In November 2018, Wisconsinites will vote for a governor. In the run-up to the elections, 350 Madison conducted a series of interviews with the candidates, focusing on their environmental views. These interviews were originally posted on our blog, and now are collected here.

This series is for information only. 350 Madison does not officially support any candidate.

More information about the candidates, including links to their campaign websites, can be found here.

The primary elections, both Democratic and Republican, will be held August 14, 2018.

The general election will be held November 6, 2018.

Find your polling place, learn about what’s on your ballot, and register to vote here.

 

What are the most important issues that you would take on if you were elected governor?

“The first priority for me is the environment,” said Democratic candidate Jeff Rumbaugh. Noting that “environment” is a broad term, he specified that “the greatest concern right now for Wisconsinites, and perhaps across the planet, is fresh water.”

Many people are unaware that the Great Lakes are the largest body of fresh water on the planet, Rumbaugh explained. “They need to be respected and treated properly,” he said, noting that this applied to the inland waters of Wisconsin as well.

Asked about threats to fresh water in Wisconsin, Rumbaugh named Foxconn and the city of Waukesha, both of which plan to extract water from Lake Michigan, use it, treat it, and return it to the lake.  Scott Walker was the first governor to okay Waukesha’s request to take water from the Great Lakes, “and I would be the last governor to do that,” declared Rumbaugh. He pointed out that as the leaders of the states and provinces surrounding the Great Lakes work together to manage this crucial water resource, a single veto can stop plans from moving forward.

 

Where would you rate climate change on your priority list?

“It goes hand in hand” with the issue of fresh water, Rumbaugh said, before naming a variety of strategies he would implement as governor to combat climate change, beginning with “I am against fracking.” Asked to clarify (since Wisconsin does not have the kind of natural resources that allow for fracking), Rumbaugh said, “The frack sand mining is what I’m talking about.” He explained that “it’s unregulated; it’s too prominent in certain areas,” naming the town of Arcadia as an example. Many groups, including dairy farmers and Native Americans, would favor an end to frack sand mining in Wisconsin, Rumbaugh thought. “I don’t think I would find a lot of challenge outside the corporate venue.”

Back on the general topic of climate change, Rumbaugh said, “I am also interested in taxing industrial polluters in Wisconsin.” The money raised from such a tax would be used to rebuild Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources, which in turn would force businesses to adopt environmental best practices. Rumbaugh also said that he would reinstate the mining moratorium and move Wisconsin away from coal and fossil fuel dependence.

Asked how he would phase out fossil fuels in the state, Rumbaugh said that “we need to rely more on green energies” and invest in technologies for storing energy. “Right now and in the future,” Rumbaugh explained, “our wind turbines and solar panels should be proliferated and advanced as we move forward.” If we also build out infrastructure to store energy, we can compensate for the shortcomings of renewable energy – mainly, that it isn’t produced when the wind isn’t blowing and when the sun is blocked by clouds.

How to store energy? “I in part propose that we begin proliferating electric vehicles in Wisconsin. I feel that with enough electric vehicles – it’s not going to have an effect if we’re only talking about 100,000 or something – but moving forward, each vehicle is essentially a large battery, and charging the vehicles from the grid is storing energy.”

And how are we going to get more electric vehicles in Wisconsin? Rumbaugh proposed that the cars of the future should be built in our state and sold directly to consumers. He also envisions an incentive program to encourage owners of low-fuel-efficiency cars to trade in for more environmentally-friendly vehicles.

On the topic of transportation, Rumbaugh also talked about tying in the repair of our roadways to the increase in electric vehicles, adding more charging stations, and using warm-mix asphalt instead of the hot-mix variety. This alternative type of asphalt reduces paving costs, extends the paving season, improves compaction, can be hauled longer distances, provides better working conditions – such as lower emissions of fumes and odors – and doesn’t absorb as much heat.

 

Do you know what Line 61 is?

Rumbaugh passed 350 Madison’s pop quiz, explaining that Line 61 is an oil pipeline that would “make Keystone XL look small,” and that most people haven’t heard of it. He added that he supported President Obama’s decision to block construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. In reference to the Dakota Access pipeline, he said that if he had been governor over the last year, he would have sent Wisconsin’s state troopers to help California clean up and rebuild from the wildfires and mudslides, not to North Dakota to protect industry interests.

“I don’t think that pipelines are safe,” Rumbaugh concluded. “I think there’s been enough evidence to prove that the dangers outweigh the perks, if you will.”

 

Anything else?

Before wrapping up the interview, Rumbaugh talked about “the retail shopping apocalypse” – the steady increase in the popularity of online shopping, and the corresponding decline of shopping malls. “I propose that [the supermalls] be converted,” Rumbaugh said. “And I’m not interested in forcing anyone to lose their job, or kicking out retailers…” The businesses won’t be profitable any longer and the jobs will go elsewhere anyway, he explained.

Once that happens, Rumbaugh envisions turning these developed, utility-connected areas into “energy centers”. The buildings could be covered in solar panels or house transformers, to generate or store energy. “We don’t have to go tearing up more land with this kind of use,” Rumbaugh said.

 

As of May 2018, Rumbaugh has withdrawn his candidacy for governor of Wisconsin.

