Gov. Tony Evers pledged to county officials that he will try to boost shared revenue if reelected, while GOP rival Tim Michels told the crowd he believes they’re better at making decisions with public dollars than the state.
Evers and Michels sat down with Wisconsin Counties Association President and CEO Mark O’Connell for casual interviews Monday as part of the group’s annual conference in the Wisconsin Dells. Other candidates gave speeches to the crowd, while U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, delivered a video message because he’s in Washington, D.C. this week with the Senate in session.
Evers noted GOP lawmakers approved $58.7 million less in county and municipal aid over his first two budgets compared to what he proposed as part of the shared revenue program.
Evers told county officials they have to be the state’s partner and if they are, “we have to provide resources to make sure that you can do the job you have to do. It’s real simple.”
Evers also said his goals for a second term include expanding broadband internet to the approximately 600,000 households currently without access.
“It is feasible now. It’s just dealing with the cost,” Evers said.
Michels told county officials crime would be his No. 1 focus if elected and he would work with anyone to address the issue.
Michels said crime is at a 30-year high and called himself the polar opposite of the defund the police movement. He said criminals are no longer afraid of the consequences for their actions because they’ve dropped so dramatically.
“Culturally, we’ve lost respect for law enforcement. More importantly, the bad guys, if you will, they’ve become emboldened,” Michels said.
Neither Evers nor Michels mentioned his opponent during their appearances, while Fond du Lac County DA Eric Toney and Dem AG Josh Kaul took several digs at each other.
Toney accused Kaul of taking too long to notify the public that Jacob Blake was armed with a knife when he was shot in the back and side by a Kenosha Police officer more than two years ago. Toney accused Evers of inflaming tensions in Kenosha and said at a minimum Kaul should’ve come forward to say the guv was wrong.
Toney also accused Kaul of leaving open positions at DOJ and called for giving the state Department of Justice original prosecution authority over Milwaukee County.
“Milwaukee crime bleeds across Wisconsin, and if we protect Milwaukee, we literally will protect all of Wisconsin,” Toney said.
Without mentioning his opponent by name, Kaul opened his speech saying attendees had heard some over-the-top rhetoric that comes with being seven weeks out from an election.
Kaul said he has sought to overcome efforts by GOP lawmakers to undercut DOJ before he even took office. Along with that, he touted joining a lawsuit against the opioid industry, addressing the backlog of sex assault test kits in the state’s crime lab and working to overturn the state’s 1849 abortion ban.
He also called for protecting the freedom to vote, accusing Toney of embracing conspiracy theories and the claims by former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman in his review of the 2020 election.
“Our local election officials do phenomenal work, and they deserve our support and praise,” Kaul said. “Not the kind of attack and condemnation that we’ve seen over the last couple of years.”
In his video message, Johnson issued a stark warning about the trajectory of the nation’s debt.
He also told the crowd he’s been falsely accused of wanting to cut Social Security and Medicare or put the programs “on the chopping block” because he’s said they should be considered as part of the discretionary budget process.That process requires lawmakers to approve spending levels every year, rather than having spending increases be mandatory.
Johnson said he wants to save the programs and warned the nation’s spending is unsustainable.
“I know I’m not the most uplifting character at times because I just have this compulsion to tell you the truth,” Johnson said.
Barnes, meanwhile, told the crowd he was running for the U.S. Senate to rebuild the middle class. He also called for a fairer tax code to make the wealthiest pay their fair share and discourage outsourcing jobs. He also bemoaned “big ag” squeezing family farms.
“We can’t leave people behind,” Barnes said. “It’s our time. It’s time to put Wisconsin first.”
Watch their remarks: