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Some people say there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the two major parties. Sometimes this does seem to be the case when the influence of big money corrupts politicians from both sides. Sometimes it is hard to see a difference when both sides support similar agendas like wars, tax breaks, budget cuts, and trade deals.
But there is a clear choice between the two congressional candidates for Wisconsin’s 7th district. The incumbent, Sean Duffy, and the challenger, Mary Hoeft, have distinctly different views about the role of government, how our economy should work, and what policies are needed to solve our problems.
Sean Duffy is a far right conservative in line with the Koch brothers, Scott Walker, and Paul Ryan. He shares their efforts to dismantle the social progress of the last 100 years. Mary Hoeft is a progressive in the tradition of David Obey, Gaylord Nelson, William Proxmire and Robert La Follette. She advocates for the kind of policies that made Wisconsin a model for the nation.
Duffy has served three terms in the House. Prior to being elected to Congress in 2010, he was the Ashland County District Attorney for eight years. Duffy has a knack for saying the right things. Like many politicians, he tells you what you want to hear. But in the legislature his voting record indicates he supports, with few exceptions, the conservative agenda of the last 40 years. He supports tax breaks for the wealthy, cutting social programs, no business regulation, and aggressive, militarized foreign policy. Liberal groups who track voting records all rate him very low on their issues. Conservative groups rate him at or near 100%. He is on record supporting Donald Trump for president. Even after the recent evidence of Trump’s sexual harassment of women, he refused to denounce him.
Mary Hoeft is new to elected office. Her only political experience is serving 6 years on the local school board. She has been a UW Barron Center professor teaching Communication and French for many years. She has received a number of teaching awards and has gone to Nepal to bring modern teaching practices to remote villages. Mary has been endorsed by former Congressman David Obey and former State Senator Bob Jauch. She does not have a voting record but will be an advocate for a progressive agenda on many issues.
This election is not about personalities. It is about the candidates’ political and economic philosophy. It is about the specific policy solutions they would pursue. Let’s look at those policy differences and their impact on NW Wisconsin.
Healthcare. The cost of healthcare and medical insurance is a major problem for everyone. It is a huge cost for government, business, and individuals. Yet the conservatives have stonewalled every effort to do anything about this problem. Republicans have opposed all efforts to reform healthcare insurance and to control health care costs for many decades.
Rep. Duffy has voted repeatedly to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). He says he is not opposed to all of the Affordable Care Act provisions. He wants to “repeal and replace” it with a market based program. But the ACA buying exchanges are market based, and the Republicans have no alternative plan.
Rather then being a government “takeover” of healthcare The ACA is a private insurance based program very similar to that advocated by Republicans like Richard Nixon and Mitt Romney. The Affordable Care Act covers 224,000 people in Wisconsin (nationally 20 million). Killing the ACA would mean many people would be getting healthcare via the emergency room after they are in crisis. This will increase health care costs for all of us because the cost of charity care and bad debt gets passed on to those with insurance.
Mary Hoeft supports the ACA as a step in the right direction. She favors expanding the ACA coverage. Ultimately, she prefers a universal coverage, single payer (Medicare for All) type of program. She supports allowing the government to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. This obvious run-government-like-a-business good idea was banned by Republicans during the G.W. Bush administration.
Education. Tax supported public education is an American tradition. We invented the idea of providing education to all children. Our founding fathers advocated for education as essential to building an informed citizenry to make democracy work. Rep. Duffy supports school “choice,” charter schools, and has repeatedly voted to cut funding for education.
Mary Hoeft supports funding for public education. She also supports federal funding of a two-year technical school degree or associate degree from a community college. She says, “Higher education cannot be a promise to only the children of our country’s wealthiest. It must be a promise to all children. I will fight to make that promise a reality.”
Environment. Protection of the natural resources we depend on is essential to NW Wisconsin. Clean water is especially critical to our agriculture and tourism industries in addition to our own health. We face serious problems in this area. We can not continue to ignore the degradation of our environment.
Rep. Duffy received a 3% lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters for his environmental protection record. He has repeatedly voted to weaken environmental protection in favor of business interests. He has voted to weaken the Clean Water Act to favor the forestry and mining industries. He voted against carbon pollution limits for power plants. He supported the Gogebic Taconite mine which would degrade water quality in the Chequamegon Bay area. He has supported the Keystone pipeline. He has been silent on the aging Embridge pipelines running through Wisconsin.
Mary Hoeft has been endorsed by the Clean Wisconsin Action Fund. She opposes the Bayfield County CAFO which would bring 26,000 pigs to the area. She is concerned about the safety of pipelines crossing Wisconsin. She believes climate change is a serious problem and supports carbon fees as the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Women’s Reproductive rights. Rep. Duffy has received a 0% rating on his voting record regarding this issue. He is on record as supporting restrictions on women’s right to an abortion. Hoeft is pro women’s rights in all areas.
Social Security and Retirement. On this issue Duffy says he will not “privatize” Social Security. But his voting record received a 0% rating on retirement issues from the Alliance for Retired Americans. He has voted to support Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget agenda which would reduce Social Security benefits, increase retirement ages, and create Medicare vouchers.
Mary Hoeft supports keeping Social Security out of the hands of Wall Street. What would have happened to seniors in 2007-2008 if Social Security had been tied to the stock markets? She believes, “The money they depend upon for food and rent would have been reduced by half.” She supports a financial transaction tax to reduce market speculation. Wild speculation increases market volatility that hurts everyone trying to save for retirement.
This election the choice is clear. If you want to continue this ultra conservative, anti people agenda, vote for Sean Duffy. If you think we need a new, progressive, people first agenda, vote for Mary Hoeft.