Senate primary Dec. 19

Statements from the six candidates

Gregg Westigard | Staff writer

BURNETT/POLK COUNTIES – Six candidates are running for the vacant state Senate District 10 to replace former Sen. Sheila Harsdorf.

The primary election on Tuesday, Dec. 19, will reduce that number to three names, with voters deciding who the candidate will be for each of the three Wisconsin political parties. The primary ballot includes three Democrats: John Calabrese, Reuben Herfindahl and Patty Schachtner; two Republicans: Adam Jarchow and Shannon Zimmerman; and one Libertarian: Brian Corriea.

The 10th Senate District includes most of Burnett and Polk counties.

The winners of the primary will be on the ballot for the special election on Tuesday, Jan. 16. With primaries for both the Republican and Democratic party nominations, most voters will have a choice at the polls. The sole Libertarian party candidate is also on the primary ballot.

Voters can decide which party primary to vote in once they enter the ballot booth but can only vote for one party.     

The election came up very suddenly. On Friday, Nov. 10, Gov. Scott Walker appointed Harsdorf to be the new Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, effective the following Monday.

Also on that Friday, Harsdorf resigned her Senate seat and the governor called a special election, with the filing period for the vacant seat starting that day.

Candidates had from Nov. 10 until Nov. 21 to collect the 400 nomination paper signatures needed to get on the ballot.

The Leader asked the six candidates why they should be the nominee for their party. The candidates responded to that question by email over the past weekend.

Reuben Herfindahl, Democrat

I grew up in rural Minnesota on a 1,000-acre crop/100-head beef farm.  I was active in 4-H and FFA, obtaining my National FFA degree.  In 1993 I moved to River Falls to attend UWRF and fell in love with western Wisconsin.  There I met my wife, Carrie, and had three wonderful children who all attend school in the district.  Since 2002 I have run my own small business, Digital Brigade.  We have a shop on Main Street in River Falls and do IT service work in five states.

I’m a strong believer in exceptional education programs and protecting the amazing environment I fell in love with when I moved here 25 years ago.  Having been both a farmer and a small-business leader, I bring a unique perspective to the race for 10th District state Senate.  I understand what it means to live and thrive in a rural area, as well as the challenges that running a successful small business brings.

I’ve been dismayed over the recent trends to defund both our college and K-12 systems.  As a small-business owner I know the best way to create good jobs is to have a well-educated workforce that can afford to go on to higher education.  Massive corporate giveaways like the recent Foxconn deal are not a sustainable way to generate good jobs.  We need to invest in a well-educated workforce as well as the small businesses, which are the main job creators, to keep our state economy healthy.

We also need a great place to live to support the workforce. Recent moves to sell 10,000 acres of public land and to relax environmental protections have a potential to destroy what we hold so dear about living here.  Our clean rivers, parks and public hunting lands are all in danger.  Selling off this land, or changing land use permits to allow for more mining are endangering our ability to hunt, ski, boat, hike and enjoy our outdoors.  Our outdoors is also a job creator.  Billions of dollars are brought into our economy each year by the recreation use of our public lands; over 140,000 jobs in this state are directly linked to our great outdoors.

We need to support our local farmers.  Having been a farmer and an early adopter of no-till and rotational grazing, I understand that our ability to make a good living farming and respecting our environment have always gone hand in hand.  The family farmer is the backbone of our rural economy and large corporate farms are distancing us further and further from our traditional farm values.  I have a long history of working with the Farmers Union, 4-H and FFA.

I’m a listener.  I make a living by listening to what is wrong with people’s computer needs.  We seem to have lost our ability to listen in this hyperpoliticized world.  I’m not afraid to work across the aisle and listen to different viewpoints.  I’m not afraid to change my mind based on solid facts and good debate.  If elected I will take the time to attend any public meeting I’m invited to and not run from the hard questions.  I will not take money from large corporations and special interests.  My job is to represent and listen to you, the people of the 10th District.

Patty Schachtner, Democrat

I am running for state Senate because I believe our state needs to do a better job supporting children, families and seniors in western Wisconsin.

From rural communities to big cities, rising health-care costs, limited treatment options and opioid overdoses are a growing concern. As the medical examiner for St. Croix County, I’ve seen the health-care challenges firsthand. I’m proud of my record working with local officials and frontline responders to combat the abuse of prescription painkillers, expand access to care and make our community a safer place to live, work and raise a family.