 

What are the most important issues that you would take on if you were elected governor?

“There are many important issues,” began Democratic candidate Kathleen Vinehout, who has been serving as a state senator for the past ten years. “I see as important priorities fixing problems with public education and the universities; focusing on quality, accessible healthcare; and fixing the many, many problems in the state related to the environment and conservation.”

Vinehout went on to explain that these three priorities encompass a slew of interrelated pieces, which are difficult to separate or even to count. The most important issue is the budget, Vinehout emphasized, since that is how a government sets out its priorities and allocates funds for addressing them.

 

Where would you rate environmental issues on your priority list?

Vinehout reiterated that the environment is in her top three priorities – along with healthcare and education – and that among those three, none is more important than the others. Vinehout then talked about the crucial role of money in making progress on priorities. “There are investments that need to be made,” she said.

In Wisconsin, expenses related to environmental issues are primarily funded by federal money, not state money, said the experienced senator. “The refrain that we hear over and over again is, there’s not enough money,” said Vinehout. She believes there’s plenty of money; we just need to be wiser about how we spend it.

“I wrote an alternative to the governor’s budget for the past four cycles,” said Vinehout, “showing that the cuts that were made – whether it’s environment, schools, or healthcare – did not have to happen. And my alternative budget took the same amount of money, rearranged the priorities, and accomplished these goals with the same amount of money that was in the budget.”

“It’s a question of leadership from the top,” Vinehout added, referring both to the governor and to highly-placed officials. Recent heads of Wisconsin’s DNR, Vinehout believes, did not have relevant experience and were not good choices for this important position.

 

What will we stop spending money on in order to free up funds for these priorities?

“I have a really long list,” Vinehout said, before going on to answer the question enthusiastically and at length. She began by naming tax credits to manufacturing and agricultural businesses, as an example of a big-ticket item that would make a real difference in the budget. There are 43 such tax credits, said Vinehout – 44 once Foxconn is in operation – and eliminating the 2011 Manufacturing and Agriculture Credit would, by itself, free up approximately $620 million in the biannual budget.

Next, Vinehout targeted public money going to private schools. “When you think about environmental issues,” she said, “it’s important to realize that a huge amount of money in the budget that is environmental money comes from either program revenue, or it’s fee-based, or it’s federal money.”

Vinehout also criticized Governor Walker’s decision to fire scientists who were primarily funded by federal dollars.

Returning to the topic of why the environment is such a high priority, Vinehout said, “I think it’s a mistake for people to say schools are more important than the environment, healthcare is more important than the environment. Frankly, if we don’t have a planet, none of that matters…. We have to fix the planet first, or we’re not going to have a home.”

Vinehout next focused on the problem of energy generation. “We love energy, as a society,” said the senator, who has a PhD in research and describes herself as a science-loving non-scientist. “But we have to change the way we generate that energy.”

Ten years ago, Vinehout recalled, when she began her career in the state senate, people were talking about renewable energy, and there were lots of ideas on the subject. Vinehout herself worked with farmers to help them be “more mindful of carbon emissions,” in terms of the diesel fuel being used in their tractors, but also their soil amendments and other sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2009, thanks to Vinehout’s efforts, the state budget included a prototype for an inexpensive manure digester that could be shared among medium-sized farms as a kind of co-op. “Everybody benefits from the sale of power back to the power company,” Vinehout said, referring to the use of manure digesters as a source of renewable energy. “By 2019, the whole infrastructure would have been developed.” But the project needed public investment to bring an affordable manure digester to market. This investment never materialized.

 

Do you know what Line 61 is?

Vinehout asked for a hint on 350 Madison’s pop quiz. Then she recalled that this tar sands pipeline was enabled by a “change in eminent domain law that allowed the pipeline companies and the transmission companies to, in my mind, cross the line between laws that benefit the public and laws that benefit the private sector.”

The change was snuck into the budget and is causing a lot of problems, Vinehout said, adding that she thinks the amendment violates Wisconsin’s constitution by creating a private law. **

Vinehout thinks the law should be changed, both because of the constitutional issue, and because of her own experience with eminent domain. “I have a transmission line that runs diagonally through my farm,” said Vinehout. “I’ve lived 12 miles away from a coal-burning power plant…. Another detail that was changed in the law has to do with the right-of-way of the power company to be able to take down trees and foliage from the center line.” The law used to allow the power company to clear land up to 50 feet from the right-of-way’s center line, but now that distance is 80 feet. Following the change, Vinehout said, in 2015, the power company took “huge swathes of mature hickory and black walnut trees off of my farm.”

But Vinehout did not want to focus on her personal experiences. “Much, much worse problems than me are happening all over the state.”

 

Anything else?

Vinehout said people often ask her how she will work with a Republican senate and a Republican assembly. “We have to focus on climate change,” she said emphatically, in answer to this question. “We have to do everything we can as a state.” What can we do as a state? Vinehout pointed out that the governor has many ways to address environmental issues, including appointing people, leveraging existing laws, and using the court system.

Before leaving for another meeting, Vinehout expressed her interest in learning more about the science behind environmental issues, and working with people around the state to create opportunities to make progress on these challenges.

