Three Democratic candidates for governor met in Janesville on Wednesday night, criticized Gov. Scott Walker and drew distinctions between each other on school vouchers and the deal to bring Foxconn Technology Group to the state.
The Rock County Progressives hosted the event at Basics Cooperative, which hosted candidates Matt Flynn, Andy Gronik and Mike McCabe. The three are among 10 who will be on the primary ballot Aug. 14 hoping for a chance to challenge Walker in November.
McCabe, a longtime nonprofit leader and legislative liaison who was raised on farm in Evansville, had the most support among a crowd of about 40. Many were already sporting McCabe campaign T-shirts.
McCabe said Wisconsin has surrendered to “cronyism” and has served the interests of its wealthy donors under the leadership of Walker. He told the crowd that “economic prosperity gushes up” from the working class rather than trickles down from the top. He said he wants to increase taxes on the state’s wealthiest 1 percent of residents.
“We’ve got to build a sturdy economy from the ground up,” McCabe said. “I understand the frustrations. There are just too many forgotten people living in forgotten places.”
Gronik, a Milwaukee businessman, said he is an outsider candidate and tried to position himself as more “pragmatic” than others. He also said he is the best candidate to go toe-to-toe with Walker on a debate stage.
“I am an entrepreneur,” Gronik told the crowd. “I am tired of losing. If the objective in this room is to win, then we have to do something different.”
Flynn, the former chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said he wants to repeal Act 10 and raise the minimum wage. He called the Foxconn deal—a planned $10 billion electronics manufacturing complex in Mount Pleasant—unconstitutional, adding he would immediately file suit against the Taiwanese company. The state OK’d a $3 billion incentive package for Foxconn in September.
Gronik disagreed with Flynn on Foxconn, saying the state shouldn’t “litigate it to death” and that the deal is here to stay. Gronik said he would rather try to “make a really bad deal” into something that benefits workers.
McCabe and Flynn each supported marijuana legalization. They pointed to a predicted annual tax revenue of $200 million and said it would significantly reduce the number of nonviolent prisoners in the state, which would save the state money.
Gronik disagreed with McCabe on private school vouchers.
McCabe said the program “simply doesn’t work” and that he would seek to dismantle the program “quickly.” Gronik said he would “stop the expansion” of vouchers but said he would be reluctant to end vouchers before seeing improvement in public schools.
On Thursday morning, a campaign spokesman informed The Gazette that Gronik agrees with McCabe and Flynn on legalizing marijuana. The spokesman said Gronik would push for a statewide marijuana legalization referendum on the ballot.