In the Senate, I am committed to expanding BadgerCare, improving access to mental health care and reducing costs for state taxpayers. I’m not afraid to take on the special interests and hold drug manufacturers accountable for their role in the opioid crisis. My unique experience in this area and ability to work across the aisle can help break through partisan gridlock and deliver results for Wisconsin residents.

In addition to improving health-care access, I want to be proactive and expand economic opportunities for everyone in our state. That starts with prioritizing state investments in our local schools rather than giving billions of taxpayer dollars to foreign corporations.

Like many in our community, I graduated from high school and received additional training at WITC. I want to make sure that children in school today have the same opportunities I had. Everyone who works hard should have the opportunity to pursue a higher education, learn a skilled trade or get additional workplace training without taking on a lifetime of student loan debt.

In the Senate, I’ll restore funding for our local schools, technical colleges and UW campuses and fight to maintain our state’s reputation as a national leader in education. Student loan debt is a crisis that is affecting too many families across our state and preventing individuals from starting a family, launching a business or buying a home. I recognize that we can’t continue to pile mountains of debt on working families and I will fully support the effort to allow individuals to refinance their student loans at lower interest rates in Wisconsin – just like they can across the border in Minnesota.

I want to prioritize investment in jobs, businesses and entrepreneurs right here in western Wisconsin. For too long, politicians have failed to put our local schools, roads and communities first while special interests in other areas of the state have received large sums of taxpayer money.  Instead of giving foreign corporations and wealthy donors massive tax breaks and special exemptions from environmental protections, I will work to ensure that our communities receive the fair share of investment they deserve.

In the Senate, I will fight for tax fairness and make sure there is a level playing field for everyone who does business in Wisconsin. Rather than picking winners and losers, I want our government to invest in good roads, quality schools and 21st century broadband infrastructure to help all communities compete in our global economy.

Now more than ever, we need individuals in government who are determined to stand up for our shared values. As someone who has served our community and understands the challenges we face, I want to represent our region in the state Senate and put my experience and problem-solving skills to use tackling the tough issues ahead.

I hope to earn your vote in the primary election on Dec. 19 and in the general election on Jan. 16 so that we can turn things around, expand opportunities and build a brighter future for everyone in Wisconsin.

John Calabrese, Democrat

I believe I should be my party’s nominee because I have been immersed in Wisconsin state politics for half a decade. I have been the state director of a large volunteer group of passionate Wisconsinites fighting to get money out of politics. I have met with dozens of legislators and staff over the years and have learned how the system in Madison works.

My daily research has led me to discover that our current system of politics does not work for the regular citizen. This is because of the money that courses through the campaign and lobbying apparatus. Every issue Wisconsinites are concerned with is affected by this money-driven system. Our precious, unique landscape where we hunt, fish, recreate and farm is being sold to the highest bidder. This is unsustainable and I fear for the future of Wisconsin. Programs to help the poor and the elderly, funding for schools and roads and technological infrastructure are not addressed with the vigor they deserve because tax dollars/tax breaks and subsidies are given to well-connected campaign funders and supporters.

If the Democratic nominee hopes to have a winning shot in this long-held Republican district, the message must be bold, urgent and specific. The time has passed for vague stances about “helping families” and “honest values.”  The Democratic candidate must speak to voters from all political parties and show them how our state government and the groups that fund it are, in large part, manipulating and dividing all of us for their own benefit.   It doesn’t have to be this way. We can work to stop the huge amount of money flowing through politics. The first way to do it is to call it out.

I’ve tried to condense my campaign into three main issues.

1. Corruption: Due to certain Supreme Court decisions, corruption has been legalized.

There are groups that hold “527 status” [1]  this status allows them to spend unlimited amounts of money on candidates and issue advocacy. Candidates who are the beneficiaries of this spending overwhelmingly legislate based on the desires of these groups. The agendas of these groups receive a much higher priority to legislators than the desires of the average constituent. This leads to a collapse of democracy. I pledge to call out those who legislate in favor of these big-money groups. I pledge to never take their money. And I pledge to introduce legislation to severely curtail their spending power.

2. The environment: It is a shame that those who wish to protect the environment and who are concerned about our changing climate, are often considered whacky leftists. There are a huge number of Wisconsinites across the political spectrum who enjoy our wonderful land and water. It is a fact that most companies who seek to mine and develop, fill in our wetlands and roll back environmental safety rules, are only in it for their own personal profit. Our ground and surface water is a finite resource. We cannot

let it be depleted and defiled. Our air quality is incredibly important, we must keep safeguards in place to assure its continued stability. I pledge to call out those who bow to the pressures of polluting companies, and pledge to push for legislation that invests in sustainable, renewable, clean energy systems.