 

 

**The budget rider that Vinehout refers to was passed in 2015, and would make it easier for a pipeline company to take additional land alongside Line 61, in order to build another pipeline in that corridor. Line 61 itself was constructed in 2009, well before this law was in place.

What are the most important issues that you would take on if you were elected governor?

Tony Evers, Democratic candidate for governor and currently the state superintendent for schools, shared his top three priorities, in no particular order.

“One of them is, of course, education,” he began. Prioritizing education means “funding it appropriately and equitably,” Evers explained. School funding has been “decimated” by Governor Walker, but it’s a “critical issue” for the superintendent.

The second priority Evers named was “to reinvest and reinvigorate the middle class in the state of Wisconsin, and that includes … [making] healthcare more affordable.” Reinvigorating the middle class also means “investing in middle-class jobs, such as infrastructure,” Evers said, noting that currently, “We rank 49 out of 50 [states], as it relates to that.”

“And third of all, it’s issues around natural resources,” concluded Evers, who holds degrees in zoology and chemistry. “The environmental issues are really important to me.”

 

Within the broad topic of the environment, what do you think are the most important issues?

Evers had plenty of ideas on how to answer this question.

“I was the first candidate to endorse the Paris Climate Change Accords,” he said proudly. “I think that’s important, to recognize that that’s a reality, and science has indicated that it’s real to us.” Throughout our interview, Evers stressed the importance of further research, and relying on scientific knowledge to make good decisions. As governor, he said, he would invest in reinvigorating the University of Wisconsin’s research into renewable energy, and he would “appoint UW regents that believe in climate change and would respond accordingly and fund those programs and deal with the importance of renewable energy.”

On the subject of appointing people, Evers said that Wisconsin should return to having an independent secretary leading the Department of Natural Resources, “to pull them away from the political realm as much as possible and bring science back into the decision-making of the department. … I want to make sure that environmental protections are in place, and we vigorously support the DNR’s ability to regulate that, to protect the environment.”

What, specifically, should we protect? Water is the area most under attack, Evers said. “Texas has oil; we have water. And that is a very important resource for us in the state, whether it is for recreational purposes or other [environmental uses].” Evers called out lead as one threat to water quality in Wisconsin. “We have kids in this state that are drinking water that is contaminated with lead. … We need to put our money where our mouth is on that issue.”

Evers also named air pollution as an environmental issue. Foxconn, once it is in operation, will be the fourth-worst source of air pollution emissions in southeast Wisconsin, with three coal-burning power plants taking the top spots. Evers condemned the DNR’s role in allowing the Foxconn proposal to go forward, saying they “put their blessing on that without, frankly, much thought.”

Since it’s too late to stop Foxconn from moving into Wisconsin, Evers spoke about the need for a “Plan B” for dealing with the company. “I think we should be able to compel Foxconn not only to pay living wages, but to essentially install solar panels” on their huge complex of buildings, Evers said. With the amount of roof space available, “they would create electricity for 33,000 homes in southeast Wisconsin.” Evers thought the company could be required to install the solar panels in exchange for the state providing roads to serve the company’s premises.

What else can we do to address environmental issues in Wisconsin? “We can begin by enforcing present laws,” Evers stated simply. “There’s always a balancing act between the environment and business interests, and I think that balancing act has fallen out of balance.”

 

If you were elected governor, what would you do to address climate change, and how soon would you do it?

In response to this question, Evers again named the importance of research, especially in the field of renewable energy. “Renewable energy is one of the ways to avoid more damage to the environment,” he said.

When we pressed Evers for suggestions of other ways we could reduce our carbon emissions, he pointed to cars as an important source of greenhouse gases. “We don’t build cars anymore in the state,” he said, “so we have little or no control over that.” But we can do research to inform industry as to how they might produce more climate-friendly cars, and we can “make sure that cars that are bought and sold in Wisconsin meet standards, and try to assist people in their ability to buy cars that reduce emissions.”

 

Do you know what Line 61 is?

Evers needed help on 350 Madison’s pop quiz, but then he was immediately able to take a position on the issue and suggest some actions he would take.

In regards to Line 61, which was constructed decades ago, Evers said, “I don’t foresee us shutting that down.” But there are still actions we can take to reduce the potential harmful impacts of the tar sands pipeline. We can “make sure it has the appropriate monitoring so there’s not a spill,” Evers suggested. We can “hold the company’s feet to the fire if there’s any damage done to the environment because of that.” We can also “make sure the company has the appropriate insurance policies in place,” “compel [the company owning the pipeline] to be good stewards,” and “make sure things are appropriately cleaned up if an accident does happen.”

As for Line 66, the proposed “twin” to Line 61, Evers deferred to scientists and researchers as to what the wisest course of action might be. “We have lots of smart people that are involved in that.”

 

Anything else?

“I support climate change research,” Evers told us one more time. “[Climate change] does exist. We need to continue to expand our knowledge around that and do everything we can to make sure we understand the issues and respond accordingly. … That’s serious stuff that we don’t discuss anymore.”

Finally, Evers expressed his interest in hearing from Wisconsinites with diverse viewpoints. “Governor Walker has a history of choosing the people he wants to listen to,” he explained, “and I don’t do that, and I won’t do that in the future.”

 

What are the most important issues that you would take on if you were elected governor?

“There’s a lot of issues that are going to need to be addressed,” said Ramona Whiteaker, Democratic candidate for governor of Wisconsin. “But the main ones for me, that would be a priority for the first year and a half, is creating a jobs package that raises the minimum wage, and creating programs to train workers for the skilled-labor jobs that are needed in Wisconsin.” This jobs package would also include bringing “environmentally responsible companies” to the state.

Whiteaker named “creating an environmental protection bill” as equal in importance to action on jobs. This bill would be focused on reducing carbon emissions. “It would require utility companies to replace the use of fossil fuels with wind, solar, or hydroelectric power, and [it would] continue to fund research on innovative ways of continuing to reduce our carbon footprint,” Whiteaker explained.

Healthcare was just slightly lower on Whiteaker’s priority list. Her proposed bill would “provide healthcare for everybody, regardless of how much money you made. It would provide everything in one plan.” How would that work? “That would be through a Medicaid buy-in program, and the payments would be based on your income,” Whiteaker told us, adding that this sliding scale would be capped at some reasonable level for the highest income earners.

Finally, Whiteaker said, “We really need to invest in our infrastructure, and making schools and roads a priority.”

How would you rate environmental issues on your priority list?

Whiteaker reiterated that she would focus on jobs and the environment first, aiming to see real progress on these issues within the first eighteen months of her term. “We need good jobs for people, but we also need to protect the environment,” she said, weighing the relative importance of the two issues. “I think those two are my top priorities.”

Within the broad topic of the environment, what do you think are the most important issues?

Whiteaker first answered this question by reflecting on her childhood, when, growing up in Madison, she saw first-hand the community’s fight against Kipp, an aluminum die casting plant. “I remember when we started getting on these companies that were producing all this pollution,” she said.

That fight resulted in EPA regulations on Kipp’s emissions into the air and water, but now those regulations are being rolled back by Governor Walker. “I want to put [the regulations] back into place, and then continue to make companies responsible for being energy-conscious and environmentally conscious and responsible,” said Whiteaker.

Now on the subject of present-day battles, Whiteaker spoke strongly about the need for a swift transition to renewable energy. “The more that we can go to renewable energy,” she said, “the less use we’re going to have for pipelines and fossil fuels. My goal for Wisconsin would be to make Wisconsin a leader in renewable energy, and in every aspect of renewable energy.”

Where would you rate climate change on your priority list?

“Like, way at the top,” Whiteaker said bluntly. “I see climate change in the last few years more and more, with warmer winters and hotter summers. I know that the ice caps and icebergs are melting, and the oceans are rising. And it’s because of us. And it has to stop. And so as governor, that’s what I would be focused on, is doing everything we can in this state, even though the federal government doesn’t believe it’s happening.”

When asked what exactly can we do about climate change, Whiteaker repeated her promise to require utility companies to stop using fossil fuels, and move towards renewable energy. Under her proposed environmental protection bill, any utility company that doesn’t comply will have to pay fines. Renewable energy would not only save our planet, Whiteaker said, it would also save money for consumers.

Whiteaker’s administration would also “impose a tax on companies that refuse to follow the EPA rules, [and] give incentives to businesses that do” follow the rules.

In addition, Whiteaker said that if she were elected, she would join with 14 other governors in signing the We Are Still In pledge, promising to keep commitments made by the US in the Paris Climate Accords, despite President Trump’s decision to abandon the agreement.

“There’s no reason, with all the technology we have, to continue to rely on fossil fuels,” Whiteaker said. “Once we destroy our ecosystem, we can’t sustain our lives.”

Do you know what Line 61 is?

Whiteaker aced 350 Madison’s pop quiz, answering the question before we asked. “I remember a pipeline that came in through Canada,” she said, in the midst of answering the question about her environmental priorities. “I believe it’s the Enbridge pipeline. I did some research on it. They produce over 1 million barrels of oil a day. It comes from Canada. It goes all the way to Illinois. And I believe that they’ve had oil spills before. And I do know that last year I spoke to a Native American who was concerned that there was going to be another line coming through on their reservation. So they were fighting that. And I agree with that. I don’t think we should be taking their land. I believe eminent domain was used in part of that line.”

Asked to clarify why she was opposed to pipelines, Whiteaker said, “I don’t agree with them because they do have the potential to spill, and when they do, it destroys the ecosystem, the land. It hurts the people. And no matter how much you charge those companies to clean it up, the damage is done once it’s spilled.” She also took issue with the use of eminent domain to take land for pipeline construction. “I just don’t think that that’s fair, and I don’t think it’s right. It’s not something that I would support.”

On the subject of what to do about existing pipelines, Whiteaker proposed making Enbridge financially responsible for cleaning up any spills, and doing research to decrease the likelihood that spills will happen. And as for the new pipeline that Enbridge is seeking to build, Whiteaker said, “We have to stop it. Not exactly sure how, but I will find out.”

Anything else?

“This morning,” Whiteaker said, speaking to us on April 26, “the DNR gave the go-ahead to Foxconn to use 2.7 million gallons of water a day from Lake Michigan. I’m sad to see that happen.” By the time she takes office, if elected, it will be too late for Whiteaker to stop Foxconn from opening its doors in Wisconsin. But “if we can get our environmental protection bill passed,” she said, “we can force them to actually be environmentally responsible, I’m hoping, because that might be the only thing we can do with them.”

