Gov. Evers says his 2022 campaign focuses are fixing roads, broadband, public schools

Evers will face off for his second term as governor in November.
Evers will face off for his second term as governor in November.
Published: Aug. 9, 2022 at 9:28 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 9, 2022 at 11:32 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Governor Tony Evers says he is ramping up his efforts on the campaign trail starting first thing Wednesday as he seeks another term as Wisconsin’s governor.

NBC15′s Elizabeth Wadas spoke one-on-one with him about his priorities as the general election season begins.

Evers: Hello Elizabeth.

Wadas: Thanks for spending some time with us today. All eyes are on this state, the governor’s race, in particular. I want to start by talking about 2018, you defeating Scott Walker by a very narrow margin, the closest race since the 1950s. The Marquette Poll is predicting this race is going to be super, super tight as well. Especially when it comes to the top two Republican candidates you’ll be facing off with. So I want to know from you, how do you get the Democrats out to vote and how do you get the people on the fence to pick you in November?

Evers: Yeah, it’s going to be close. It always is close in Wisconsin. We are a purple state. And I’m going to spend a lot of time talking about issues Wisconsinites care about and the kitchen table issues such as fixing the roads, broadband, public schools. I’ve learned through my time as State Superintendent as an educator how important education is as a topic. Republican moms and dads want good schools just as much as Democratic moms and dads. So there are some things that transcend politics. And certainly education is one. I would say broadband and fixing the infrastructure of Wisconsin. So I’ll be talking about that and making sure we have a good healthcare system in Wisconsin, talking about what we’ve accomplished in the past four years.

And I’m also really pleased to watching some young folks across the rural part of the state running for school boards and Democratic leaning individuals too. County supervisor and city council. So I think things are changing, but we have to get out to vote in the urban areas but we aren’t taking the rural counties for granted.

Wadas: Let’s talk about getting out to vote. The State Supreme Court just ruled that absentee ballot boxes are no longer going to be used in this elections. Analysts say it’s going to make it harder for people to get out and vote. And frankly, it could really hurt you in the election. How do you combat that?

Evers: I know there is at least one lawsuit challenging that right now in federal court because there are people with physical disabilities who cannot go to the polls and their option last time was to have someone take their ballot to a drip box or to a city clerk. There are some things to be worked out. But we are just going to make sure people get out and vote.

Wadas: How do you do that?

Evers: Well last time around, we were in the middle of a pandemic two years ago in a major election. And we’re going to make sure people get out to vote, and that means a lot of knocking on doors and doing things that was frankly difficult to do last time because of the pandemic.

Wadas: How can you be attractive to someone who is younger with a gap in demographics and age? How do you convince the younger people that you are the candidate for the Democratic Party and the state of Wisconsin?

Evers: We’re the party that frankly believes in climate change, and I know that is a huge issue for young people. They’re concerned. It may not be immediate now, but they’re wise enough and smart enough to know if we don’t start doing things now, it’s going to be a major issue. So it’s not only that, but also investing in areas they are involved in such as the University of Wisconsin System, the technical college system or even our K-12 world. Education is important to young people, and we feel they understand the difference between republicans and democrats in that area. We have one of my republican opponents talking that there’s too much money in education. That’s just bologna. And so there’s going to be some stark differences that will make a difference with young people.

Wadas: There was recently a townhall with your potential Republican opponents. And they took questions from the audience. Abortion came up. Roe v Wade being overturned, you holding a special session to address this was gaveled in and gaveled out. How do you as a Democratic governor get anything done with the legislature how it is now?

Evers: Well first of all, you try to find common ground. We just found common ground on taxes. We reduced taxes by 15-percent which became a $4.5 billion tax rebate for people or less taxes paid by the people of Wisconsin. So there are areas to do it but it’s difficult. Roe v Wade is really important. It’s important to women in our state. I have seven granddaughters who suddenly became second class citizens in the state of Wisconsin. And we will continue. We have a good lawsuit in place now. I’m just talking about that issues. But obviously there are other issues we can find common ground on. And we’ll continue to do that. But it is tough. Having the veto is a really important thing for me and the state of Wisconsin. I had 128 vetoes in the last three and a half years, most of them around things that would destroy public education, things that would have it made more difficult for people to vote, and obviously I’ve been protective of reproductive health all the way along. So it’s going to be difficult but we live in a democracy. We do what we can and find ways to get things done but also stop really bad things from happening.

Wadas: Is there common ground to find when it’s so divided?

Evers: Well yes there is. Unfortunately I see leadership on the other side of the legislature where I know there are republicans who would like to join the Democrats who would like to find more funding for schools, in providing more resources for our municipalities. That’s been a real sore spot for us as a state when the previous administration hardly added any money to shared revenue. That’s money that comes to the state to the municipalities. Municipalities do all the hard work. Police, fire you name it, courts. So we want to make sure, and I think there are Republicans that get it. They represent parts of the state that are struggling with the fact that we aren’t providing more resources for our municipalities. In fact the majority of our municipalities are represented by republicans. How can they say to their friends and neighbors back home we’re not going to do anything because we don’t want to give Evers a win? That’s bad politics, frankly. And so we will continue to push that issue. Those are issues we will continue to push.

Wadas: Back to Roe v Wade and this 1849 law. I know there’s a lawsuit right now to try and start at a different point than going all the way back. Why wasn’t this, why are we looking at a law from 1849? Was there anything that you could have done to just get something in the books before this happened? The decision was leaked, we knew about this before it came down. Was there anything we could have done before this instead of reacting to it?