3. Infrastructure: Part of the public infrastructure are public schools.  Public schools have been on the chopping block for too long. Public schoolteachers have been demonized for too long. These schools should be held in high regard. Public schools are at the forefront of nurturing and educating our most precious resource: children. Teachers should be respected as equally as doctors and law enforcement.

Our roads and bridges are crumbling in many places. Our reliance on fossil fuels to power our electricity is falling behind the times. Our rural broadband and cell phone service is substandard to say the least.

I pledge to call out the subsidies and tax breaks/credits given to well-connected contributors, and pledge to transfer that money to the services all Wisconsinites need to have thriving homes and businesses.

Shannon Zimmerman, Republican

I believe my business background, along with having lived in western Wisconsin my whole life, have given me life experiences that make me uniquely qualified to represent you in the state Senate.

I was born and raised in Augusta just outside of Eau Claire. There I met Angel, my wife of 27 years, with whom I have been blessed to have two sons and four grandchildren. My family is everything to me.

My young family moved to River Falls.  At 24 years old we founded our first business, Sajan, a language-translation company. We started with a dream, working out of our living room, meeting along the way other wonderful people who shared our dream. Together we built that business from our home to the international company today. My family, including my sons and grandchildren, are all still here.

I grew up poor in rural Augusta and have been blessed with success in River Falls. The 10th Senate District is dynamic and complex, with different challenges and opportunities facing St. Croix, Dunn, Pierce, Burnett and Polk counties. I have lived many of these firsthand.

I believe in protecting the unborn. My wife and I confronted teenage pregnancy at 17. Together we made the pro-life decision, and because of that I was able earlier this week to play cards with my grandson.

I believe in protecting our sporting heritage. Our individual hunting and fishing rights are threatened, including our Second Amendment rights. Those need to be protected.

Thanks to Gov. Walker and the Legislative Republicans, our state is in good shape, with very low unemployment. But we can’t rest at good, we need great. As a founder of multiple businesses, I understand how to grow our workforce and aggressively pursue economic development.

To grow opportunity in our region, we need to substantially reduce or eliminate the state income tax.  Allowing people to keep more of the money they earn would have several benefits. It would help keep seniors in their homes.  It would encourage recent graduates from UW-River Falls or UW-Stout to build a life here. Lastly, this creates a strong incentive for more companies to do business in Wisconsin.

Additionally, our education system is a great asset. As CEO, I worked with local educators to develop new ways for our educational institutions and business to directly connect.  I have also served as the UW-River Falls School of Business and Economics executive in residence, Foundation Board and the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee.

Another priority is combating the opioid epidemic. We all know someone whose life has been hurt or ended by drugs. I’ve been a strong advocate in the fight against opioids and will continue to fight to get addicts the treatment they need and law enforcement the tools they seek to lock up drug dealers.

To sum up, I have not only seen, but have also lived the different aspects of the 10th Senate District. It’s exciting to me that after seeing our dreams fulfilled, I can help others reach their potential.

It is not the job of government to create jobs, but we can create an environment where entrepreneurship thrives, and make western Wisconsin a great place to build a career and raise a family.

Thank you, and I hope you will consider voting for me on Dec. 19.

Adam Jarchow, Republican

I am running for the state Senate to continue delivering reforms and results for the people of western Wisconsin. The 10th Senate District needs a state senator that will stand up to make sure that your voices are heard. During my three years in the state Assembly I have authored numerous pieces of legislation, several of which have been signed into law by Gov. Walker.

As a representative in Madison, it is my job to stand up for your rights. I was proud to author two pieces of legislation we named the Homeowners’ Bill of Rights. These bills expand protections of an individual’s private property rights. It prevents the government from changing the rules after a property is purchased or when a permit is being applied for. It also enhances our Fourth Amendment rights by allowing property owners to deny a property assessor entry to their home without fear of retribution. Homeownership is the foundation of the American dream and I believe people should have reasonable use of their property.

