too slowly. There is no “one program fits all” because businesses have different needs to succeed. 6. Responsible and controlled development utilizing the Smart Growth plans developed by the governing bodies within the 32nd Assembly District and state.
Daniel G. Kilkenny
Address: N3616 Elm Ridge Road, Delavan.
Family: I am the 11th child in a family of 12. I am recently widowed, having lost my wife last May after 30 years of marriage. I have one son, 20. I am a lifelong resident of the 32nd Assembly District.
Occupation: Attorney in general practice in Delavan. I have been a private business owner for more than 25 years.
Why are you running? I was inspired to run as an independent after recently re-reading George Washington’s farewell address. His words of warning about the dangers of factions (political parties) to our liberty and the dangers of sectionalism (economic and social) to the preservation of the Union and this great experiment we call America, rings especially true today.
This trend toward state and regional government competition and bitter political partisanship — focused mainly on political power, rather than American ideals and principles — seems to be accelerating. The danger that our first president warned us about now clearly threatens our nation’s cohesiveness and our character as a tolerant and liberty-loving people.
What are the most important issues in this campaign? Structural and fiscal deficits caused by the loss of checks and balances, due to the power of political parties and money. Structural deficits require structural changes. We must limit the size of the government work force. Government employee pay and benefits must at least mirror the real world. Business programs and subsidies must also come under greater scrutiny and require justification.
The government must become more efficient. Independent private-sector accountants should be used to set up and audit real-world reporting and accountability systems. The Legislature must stop raiding special funds and borrowing to replenish those funds to cover irresponsible and wasteful spending.
Wisconsin’s problems can be solved by men and women of independent mind and common sense; they certainly will not be solved by more political partisan bickering, fueled by special-interest money.
Voters must elect legislators who are not beholden to political parties or to special interests. Finally, and most importantly, we must always remember that a Legislature has the power to repeal laws and programs, and that usually the answer to our problems is not more laws and more programs.
Read more in the Sept. 5, 2010 e-edition of Walworth County Sunday, HERE.