Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and challenger Adam Steen split over possible exceptions to Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion ban and how to use a huge budget surplus.
Steen looks to unseat Vos, the longest serving Assembly speaker in Wisconsin history and a state representative since 2005. Both candidates spoke to WisPolitics.com this week about some of the most important issues this election cycle. The winner of the GOP primary on Aug. 9 will appear on the November ballot without Dem opposition.
The 63rd Assembly District is made up of the city of Burlington, the villages of Union Grove, Rochester, and Sturtevant, and most of the southern half of Racine County.
Concerning the 2020 presidential election, Vos, 54, who added “but I feel like I’m 80,” said he believed there were problems with the 2020 election that need to be fixed. But he added legal experts he’s talked to have said it is legally and constitutionally impossible to decertify a previous election.
Instead of focusing on past elections, Vos said he wants to look ahead and focus on future elections.
“Some want to focus on the past, I want to focus on fixing the past and electing good people so that going forward we can actually accomplish that goal,” said Vos, of Rochester.
Steen, 31, a self-employed investor living in Sturtevant who has never held public office before, said if he was in office in 2020, he would have voted to reclaim the Electoral College votes that went to President Joe Biden.
He claims the 2020 presidential election was invalid because it was held under false pretenses, adding “fraud vitiates everything.”
“I don’t think it’s the proper word, to decertify, but if you had to use the word decertify, then I would like to see the electors pulled back for the state of Wisconsin,” he said.
The two also split over whether to add exemptions to the state’s 1849 abortion ban that criminalizes the procedure in all cases except when the life of the mother is at risk.
Vos said he supports exemptions for rape and incest, but drafting legislation to create them is not a priority and that he will defend the current law as written.
“I have already authorized attorneys to defend the current law on the books because Josh Kaul and Tony Evers won’t do that,” he said, referring to the Democratic AG and governor. “I think that’s the first position; that we are not going to go out and aggressively try to amend the statute.”
Steen defended Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion ban that went into place after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade.
“173 years ago life was protected, and I believe that is the proper stance that we as citizens should have,” Steen said, adding he believes life “begins at conception” and “I am not God nor will I ever play God.”
In the past, Steen has said there are no exceptions when life starts at conception.
The state’s budget surplus is now projected by Revenue Secretary Peter Barca at more than $5 billion. Steen said his first priority would be to use those funds to deal with any infrastructure problems that may reveal themselves when he steps into office.
“If I step into that seat on January 3rd and we have major infrastructure problems that we have not addressed, I think it would be extremely important for our state to use the funds that we do have to address some of those problems,” he said.
Steen also noted he would maybe advocate for the use of those funds to cut taxes, but that would come as a second priority.
“I believe that using these funds to push forward and decrease [the tax burden] over the next five years … would be an extremely wise decision,” he said.
Vos advocated primarily for using the surplus funds on long-term tax relief. But he also said he wants to make sure that tax relief doesn’t negatively impact government services or public employees.
“We also have to make sure that we have revenues to help pay for our schools and to make sure that we do inflationary raises for our public employees to make sure that we have good people working for the state,” he said.
With regard to the gas tax, Steen would support temporarily suspending it to help decrease the cost of fuel as long as it doesn’t cause any larger ripple effects.
“If the gas tax is a tool that we could use to decrease the cost of fuel, I think that would help the citizens,” Steen said. “But if there’s a misappropriation of the funds which that gas tax is supposed to offset which causes us a problem down the road, I think it would be a huge mistake.”
Vos said he prefers long-term sustained tax relief and would be open to a temporary suspension of the gas tax if other state resources are used for road projects.
“I would not want to delay any projects for transportation because we are already behind a lot of the jobs that we need to get done,” said Vos. “I would certainly be open to looking at temporary suspension of the gas tax as long as we use state resources to make up the difference so there’s no reduction in the total number of road projects we’re doing.”
Also in the interview, Vos slammed Steen for running a campaign he says is focused on division rather than working with others to accomplish conservative goals.
“And I think that that is something that is a challenge in society today,” Vos said. “Because, look, I am very strongly principled and of course I am a conservative and proud of it. But not every single thing has to be an argument about every topic, and I feel like his entire campaign is focused around two simple ideas: anger and retribution. And I think that that’s kind of a sad commentary for how to run a campaign.”
Steen in the interview also criticized Vos for not responding to his requests to participate in a debate with him.
“We’ve offered multiple times for him to be part of it so people could see the difference between us, and we haven’t gotten a response from any of the options or offers we’ve given him,” he said.