By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Candidates for 51st Assembly talk schools, economy
Placeholder Image
MONROE - Candidates for Wisconsin Assembly District 51 see a distinct array of issues that concern Green County voters.

Repub-lican Todd Novak, Dodgeville; Democrat Richard Cates, Spring Green; and Libertarian Adam Laufenberg, Highland, addressed the issues topping the lists: School funding, the economy and health-related problems.

Novak and Cates put funding for rural schools at the forefront of their supporters' concerns.

Novak sees the school aid funding formula as being "skewed against rural districts," while Cates is focusing in to reduce funding to school vouchers.

"I'm a big fan of re-allocating school funding," said Novak, who believes reallocation of school aid will make property taxes "more equitable" for taxpayers and the rural school districts.

Cates wants "fair funding for our rural schools." In his effort to "stop increasing the vouchers," Cates said his defining difference from other candidates is his effort to keep campaigns clear of support money from special interests, such as American Federation for Children, which favors school choice.

Laufenberg said he places "too much government waste" at the top of his list, and the main reason he got into the Assembly race. He wants to reduce government waste "as much as possible without harming essential services that government provides."

In talking with voters, he found "the general consensus is that government is too big and overbearing and too much money from taxes is being forked over to the government."

"Government waste is taking a toll on the taxpayers," he said. "The economy is better, but workers are not getting ahead, partly because of too much tax."

Drug use is a divided issue for Novak and Laufenberg, but each sees positive outcomes in his approach..

Novak said he has a passion for "fighting the heroine problem creeping in to the area" and has been working with organizations, law enforcement and others to solve it. He is advocating for "legislation to give law enforcement and the court system the tools to address the problem and to get people who are addicted the help they need."

"I've seen a dramatic rise in crime in rural areas; a lot directly related to drug and mental issues," he said. "People need to feel safe."

Laufenberg said he's "going to take some heat" over his support of making medical marijuana available to patients in Wisconsin. It's an issue the state is going to have to face sooner or later, he said, because of the increasing number of other states seeking to legalize.

"People think I'm some kind of druggie," he said, "but I don't do drugs; I'm a (delivery) driver."

Laufenberg bases his position on personally witnessing his father and a close friend who suffered though the ravages of terminal cancer in the past two years.

"I see an upside for those who need it and not as many downsides as prescription drugs," he said.

Laufenberg contends traditional cancer medications used to reduce pain can ruin patients' stomachs and reduce their appetite at a time when food intake is important to their quality of care.

In other medical instances, where morphine is prescribed "innocently enough" to reduce pain, prescription use can lead to abuse, addiction and often to the cheaper but illegal heroin use.

Laufenberg said some people, including families with children, are leaving non-medical marijuana states to get the help they need in places such as Colorado that allow some use of marijuana.

"I don't think someone who uses it is a criminal, and doesn't deserve to go to jail," Laufenberg said.

Cates said the economic driving factors in the state are farms, schools and health care. Undergirding all of those is economic development.

"Energy and food make up the biggest piece of the local economic development," he added.

Local economic development needs "infrastructure," he said. "In three words, roads, roads and roads." But Cates also includes renewable energy and broadband expansion.

All of these lead to increasing support for local food connections, which are "a huge economic opportunity," he said. "Quintessential is the increased quality of food."

"We've spent a lifetime moving out food out across the nation," he said. "Now, we need to create opportunity for a diverse set of (local) food products to be made available at (local) hospital and school cafeterias," and "rural dollars are then kept at home."

Cates is advocating for food hubs and innovative kitchens, where owners of small- and moderate-sized farms "can aggregate their food products and distribute more effectively and creatively." One farmer alone cannot get over the hump of startup costs, he noted.

"Wisconsin is fifth fastest of the 50 states in losing farm land - to residential development, mostly, homes and strip malls," Cates noted. "As a farmer, I want to grow Wisconsin agriculture in every way I can, and protect farmland."