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Democrats line up to challenge Ryan

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Mike DuPre'
September 6, 2008

Three Democrats—Paulette Garin, Mike Hebert and Marge Krupp—are seeking their party’s nomination to challenge Republican incumbent Rep. Paul Ryan for his 1st Congressional District seat in the general election in November.


The primary election is Tuesday.



Paulette Garin

Paulette Garin says she would have no problem being like Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold and casting the lone vote in Congress against a law or program she disagreed with.


During a listening session in Janesville, Garin—a Democratic candidate in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District—was asked about the Patriot Act, which vastly broadened the government’s power to investigate people for the sake of anti-terrorism.


Feingold was the only senator to vote against the law.


“This is one place where I agree 100 percent with Sen. Feingold … and his lonesome one-vote,” Garin said, adding that she would be comfortable in the spotlight that casting such a singular vote would focus on her.


“I’m the one who’s never been afraid to say the emperor is naked,” she said. “At the end of the day, you have to go home and live with yourself.”


Garin is a fourth-generation Kenosha resident.


An only child, Garin’s father was treasurer of United Auto Workers Local 72 there.


Garin, 46 and single, is a political newcomer, making her first run for public office after, by her description, “running small businesses for over 20 years.”


Garin has no local government experience. She taught music in schools and privately, worked as a corporate marketing director and served as associate director of a non-profit organization in New Mexico.


Many Democrats have tried to unseat Rep. Paul Ryan of Janesville, a well-funded, five-term incumbent seen as a rising star in the Republican Party. Political observers regularly describe running against Ryan as Don Quixote jousting with windmills.


“I don’t chase windmills,” Garin said firmly.


“Who is the unifying force of the 1st Congressional District?” she said. “It’s me. I know all these people. I’m cross-pollinating across the Democratic Party.


“It’s basic networking. You have to keep the herd together. You have to communicate.”


As with the other Democratic candidates, Garin has no financial support from the national Democratic Party. But she said she was told by 1st District Democrats “to get through the primary. Then the money will come.”


“I’m running a grassroots campaign,” she said. “I’m optimistic.”


When she’s out gathering signatures and knocking on doors, she said, the constituent comments she hears convince her that Ryan is a “polarizing figure. There’s not a lot of giving with him.”


Asked how she would counter the probable political charge that she is a “tax-and-spend” Democrat, Garin said she would tell Ryan: “You have gone and approved a credit-car war (in Iraq) that our children and grandchildren will have top pay for.”


Garin pointed to her accomplishments as separating her from her Democratic opponents:


“I grew up one house away from the city landfill in Kenosha and went on to earn three degrees including a CPA.”



Mike Hebert

Mike Hebert says he learned a lot growing up as the middle of three brothers.


“I learned patience—to be patient with my younger brother—and I learned standing up (to challenges) in fights with my older brother,” Hebert said.


Hebert has a big challenge ahead of him now—emerging from a field of three candidates in the primary election Tuesday as the Democratic nominee for Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District.


If he surmounts that obstacle, a bigger challenge lies ahead: defeating Rep. Paul Ryan—a five-term Republican incumbent from Janesville—in the general election in November.


“I will be standing up for the middle working class, people that are out there working and struggling to make ends meet,” said Hebert, a high school graduate.


He took a leave of absence from his factory job at Ocean Spray Cranberry to campaign, and he said:


“I’m using my own money. I’m putting my money where my mouth is.”


Though Hebert said he plans to spend less than $5,000 on the primary, he stressed: “We’re in it to win.”


He acknowledged that running a campaign on a shoestring is an “uphill struggle,” but Hebert said he’s waging a “Proxmire-style campaign: Walk, talk and handshake.”


He was referring to the late long-time U.S. Sen. Bill Proxmire, who would spend little on campaigns but walk the length and breadth of Wisconsin to meet constituents.


Hebert, 51 and single, estimated he has shaken 10,000 hands in this campaign and his unsuccessful effort two years ago.


“It’s back to the grassroots style of campaigning,” Hebert said. “My brother (Bill) and I argued for hours about Web sites. I purposely didn’t want a Web site because I wanted an old-school campaign style.


“Some of these people are Web site campaigners. They don’t get out and meet people,” the Kenosha resident said. “They go to a couple of forums and think they’re campaigning.


“I force myself to get out every day and meet new people.”


