Wisconsin governor’s race: Take 6 from the debate between Tony Evers and Tim Michels


Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and his Republican challenger Tim Michels clashed in a debate Friday night over the swing state’s election administration, with Michels vowing to sign into law a number of veto-restrictive ballot measures.

The stylistic differences between the two candidates were on display in Madison in their first and only debate.

Evers demonstrated his technocratic approach by delving into specific proposals to provide child care tax credits, share state government revenue with local governments, eliminate the “minimum markup” law that requires gas stations to charge 9% more than they pay for gas. and a 10% cut in state income taxes for middle-class workers.

Michels was much shorter on specifics, promising “massive tax reform” without offering details. Instead, he sought to portray Evers as a weak leader.

“I am a businessman. I understand macroeconomics. I understand how the balance sheet reads,” Michels said.

The outcome of Wisconsin’s gubernatorial race could have important implications for the 2024 presidential election, a contest in which Wisconsin could regain its role as a swing state.

Here are six takeaways from Friday’s Badger State gubernatorial debate:

Evers defended the integrity of Wisconsin’s election, saying Republicans were claiming massive fraud in the 2020 presidential election “without any idea or accuracy.”

“It was safe, fair and we can be confident in our election,” Evers said.

The Democratic governor this year vetoed a series of bills passed by the GOP-led legislature that would have imposed new requirements on mail-in voting and new citizenship verification; forced the state to turn off more voter rolls; banned the use of private election subsidies; and transferred oversight of elections to the legislature.

Michels referred to the “Zucker bucks,” the $350 million that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, gave to Tech and Civic Life to help election officials and voters navigate the coronavirus pandemic safely. He also said he would outlaw “ballot canvassing,” allowing another person to deliver a voter’s absentee ballot.

And he pointed to a judge’s ruling this fall that removed the Wisconsin Board of Elections’ guidelines for clerks to fill out information on witness certificates for absentee ballots.

“I’m going to make sure that once I’m governor, we don’t have these questions about election integrity again. I’m going to work with the Legislature. We’re going to get these bills right, the bills that Governor Evers vetoed,” Michels said.

Evers and Michels said they will make sure the next Wisconsin election is held while they are governors.

Evers said the outcome of the gubernatorial election would be determined by “whoever wins.”

“Of course, I will ensure the next election,” said Michels.

But Michels said the state must also address concerns about election security. Republicans have endorsed former President Donald Trump’s fraudulent claims in the 2020 presidential election. While he did not back up those claims on Friday, he did not acknowledge that there are election security concerns as a result of Trump’s lies.

“I want to make sure that, after I’m governor, we’re not having these conversations two years from now, four years from now and beyond,” Michels said.

Michels said Friday that she is “pro-life” but would sign legislation that would allow rape and incest exceptions to the state’s 1849 abortion ban, if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns this summer’s Roe v. To be able to enter into force after the repeal of Wade. Wisconsin’s GOP-led legislature has not yet advanced measures to approve the exemptions.

The Republican also said he is “not against contraception” and played down the possibility of introducing criminal penalties against those who seek abortions in other states.

“I’m common sense, and I’ve listened to people, and I’ll always listen to people,” Michels said.

Evers has been pushing state GOP lawmakers to change state law to allow a referendum on the 1849 ban. Legislators recently called a special session asking citizens to give them the chance to submit such a referendum, but the GOP-led Assembly and Senate adjourned in less than 30 seconds without taking action.

Evers on Friday called Michels “radical” on the issue and said Wisconsin should return to the abortion rights protections that existed before the Dobbs ruling.

“The bottom line here is that women should have the ability and the right to make decisions about their own health care, including reproductive health care, and that includes abortion,” Evers said.

Evers and Michels also clashed over gun restrictions, with the governor saying he supports universal background checks and “red flag” laws and Michels countering that those laws are unconstitutional.

Asked about violent crime in Milwaukee, Michels praised his time in the city and said many of the homicides were the result of knife violence, rather than guns. He said he sees the red flag laws as a “slippery slope.”

“With the millions of guns in Wisconsin, we need to make sure that responsible gun owners are not able to get rid of their guns properly,” he said.

Evers said his plan to combat gun violence includes sharing state revenue with local governments. He also championed red flag laws and universal background checks, two gun restrictions that have no way forward in the current GOP-dominated legislature.

“Responsible gun owners don’t have to worry about red flag laws because it will never be a problem for them,” Evers said.

Michels hammered Evers over decisions by the Wisconsin parole board to grant hundreds of discretionary paroles not required by law.

Such paroles have been common in the past, but Wisconsin Republicans have blamed Democrats for increases in violent crime. The state saw a 70 percent increase in homicides from 2019 to 2021 — a trend that occurred nationwide and that experts say was fueled by the coronavirus pandemic and economic factors.

The parole, Michels said, showed Evers was fulfilling a 2018 campaign pledge to cut the state’s prison population in half.

“More than 1,000 convicted felons were released. If you do the simple math they have about 10,000 more to do,” Michels said. “I’m going to elect a chief parole commissioner who will make sure we have the rule of law in Wisconsin.”

Evers, on the other hand, pointed out that the parole board is not controlled by the governor, although the governor appoints himself. Board chairman John Tate resigned in June amid criticism, which Evers said was his request.

“This is about shared revenue. We can talk about parole, but we also have all kinds of issues in criminal justice,” Evers said.

Michels replied: “You heard, more money, more resources, more resources, and it doesn’t matter the leadership. … I will be tough, and I will speak tough.”

Evers and Michels also debated education, with Michels supporting public dollars to allow students to attend private schools, while Evers wants more funding for public schools.

“You would think that education would go well under his leadership, but that is not the case. Something has to change,” Michels said of Evers, who was a former state superintendent of education before becoming governor.

He added: “It can’t be the worst. It’s going to get better, because we’re going to empower parents, those tuition dollars are going to go with their kids’ parents. … And we’re going to stop CRT and go back to ABC,” Michels said, referring to critical race theory, which has become politicized in recent years. the concept of

Evers replied, “CRTs are not taught in our schools. And they are the ABCs”.