Finally, Whiteaker made her pitch to the electorate: “I’m running for governor to listen to the people and to work for them, to stand with them. If there is something like the march that came to the Capitol that were to happen, if I’m governor, I will be there to address them. I think that in order to know what the needs of the people are, you have to listen to them and you have to work with them. And as governor, I plan on working not just with Democrats, but with Republicans as well, the community leaders, to pass bills and laws that will help people. Everything that I stand for will help every single person in Wisconsin.”

Mike McCabe is the former Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a non-partisan watchdog group that tracks money in politics. He is also the founder of Blue Jeans Nation, a group that describes itself as, “Commoners working to house the politically homeless and transform parties that are failing America.”

 

What are the most important issues that you would take on if you were elected governor?

 

“It’s about making our government work for regular people, and not just the wealthy few at the very top. It’s about opening up our government to the voices of regular citizens and that means dealing with the influence of big money in politics and creating conditions where the public interest can be served. Beyond that, for me, the environment is very high on the list. One of the things I say everywhere I go is that it should be Wisconsin’s goal to be the first state in the nation fully powered by renewable energy.”

 

McCabe also said, “I also obviously want Wisconsin to deal with economic inequality, and the fact that so far in the 21st century no state in America has seen its middle class shrink more than Wisconsin.”

 

How would you rate environmental issues on your priority list?

 

For McCabe, environmental issues are a priority.

 

He says, “It’s right up there at the top. For me it goes hand in hand with the need to create opportunities for debt-free education, high-speed internet everywhere in our state, and healthcare for all.” McCabe again stressed that Wisconsin should aim to be the first state in the nation fully powered by renewable energy.

 

Within the broad topic of the environment, what do you think are the most important issues?

 

“I think first and foremost is both restoring independence to the Department of Natural Resources, but also restoring science to the Department of Natural Resources. As you know, the top leadership of the DNR scrubbed any mention of climate change from the agency’s website. I would make sure climate change is again recognized. The fact that any mention of it has been scrubbed from the DNR’s website is shameful. I obviously would correct that mistake.”

 

McCabe said he advocates for an independent DNR, where the secretary of the DNR is appointed by the national resources board, and not the governor, in order to insulate the position from political meddling.

 

McCabe also said government should incentivize small-scale sustainable agriculture, instead of what he views as the massive-scale industrialization of agriculture. He also said government should be on the side of the energy revolution, and not erecting roadblocks to renewable energy.

 

If you were elected governor, what would you do to address climate change, and how soon would you do it?

 

In addition to reforming the DNR, McCabe says his first budget as governor of Wisconsin would set a new tone prioritizing climate change. He said, “In the first budget I would offer increases in funding for programs like Focus on Energy, and new initiatives to seek the development of renewable energy in our state.”

 

In Wisconsin, political candidates often don’t talk a whole lot about climate change. Why do you think that is?

 

McCabe said younger generations are more in tune with climate change concerns than some members of older generations.

 

“When I talk to young people, renewable energy comes up immediately. For a lot of young people, they feel like older folks don’t take climate change as seriously as they should, because they really feel like the older people won’t live to experience the full force of climate change.”

 

McCabe also said there’s a vacuum of leadership with respect to climate change.

 

“The Republican Party currently controls our state government and also controls Capitol Hill in Washington and has been openly hostile to acknowledging and openly working on the issue of climate change,” he said. “And the Democrats haven’t exactly made climate change a priority issue of their own. There’s been a leadership vacuum and that has to change. It’s where people running for governor, people who are running for any office around the country need to bring this up, they need to engage people in conversations about climate change and environmental concerns.”

 

Do you know what Line 61 is?

 

“I sure do!” McCabe is fully aware of the Enbridge pipeline, and stressed his history of work with local groups fighting the Enbridge pipeline. He’s also worked extensively with groups fighting high-voltage transmission lines and sand mining.

 

Anything else you want members of 350 Madison to know?

 

McCabe said he hopes his record makes it clear that “there’s really a long-time association between me and groups in the environmental community,” he said. “This is not something that I’m just concerned about now. It’s something that I’ve been working on a very long time.”

What are the most important issues that you would take on if you were elected governor?

Mahlon Mitchell, Democratic candidate, named four issues that he would tackle if he won the governorship of Wisconsin.

“I think education is very important,” he began. Governor Walker has taken $1.6 billion away from education, Mitchell said, put back $630 million, “and called that progress.” In Mitchell’s view, this funding problem should be solved by giving more local control to school districts, including allowing each community to set its own tax base.

Second, Mitchell spoke about raising wages – specifically, implementing a $15-an-hour minimum wage – and restoring power to working people.

“The other thing is healthcare,” Mitchell continued. “We have over 300,000 Wisconsinites that don’t have any healthcare whatsoever.” Mitchell again criticized Walker, saying that the current governor didn’t take the Medicaid expansion offered by the federal government, and he should have. “We need to make sure that every person in Wisconsin has the ability to go to the hospital when they’re sick,” Mitchell said, “and not be one illness away from going bankrupt.”

