Local residents on Thursday night got their first look at the two Democrats who are vying to take on U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan.
“I really can’t say,” said Linda Smith of Janesville when asked who impressed her more—Randy Bryce, the steelworker from Caledonia, or Cathy Myers, the teacher and Janesville School Board member.
Both spoke at a meeting of the Democratic Party of Rock County at the UAW Local 95 Hall. But they spoke separately and did not engage in any back-and-forth.
Both took aim at Ryan, the Republican incumbent, to the delight of many in the crowd of about 50. But they didn’t speak directly about why voters should choose them in the Democratic primary Aug. 14.
Smith said she probably leans slightly toward Myers, “but he did a good job, too,” she said of Bryce. “I just know we need a big change.”
Bryce, who drove to Janesville from a meeting in Milwaukee, arrived late and didn’t hear Myers speak.
After Bryce was done, Myers walked onto the stage and shook Bryce’s hand. The two stood together when people asked them to pose for photos, but there was little interaction.
“I thought I had a clear message and was able to talk more about my electoral experience and give examples of things I’ve done to help people in my community,” Myers said afterward.
Bryce said he has heard Myers speak before, and he thinks what sets him apart are his experiences, including his lifelong residency in the district, serving his country in the Army, and his activism on veterans issues and in the labor movement.
The two answered some of the same questions from the crowd. Myers said she didn’t think Bryce was as clear as he could have been in his responses, and indeed, Myers seemed more polished.
Bryce said at the top of his speech that he doesn’t act or look like a normal politician, because he isn’t one.
He told of being deployed to Honduras, where water was not always available, so he made friends with the man in charge of turning on the water because without it, they couldn’t take showers or have water to drink.
“But that’s the way they live in third-world countries,” he said.
He talked about working with homeless veterans after he got out of the Army.
“Lord knows that Paul Ryan sure doesn’t have veterans as a priority,” he said. “That’s one of the things I’m going to change when I get to Washington, D.C.”
Myers—who grew up in Iowa and teaches in northern Illinois—talked about being raised at the family truck stop, being put to work at age 10 and about going to Westminster College in Missouri as part of the first class there that included women.
“Breaking that glass ceiling was incredibly important to me,” she said.
As a teacher, she was a union president and led a strike in 2003, she said proudly.
Myers said she has been the top vote-getter in two Janesville School Board elections. She said she first ran in 2013 because she saw the administration and teachers not talking to each other in the wake of the Republicans’ Act 10 of 2011, which took power from teachers to bargain for working conditions.
She said she worked to improve relations in the district and to improve wages and benefits for staff.
Bryce has lost three elections, one for state Senate, one for state Assembly and one a Racine School Board primary. He talked of his work in opposing Act 10, as well.
Myers and Bryce both said they support Medicare for all, which would achieve universal health care coverage.
Both pledged to listen to their constituents and castigated Ryan, saying he is not doing that. Bryce said Ryan hasn’t held an open-forum town hall meeting in two years.
Bryce pledged to hold a town hall in every county in the 1st District every year.
Bryce said the minimum wage should be $15 an hour, saying, “There’s no excuse for somebody working full time to be living in poverty.”
Myers was not asked about minimum wage.
Both support immigration reform, with legislation that would allow “Dreamers”—immigrants brought to this country illegally as children—to remain here.
“I really reject this idea by President Trump that immigrants are somehow damaging to this country,” Myers said, adding that Trump is trying to divide people when he should be looking for ways to unite them.
Both support infrastructure spending and prison reform, rejecting privatization of prisons.
Myers supported legalization of marijuana, saying, “It has only been used, I think, to oppress minority communities. I’m that cynical about it.”
Bryce wasn’t asked about marijuana but said people should not be incarcerated for “minor drug offenses.”
Both appeared to support some form of reparations for African-Americans and Native Americans.
Bryce’s campaign reported raising $2.65 million as of Dec. 31, while Myers had raised $265,158.
Myers acknowledged Bryce had a better start, but she said it’s a marathon, and she has been doubling contributions every quarter.
NOTE: This story was modified at 3:01 p.m. Feb. 9, 2018, to reflect that Bryce has lost three elections, including a Racine School Board primary election.
For areas outside Foxconn’s core of activity in Racine County, community and business stakeholders should start considering how they might benefit from the mega project—now and in the future, a state official said.
Matt Moroney from the State Department of Administration spoke Thursday night to about 40 Whitewater-area residents during the Greater Whitewater Committee’s annual meeting. He said Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn’s electronics screen manufacturing facility could bring 28,000 supplier jobs to Wisconsin by the early 2020s.
That would be in addition to the estimated 10,000 construction jobs the site could draw over the next four to five years and the estimated 10,000 to 13,000 permanent jobs Foxconn said it would create.
“Foxconn is committed to creating an ecosystem that is going to rival Silicon Valley,” Moroney said. The company’s Racine County complex would cover hundreds of acres.
Moroney is the strategic economic initiative director in charge of working with Foxconn as the company begins its Wisconsin project. The state has committed nearly $3 billion in tax incentives for a “pay-as-you-go” project he said is “largest foreign direct investment in U.S. history.”
Moroney called the Foxconn project a “catalyst” the state hopes could reverse “brain drain” that has dragged on Wisconsin’s workforce and economy for decadesand said the project represents an “extreme home makeover on steroids” that could have a ripple effect of benefits and challenges that spreads throughout the state.
During a 30-minute talk, Moroney laid out a timeline showing Foxconn plans to break ground this spring. By 2019, there could be 8,000 to 10,000 construction workers on site.
He told Whitewater area business officials, including some affiliated with UW-Whitewater, that Foxconn is committed to fostering “incubators, accelerators and entrepreneurship opportunities” linked to its development of large-screen technology in Wisconsin.
The state is also trying to find the best way to connect Wisconsin’s university and technical college networks to planners at Foxconn, he said.
“We need to do a lot of investigating on attracting and training and retaining workers and keeping graduates here,” Moroney said. “We view this as a chance to get ‘brain gain.’”
Some local and tech colleges Moroney said the state has talked to so far have started to think about how they can reshape programs in ways that gear students toward work at Foxconn or within the industries that could spring up as a result of Foxconn’s presence.
“We need to dive deeper,” he said. “Educational groups are looking at this as an opportunity to reinvent their programs and be a little more nimble and more focused.”State officials are establishing channels for businesses, communities and economic development groups in Wisconsin to tap into a pipeline Moroney said will create a $1.4 billion supply chain—larger than that of any other single industry in Wisconsin.
They are paying particular attention to that supply chain and wants to find ways to give Wisconsin companies a “chance to participate.”
“We’ve told them we want them to use Wisconsin-based suppliers wherever possible,” Moroney said.
He said the state plans to make one resource, its Supply Chain Marketplace website, a conduit that could link supply chain companies in Wisconsin with Foxconn.
Another outreach the state is trying, Moroney said, is Wisconn Valley News, the state’s online newsletter that gives updates on Foxconn construction plans and infrastructure improvements.
Virginia D. Berg, 85, Chicago, died Tuesday at Community Care Center, Chicago. Memorial services will be at 1 p.m. Sunday at Daley Murphy Wisch & Associates Funeral Home and Crematorium, Beloit.
Jim Coburn, 73, Whitewater, died Wednesday at Fort Memorial Hospital, Fort Atkinson. Arrangements are pending with Nitardy Funeral Home, Whitewater.
Roger W. Draper, 73, Janesville, died Jan. 31, at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Janesville. Private services will be held at a later date. Whitcomb-Lynch Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Janesville, is assisting the family.
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