Evers: I would have loved to have done something earlier. I know the Democrats in the legislature before I was governor tried to get something different essentially take that bill, that piece of legislation off the books. Couldn’t do it. The Republicans wouldn’t go along. And by the time I got into office there was just no way that was going to happen. So we will rely on a lawsuit and unfortunately women are forced to go out of state if they want complete reproductive health care, and that’s just not right. We just saw in Kansas recently that they denied them changing their constitution. People in Wisconsin are concerned about this, and it’s just not women. Marquette polls ask about Roe v. Wade, and it has a 60-percent approval rate. So this 1849 law that obviously was developed without any women thinking through it on the floor of the legislature or having to vote, it’s just not in concert with today. We believe it would be great to bring in a constitutional amendment here in the state of Wisconsin. Put it on the ballot let the people talk about it. Just like they did in Kansas. Id be in favor of that.

Wadas: Will you aid people with uteruses in getting them to different states that provide abortion access?

Evers: I know Planned Parenthood and others are doing that already. I’m doubtful we would be able to muster the legislatures will to make that happen.

Wadas: Is it something you would support?

Evers: Absolutely. Oh, absolutely. I mean you think about it Planned Parenthood in Illinois, their numbers of Wisconsin women who have crossed the border has gone up ten times. That’s a lot, and people in Wisconsin I think understand how important this issue is. I know republicans are hopeful people by November won’t care, but I do I think people will care about it.

Wadas: You keep mentioning schools. We actually just talked with the superintendent in DeForest, Wisconsin. I asked them what do you want to know from the governor? And they brought up funding. They said they are relying on these pandemic funds to pay teachers, something they weren’t designed to do. They are strapped for cash and resources. How are you going to help them, and what’s the next step to do that?

Evers: The next step is in the next budget. We have a large surplus due to I think some very strategically smart things we’ve done during the pandemic to keep small businesses in operation.

Wadas: So how do you get that money to the schools if that money is just sitting there?

Evers: It’s all budget related. It’s a battle in the legislature. And again people across the state, school administrators are talking about it, teachers are talking about it. Funding is a critical issue. We are going to get as much of that money to them as possible. Yes, we used about $100 million of ARPA money federal money to kind of make sure that they were kept whole this last time around knowing full well we are going to need to find that and more.

Wadas: How do you retain the teachers?

Evers: Treat them with respect. Right now I don’t see that happening. That teachers from a Republican’s point of view from what I hear, they’re making them the enemy, they’re talking about woke teachers, and they talk about things they’re not really doing in the classroom. Our teachers know right from the get go that parents are the most important parts of the kids education and they need to be partners with teachers, and I think for the most part that’s happening, but during this campaign I’ve seen some outrageous behaviors targeting teachers. And that’s just, how do you get a young person to go into the classroom and become a teachers when they see what’s going on now? We need to tone down the rhetoric, get resources in the hands of the school boards in the state of Wisconsin and trust our teachers to do the right thing.

Wadas: When can we see those resources get into the hands of the schools?

Evers: It would be in the next biennium. We have a budget I’ll be preparing and in the hands of the legislature by next January, February some place in there. The budget will be in effect the next biennium. That’s the soonest we can. And you know our school districts for the most part numbers wise are represented by republicans in the legislature. So I am hopeful we can find ways to do this. We do have the money to make that happen so I am looking forward to getting support from the republican side.

Wadas: Frederick Prehn with the Natural Resources Board, the supreme court basically saying the Republicans don’t have to take your nominees seriously. What do you do to combat that? How do you get anything done when they are saying they don’t even have to be considered?

Evers: Prehn is just one small island out there. He works at being aggressive around this issue that he’s representing the previous administration and not us. Real unfortunate. But the board of regents we have Republicans who when their terms are up, they leave. But then we have a Senate who has to approve those people. Nine out of 11 of the board of regent members have not been approved. There has not been a peaceful transition. We started this after I beat Scott Walker when the legislature came into session, lame duck session, took all sorts of authority away from me and the attorney general and it’s been right along. And to think about that, we are appointing good people to do voluntary work on all these commissions, and the Senate cannot take the time to take them up and approve them. I’d even love to have them even just take them up. If they turn them down, then they’re going to be held responsible for not having that transition of power. That’s what it’s about. It’s not a good thing, unfortunately using the board of regents as an example. They’re on the board, they’re board members the people I have appointed. But at the end of the day, they haven’t been approved by the Senate. It is just ridiculous behavior.

Wadas: What message does that send?

Evers: It sends a message that it’s all about politics, folks. It’s not about who won the last election or the transition of power, or actually the quality of the people I am appointing. Some of them may vote Republican. Who the hell knows? But what we do know is that we have a state Senate that decided they’re still back in the Walker days. Wrong message.

Wadas: It’s been in the talks and signaling that LGBTQ plus rights, gay marriage could be the next thing looked at on a national level. What are you doing now in the state to prepare for that?

Evers: We are looking at all options. Whether it’s new legislation or aggressively being in opposition to that, that trend to take away rights. The bottom line is we’ve had these rights, with women for 50 years with the LGBTQ population, a little less than that. But at the end of the day, the country has moved on, and for someone to pull back on those, there will be political ramifications on that that the republicans would not be able to recover from.

Wadas: Governor, thank you for your time.

Evers: Thanks, Elizabeth. You too, thank you.

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