Fourth, Mitchell says he would do something about the incarceration rate, citing the facts that Wisconsin ranks number one for “putting African-American males behind bars,” and also has the highest recidivism rate among the fifty states. “There’s a lot of things we can do to combat that,” Mitchell said. As examples, he named banning the box and “creating opportunities for people.” Ultimately, he said, we need to abandon our current top-down economy, and instead “create an economy from the bottom up, and make sure everyone has the opportunity to live a good life.”

Where would you rate environmental issues on your priority list?

“It’s at the top of the list,” Mitchell said. “There’s a lot of things we need to do in our state.” Like what? “We’re going to make Wisconsin believe in science again,” Mitchell quipped.

Mitchell stressed that one of the best things about Wisconsin is its abundance of natural resources, including its lakes, as well as opportunities to hunt and fish (activities Mitchell engages in himself). It’s crucial to protect those resources, he said, since they bring in billions of dollars of tourism revenue each year. “The DNR is a shell of its former self,” Mitchell lamented. The department needs to “bring back the folks that actually care about natural resources.” In addition to recreational uses, Mitchell pointed out that natural resources are important because everybody needs clean air and clean water.

Within the broad topic of the environment, what do you think are the most important issues?

“We need to make sure that we have good corporate partners,” Mitchell said, referring to the need for Wisconsin-based companies to be good environmental stewards. Naming a company that doesn’t meet that standard, Mitchell said that Foxconn “has overpromised and underperformed a lot of times.” Mitchell gave two examples of environmentally-unfriendly behavior the foreign company is expected to engage in: taking 700,000 gallons of water a day from Lake Michigan, and discharging dangerous chemicals. Mitchell thought that these kinds of actions should be prohibited by “stricter environmental standards,” including regulations intended to “improve the quality of our waterways.”

Returning to the topic of the DNR, Mitchell said that the department needs to be fully staffed, and the secretary in particular must be carefully chosen for their objective qualifications. “There shouldn’t be any partisan issues when it comes to something like our environment,” Mitchell said, adding that we need to “bring the scientists back in order to make sure we’re doing everything we can to take care of our natural resources.”

Where would you rate climate change on your priority list?

“I believe in climate change,” Mitchell told us. “It’s very important. Our president pulling out of the Paris Agreement is horrible. As a state, I would make sure we’re a state that is in the Paris Agreement. [This priority is] ranked very high.”

Before we asked specifically what Mitchell would do about this challenge, he said that he would implement tax cuts for businesses and homeowners that are looking to invest in solar and wind energy.

If you were elected governor, what would you do to address climate change, and how soon would you do it?

Mitchell answered this question by explaining one of his campaign promises: if he is elected, he will transition Wisconsin’s government buildings to 100% renewable energy by 2030, and will work towards the entire state being powered by 50% renewable energy before 2040.

Mitchell also said, “We have to regulate our cars. We have to make sure our emissions standards are up to par.”

As for how all of this would be brought about, Mitchell said, “I would bring stakeholders to the table and work on real solutions and put together a long-term plan and goal.”

“I’m not a scientist,” said Mitchell, who has pursued a career as a firefighter. “You need to bring people to the table that actually know more about those types of things. And that’s what a leader does.”

Do you know what Line 61 is?

Mitchell couldn’t answer this question. Asked “What do you know about Enbridge?”, he admitted, “Not much.” When 350 Madison asked, “What are tar sands?”, Mitchell identified that substance as a commodity transported on trains.

After a crash course in Line 61, Mitchell said that “we need to protect our marshlands and our resources,” and expressed interest in learning more about the pipeline.

Anything else?

At the end of our interview, Mitchell summarized his campaign: “We’re building a wide coalition to work together to beat Scott Walker.”

What are the most important issues that you would take on if you were elected governor?

“The first would be getting rid of coal and nuclear power,” said Robbie Hoffman, whose website declares he is running as an “independent environmental candidate.” “I believe in green energy,” Hoffman said. “It creates a lot of jobs.” In addition, he said, “pollution just has too much of an effect on what we believe in – organic food, our waterways, hunting, fishing. I just want to eliminate all coal and nuclear power. That’s the main thing.”

Hoffman also named good-paying jobs as a priority. “Too many people are struggling,” he said. If he were elected governor, he would implement a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

Finally, Hoffman told us he would prioritize fixing Wisconsin’s education system. “Student loans are really bogging people down,” he said. “People aren’t getting what they need out of education, because the price is too high.”

Where would you rate environmental issues on your priority list?

Based on Hoffman’s answer to the previous question, we asked simply, “Is the environment your number-one priority?” He responded with an emphatic “Yes.”

Within the broad topic of the environment, what do you think are the most important issues?

First, Hoffman told us that recycling is “huge”. “We still have corporates that don’t recycle,” he said. Targeting a specific company, he added, “Starbucks is one of them.”

Hoffman next talked about the importance of restoring and protecting our waterways, by removing invasive species, such as Asian carp; cleaning up the algae that is already present; and preventing more algae from moving in.