Asked why he would spend time, money and effort in a campaign most political observers think is quixotic, Hebert said: “I just got tired of the way the country was going, and I stood up.”


If he loses either the primary or general election, Hebert said he would give up his political aspirations. But he doesn’t think his efforts lack value.


“We focused on core issue—jobs, health insurance—and letting ’em (voters) know there’s honesty and integrity in my voice for the 1st District. I work for them,” Hebert said.


Those virtues and his work ethic are what will enable him to beat Ryan, Hebert said. “Paul Ryan seems to represent special interests and big business. He’s beholden to those (campaign) contributors.”


And Hebert said his advantage over his Democratic opponents is:


“I’m out there every day, talking to people, finding out what their needs are and the way they think the country should be going.


“I might lack a lot of formal education, but Washington is full of highly educated people, and look at the mess we’re in.


“A little common sense would go a long way in Washington.”



Marge Krupp

Marge Krupp draws inspiration from her late mother, Ruth Kroupa.


“In the early ’60s, after her youngest (me) was in school, she had the gumption to go out and get a part-time job as a secretary,” Krupp recalled, noting that a woman working at that time cut against society’s grain.


“It made her a happier person, and it helped the family,” Krupp said. “Before I made my first speech at the state Democratic convention in ’07, I stopped by her grave and said, ‘Thanks for the chutzpah,’” Krupp said.


Krupp is vying with two other Democrats for what most political observers think is an improbable, if not impossible, task: unseating Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Janesville, a well-funded, well-connected five-term incumbent in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District.


Krupp earned her master’s in business administration from Northwestern University in Chicago while working as a third-shift supervisor for Abbott Laboratories.


“People said, ‘Marge, you can’t do that.’ I said watch me.


“Just like in the ’70s, they said girls can’t be chemical engineers, I said watch me,” Krupp said.


“People say no one can beat Paul Ryan. I say watch me.


“With his 95 percent voting record with (President) George Bush, I say if you like George Bush, vote for Paul Ryan.”


After working for Johnson Wax, then Abbott, Krupp resigned as vice president of marketing for Foremost Financial in Racine to campaign full time for Congress.


Why?


“Because in ’06 so many Democrats went to Washington, and here we have a Bush Republican in a Democratic-leaning district,” she said.


“I was born in this district (Racine). I love this place. It breaks my heart to see the loss of jobs,” said Krupp, now a Pleasant Prairie resident. “There’s plenty of fire in my belly because of all the wrong the Bush-Ryan administration has done to the American people.


“The rich are getting richer; the poor are getting poorer, and the middle class is disappearing. I say what’s good for the middle class is good for the country,” she said.


“This is all I do,” Krupp said of campaigning. “I have to remember what day it is. I work seven days a week, let’s say half-time, 12 hours on, 12 hours off.”


In doing so, Krupp has sacrificed her favorite pastimes: recreational reading, bicycling and spending time with her family.


Though active in other Democrats’ political campaigns, Krupp is making her first run for public office.


Asked what distinguishes her from her two Democratic challengers, Krupp said:


“I’m a chemical engineer. I’ve been on the factory floor. I know manufacturing. I’d be best in terms of having that hands-on knowledge to create family-supporting jobs that stay here.”


She would, for instance, eliminate tax breaks for oil companies, which, she said, would fully fund a mandate to create “green-collar” jobs that would build windmills and expand the use of bio-fuels and solar power.


The youngest of three children, Krupp, 52, has been married to her husband, Dan, for 31 years. They have one son, Andrew, who is studying to be a school psychologist like his father.


“Education is very important to us,” she said.



1st District Democrats on the issues


Immigration


Garin:

“We need to fully enforce the laws we have now, and we have plenty of laws to enforce.”

Building walls or fences won’t solve the problem of illegal immigration.


“We need to go after employers who often are exploiting them with less-than-minimum wage jobs. We need to eliminate the economic incentives.”


Immigration opponents appear almost racially biased, “thinking all illegal immigrants are coming from the south. Building a fence isn’t going to keep out the Vietnamese and Chinese. It has to be equitable across the board.”



Hebert:

“Absolutely secure the borders, north and south and secure our ports. Not only would it inhibit drug traffic, which is a blight to our society, it also would keep out people who by law should not be here.

