A Libertarian’s View of the WI 43rd Assembly Race: Debate Recap

Over a hundred people attended a debate at Hyland Hall between Reps. Andy Jorgensen and Evan Wynn in the 43rd Assembly race. The Whitewater-Area League of Women Voters and UW-Whitewater Student Government co-sponsored the forum.

Two candidates, two lecterns, brief candidate biographies, opening and closing statements, with over a dozen questions for both candidates in between. Rep. Wynn chose a heather coat with open collar; Rep. Jorgensen wore a dark blue suit with a medium blue tie. Jorgensen is the more relaxed, conversational speaker, and offered his opening and closing remarks without looking at notes; Wynn read well but from written remarks. Both answered questions in a conversational manner.

The audience was attentive and respectful: there were no outbursts, no heckling.

I hope there’s a video that goes online; if it’s available I’ll add it to this post.

A few observations:

Education. Although Wynn rightly contends that one can do more with less, he came up short on the opening question about education cuts in the latest biennial budget. Wynn wanted to contend that he supported a tuition cap; Jorgensen rightly replied that Wynn supported only a cap in the rate of increase for tuition costs, but not a cap on the costs themselves.

Either Wynn didn’t see the distinction (unlikely) or he didn’t think he’d get caught out in an error. Wynn also made the mistake of suggesting that cuts to education were cuts in administration; again, Jorgensen corrected him by saying that only about 20% of the recent cuts to education came from administrative costs. It’s hard to believe that Wynn really believes he can convince someone that cuts of over a billion were purely administrative. People listen and think: it’s just a talking point.

A better answer would have been to show how much Wisconsin spends, right now under the current budget, on education. How much per pupil, and how much in particular areas and fields? One might then show how this compares to nearby states, and to our level of spending a generation ago.

Wynn didn’t make that case, and if an incumbent representative who claims a particular interest in education won’t even try, he doesn’t deserve any help (from libertarians or others).

Money in Politics. Both candidates bemoan money in politics (WEAC spends too much, corporations give too much), but money makes political speech meaningful and effective. If members of a union want their dues to go to political contributions, why shouldn’t they? If stockholders of a corporation want the organization they collectively own to give money to a candidate, that’s not wrong – it’s a peaceful expression of political views.

Gov. Romney once said that corporations are people. He was half-right: corporations (and unions) are composed of people, and those people should be able to pool their resources to fund political speech.

Collective bargaining. Wynn opposes for public workers; Jorgensen supports for anyone. Oddly, Wynn seems to think that public-sector collective bargaining doesn’t work because some public officials are beholden to unions and not taxpayers. His argument is that their supposed union obligation denies taxpayers a say in the outcome of public-sector collective bargaining.

Wisconsin holds regularly-scheduled elections, and Rep. Wynn is an incumbent running for re-election in one of them now. If taxpayers didn’t have a say, then we’d have the same representative that we have always had.

Wynn places a needless, but severe limitation, on workers’ freedom association while ignoring the power of voters to respond to budgets they dislike by simply removing profligate legislators. (Wynn might look in the mirror in this regard: the majority didn’t cut government so much as shift it from one direction to another. Real change comes with eliminating the overall size of government by meaningful amounts, not shifting funding to one’s preferred political interests.)

Voter ID. Rep. Jorgen supported an earlier version of voter ID restrictions from 2007, Rep. Wynn supports the current law (now declared unconstitutional and on appeal), but I would support neither.

In any event, Rep. Wynn’s theory behind supporting the latest, severe restrictions is that it doesn’t matter how hard or how long it is for a lifelong citizen to get an ID to prove he’s a citizen, since without IDs for all someone may still vote in that citizen’s place, making the wait meaningless.

These are different harms: in the one case, hundreds of thousands of existing citizens are forced to pay and struggle to maintain the right to vote they’ve always had, but in the other Wynn offers only a few people who may have committed fraud. (He’s can’t always prove, even, that some of these cases were not accidents, wholly apart from the lack of a photo ID, by the way.)

If you’re a voting-age citizen without a photo ID – like 300,000 people in Wisconsin — Rep. Wynn doesn’t care to what trouble you have to go, in response to his new, restrictive legislation for a supposed problem he can only describe by anecdote.

Not So Different After All. Rep. Wynn ran two years ago as a different kind of politician, one who had an undoubtedly honorable record of military service. Now that he’s an incumbent, he’s suddenly much fussier and less willing to accept protest and debate than when he was a candidate.

Twice during the evening, Wynn repeated the absurd contention that Rep. Jorgensen was somehow out of control, shameful, etc. There’s your ‘bipartisan’ representative, Evan Wynn: he’ll double down on a smear to stay in office.

Wynn’s actually upset because, during a one o’clock in the morining debate between legislators at the Capitol, Rep. Jorgensen and others were protesting the majority’s closing down of debate in contravention to legislative procedure.

That’s it – a bunch of legislators debating and speaking, at the Capitol, and Evan Wynn wants to make it seem like Andy Jorgensen’s a soccer hooligan. What an embarrassment to Wynn and his campaign. Andy Jorgensen has held hundreds of listening sessions across the area, and although I do not support all Jorgensen’s positions (I’m not a Democrat), it’s a laughable to say Jorgensen has ever been out of control.

It’s a measure of how out of touch – or desperate – Wynn is to offer this as a believable accusation. Even those who disagree with his policies know that Jorgensen is well-liked and respected.

Wynn came in with the promise of a new politics, and now after just two years’ time as an incumbent, he’ll say even the most ridiculous thing to stay in office. Republican candidates elsewhere haven’t campaigned this way; he’s set a lower standard, all the while insisting that his conduct represents ‘professionalism.’

No, Rep. Wynn, that’s just ambition.

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