I have also been a tireless advocate for our sporting heritage. I’ve been an avid hunter since I was 12 and I’m proud to stand up for hunters while serving in Madison. I authored and passed the Right to Hunt Act to protect sportsmen from being harassed by anti-hunting advocates. I passed a bill to remove the age restrictions on buying bear hunter preference points. This bill will allow hunters to get into the sport at an earlier age. Our children are the next generation of hunters and it’s important we keep them interested at an early age.  I’ve also been a leader and advocate of the Second Amendment, and the only candidate in this race with a 100-percent rating from the NRA.

Another reason I believe that I should be my party’s nominee is that I am not seeking this seat in order to add a new title to the beginning of my name and get a bigger office in the Capitol. I believe that public service should not be a career – and it certainly will not be mine. If elected to the state Senate, my approach to serving in the Legislature will not change. I will fight every day for my constituents and continue to pass meaningful, bold legislation. My time spent in Madison is short and efficient because I believe that to be effective, I must spend my time living and working in the 10th Senate District with my ear to the ground.

It has been an honor to serve the people of the 28th Assembly District. While the turmoil and gridlock in Washington has frustrated people across the country (myself included), in Wisconsin we have been able to pass several bold conservative reforms over the last few years. The people of western Wisconsin deserve a state senator that will listen to their concerns and be able to get things done on their behalf. During the last three years, I have shown I can deliver reforms and results for my constituents. Since Gov. Walker was elected in 2010, Wisconsin has been transformed into a business-friendly state with a balanced budget. However, there is more work to be done and I am looking forward to continuing to reform government and make it work in the best way it can for the taxpayers.

If elected to the state Senate I will continue to work hard for the people of the 10th Senate District. This is why I’m asking for your vote on Dec. 19.

Brian Corriea, Libertarian

I’m Brian Corriea, a nine-year Navy veteran and family man who lives in Wilson, and I am running as the Libertarian candidate for state Senate District 10.

I’ve long been an advocate for a more inclusive and diverse political system, including candidates who are independent from both major parties. I believe that politics should be a place for people to come together and share ideas. A place where we can learn about each other. Not just the things that divide us, but the things that bring us together.

Our current political climate is the opposite of that ideal.  We’ve been pushed into opposite corners, bound by partisan loyalty.  Serious discussion of the issues seem less important than personality and popularity.  I truly believe we all want the same thing: to provide a bright future for our kids, a clean and healthy environment, good jobs and affordable accessible health care for all. Working together, there is no reason to think we can’t achieve these goals, and so much more.

As a Libertarian, I believe I will be able to bridge partisan divides and bring good ideas back to the forefront, no matter which side of aisle they come from.

One of my first priorities will be to help local communities to build cooperative and voluntary methods to attract businesses to the area that support local economies.  We’ve been told tax and spend is the only way to accomplish this goal.  We collect taxes, and hand corporations money with the hope that our investment pays off.  There are other ways to fund business expansion.  Voluntary bond releases give residents an incentive to fund development by promising a direct financial return to the purchasers. At the same time it removes mandated taxation as the sole means to fund new enterprises.

We are imprisoning a record number of citizens in Wisconsin. The costs of which are set to exceed $200 million per year by even the most conservative estimates.  It is time to introduce prison reform in this state. We need to find a better way to take nonviolent offenders and put them on the path to self-sufficiency.  At a cost of $32,000 per year per prisoner, this is an issue that has been set aside for far too long.  Decriminalizing marijuana, eliminating mandatory minimum sentences and creating probation programs designed to help offenders rehabilitate and learn the skills necessary to be productive members of our communities will come at a much lower cost with greater results than the catch/release repeat system of criminal justice we are employing today.

As a Libertarian, I believe government exists to provide an even playing field, not a slush fund, paid for by taxpayers, to pick winners and losers. Instead of sweetheart deals for big business, I want to create a better business climate in Wisconsin by permanently lowering the tax burden across the board. Wisconsin ranks in the bottom third in tax climate nationwide.  I wonder if these taxpayer-funded handouts would be necessary if we repositioned ourselves as a truly business-friendly environment.

The Foxconn deal is a travesty.  The company has issued multiple press releases touting their goal to automate plants across China and Taiwan; it takes little foresight to imagine the same fate looms for the proposed plant here.  Money that could’ve been spent providing real tax relief statewide and modernizing our educational system was handed over in a hastily put-together deal that has limited prospects for transforming our economy. It’s time for fresh ideas and an environment that fosters innovation and new ways of thinking. I’m running for Senate in District 10 to work for Wisconsin families today and to help bring forth ideas that will create opportunities for tomorrow.