“Runoff is a big issue,” Hoffman said, naming a third environmental priority. “I understand the farmers’ perspective,” he told us, but Wisconsin’s tourism industry is already seeing a decline due to the degraded state of our waterways, which in turn is due to runoff. Hoffman summarized the impact by saying, “The beaches, they stink.” Hoffman also sees runoff as a health issue. “It affects everything,” he concluded.

Where would you rate climate change on your priority list?

“Climate change is a big issue,” Hoffman said, and gave some examples of the magnitude of the problem, and the way the issue has gotten politicized. “There are so many Republicans and Democrats that don’t believe that it’s true science. They go back and forth about how they just think that it’s false. The glaciers are melting at a record pace. Every 20 minutes a polar bear dies from drowning. … I think eventually Florida is going to be underwater.”

If you were elected governor, what would you do to address climate change, and how soon would you do it?

Returning to one of his earlier themes, Hoffman answered, “There’s a lot of things that can be done, and one of the issues is pollution. Coal and nuclear power, we can reverse things, if we start now. If we wait too late, there probably won’t be a population in 200 years.”

Hoffman thinks that we have 50-60 years to take action on climate change, before the worst impacts become unavoidable. He doesn’t see that as an excuse to continue delaying, though. If he were elected, he would begin working to address the problem “immediately”.

Asked what, specifically, he would do about climate change, Hoffman reiterated his campaign promise to eliminate coal. He says he will “start creating jobs in clean energy, make it affordable. And as well, just through legislation, making sure that companies need to start changing over, and make sure it’s enforced.”

Hoffman’s energy plan is definitely not all-of-the-above, but it does include all kinds of green energy. “If you just go through one source,” Hoffman said, meaning relying on only solar power, or only wind energy, “it’s not going to work” to create good, long-lasting jobs for everyone.

Hoffman summed up the need to get serious about working to prevent climate change: “There’s a lot of research to prove that environmentalists aren’t lying.”

Do you know what Line 61 is?

Hoffman wasn’t familiar with Wisconsin’s major tar sands pipeline. Quizzed on his knowledge about Enbridge, Hoffman optimistically asked, “Is it a green energy company?”

After learning a little about Enbridge and their pipeline network, Hoffman said, “I do not agree with it. … I don’t believe in this pipeline.”

“I was actually pretty proud of the people that stood up to it,” Hoffman added, referring to fights against various pipelines and fossil fuel infrastructure across the country. “I’m not a fan of the pipeline. I’m not a fan of oil. … I’ve seen pictures and I’ve seen videos of what they leave behind when they go for oil, and it’s pretty disgusting.”

Anything else?

Our electoral process keeps handing Wisconsinites candidates who can’t beat the current incumbent, Hoffman said. He believes he’s the better choice. “I know for a fact I can beat Walker,” he told us, citing his undergraduate and graduate degrees in psychology as the source of his expertise on his chances of winning.

Hoffman has run for governor of Wisconsin before. At the time of our interview, he did not yet have enough petition signatures to get on the ballot for this election cycle.

Ryan Cason, a resident of Solon Springs in northern Wisconsin, is a write-in candidate for governor, challenging Governor Walker for the Republican nomination. Cason is originally from Guam, and served in the Navy in South Carolina and Hawaii for six and a half years.  He moved to Wisconsin in 2014. He is also currently a full-time seminary student at Wesley Biblical Seminary. Cason biked to his interview with 350 Madison.

 

On Why He’s Running for Governor

“After getting out of the military much earlier than I thought I would, I still wanted to serve this nation. I still want to do civil service, I still care about people, and I feel that as governor, this is the way I can make the most impact in the state and the nation. Because we are going into an economic crash, and because I do study the cycles, I can prepare us to get out of that.”

 

On Running as a Republican

“I’m running under the Republican ticket. I’m not a Republican, I’m a human being. You don’t win as an independent candidate, you win either as a Democrat or a Republican. I’m not a Republican, I’m not a Democrat, if anything I don’t fit in a box very well, and I lean both ways.  Because I agree with the idea of a republic, I ran under the Republican ticket.”

 

What are the most important issues that you would take on if you were elected governor?

Cason believes an economic crash is imminent, and his number-one priority is addressing it – conclusions he’s drawn from reading and studying cycles, including the connections between climate cycles and business.  He says a public banking system is part of the solution. He also said addressing climate change is a priority for him, because the combined impact of an economic crash and climate change will be devastating.

“What’s the most important issue of my campaign? It really is this whole climate change deal, and the economic crash, because when you combine those two, it’s a terrible recipe. It’s a massive amount of baking soda that never got mixed up. It’s terrible, it’s bitter, it’s impactful for all.

“And I don’t hear anyone else talking about it [the economic crash]. Everybody’s talking about ‘I’m going to do free internet or universal healthcare or cut taxes.’  What about what we’re really going into? Are you going to do free internet and universal healthcare when you don’t have money? I hope people take seriously the crash that we’re going into.“

If elected, implementing a public banking system would be his first act once in office.

 

Within the broad topic of the environment, what do you think are the most important issues?

Clean water, pollution, and excessive deforestation are the environmental topics most important to Cason.  He also said these concerns must be balanced with economic concerns, and the reality of an impending economic crash.

Cason also expressed concern about the impact of Foxconn on water quality, but said he hasn’t read enough about the project to make a definitive statement about how the project will impact the environment.

