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GOP Senate Candidates Debate Issues in Waukesha

Four Republicans call for government reforms and reduced spending in Washington during Wednesday's debate. Former Gov. Tommy Thompson declined his invitation.

With calls for reform and reduced government spending, four Republican candidates for a U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Herb Kohl tried to pitch their conservative viewpoints to voters during a candidates forum Wednesday at the .

, and physical therapist Kip Smith appeared during the debate, which was sponsored by The Wisconsin Reporter and the Republican Party of Waukesha County. was unable to attend due to a prior commitment at a fundraiser in Washington, D.C.

Why They are Running for Senate

Each candidate in his opening statement spoke about increased government spending and concern for the future of America as reasons for seeking the Senate seat.

Fitzgerald applied the recent budget repair debate in Wisconsin and collective bargaining reforms to the federal level. The nation faces the same problems Wisconsin faces, he said.

“We are heading toward an economic cliff that is right around the corner,” Fitzgerald said. “We have to stop spending more than we have coming in.”

Hovde said he’s running because he is so “profoundly concerned” about nation’s direction.

Neumann, whose giant pig float was parked in the lot at the Expo Center to draw attention to pork-barrel spending in Washington, called for a repeal of the health care reform law critics dub "Obamacare."

Smith called for a restoration of constitutional freedoms in Washington. He also called for tax breaks for small businesses, in addition to large corporations.

“There are so many things, so many things that need to be changed in Washington,” Smith said.

Calls for End to Career Politicians

The candidates drew attention to career politicians as what they conceive as part of the problems in Washington.

Neumann, who earlier this week called for term limits in Congress, said the money that an incumbent politician will have for re-election “almost impossible to overcome.”

Hovde told what he called “a cute little story” about how the air conditioner unit changed politics. Because Washington, D.C., is so hot, politicians would go home during the summer months. Now that has changed — all because of air conditioning

“People went to Washington, served, brought their skills … went for the spring and fall, left Washington during the summer months,” Hovde said. "We had citizen legislators.”

Smith said that the elected politicians need to reach out to their constituents.

“We are your employees,” Smith said. “We have forgotten that.”

Should the U.S. Pull out of Afghanistan?

The question was posed to Hovde and Neumann about whether the United States should pull its military operations out of Afghanistan. While Neumann did not directly answer the question, Hovde quickly gave his clear statement.

“We need to get out. There is no reason we should spend anymore of our young peoples blood or our treasure in that country,” Hovde said. “I don’t understand why we are trying to rebuild a society there … when we have economic (difficulties) at home. … We have been there way too long. It is time to get out.”

Neumann, however, called for Obama to set the mission for Afghanistan and establish a plan to accomplish that mission. The timetable being set by Obama’s going to contribute to more deaths of U.S. military men and women, he said.

“It is not that easy,” said Neumann when asked to give a yes or no answer. “What President Obama is doing is disastrous to our country.”

The Campaign Donation to Doyle

Hovde was questioned about how he can criticize Thompson about his level of conservatism when he once donated money to former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. While Hovde didn’t directly answer the question about his donation, he told the Associated Press in early March that he does not remember making that donation. Hovde said it’s important to Wisconsin citizens that the candidates make it clear who they are. Hovde, whose mother passed away this week, criticized Thompson for not attending the debate.

“I think it is unfortunate that Governor Thompson was at a fundraiser in Washington, D.C.,” Hovde said.

Fitzgerald Not Concerned About Links to Gov. Walker

Fitzgerald called attention to his work in Madison as the Republican majority enacted collective bargaining reforms in 2011 in efforts to balance the budget. He said he wants to apply “conservative principals” as a U.S. senator. Saying he has a great relationship with Gov. Scott Walker, he said he is not concerned about his links to the governor who is currently being recalled.

“I would not shy away from anything that we would be able to accomplish,” Fitzgerald said.

Adam Wienieski April 12, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Keith, it doesn't matter how well or often you refute Bren's mendacity she will continue to regurgitate democratic party/big labor talking points. • A $3.6 billion Wisconsin deficit using Generally Accepted Accounting Principles? (Check) • Seniors thrown in the snowbank to die under the Ryan plan? (Check) • Explain every problem in the world through the prism of race, class and gender differences? (Check) • Blame America first? (Check) • ALEC = Armageddon? (Of course)
shawn April 12, 2012 at 09:34 PM
OH, so St Swillhouse knows the facts because he reads numerous books and articles about the recession. Let me guess-media matters and the new dork times? What tribe are you from St. Swill?
Bren April 12, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Keith Best, deregulation and regulation side-stepping on Wall Street were causal factors of the recession. The Bush tax cuts and two wars begun during the Bush administration caused record deficits and exacerbated the evolving economic situation. The housing crisis was evolving but went on fast track during the Bush administration. As a former Libertarian-leaning independent 'm all for true fiscal conservative principles. But since the Tea/GOP has apparently purloined the word and redefined "conservatism" as a synonym for "radical fiscal and ideological excess" I will continue to point out the difference between the two philosophies. St. Swithin, I appreciate that the revisionist spin places blame firmly on "the idiot who makes $30,000/year that bought a $500,000 house." Not. quite. Adam, I appreciate your theatricality! -$3.6 billion projected deficit? Yes. -Seniors and snowbanks? Only Paul Ryan can answer that one. -Race, class, gender differences? Eh? -Blame America first? Eh? -ALEC=Armaggedon? It was to Trayvon Martin. Steve, I'm a fiscal conservative, as in stop spending money on bad ideas. Especially if its taxpayer money. If appropriate attention had been spent on Afghanistan in the beginning the situation could be very different now. Iraq was wholly unnecessary and was known to be so at the time. The Bush tax cuts funded the offshoring of jobs, which has impacted the economic recovery.
Bren April 12, 2012 at 10:25 PM
Shawn, I suppose it is encouraging that you are aware of these publications. It would behoove you to read them and other valid sources of information to broaden and balance your perspective. Knowledge gives us the empowerment to make good decisions.
Dirk Gutzmiller June 17, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Thompson is actually something close to a moderate Republican, like a Romney is underneath his ultra-conservative facade. He is much loved and admired in the State, even by many Dems, is not afraid to spend, and loves trains. He stands the best chance against Baldwin in the fall elections. Republicans will shoot themselves in the foot if they go for one of the tea potties.

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