“Absolutely no amnesty. They’re not all good people. There are criminal elements. We have a problem with fraudulent documentation. They’re stealing someone’s identity.


“It’s like a Catch-22. It has to be employer-enforced.”


Illegal immigrants already here should be deported to their countries of origin, where they can apply for legal immigration. “They should come through the front door, not the back door.”



Krupp:

“We have to make laws simpler and more just. It’s wrong when a parent is picked up (arrested) at work, and the children are at daycare and have no idea where dad and mom are.”

“I’m against the wall, but we have to have secure borders to protect against terrorists. Our ports are under lax surveillance and seem to get less attention.


“We have to have ways for the best and brightest and hard-working people to get into our country. They have to obey the law and work hard.


“There has to be a path (for illegal immigrants already here) to permanent legal residency and maybe citizenship.”



Energy


Garin:

“I’m obviously running as a Democrat to protect the environment.”

The spin that drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve would bring down gasoline prices is wrong.


“We have to invest in alternative energy technologies. Just imagine if we started a Manhattan Project for energy now.”


Nuclear energy is not one of her priorities because it produces so many toxic by-products.


“The issues of the environment and energy are in many ways intertwined and will be best solved by the investments we make in education. With an expanding brain trust of individuals who are highly skilled in math, science and engineering, we will be enabled to develop alternative, non-polluting methods of energy and to provide more effective means of conservation.



Hebert:

“I’ve got no problem with drilling as long as we pump it out of the ground. There’s a lot of drilling and capping (potential oil wells).”

Furthermore, oil companies should explore and drill on the millions of acres in the contiguous 48 states for which they already have leases. They don’t because they want to keep oil prices high.


“Let’s drill and pump it out of the ground until we find alternatives. We can send a man to the moon, but we can’t find an alternative to fossil fuels?”


He supports expanding the use of geothermal, wind, solar, coal and nuclear energy as long as the uses of coal and nuclear material are made cleaner than current methods.



Krupp:

“(Rep. Paul) Ryan has sided with the oil companies who gave him campaign contributions. So he has blocked investment in clean renewable energy and is continuing to give billions in taxpayer subsidies to Big Oil as they make record profits while we pay record prices at the pump.

“Bush and Ryan have consistently worked to weaken environmental protections and to open our most beautiful natural resources to risky exploitation schemes in the pristine Alaskan wilderness.


“I will promote family-supporting clean technology jobs such as windmill farms and producing alternative fuels, which will also lessen our dependence on foreign oil. The small country of (Great) Britain has already produced 500,000 such clean tech jobs. Imagine what we Americans will do when we have motivated leaders in Washington.”



Health care


Garin:

“I am most in favor of a universal, single-payer, not-for-profit health care plan that would be modeled after Medicare and would provide coverage to all Americans. …

“While the federal government decides which path to follow in solving the health care crisis, Wisconsin—and a handful of other states—may actually lead the way by developing programs to provide health insurance to their residents. …


“The federal government could then serve as a facilitator to the states making sure the individual state programs are transferable and comparable to the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program … the same type of coverage that the members of Congress receive.”



Hebert:

“Fifty million Americans do not have health coverage. I’d like to see all Americans under a single-payer system like the European and Canadian systems.”

To pay for such a system, start by eliminating fraud.


“There’s $68 billion in Medicare fraud. We need to eliminate fraud. That would be a good start. .., Obviously, all would contribute to the system, and it would focus on preventive measures.”


Money that workers and others now pay for private health insurance would instead go through taxes to help fund the single-payers, and eliminating corporate welfare and tax loopholes for businesses also would help pay for such a plan.



Krupp:

“We need to guarantee that every American has access to affordable health care. … It’s hurting our businesses. Health insurance adds $1,000 to the cost of each car General Motors produces, while their Japanese competitors pay only $200.

“We spend two times more per capita on health care than any other nation … That is over twice as much as Japan and Great Britain and 90 percent more than Canada, France and West Germany. …


“A serious problem is the money spent on paperwork and administration. This now accounts for 25 percent of our health care expenses. Medicare and the national health care systems of most other countries spend around 4 percent on this. The price of drugs is another major issue. Because we do not have a unified medical system that can bargain with the drug companies, Americans pay twice as much for pharmaceuticals as do the citizens of other countries. …


“We have to find the appropriate mix of private and public management that will work for us.”



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