State Sen. Robert Wirch, D-Somers, faces Republican challenger Pam Stevens in the newly configured 22nd Senate District. The district includes the city of Kenosha, much of the city of Racine and the eastern portions of Somers and Mount Pleasant.
The election is Nov. 6. To find your polling place, call your municipal clerk or go to kenoshacounty.org. Click on Elections on the left side of the homepage, then click on Where to Vote.
Below are the candidates’ responses to questions posed by the Kenosha News.
Pam StevensParty -- Republican
Age -- 47
Residence -- Kenosha
Education -- Attended Prairie State College
Occupation -- Property manager
Elected experience -- Kenosha Unified School Board, 2003-12
Robert Wirch Party -- Democrat
Age -- 68
Residence -- Somers
Education -- Bachelor’s degree, University of Wisconsin-Parkside
Occupation -- Full-time legislator
Elected experience -- Kenosha County Board, 1986-94; state Assembly, 1993-97; state Senate, 1997-present
QuestionWhat can the state do to grow jobs?
Stevens -- The first thing that has to be done is make Wisconsin attractive to businesses. You do that by having good schools and safe communities along with a business tax structure that the company can afford.
Politicians have to stop waiting for the businesses to come to Wisconsin looking for information to decide if they want to build here. We should be out there bringing the businesses to Wisconsin and showing them why Wisconsin — especially southeastern Wisconsin — is the best fit for them.
Wirch -- Growing jobs in the economy today requires having a skilled and trained work force. I have toured local manufacturing facilities, and the No. 1 concern raised by managers is the lack of trained workers for the available jobs.
At the same time, Gov. Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature cut funding to the Wisconsin Technical College System by 30 percent. Our top priority now should be investing in the training and retraining of displaced workers.
QuestionIs bipartisanship possible in the state Capitol? If so, what issues provide the most potential?
Stevens -- Bipartisanship is most definitely possible. All issues have potential for bipartisanship.
When politicians stop playing party games and vote on an idea and not a party line, you will see true bipartisanship. I was able to do this having been on the Kenosha Unified School Board for nine years, which is a non-partisan position.
It’s about what is best for the entire constituency that you serve and not some special interest group, no matter what your political affiliation is. One of my favorite quotes is, “Do not dismiss a good idea because you don’t like the source.”
Wirch -- I have always reached out to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. Most recently, last session, I worked with Republican Rep. Joe Knilans to introduce and pass legislation that will help veterans and people with disabilities access higher education.
Students with disabilities, including an increasing number of veterans seeking job retraining, were not guaranteed that their textbooks would be available in a format — Braille, large print or audio — that would be accessible to meet their needs. I worked with Rep. Knilans to achieve a broad bipartisan coalition of support, as well as the support of the publishing industry, the University of Wisconsin System and the Wisconsin Technical College System.
QuestionWith the latest court ruling on collective bargaining, should the Legislature consider making any adjustments to the law? Was the bill passed last year appropriate, or did it go too far?
Stevens -- Yes it was appropriate. Collective bargaining is not a right; it is a privilege.
Collective bargaining actually denies the individual employee — who might otherwise choose to decline a contract, or even decline the requirement to bargain collectively — an ability to act independently, yet many continue to refer to this bargaining mechanism as a right.
The need to bargain virtually every operational issue makes implementing policy decisions and providing services a struggle, often ending in grievance arbitration.
I believe by limiting collective bargaining, the Legislature has enriched individual workers’ ability to work where they want and associate and negotiate with whom they choose and taken steps to rein in runaway costs.
Wirch -- I support the right of workers to have a seat at the table and collectively bargain.
Last year, I had the opportunity to speak with Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, and when the state of Montana faced a budget shortfall, he successfully worked with union leadership to negotiate a contract that included an increase in health care contributions. Prior to the passage of Act 10, the unions representing Wisconsin public employees agreed to increased contributions to health care and retirement benefits.
Instead of working with union leadership, Act 10 was hastily passed.
QuestionWhat should be the state’s role in funding K-12 education?
Stevens -- The money should follow the child, not the child following the money. If there is a mandate or program that the state wants to force on a school district, then the state needs to pay for it. Otherwise stay out of it.
By the state forcing a district to pay for a mandate, the district has to get rid of some other non-mandated program that may be better for the children in that particular district. One size does not fit all, and that is what longtime politicians don’t seem to understand.
Wirch -- A good public education system is a Wisconsin value that is guaranteed in our state Constitution. I support fully funding public education for all children.
We need to provide our schools with the resources they need to help our children succeed academically.