Baldwin faces newcomer in 2nd District race

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October 24, 2008
— Longtime Democratic congresswoman Tammy Baldwin faces a challenge from a new face in politics, Peter Theron.

Republican Theron holds a doctorate in mathematics. He said he has made his mark both in college classrooms and in private business. He accuses liberals like Baldwin for policies that led to high gasoline prices and the demise of the Janesville General Motors plant.

Theron calls Baldwin "a nice person" who advocates faulty policies and who is still not a leader despite five terms in Congress.

Baldwin, a lawyer by training, looks forward to a Barack Obama presidency, which she said would usher in badly needed reforms in health care, among other changes.

Baldwin defends her record, pointing to work on legislation to achieve energy independence and to health-care reforms she authored. She also touts her ability to gain earmark funding for her district in the areas of economic development, health care and natural resources protection.

The Second Congressional District includes Beloit and western portions of Rock and Jefferson counties, the northwest corner of Walworth County and all of Dane, Green and Columbia counties.

The Janesville Gazette asked the candidates their positions on some key issues:


Theron calls for more oil drilling in the United States—offshore, in the western-states' oil shale and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The result will flood the market with oil, lessening dependence on foreign oil as well as the threat from terrorists who could cut off the flow of oil, Theron said.

Baldwin said it's not that simple. Oil companies told Congress that all their specialized equipment—including ships that explore and drill for oil—are booked for the next five years, so the companies are already using all their resources to drill and explore.

"You couldn't even begin to explore on currently leased offshore acreage, given that situation," Baldwin said.

Both candidates agree that nuclear power is a must, and they support alternative fuels.

Baldwin talks about wind and solar power as part of the solution, paralleling Obama's stand. Theron agrees, but only to a point. He said the government should not waste large amounts of money on technologies that are not proven to be commercially viable.

The problem with wind and solar, Theron said, is that they depend on the weather, so they need backup from other sources of electricity.

Europe has embraced wind power more than the U.S., and it has found that wind turbines didn't generate as much baseload as expected, "so current wind technology still requires a coal or nuclear or natural gas plant to fill the gaps," Theron said.

Theron, who announced his candidacy with the Janesville General Motors Plant as his backdrop, said liberals harmed the U.S. auto industry by forcing fuel-economy standards that made U.S. automakers less competitive than foreign competitors.

Theron said liberals also blocked needed oil drilling, which could have kept gas prices down.

Baldwin said Congress has little to say about the price of gasoline. She points to escalating demand for gas worldwide and speculation on unregulated futures markets as factors driving up prices.

"So there's certainly some components of government policy over the price of gas, but to lay that at the footstep of the state legislatures or the Congress seems ridiculous," Baldwin said.

Dependence on foreign oil and environmental concerns led to auto fuel-economy standards, which Baldwin worked on in the Energy and Commerce Committee, negotiating the language of the bill with auto executives, she said.

Baldwin also pointed to Congress' passage this fall of a $25 billion package for U.S. automakers, aimed at helping them develop energy-saving technology. She noted that the Wisconsin/Janesville proposal to GM to continue using the Janesville plant dovetails into the goals of that legislation.

"I believe it is innovation that is ultimately going to rescue the U.S. auto industry, and I still hope and pray that that innovation can happen here in Janesville," Baldwin said.


Theron said the United States is winning the war, but it's not over yet.

"We will certainly be drawing down on troops there, but just as we've had troops in South Korea since the Korean War and Germany and Japan since World War II, I can see us having troops and bases in Iraq for rest of my lifetime," Theron said.

Baldwin said U.S. forces have succeeded in removing Saddam Hussein, training a military and police force that abide by the rule of law and supported the development of democratic institutions in Iraq.

To Baldwin, that spells victory, "and now the Iraqi people and their new democracy need to take over, and some of their incredible budget surpluses ought to be applied to the tasks of rebuilding versus our borrowed resources."

Baldwin envisions just a small U.S. force remaining in Iraq, to protect the embassy.

Theron said Baldwin was against the war from the start and even during the successful "surge" that has reduced violence.

"My feeling is that whenever the United States commits troops, because they are willing to die for their country, that the country owes the troops victory, and that does not involve cutting and running," Theron said.

The economy

Baldwin voted for the Wall Street bailout, saying it was necessary to stabilize markets and ensure that small businesses had the access to credit they need to keep their operations going.

Theron opposed the bailout package.

"I would have been more interested in an approach that was more targeted to the specific problem," which was not lack of money to lend, but rather fear by lenders to lend money, Theron said.


Tammy Baldwin

Age: 45

Address: 10 E. Doty St., Madison.

Job: Member, U.S. House of Representatives. Former attorney.

Education: Bachelor's degree in mathematics and government from Smith College in 1984. Law degree from UW-Madison in 1989.

Community service: Participates in numerous charitable events such as the annual Cerebral Palsy dinner, March for the Cure and BratFest. Member of American Civil Liberties Union, FAIR Wisconsin, Human Rights Campaign, NAACP, National Organization for Women, Wisconsin State Bar, UW Alumni Association, Dane County Democratic Party, Wisconsin Democratic Party.

Elected posts: State Assembly 1992-98. Elected to the House of Representatives since 1998.


Peter Theron

Age: 52

Address: 1021 Sequoia Trail, Madison.

Job: Teacher. Taught statistics, mathematics and computer science at UW-Madison, UW-Whitewater and Beloit College. Created commercial software for the educational and entertainment markets and consulted with local companies on software and website design. Taught industrial programming courses for computer professionals for the past eight years.

Education: Bachelor's degree in statistics from Princeton University, Ph.D. in mathematics from UW-Madison.

Community service: Volunteered to pick up trash after the Lake Delton disaster during this summer's floods.

Elected posts: None.

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