RACINE - The balance of the state Senate is no longer in limbo, but the race between Sen. Robert Wirch, D-Pleasant Prairie, and his Republican opponent, Jonathan Steitz, is still heated.
The recall election is next Tuesday for Senate District 22, which includes Burlington and most of Kenosha County. On Wednesday - the day after six Republican recall elections, four of which Republicans won - the two candidates made their cases during The Journal Times' online forum. Readers submitted online questions to Wirch and Steitz, many of which stirred heated responses from the candidates.
When asked about their thoughts on the recall, Wirch said it is "a waste of taxpayer money put on by radical elements in the Republican Party." That is what he has heard repeatedly when he goes door-to-door in his district, he said.
But Steitz said, "I believe that a recall is appropriate when an elected official fails to do his job and abdicates his responsibility to represent us in Madison," referring to when Wirch left the state to avoid voting on the budget repair bill.
To that Wirch said, "This radical bill deserved a strong response. Working people elected me and I was proud to stand with them in their hour of need."
When he was in Illinois he was still working for his constituents, Wirch said after a reader submitted a question asking him about going "AWOL."
"I am a workaholic," Wirch said. "I worked every day when I was in Illinois, running my office, talking and listening to constituents, solving constituent problems and speaking to the media."
Wirch wasn't the only one targeted by online readers.
Recently information has come out that Steitz is renting a property to a registered sex offender, who failed to report his whereabouts with the state.
"As a lawyer, how do you explain that?" a reader asked.
Steitz said, "I had a tenant who had an offense that occurred when he was a minor. Juvenile offenses are sealed and there was no way I could have known about it ... I fully cooperated with the police when they contacted me and the person no longer lives in my rental unit. There's nothing more to the story."
But the candidates' past actions are only a part of the election. Moving forward, both candidates said jobs would be their top priority. But their answers were very different on how they would bring jobs to Wisconsin.
Steitz said, "For too long, Wisconsin has not been competitive because it is one of the highest taxed states in the nation. We need to implement policies that simplify the tax code (getting rid of special interest tax breaks), reducing taxes across the board and reducing the regulatory burden."
Wirch on the other hand said, "I think first we need to support education so that we have a well-trained workforce. For example, I think we need to look at the technical schools to provide specific job relating training that will help companies." He mentioned Bucyrus in Milwaukee needing high tech welders as one example of the importance of investing in technical schools.
Also, he said there needs to be incentives for businesses to grow, such as the new tax incremental finance legislation that he recently helped pass that will assist Pleasant Prairie businesses.
To read the entire online forum click here.