Kleefisch Charges Michels With Being Reasonable

In the crazy, mixed-up world of this Republican Party doing the right thing is cause for blistering criticism.

That’s the lesson as gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Kleefisch attacks her primary opponent Tim Michels. She’s going after him on three issues. She says that he has supported an increase in gas taxes, opposed so-called “right to work laws” and also opposed legislation targeting immigrants — all good things in my book, but anathema to the hard-right in the Republican Party.

For his part, Michels is running from his past, denying (implausibly) that he ever took these positions. Michels sat on the boards of, and even headed up, organizations of road builders who fought the repeal of gas tax indexing back in 2006 (it was repealed anyway), fought a bill that allows workers to benefit from unions without joining one (that one passed) and also opposed a bill in 2007 that would have denied various benefits to workers who are in this country illegally (that bill died in committee).

In my view, the road building lobby was right in all three cases.

Tim Michels is denying that he was ever reasonable and sane.

I used to oppose gas tax indexing myself on the grounds that it was just a money machine for excessive road building. My view was that without the automatic annual increases the powerful road building industry would be forced to come to terms with environmentalists and alternative transportation advocates (I was both) to get the necessary votes every time they wanted to increase the tax. And I thought that the net result would be a better balanced transportation network. But that didn’t happen. Instead, anti-tax Republicans refused to vote for any increase at all and the result was that Wisconsin’s roads deteriorated to the point that we were ranked near last in the condition of our infrastructure. So, I had good reasons to be for the repeal of indexing, but I turned out to be wrong and the road builders turned out to be right.

As for “right to work”, contractors and trade unions generally have strong working partnerships. It’s not like coal miners and big coal. So the contractors saw no reason to upset that apple cart in a situation that they saw as win-win.

And as for the bill attacking immigrants, some of those contractors, if not Michels himself, employ people who aren’t documented. The last thing they need is for the government to make it harder for their employees to function in society.

But now Michels says that he had no knowledge of the positions on these major, high-profile issues that his organizations took while he was deeply involved in their management. I won’t accuse him of lying but… oh, hell yes, I think he’s lying.

I wish there was still a strong enough moderate wing in the Republican Party so that it was safe for a guy like Michels to just be honest, to stand up and say, ‘I supported these things because necessary tax increases to build good roads, unions and immigrants are all good for my business and for the state’s economy as a whole. And by the way, Rebecca, how many jobs have you created?’

But we don’t live in that world. The moderate wing in the Democratic Party is too timid and the sane wing of the GOP is just pretty much gone altogether. The result is that Kleefisch can attack Michels for taking reasonable positions and Michels responds by denying he was ever reasonable. And the net beneficiary is Tony Evers, which is more than fine by me, but something you might have trouble with if you’re a Republican.

And on another matter… a couple weeks ago I openly wondered how much abortion would count in the fall elections. Most Americans are pro-choice, but how much will that issue actually matter when they decide how to vote? We have an early answer: not that much. The Wisconsin State Journal reports that: “(In a New York Times) poll administered to Americans across the country, 5% of respondents said abortion and women’s rights are the biggest problem facing the country today. That’s compared with 10% who said gun policies, 11% who said the state of democracy and political division, 15% who said inflation and the cost of living, and 20% who said the economy, including jobs and the stock market.”


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

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