Attack ads, political mailings and candidate phone calls are all things that, for a long time, have been the strategic — and costly — methods of individuals hoping to be elected to political office.
And with $2 billion spent so far between President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney in the national race, according to Foxnews.com, it's no wonder a question about the use of campaign contributions was first on the list at a debate between state senate and assembly candidates on Thursday night.
"We have to stop letting the money decide who's getting elected. The ads are misleading, they often lie and distort," 20th District Senate candidate Tanya Lohr, adding that people should change the way they "consume" political information, and that would be a big step in taking the money out of elections.
Lohr's comments were fitting for the 100 people who decided to come to the open forum hosted by the League of Women Voters at the Milwaukee Area Technical College Mequon campus.
Lohr is challenging incumbent Sen. Glenn Grothman for the seat. Grothman said while money creates problems in politics, special interest groups and individuals offering donations is not the issue.
"Your biggest problem is not people buying politicians … it's politicans buying the people," he said. "I watched three of my colleagues lose recall elections largely from people who wanted (more money from government themselves.)"
Thursday's debate also featured 23rd Assembly District candidates incumbent Jim Ott and newcomer Cris Rogers and 60th State Assembly District candidates incumbent Duey Stroebel and newcomer Perry Duman. Duman, however, did not show for the event.
Grothman, Lohr, Stroebel and Duman are all running for districts that represent both Port Washington and Saukville.
Grothman, Lohr divided on social issues
Questions throughout the debate came from audience members, and included topics such as Badger Care, corporate taxes, disparities in women's and men's earnings and gay marriage.
"As a society, we have come to ... realize that there are all kinds of families and all kinds of couples and this is something that we need to change," Lohr said in regard to the idea of disallowing gay marriage.
The candidate also said she would like to see other discriminatory ways changed: the equal pay protection act was important for women and veterans, she said, and she hopes that the state can find a solution for the Badger Care waiting list to help those who cannot afford insurance.
In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, she asked "Why do we have people that are still suffering from treatable diseases?"
But Grothman said that people who can afford their own insurance are taking advantage of Badger Care, which is the reason behind the waiting list. Badger care offers "generous" subsidies, he said, and as long as it is that much more affordable than private insurance even "billionaires" will attempt to get on the list.
"As long as you subsidize it to that degree, people are going to go off their private insurance and go to Badger care," he said.
He also said he is against the idea of allowing gay marriage, adding that he cosponsored the original bill that currently bans it in this state.
"I was a cosponsor of the original amendment and I'd cosponsor it again. I'm glad I cosponsored it," he said, adding that same-sex couples can still get hopsital visitation rights and other benefits of marriage through other types of contracts.
Looking forward, Grothman said he hopes for re-election to continue making positive strides for the state.
"I hope that in the next session we're able to make sure that the future kids are more directed towards skill that will get them jobs," he said during his closing statement.
In closing, Lohr said she hopes to stop the separation that has happened across this state and start working together.
"I think its time to end the partisan divide that has split our (families and friends)," she said. "When you point at teachers and you say they’re the reason why we have problems in our schools — it divides our communities and it keeps up from addressing the real issue of how do we properly prepare our students to compete in a global work force."
Stroebel focuses on better future, more jobs
Stroebel told the audience he started in office as a way to leave a positive footprint in this state, just as his parents had before him.
"We need to leave this place better than when we found it, in all respects. … when I got involved in government, with the prior administration (that) had been there for 8 years — it was a totally unsustainable path," he said. "We have to have a balanced budget, and it makes sense. That’s how you live, that’s how I live — that's how government has to live, too. We can make this a state where people want to stay, and grow and prosper."
Stroebel said his theory on solving problems with the lengthy Badger Care waiting list is to focus on the economy — so that individuals can afford insurance.
"I think the best way we can provide health insurance for everyone is to have a strong, vibrant economy where people can be working," he said. "Grow our economy and have people be employed. That’s what it’s all about."
Do you have a question for candidates?
E-mail Local Editor Lyssa Beyer at firstname.lastname@example.org to contribute your ideas to a follow up story taking a more in-depth look at the district's issues.
Learn more about the elections in the Patch 2012 Voter Guide.