The Democrat challenger in the 32nd Assembly District race is attacking the Republican incumbent for not agreeing to a debate, which the incumbent’s campaign said was because of scheduling.
Katherine Gaulke said Rep. Tyler August has “refused” to take part in any public forums or debates, according to an Oct. 10 news release. Gaulke said the decision “shows his arrogance and unwillingness to listen to constituents.”
“This is not democracy,” the release states.
Luke Bacher with August for Assembly said in an email to The Gazette that August “will be spending the remaining days of the campaign focused on connecting with voters one-on-one.”
“Rep. August has a strong record that he proudly stands by that voters can clearly examine,” Bacher said. “He will continue to talk with local residents at their doors, discussing the top issues facing the state as he always has.”
August, of Lake Geneva, was first elected to his seat in 2010. In 2013, he began serving as the Assembly’s speaker pro tempore, the second-highest constitutional officer in that legislative body.
Gaulke, of the town of Delavan, founded the Wisconsin Association of Free & Charitable Clinics. She left her position there to campaign. She is also a professor at Upper Iowa University’s Milwaukee campus.
Gaulke’s claims against August refer to two separate groups that tried to schedule a forum or debate between the candidates—the first being the Lake Geneva Regional News.
Robert Ireland, general manager of the weekly newspaper, said he reached out to August and Gaulke on Twitter in August to see if they were interested in a forum or debate.
Ireland said he heard back quickly from Gaulke. “Within a day or two” he called August at a phone number he found on August’s website and left a voicemail.
Ireland said he did not hear back from August or his campaign.
He saw August at an event in late September, and the incumbent expressed concern about scheduling a time, Ireland said. He said August told him he did not get the voicemail message.
Ireland then followed up with another phone call, which he said August’s campaign responded to in early October, saying an event would not fit into the lawmaker’s schedule.
“I was hoping to work with both candidates to come up with some kind of ground rules,” Ireland said.
In his email, Bacher said the campaign heard from the newspaper recently, but there were no “concrete details.”
The other group Gaulke said tried unsuccessfully to organize a debate was the League of Women Voters of the Whitewater Area.
Bacher said August declined the league’s request because it is based in Whitewater, which is not in August’s district.
“As a candidate, you receive dozens of questionnaires from special-interest groups, and it is hard to balance them all,” Bacher said in the email. “It would not be appropriate for Rep. August to take time away from his constituents to participate in an event organized by an organization outside of the district he represents.”
The member from the League of Women Voters of the Whitewater Area who tried to set up the event could not immediately be reached for comment.
Correction: This article was updated to say August first became speaker pro tempore in 2013.