Election Preview: Wisconsin 82nd State Assembly District
A Democratic teacher is taking on veteran Republican incumbent Jeff Stone.
For 12 years, state Rep. Jeff Stone has not had a Democratic opponent. But now he’s being challenged by a Greendale native with a background in teaching.
While Stone defends Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining initiatives and budgeting, his opponent thinks they went too far, were too divisive, and were too unfair to educators.
"When the state was divided in half, I became tired of the fighting. I wanted to be part of the solution," said challenger Kathleen Wied Vincent. "The real reason I did this is because I don't want our children and grandchildren to inherit a mess. I wanted to make a difference in a community where people knew our family, where there are good people, and where people care about neighbors, family and friends."
She has moved back to Greendale and has spent her days knocking on door after door. Vincent grew up in and once taught in Greendale. She most recently lived in Brookfield before moving back to her hometown.
Yet, Stone characterizes her as a “question mark,” saying he wasn’t able to find much out about her. And he says of Act 10, the collective bargaining bill, "we're starting to see the results of it. For example, we've been able to contribute to the rainy day fund for two years in a row, and that's the first time in state history that has ever happened."
Civility in Madison?
While Vincent stresses civility and says she can help bring that back to Madison, Stone argues that he’s known for fostering bipartisanship in Madison.
"I've got a pretty good reputation as someone who can work across party lines," he said. One of his recent legislative initiatives involving energy, he said, was "supported by the largest bipartisan group in decades."
He said that the Democratic Party has been ousting incumbents who worked across the aisle with Republicans.
Vincent countered that she did not "see Republicans reaching across the aisle" during the collective bargaining debate in particular.
"Republicans were not willing to listen at all. It was like the Democrats were up there all night long having these debates, and nobody was listening," she said "It was totally disrespectful. As a mother of two children, I just got to a point where I didn't want my kids to inherit leadership that rams things through."
As for Walker’s controversies, Stone says the state solved the budget deficit, and has shored up the economy to the degree it was able to put money in the rainy day fund and create a surplus.
"I do believe employees have the right to collective bargain," Vincent counters, stressing that education is a major concern.
Stone cites business experience
Stone also argues that his small business experience – running a printing shop – gives him an edge in understanding budgeting and the economy.
"I think in - a nut shell - the biggest need in Wisconsin is job creation," he said. "I'm someone who's created jobs. I've been in business."
But his opponent says her years in classrooms have also prepared her - and she says she would bring to Madison a fresh approach free of partisanship and with education at the forefront.
She is from a family with long roots in Greendale.
"It's a big Catholic family, and we are all Greendale graduates," she said.
Stone, a Republican, has won re-election to the Assembly every two years since 1998 and lost to Chris Abele in a 2010 bid for Milwaukee County executive. He is a former Greenfield alderman.
The 82nd District seat has new boundaries this year in the wake of redistricting prompted by population shifts in the 2010 census. The district includes Greendale, Franklin and part of Greenfield.
Wisconsin state representatives serve two-year terms and earn $49,943.00 annually. They also receive a per diem of $88 per day for each day they work in Madison.