 

On Line 61

350 Madison asks all the candidates we interview if they know what Line 61 is, but Cason brought up Line 61 before he was asked about it.

I see both sides of the argument.  I don’t want an oil spill, but I want the economic impact from [the pipeline], you know?  I see it firsthand in Solon Springs, on how much income it brings to our little town.

“Maybe there’s a way to tighten the stipulations around Enbridge, and whomever else. Maybe there’s a way to ensure that accidents are few and far between. Because I think that accidents happen no matter what. We are okay, to a degree, with car crashes. We say, okay, they’re few and far between, and they pollute, they take up labor, we lose state money trying to clean this stuff up, and worst of all we lose lives. But we’re not going to cut out cars. But there’s far more motor vehicle accidents than Enbridge’s oil spills. Oil spills are dramatic, but they are not worse than the loss of a life.”

Cason also said that while accidents are inevitable, as governor he wouldn’t be willing to look the other way when it came to enforcing safety requirements for oil pipelines.  

 

Is there anything else you want our members and voters to know?

Cason said voters who want Walker out of office should make him a household name, because Republicans in the state are unwilling to vote for a Democrat, but want to vote for someone else.

He also said his understanding of checks and balances, and using them to protect the environment, is something no other candidate in the race offers.

I just want the voters to know, Walker understands that legislation is the key, because he gets to enforce legislation. I understand that same fact. And I am willing to do what nobody else is willing to do, including Walker himself.  Enforcing legislation is the key to protecting the environment.“

Kelda Roys represented Wisconsin’s 81st District in the State Assembly from 2008-2013.  She is also an attorney and a business owner, the CEO and founder of OpenHomes, a real estate brokerage website.

What are the most important issues that you would take on if you were elected governor?

Roys said climate change is her major priority.

“While a lot of policies are reversible if you make a mistake, the deterioration of our climate and destroying our environment are not reversible. So we need to take drastic and immediate action to protect our climate and our natural resources.”

In addition to climate change, what other issues will you focus on if elected governor?

Roys said she will focus on public education, access to healthcare, jobs and infrastructure, and ending mass incarceration.

Within the broad topic of the environment, what do you think are the most important issues?

“Making sure that the DNR is empowered to actually enforce our laws against pollution and protect our clean water.

“I would also say taking state action to address climate change. I would like Wisconsin to join the Paris Accord. It was a travesty that the United States withdrew, and so we should show leadership here.  And I’d like to make Wisconsin 100% powered by renewable energy by 2050.”

If you were elected governor, what would you do to address climate change, and how soon would you do it? What are some immediate steps you would take once in office?

Roys reiterated her plans to restore the independence of the DNR, and to have Wisconsin comply with the Paris Accord and transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050.

On Renewable Energy and the Economy

“We need to help people understand that doing the right thing for our climate is also going to be very beneficial to our economy.”

Do you know what Line 61 is?

“I do not know what it is. What is it?”

That’s Enbridge’s tar sands pipeline, that runs from Superior …

“Oh yeah, yeah. I thought you were talking about 350 ppm [parts per million] or something like that.  I am familiar with Enbridge’s tar sands pipeline.”

Is there anything else you want our members and voters to know?

“I think what sets me apart in this race – there are a lot of good people running. I’m the one that actually has a track record of passing legislation, and turning big ideas into real results.

“My time in the Assembly allowed me to be a leader on things like the Clean Energy Jobs Act, and keeping toxins and environmental health hazards away from our residents. I passed the BPA-Free Kids Act which targeted bisphenol, a neurotoxin in plastics.

“As governor, I will continue to protect the health of our environment, and the health of our people, which are inextricably linked. I definitely encourage people to look at my website and see my platform not only for conservation and our environment, but also the many other issues that our next governor’s going to have to face, and look at my skills and experience, which show that I cannot only talk the talk, but that I’ve actually walked the walk, and can get the job done.”

350 Madison attempted to interview all known candidates for governor of Wisconsin. Below is a list of candidates who were contacted, but did not respond to our request:

  • Nick De Leon
  • Michele Doolan
  • Andy Gronik
  • Bob Harlow
  • Andrew Lust
  • Paul Soglin
  • Travis Swenby
  • Scott Walker

Below is a list of candidates who responded to our initial request, but with whom we have so far been unable to schedule an interview:

  • Matt Flynn
  • Dana Wachs

Tar Sands Campaign

The Tar Sands Campaign is fighting Enbridge tar sands pipelines in Wisconsin. Our aims are to block expansion of Line 61 and to halt plans for an adjacent Line 66. We support efforts led by those most impacted, including tribes, landowners, and affected community members.

Divestment Campaign

2016 was the hottest year on record. The Divestment Team focuses on convincing institutions that investments in fossil fuel are not only ethically and fiscally irresponsible, but are literally wrecking the planet we call home—all for profit. Banks are our current focus since without their support, dirty pipeline projects can't get funded.

Community Energy Campaign

The Community Energy Team is focused on taking action on and responsibility for our own fossil fuel use. We work to create and change policies that impact our energy use and nurture a culture of reducing energy use and using clean, renewable energy to reduce our carbon footprint.

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