GOP Senate Candidates Debate Issues in Waukesha
Four Republicans call for government reforms and reduced spending in Washington during Wednesday's debate. Former Gov. Tommy Thompson declined his invitation.
With calls for reform and reduced government spending, four Republican candidates for a U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Herb Kohl tried to pitch their conservative viewpoints to voters during a candidates forum Wednesday at the Waukesha County Expo Center.
State Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald, financial investor Eric Hovde, former Congressman Mark Neumann and physical therapist Kip Smith appeared during the debate, which was sponsored by The Wisconsin Reporter and the Republican Party of Waukesha County. Former Gov. Tommy Thompson was unable to attend due to a prior commitment at a fundraiser in Washington, D.C.
Why They are Running for Senate
Each candidate in his opening statement spoke about increased government spending and concern for the future of America as reasons for seeking the Senate seat.
Fitzgerald applied the recent budget repair debate in Wisconsin and collective bargaining reforms to the federal level. The nation faces the same problems Wisconsin faces, he said.
“We are heading toward an economic cliff that is right around the corner,” Fitzgerald said. “We have to stop spending more than we have coming in.”
Hovde said he’s running because he is so “profoundly concerned” about nation’s direction.
Neumann, whose giant pig float was parked in the lot at the Expo Center to draw attention to pork-barrel spending in Washington, called for a repeal of the health care reform law critics dub "Obamacare."
Smith called for a restoration of constitutional freedoms in Washington. He also called for tax breaks for small businesses, in addition to large corporations.
“There are so many things, so many things that need to be changed in Washington,” Smith said.
Calls for End to Career Politicians
The candidates drew attention to career politicians as what they conceive as part of the problems in Washington.
Neumann, who earlier this week called for term limits in Congress, said the money that an incumbent politician will have for re-election “almost impossible to overcome.”
Hovde told what he called “a cute little story” about how the air conditioner unit changed politics. Because Washington, D.C., is so hot, politicians would go home during the summer months. Now that has changed — all because of air conditioning
“People went to Washington, served, brought their skills … went for the spring and fall, left Washington during the summer months,” Hovde said. "We had citizen legislators.”
Smith said that the elected politicians need to reach out to their constituents.
“We are your employees,” Smith said. “We have forgotten that.”
Should the U.S. Pull out of Afghanistan?
The question was posed to Hovde and Neumann about whether the United States should pull its military operations out of Afghanistan. While Neumann did not directly answer the question, Hovde quickly gave his clear statement.
“We need to get out. There is no reason we should spend anymore of our young peoples blood or our treasure in that country,” Hovde said. “I don’t understand why we are trying to rebuild a society there … when we have economic (difficulties) at home. … We have been there way too long. It is time to get out.”
Neumann, however, called for Obama to set the mission for Afghanistan and establish a plan to accomplish that mission. The timetable being set by Obama’s going to contribute to more deaths of U.S. military men and women, he said.
“It is not that easy,” said Neumann when asked to give a yes or no answer. “What President Obama is doing is disastrous to our country.”
The Campaign Donation to Doyle
Hovde was questioned about how he can criticize Thompson about his level of conservatism when he once donated money to former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. While Hovde didn’t directly answer the question about his donation, he told the Associated Press in early March that he does not remember making that donation. Hovde said it’s important to Wisconsin citizens that the candidates make it clear who they are. Hovde, whose mother passed away this week, criticized Thompson for not attending the debate.
“I think it is unfortunate that Governor Thompson was at a fundraiser in Washington, D.C.,” Hovde said.
Fitzgerald Not Concerned About Links to Gov. Walker
Fitzgerald called attention to his work in Madison as the Republican majority enacted collective bargaining reforms in 2011 in efforts to balance the budget. He said he wants to apply “conservative principals” as a U.S. senator. Saying he has a great relationship with Gov. Scott Walker, he said he is not concerned about his links to the governor who is currently being recalled.
“I would not shy away from anything that we would be able to accomplish,” Fitzgerald said.