Editor's Note: This article was updated Nov. 1 to reflect proper attribution of a quote by Cris Rogers.
Candidates for the redrawn 23rd Assembly District outlined stark differences in their views of Act 10 and equal pay protection measures during a candidate forum hosted Thursday by the League of Women Voters.
Roughly 50 citizens attended the forum at the Mequon campus of MATC. Candidates attending were:
- State Senate District 20 candidates Tanya Lohr (D) and incumbent Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend),
- State Assembly District 23 candidates Cris Rogers (D) and incumbent Jim Ott (R-Mequon),
- State Assembly District 60 candidate Duey Stroebel (R-Cedarburg), the incumbent. Democratic challenger Perry Duman did not attend.
The 23rd District has new boundaries this year in the wake of redistricting prompted by population shifts in the 2010 census. The district encompasses much of the North Shore, including Whitefish Bay, Fox Point, Bayside, Mequon and Grafton.
Ott, 65, was a longtime television meteorologist. Ott also has a law degree and is a military veteran. He has held office since 2006.
Ott is challenged by Rogers, 48, of Whitefish Bay. She is making her first bid for public office this year. She has worked for Community Advocates, The Guest House, and Ray Graham Association for people with Disabilities, among other organizations.
While questions at Thursday night's forum touched on hot-button issues like Badger Care, Equal Pay and same-sex marriage, it was a discussion around Act 10 that set Ott and Rogers far apart.
"In Wisconsin we have to balance our budget every two years unlike the federal government where you can carry this ballooning budget deficit,” Ott said. “Even if we didn’t have Act 10, the money that used to be there is not going to magically reappear. Part of our problem in this state is that we had this $3.6 billion dollar budget shortfall, it was not something that we made up, it really existed."
However Rogers took a different approach, saying that instead of rewarding corporations with hefty tax breaks, incentives should be offered to schools.
“We live in an area where our public schools are amazing, they’re award winning. I would like to see money go back to public education,” Rogers said. “While we do talk about balancing the budget; while we took this money away, (at the) same time, we are giving over $2 billion in tax breaks to corporations. I think there are some tax incentives that may be good, most of these aren’t necessary.”
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The night ended with a flurry as candidates responded to questions about women's right to equal pay and Ott used personal experience to illustrate how times have changed in the right direction already.
"As far as companies, it is going to be in their best interest to look for the best employees whether they are women or men,” Ott said. "When I was younger there were no women meteorologists. Today, there are a lot of women meteorologists. I think the workplace is taking care of the issue."
But Rogers disagreed, explaining business may be moving in the right direction, but not quickly enough.
“I think we have to reinstate the equal pay protections for women and for other groups that may be discriminated against," Rogers said. “Jim or Glen, one of you stated that we’ve come a long way. But quite frankly, we haven’t come far enough. I’d like to see us get a hell of a lot further.”