By Joe VanDeLaarschot
of The Lakeland Times
There will be a new person representing Wisconsin’s 35th Assembly District after the Nov. 6 election.
Incumbent Republican Tom Tiffany chose to run for the state’s 12th Senate District seat that has been held by Jim Holperin (D-Conover) instead of running for re-election to the 35th Assembly District seat.
Holperin defeated challenger Kim Simac earlier this year in a recall election and kept his post, but later announced his intention not to seek re-election.
The three candidates seeking to replace Tiffany are Democrat Kevin Koth of Tomahawk, Republican Mary Czaja of Tomahawk and Independent Patrick Tjugum of Nokomis.
Czaja owns CIS Insurance Group which has offices in Tomahawk and Rhinelander.
Tjugum works for Louisiana-Pacific in Tomahawk.
Koth works at the PCA Tomahawk mill and has served on the Bradley town board.
Czaja said she was convinced to run for state office by former State Rep. Don Friske. She also says she has plenty of support from her family and friends.
“I also decided to run because this is not the economy, the state or the future I want to leave for my children or for their children,” Czaja. “We need to move forward.”
Koth says he’s running for the Assembly because the people he has talked to are sick and tired of the heated partisan rhetoric in Madison.
“We can no longer afford politics as usual,” Koth said. “I’m pledging to work toward common sense solutions that address everyday problems facing our working families.”
Tjugum said he’s running because as an independent candidate and sees his priorities as reflective of the views of the voters in the 35th Assembly District.
“The word ‘forward’ has been an empty word and not a promise or practice in Madison,” Tjugum said. “With both parties blaming each other for the ‘no win’ results, Wisconsinites are suffering all the losses. Both parties are too extreme.”
The creation of jobs that pay enough to support growing families is an issue of importance to all three candidates.
Czaja believes that in order for Wisconsin to create and attract new jobs taxes and regulations need to be reduced. She believes Wisconsin is “bleeding jobs.”
“We need to have regulatory bodies [that] have the attitude of ‘how can we help you?’ instead of a long list of rules and regulations,” Czaja said. “We need to ease red tape and speed up the process, but not do away with necessary regulations.”
Czaja said taxes need to be reduced in Wisconsin so business and industry will stay instead of moving elsewhere because of lower taxes and a more business-friendly environment there.
Koth said upgrading and improving education in Wisconsin will have two positive side-effects – creating more jobs and improving the state’s economy.
“They all go hand-in-hand and when we have more people working we have more spending and that improves the economy,” Koth said. “To get qualified workers we need to be able to better educate and train them.”
Koth said the state needs to reinvest in small businesses and create further tax incentives for them to grow and create new jobs.
Tjugum said the state’s cuts earlier this year of $1.3 billion from education is not the way to create more jobs and train better employees.
“How can our state justify those cuts?” Tjugum asked. “We need to attract more small and medium manufacturers and work to improve our tourism industry.”
Tjugum said improvements need to be made on the state’s transportation infrastructure so current and new businesses have a reliable route for transporting their products and the resources they need to produce their products.
ACT 10 and education
The Legislature’s approval of the controversial ACT 10 legislation has produced many disagreements and arguments and has also seemed to place a roadblock before any cooperative effort among state elected officials.
Czaja said state officials and leaders need to put that controversy behind everyone and move forward.
“There’s no Democrat or Republican that doesn’t want a better world for their children and their future,” Czaja said. “We need move past this and work on the issues facing all of us.”
Koth said education is “our youth’s future.”
“Cuts made to education this past year do nothing but hurt education,” Koth said. “Cuts of that magnitude won’t help and then when you add to that the increased aid for school vouchers that’s being provided for private schools, it hurts all of Wisconsin, including the Northwoods.”
Koth said additional funding must be found for education in Wisconsin.
Tjugum said that if he is elected, one of the first things he will do is focus on a new funding program for Wisconsin schools.
“We need to shift the school funding from the property tax to other sources,” Tjugum said. “That includes raising the state sales tax by 1 percent.”
Tjugum also said a proposal from the state Department of Public Instruction for a new way to fund state schools is a good idea that merits further discussion. He said getting school funding off of the property tax would also help many more people keep their homes because of having to pay less in taxes.
All three candidates said it appears more difficult to find areas in the state budget that should be cut.
Czaja suggested state government should find more efficiencies in how it operates which includes the use of more modern technology.
“Everything should be looked at when we’re trying to find cuts,” Czaja said. “There are efficiencies that we could use now that we didn’t have 10 years ago.”
“We need to look at every program,” Koth said. “But we can’t further cut education. Education is the key for improving our economy and creating good paying jobs that families can live off of. Education should be our top priority.”
Tjugum agreed with Koth that education is the key to the future of Wisconsin.
“Cuts of $1.3 billion in education to balance the budget while instituting $2.3 billion in tax cuts to special interest groups can’t be justified,” Tjugum said. “These same tax cuts are not generating the promised jobs.”
Czaja said streamlining mining regulations to allow environmentally sound mining in the Northwoods would create thousands of jobs.
Koth said mining must be done in an environmentally-friendly way.
Tjugum said the flawed mining bill serves as a testament to the lack of cooperation and communication that should be present in the legislative process.
Why they should be elected
Czaja said as a small business owner she knows what it’s like to balance a checkbook.
Koth said he’s open-minded and will listen to the ideas and concerns of others. He said he’s done that for many years while involved in town government.
Tjugum said Wisconsin’s leaders support secretive agreements and confidential initiatives with no intention of providing information to the people of the state. He said he will work against that mentality in Madison.
Joe VanDeLaarschot may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.