Election Preview: Wisconsin 20th State Senate District

Veteran Republican lawmaker Glen Grothman being challenged by Democrat Tanya Lohr in 20th District, which includes Port Washington and Saukville.

Incumbent Republican state Sen. Glenn Grothman is taking on West Bend teacher Tanya Lohr in the 20th State Senate District race on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Grothman, 57, of West Bend, has been an outspoken supporter of conservative causes since first being elected to the state Senate in 2004.

"I have established a long history of conservative, independent representation for Washington County," Grothman said. "I'm knowledgeably pro-business, I'm an articulate critic of the welfare culture and I've stood up to the education establishment to improve out schools and universities."

Grothman said Wisconsin is a "welfare magnet" and excessive welfare in the country is sapping the moral fiber of the country. To combat it he said there needs to be a crackdown on out-of-control public assistance, reducing the broadness of food stamp eligibility and reducing the number of people in low income housing.

To create jobs, Grothman said the state needs to get rid of the personal property tax, improve training so employees have skills sought by employers and to change the state's labor law regulations, saying the state's family medical leave law was "out of line."

Lohr, 39, of Town of West Bend, said she decided to run for office because she's concerned with the direction the state is heading. She said she's a better candidate for the job because she has been learning what the concerns of the residents are.

"I started knocking on doors July 1 and I've met 4,500 people and been having one-on-one conversations with constituents," she said. "It has given me an insight on what the concerns are and what people in the district want from their elected officials.

To get the economy going, Lohr said she state leaders need to do something to stimulate small businesses, saying many of them can't afford to offer health care, which pushes employees to larger corporations. Small businesses also hire local people, Lohr said, so it will help grow the state economy.

"I think part of the problem is we're getting rid of full-time with benefits jobs and replacing them with minimum wage jobs," she said. "There's this misconception that people don't want to work or are not working enough, but as a teacher I see parents who are working two or three jobs.
"The focus needs to be on how we get these full-time jobs with benefits back."

Candidates disagree on Act 10

Possibly the most controversial bill passed during the past legislative session was Act 10, the bill that severely limited collective bargaining rights for public employees.

Grothman said he's satisfied with the reforms put in by Act 10, but he would consider a mild increase in school state aid for districts that have lower spending, but the law has improved the quality of education in the state.

"For years the teachers union fought to keep the worst teachers in our schools and finally we've put the administration in charge," he said. "I think any organization isn't going to work if you keep the worst employees around, so finally things are getting better."

Grothman said education can be improved by having educators encourage students to go into fields where workers are need as opposed to going into debt for degrees that can't get jobs in. He said he also supports a freeze on tuition in the state, but he said student debt could be further reduced by making sure students get educated in fields where there are jobs.

"We have a shortage of welders and a shortage of machinists and high schools ought to be directing young people to these fields," he said. "I think we can also greatly amend and expand what used to be called the youth apprenticeship program

Lohr said she doesn't support Act 10 and if elected would work to create a new bill to make changes that aren't so "heavy handed" towards just one group of people.

"I think Act 10 has done a lot of damage to our schools," she said. "You have employees taking home less pay and in the meantime you've dropped shared revenues, so school districts are still hurting and still making massive cuts to education."

Lohr said she would like to see state aid revenues restored to their pre-Act 10 levels and work to allow schools to address class sizes in order to improve education. With larger class sizes, she said teachers are given less time to address the needs of students, which damages quality of education.

At the college level, Lohr said she's concerned about a 30 percent cut to the state technical college system's budget in the past two years and she also wants to address the rising cost of pursuing a college degree.

"You don't want a country where only the wealthy can afford to continue their educations," she said.

Challenger calls for changes to Voter ID

Lohr said she has some concerns the current Voter ID law passed the the state Legislature and currently working its way through the court system was written with the intentions of making it more difficult for some groups of people to vote. She said if the bill is going to be in place, she wants to find ways to make it more accessible for people to get IDs, such as extended the hours at the DMV and making IDs available at other venues, such as the Post Office.

"If this is something the majority of the people in my district want, then if we're going to do it then lets do it properly," she said.

Grothman said he's satisfied with the current Voter ID bill and is confident there will be a law in place in time for the next major election.

"I think there's cheating going on," Grothman said

No love lost

Although Grothman has been a popular target from leaders on the left, he's taking exception to claims Lohr is making against him in the current  campaign, such as his views on equal pay for women and comments and other social issues.

"I don't like the fact she lies about me a lot," Grothman said. "She claimed I said most single parents abuse their children and that's a lie, she claims I called my constituents slobs and that's a lie, she claims I don't want equal pay for women and that's a lie.

"I've never dealt with a more dishonest opponent before."
Lohr dismissed Grothman's criticism, saying any of the claims she makes have been documented and cited on her campaign website.

"I'm pretty surprised he's trying to from it," Lohr said. "This is legislation he used to talk about being so proud about passing."

The 20th District has new boundaries this year in the wake of redistricting prompted by population shifts in the 2010 census. The district now encompasses portions of Ozaukee, Washington, Fond du Lac and Calumet counties. It includes Port Washington and Saukville.

Wisconsin state senators serve four-year terms and earn $49,943.00 annually. The also receive a per diem of $88 per day for each day they work in Madison.

Candidate profiles

  • Democrat Tanya Lohr
  • Republican Glenn Grothman (incumbent) - Did not respond to questionnaire


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