Former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson said the upcoming election will be “the toughest race that Scott Walker has ever run” but he thinks Walker ultimately will pull out a victory.
“The third one is always tough,” said Thompson, a four-term governor. He appeared Sunday on “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” produced in partnership with WisPolitics.com.
“And this time, whether it’s a blue wave or not, I think there’s a little bit of a fatigue. I think Scott still has a direct path to win, and I think the odds are that he will win, but I think it’s going to be extremely close.”
Thompson’s new book, “Tommy: My Journey of a Lifetime,” written with Madison journalist Doug Moe, looks back at his life and career. Thompson started in politics by running for state Assembly at age 24, and eventually became Wisconsin’s longest-serving governor.
Thompson discussed today’s political discourse and lamented that “the new mantra” is “destroy the other side.”
“The art of civility has gone by the wayside. It’s more of a ‘drag me down, tear me down,’ instead of ‘build me up.’ I just don’t like that,” he said, noting that he is still friends with the men he defeated in his races for governor.
He’s hopeful that after this next election, it will be “time to bring some civility back to politics.”
One of the reasons he wrote the book, he said, is to encourage young people to get involved in politics.
“It’s a great profession,” Thompson said. “I think everybody should run sometime for something. Whether you win or not, it’s not that important. It’s running, and getting involved, it’s your community, it’s your school, and people need to do that.”
He also said he wrote the book to create a record of his achievements.
He said one of his biggest accomplishments came in the global fight against AIDS when he was Health and Human Services secretary in the George W. Bush administration. He said he helped set up a global fund to fight AIDS and convinced Bush of “the rightness of what we were doing.”
“It just revealed to me how important America is, and how much we can do in the area of medical diplomacy to fight these kinds of insidious diseases,” he said.
See an excerpt from the book:
One of his biggest regrets, he said, is building more prisons during his time as governor and locking up so many people. Thompson said he now sees the need for prison reform and is involved in that effort.
Thompson said 60-70 percent of inmates have substance abuse problems.
“Let’s treat them, and let’s teach them. Let’s turn one of the prisons into a vocational school. And teach those individuals in there how to have a trade, a skill, be able to get out. And then have the businesses in Wisconsin, who need employees, sponsor them, and allow prisoners to work and get an out-of-jail-free card by working, getting educated, getting a trade, getting cleaned up, so you don’t have alcohol or drug problems, and then come out,” Thompson said.
He said he thinks both Republicans and Democrats feel the time is right for prison reform.
“It would be amazing what we could do for prison reform in America, and we could start here in Wisconsin, and become a model for the country. Just like my welfare reform was a model for the country,” Thompson said.
Also on the program, Court of Appeals Chief Judge Lisa Neubauer of Racine discussed her bid for Wisconsin Supreme Court. There will be an open seat on the court after Justice Shirley Abrahamson retires next year.
“I really feel that our courts need to be fair, impartial and independent,” Neubauer said.
“Everybody that comes before our Supreme Court has to have a fair shake. There has to be a level playing field. We have to follow the law. No ideology, no bias, no predetermined outcome. And that’s the kind of judge that I’ve been on the Court of Appeals for over 10 years now, and that is the kind of justice that I will be if I’m honored to be elected to the court by the people of the state of Wisconsin,” Neubauer said.
Neubauer also elaborated on her call for special interests to “stay out” of the 2019 court election.
“This outside money has been, frankly, so toxic. It runs down the court system in the minds of the public; it really undermines the public’s confidence in our judicial system,” she said.
See more from the show: