Preparing for the Senate Primary


Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson speaks at a candidate forum sponsored by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association on Feb. 23.

Kait Vosswinkel, News editor

Herb Kohl is retiring, leaving a U.S. Senate seat for Wisconsin open. Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon), former two-term congressman Mark Neumann and former Gov. Tommy Thompson are the three contending Republican candidates.

At the Wisconsin Newspaper Association convention on Feb. 23, all three candidates were given a chance to voice their concerns on a broad spectrum of topics, while laying the framework of their individual campaigns.

The topics varied from international defense spending to financial reform, but the candidates remained largely unified in their responses.

On the subject of fiscal reform, the tone was gloomy and bleak. All three candidates emphasized the drastic need for change and the importance of limiting government spending.

Fitzgerald confirmed his refusal to raise taxes. He also reestablished his support of current state policy and his dedication to continuing similar movements on a national level.

Neumann’s priorities, economically speaking, are focused on repealing Obama’s health care reforms as well as shrinking national spending and cutting taxes drastically.

Compared to Fitzgerald and Neumann, Thompson took an ambiguous role in the conversation. He focused more on his ability to solve today’s fiscal troubles with his aptitude and experience as a politician.

His campaign position on the economic crisis, however, is very clear. He strongly supports repealing Obama’s health care plan and is looking towards market-based solutions.

On overseas spending, all three candidates expressed the importance of avoiding strict withdrawal timelines.

Fitzgerald expressed concern at the reduction of troops in Afghanistan.

“I think our best defense is a good offense,” he said.

He seemed willing to discuss cuts in defense spending, but is not willing to reduce the amount of troops in Afghanistan. He emphasized the importance of a continual presence in the Middle East.

Neumann highlighted his dedication to developing a system on a national level that would measure military accomplishment overseas. He stressed the importance of avoiding political rhetoric, while accepting the fact that putting a strict time limit on the withdrawal of troops could be dangerous, and negated any plans to reduce defense spending.

“Defense spending will be held at or above current levels, with the recognition that the most important role of the federal government is defense,” Neumann said.

Thompson was on par with the other speakers, and while open to the idea of reductions in defense spending, he stressed the importance of carefully evaluating the situation overseas before prematurely removing vital troops from the region.

One resounding fact remained clear throughout the three candidates’ discussions: Iran cannot, at any cost, be allowed nuclear weapons.

Political affiliation with Gov. Scott Walker was a subtly prevalent issue. Fitzgerald remains very vocally supportive of the governor and of the actions taken this session. He acknowledges the close relationship they have politically, and continues to stand by Gov. Walker and his policies.

Thompson spoke out against the recall, explaining the damaging effect it has on politics.

“I don’t like recalls,” Thompson said. “I never get involved in recalls because it tears at the heart of the republic, and I don’t think people should be recalled because they’re doing their job.”

He continued, “Now you can have all the difference you want with Scott Walker, but to be able to say that he should be recalled because he asked people to contribute to their health care and to retirement – that’s not a crime and it’s not malfeasance in office; you should not be recalled.”