As Nov. 7 draws closer, it is time to become educated if you haven’t already done so. This week we will look at the contested seat for Wisconsin Congressional District 8 as well as three referendums that will be on the ballot. In the eighth congressional district Steve Kagen (D), an allergist from Appleton, is competing with John Gard (R), a State Assembly representative from Peshtigo. Both are working to capture the congressional position vacated by Mark Green (R), now running against democratic Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle. The seat in northeastern Wisconsin is a hotly contested one. Nationally, it is ranked number 24 in a list of 60 competitive races. It has been a republican seat for four terms. Because of this, Gard, who was elected State Assembly speaker in 2003, has had support from big names such as Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), who visited Appleton Oct. 16. First Lady Laura Bush is also scheduled to appear at a rally for Gard in De Pere Oct. 24. Kagen, a self-made millionaire, has paid for much of his campaign himself. His website, kagen4congress.com, is full of statements of gratitude and support from many local people. Kagen has the support of the democratic leaders in the area, including former eighth congressional district democratic congressman Jay Johnson, and the chairs of both the Brown County and Kewaunee County Democratic Parties. Kagen even boasts of having the support of Gard’s hometown mayor, Tom Strouf of Peshtigo. As many Lawrentians learned from the debate in Stansbury Theatre Friday, Oct. 13, neither Kagen nor Gard are situated too far to the left or right. Here’s where the candidates stand on the big issues according to personal statements printed by the Appleton Post-Crescent Sept. 14. Health Care: Both Kagen and Gard express concern with provider cost and availability. In the state assembly, Gard helped to pass a proposal that would make provider costs transparent. Kagen, as a physician, believes he understands people’s rights to health care and vows to push for standardized health care while in Congress. Energy: Again, there is little distinction between the concerns of each candidate. Gard reminds us of his work in Madison to reduce the Wisconsin gas tax, and advocates aggressive measures to reduce gas prices. Yet, he is also concerned with independence from fossil fuels and foreign sources and environmental impacts. Kagen too believes in energy independence and speaks more about working towards finding renewable sources of energy, and conservation and efficiency. Homeland Security: Gard and Kagen express very similar opinions of security. Gard declares the utmost support for the Patriot Act, staying true to his GOP roots. Kagen is equally vocal and believes in implementing all of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission in order to make the country safe. Both candidates acknowledge the strength of terrorists and terrorism, and both take a stand against fear and inaction. Government Integrity: Both candidates have a clear understanding of the rules that the state of Wisconsin has in place in terms of ethics, which Gard calls some of the “toughest ethics laws” nationally. Gard worked in assembly to pass laws in Wisconsin like the Contract Sunshine Act, which enforces open disclosure of any bids of major state contracts. Kagen makes an equally strong case built on his experience as a constituent and not a government official. He advocates full governmental accountability and wants to establish public funding. In Congress, he wants to eliminate corporate influence and rein in the relations between lobbyists and Congress. Taxes: Gard is most concerned with well-paying, hometown jobs in northeastern Wisconsin. He believes that the taxes are unfair and he helped reduce the tax burden on the middle class by $1 billion during his time in the state assembly. Kagen, on the other hand, speaks mostly of reforming tax in a way that asks that the wealthy pay more. He calls for fair taxation and simplification of the tax code. Stem Cell Research: In general, the candidates toe the party line on this issue. Gard is somewhat more liberal than many republicans in that he supports adult stem cell research and umbilical cord blood research, which he calls ethical medical research. Gard worked to support medical research at UW-Madison and helped pass a bill that put $2.5 million into Alzheimer’s research at UW-Madison. He does not support cloning. Kagen, on the other hand, believes that the cure is the most important thing, having had experience dealing with patients and families of patients who personally suffer. He calls himself “proudly pro-cure” and very much advocates the use of stem cell research. Immigration: Gard takes a decidedly right-wing approach to immigration, calling for up to 15,000 border security guards to control the Mexican border. He also opposes amnesty. Kagen acknowledges the achievements of immigrants in our country but cites the stress that uncontrolled immigration has place on health care, taxes and the economy. He believes in border security, but does not specify what that entails. The War in Iraq: Gard advocates a bipartisan approach, an idea that more and more Republicans are working with. He believes we must support the troops in Iraq but work hard at bringing them home. Kagen expresses a strong view on extremism, believing that it must end all over the world. He calls on the people to elect tough leaders who will declare victory and remove the U.S. from the turmoil of what he calls the 1000-year-old Iraqi civil war. Economy: Gard expresses concern about the strength of businesses in northeastern Wisconsin and worked to ensure this strength in the state assembly. He wants the economy here to be strong enough to compete in a global economy. He also worked on tax reforms that led to job expansions in northeastern Wisconsin. Kagen is concerned with keeping jobs at home, citing the fact that many manufacturing jobs in northeastern Wisconsin have been shipped overseas. He believes that Congress should work to close the tax loopholes that enable large corporations to ship labor-intensive jobs overseas. Kagen wants Congress to work on legislature that will reward companies who create more and higher-paying jobs here in the U.S. While the candidates are at odds over some of the large issues, it seems that both can also agree in many aspects. Whoever wins on Nov. 7 may do so by only a slim majority. According to a poll conducted by political consulting firms RT Strategies and Constituent Dynamics Oct. 8-10, the people voted 48 percent to 46 percent-plus or minus 3 percent-in favor of Kagen.There are three other important issues for voters to consider before going to the polls. In Appleton, the smoking ban is again going to public referendum. This time voters are asked to decide whether or not 56 bars in Appleton should be exempt from the ban. On the ballot at a state level are two referendums, one of great importance and one which has been little talked about. The referendum to make civil unions and same-sex marriage illegal will be decided Nov. 7. It has been hotly contested. Also, there will be a referendum about the reinstitution of the death penalty in Wisconsin in cases of first-degree murder and cases backed by DNA evidence. However, this issue is only on the ballot so that lawmakers in Madison may gauge the popular feeling before really looking at this issue more in depth in coming sessions.
Next week: The gubernatorial race and the race for the 57th state assembly district.