Walker, Neumann, and Eckstein Hall

Before we get to the candidates, how did the building do?

Wednesday night’s one-hour session between Mark Neumann and Scott Walker, who will face off in the  Republican primary for governor on Sept. 14, was the first event of its kind in Eckstein Hall, the new home o f the Law School.  The discussion – call it a debate, if you want – was hosted by Mike Gousha, the Law School’s distinguished fellow in law and public policy, and was broadcast live on television and radio stations across Wisconsin.  

And the building did fine. The Appellate Courtroom was an attractive setting, the logistics of the event went well, and, using the impressive array of equipment in the broadcast control room in the building, the technically-demanding broadcast went off without a hitch. That included segments in which people in five locations across the state joined in live to ask questions to the candidates.  To a casual viewer, it looked good. (Anyone on the inside of a live broadcast like this will roll their eyes at any use of the word “casual” in connection with such an effort.)

Oh, yes, the candidates.

Neither did anything that would be described as making a mistake (often, the number one goal for candidates involved in such debates is not to mess up) and neither did anything that was surprising.  Neumann, a former congressman who has been involved in real estate development for years, and Walker, Milwaukee County Executive since 2002, are in broad agreement on many issues, including the need to hold down government spending and taxes and to reduce regulation. 

In response to Gousha’s first question, both stuck by their campaign promises that hundreds of thousands of jobs would be created in Wisconsin under their economic policies.

Neumann stressed  his experience as a business owner. “Government’s got it completely wrong today” in thinking that more spending is the way to fuel an economic rebound, he said. “What we need in Wisconsin today is a major tax cut.”

Walker said, “Everyone in Milwaukee County knows I not only make promises, I keep them.”  He said the business and job creation climate will change quickly if he is elected governor.

The two disagreed, however, over a Neumann plan in which people who agreed to make monthly payments on their property taxes beginning in January 2012 would not have to pay property taxes for 2011. Neumann said, “I guarantee my plan works. . . You will never pay your 2011 property tax.” Walker said, “You can’t cut taxes unless you cut spending.”

Asked by a citizen in Madison to name three areas each candidate would prioritize for continuing state spending and three areas where each would look for cuts, Walker cited public safety, kindergarten through twelfth grade education, and higher education as areas for spending, and wages, benefits, and specific programs such as the BadgerCare health insurance program for low-income working people as candidates for cuts. Neumann said education, infrastructure, and safety were spending priorities, and that he would hold down the total growth of government spending, while making reductions in programs such as BadgerCare.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the all-but certain Democratic candidate for governor, declined to take part in the broadcast, saying he would wait to debate the Republican candidate who emerges from the primary.

Plans are underway for the Law School to host similar debates with the candidates for U.S. Senate and for governor in October, as the November final election approaches. The conversations are part of the “Town Hall Challenge” initiated by Gousha’s “Upfront with Mike Gousha” program on WISN-TV (Channel 12).

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.