Editor’s note: The Kenosha News asked candidates for Kenosha County sheriff and state House and Senate this question: “What is your top priority (for your office or seat)? Here are their answers in the final segment of Kenosha News question and answers with candidates in key contested races.

Kenosha County sheriff

DAVID BETH (R): “The Sheriff’s Department’s top priority has always been to protect and serve those that live, work and play in Kenosha. We currently have one of the premier law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin and we will continue to maintain that by hiring only the top candidates who apply. We will continue to train our staff in order to give them the ability to best deal with apprehending criminals, assisting victims of crime, protecting our schools and children, and helping those with mental health or drug addiction and abuse issues.

“We in law enforcement are asked to wear many hats. We are expected to be a wealth of knowledge, able to resolve any situation, protect everyone and sometimes bring people back to life. I think our department has done an outstanding job working with all agencies within Kenosha County and at the state and federal levels. My top priority is to do exactly what I have been doing for the last 16 years as your sheriff, leading one of finest groups of men and women that serve all of us and do it in an efficient and fiscally responsible manner. This will be even more important now as we face unprecedented growth in Kenosha County.”

DAVID ZOERNER (D): “As the sheriff, my top priority will always be public safety. Keeping our citizens safe in their homes, our children safe in their schools and everyone safe in the community and on our highways. Seemingly obvious goals for a sheriff, but these objectives must be met by an ultra-professional and committed police organization with involved leadership. Our current sheriff took it upon himself to search for a homicide suspect with friends and family, while ordering the trained and equipped tactical response team to sit off in the distance. (KSD Case # 2015-155334). I personally find this behavior dangerous and reckless. This was not successful, and the sought homicide suspect remained at large to attack and severely injure yet another Kenosha County resident. This type of bravado is unacceptable in public safety. I use this example as what not to do as a sheriff, elected by the citizens to keep them safe.

“It is my mission to ensure every entity at the sheriff’s disposal is activated and utilized to preserve life and the property of our citizens during a time of emergency, whether requesting assistance from the National Guard during flooding or utilizing appropriately equipped and trained tactical response teams to pursue the most violent suspects, bringing safe resolution as quickly as possible.”

21st Senate District

LORI HAWKINS (D): “My top priority as state senator will be to strengthen our communities through better jobs and better schools. Unfortunately over the last seven years, Republicans have focused on neither. They believe that we can create quality jobs and schools by handing over billions of dollars to unreliable, out-of-state corporations and slashing the budget for public education. These decisions have left our state with a structural deficit and still below the 2010 education funding levels. In fact, we are seeing the results across southeast Wisconsin. My daughter’s school, Westosha Central High School, was just forced to cut seven full-time staff positions, three of which were STEM teachers. With the potential of jobs headed to our corner of the state, we should be working to expand funding for technology classes and lowering costs for technical colleges.

“We desperately need to refocus our resources on what really matters in Wisconsin. Studies have repeatedly shown that we can create more jobs by investing in local, small businesses. If elected, I will work to create a fair tax system that benefits small businesses and working people rather than lining the pockets of wealthy corporate executives, and I will fight to reinvest in our public schools so that all young people are prepared to participate in a 21st century economy.”

SEN. VAN WANGGAARD (R): “My No. 1 priority for the district is the same as it’s always been — making southeastern Wisconsin the best place to live. That starts with helping create a strong economy. A lot of things go into that. It starts with maintaining and improving the tax, regulatory climate and other changes we’ve made in the last eight years which made Kenosha and Racine County an economic engine. Those changes that have improved our economy can be reversed. My opponent has said it’s one of her goals.

“It also means making sure we have a quality education for all students — regardless of income or geography. Investing in all education – public schools, choice schools, charter schools, universities and technical colleges is a part of that. I’m proud of our efforts in this area. We also have to ensure that our education system is teaching the skills that our employers are seeking. It also means that the ‘quality of life’ issues are heading the right direction. Our streets and children must be safe. As a former police officer, I’m a leader in the legislature on crime issues, especially domestic abuse, sexual abuse and human trafficking. We need to invest in our transportation infrastructure so that people can enjoy this beautiful state and get to work. We need to maintain low property taxes so people can stay in their homes. All this and more help make Wisconsin a great place to live, work and play. “


REP. SAMANTHA KERKMAN (R): “Last election, I said economic development and job creation was my top priority. Building on this success, I’ll be focusing on workforce training and employee retention. I will continue to support the collaboration between UW Parkside, Gateway Technical College and Carthage College to educate and train the next generation of workers. Since 2013, almost 11,000 new jobs have been added to the county, with more coming. The state’s unemployment rate has been under 3% since May of 2018. I’m proud that I have worked together with federal, state and local leaders to help create a business-friendly environment for small, medium and large business to thrive in Kenosha County. In addition, we need to work closely with the housing industry and local governments for opportunities for additional housing inventory for seniors and families.”

GINA WALKINGTON (D): “My top priority is bringing back a strong middle class. We can start by prioritizing our spending, ending the ‘dark store’ loophole and putting a stop to tax carve outs for special interests. Once we’ve got additional revenue from doing these things, we should begin to focus our investments in public education, ensuring that affordable, quality healthcare is the right of everyone, and start aggressively working to promote economic development which ensures that the jobs created pay a wage that can sustain our working families; crucial to this economic development will be reinvesting in our infrastructure, because not doing so costs the residents of our state not just time and money, but opportunities.”


REP. PETER BARCA (D): “Education, employment and training. I have authored a bill to address closing the skills gap. Affordable Housing- I have been working with local elected and business leaders to address this in creative ways. Ensure pre-existing conditions are covered, I have worked with a variety of legislators to develop legislation.”

THOMAS HARLAND (C): “Education is essential to providing for our future. We all learn in different methods and should not assume that a one-size-fits-all education model from the federal government is the best solution. Affordability and quality of our education system is vital and can be best achieved through applying free market principles. Wisconsin currently spends more per student than most states and most other countries around the world. Throwing more money at the issue will not solve the problem we face today. When we have different options such as e-schools, private schools, and home schools competing to provide the best education everyone is better off.

“I also think we need to take a different approach when evaluating our post secondary education system. The “traditional route” of going to college for four years while going in debt to earn a degree is no longer effective. We should embrace the trades that do not necessarily need four years of school and may require an apprenticeship instead. In today’s economy, more and more businesses are willing to pay to educate their employees as a benefit of employment. Not only is the individual gaining experience but they are having their education paid for as well. We should encourage students to look at these other routes towards achieving their education and career aspirations.”