In the special primary election for the 98th State Assembly District seat, differences between the five candidates aren’t so much ideological. Rather, the choice for voters on Feb. 19 lies with differences in the candidates' experience and approach to achieving goals.
Ed Baumann, Todd Greenwald, Matt Morzy, Adam Neylon and Jeanne Tarantino are running to replace Paul Farrow, who was elected to the 33rd Senate District seat in December. The winner of the GOP primary is all but certain to win the Assembly seat in a special April 2 election because there is no Democrat running.
On Monday, the quintet met in a Patch-sponsored forum at Carroll University to separate themselves from their opponents.
In this race, age and experience are what make the Feb. 19 election colorful.
Neylon is a 28-year-old local business owner, and he’s also logged over five years working for U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner and state Rep. Bill Kramer. Neylon said his hybrid background as a job creator with his window cleaning business, and his experiences in the Capitol separate him from the other four candidates. Neylon said he has drafted two bills that became law in the last Assembly session.
Primary Election Preview: Read More about the 98th District Race
"I presided over some of the most conservative reforms in legislative history. That was when we did a lot of things conservatives have been looking for," Neylon said. "I drafted two bills that eventually became laws. People can talk about creating jobs, but it's another thing to make real changes."
Tarantino has also spent time at the Capitol as chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. She worked with the Department of Workforce Development and helped develop a $100 million plan to train workers, and track job data for high-tech jobs of the future. Tarantino is also a mother of three school-aged children, and has actively volunteered in the classroom and organized fundraising efforts.
"That's why I'm running for state representative. This is a generation we can't stand to lose. I'm the only candidate here that has worked as part of the administration," Tarantino said. “I understand where this administration is going. I understand how fast we move."
Baumann served as Village of Pewaukee police chief for more than two decades, and has a place in the Wisconsin High School Football Hall of Fame. Baumann prepared a multimillion budget annually for the department 29 times. He was a leader in building Operation Lake Effect, which led to 27 indictments for heroin distribution. Baumann also received the endorsement from the National Rifle Association.
"I wanted to help people when I became a police officer and that’s the answer I gave before the Police and Fire Commission at the time. Thirty-eight years later, it's still the same. I want to help people and it has always been a burning desire of mine. That’s why I’m running,” Baumann said.
Morzy is a 29-year-old licensed former stockbroker with Scottrade. He graduated from Carroll College and is pursuing an MBA in finance at Marquette University. Morzy said he feels his expertise in the financial arena would help get the state’s fiscal house in order, and help bring more jobs to the state.
“We have a governor that believes jobs are number one. I want to make sure we move forward and add jobs every single day,” Morzy said. “I'm here in this race because I want to use my background in finance at the state level. I want to make sure I do what I can in order to help our state."
The final candidate, Greenwald, self admittedly doesn’t have the same experience as the other candidates. However, he’s a “man of the 98th District.” Greenwald has lived in the district for over 30 years, and helped organize the original blood drive at Pewaukee High School, which is now an annual tradition. He said the most important objective is to help create jobs.
"This position is to be representative. I don't have the pedigree of working with other politicians or police departments. I'm a middle-class guy that wants to go out to Madison and get the job done,” Greenwald said.
In Their Own Words
Although the candidates didn’t diverge far from each other when it came to the issues and solutions facing the state, there were some subtle differences forwarded in the forum Monday. Here’s where they stand in their own words:
- Top priority: “The budget will be the number one thing. It's presented the day after the primary election."
- Reducing cost of government: "Take a look at each and every agency and see where we can cut, and where the fat is. We sit down with those individual agencies and find out where they can make those cuts. We can cut some of the benefit programs and salaries."
- Voter ID: "We need voter ID, and it needs to be state issued."
- Working with the district: "I know every member of the city and village leadership. I can guarantee you that our relationship has been excellent and it would not skip a beat if I were elected."
- Mental health database: "When we talk about mental health issues, we are discussing so many issues. It's way too vague. I am a staunch believer in the 2nd Amendment. People have the right to own weapons. I believe in background checks, but to equate that to mental health issues is too difficult of a question to answer."
- Top priority: “The first job and goal is to pass the state budget. I'm ready to hit the ground running because I've already worked on the $100 million proposal closing the skills gap with Workforce Development. I think someone like myself is best positioned to do this job because there is no learning curve.”
- Reducing cost of government: "I worked on the government's lean government initiative. I am the only person with the experience preparing the five initiatives in his government. We have a lot of vacant positions in state government that we aren't filling. I understand where the cuts can be made, and I’ll go to Madison and be more informed on where and how to make those cuts."
- Voter ID: "I also support voter ID at the polls. I do believe there are ways to maintain the integrity of the process. We need access and accountability in the process."
- Working with the district: "I have a long history of living and working with families in this district. I have a great relationship with (Waukesha County Executive) Dan Vrakas."
- Mental health database: "I am a firm believer in the 2nd Amendment. But Wayne LaPierre was in support of mental health checks. I think we should look at mental health checks. I would like to learn more about this before having an opinion."
- Top priority: “I've worked in the Assembly last session. I'm the only candidate that's been endorsed by several members of the Assembly. I'll be able to contribute right away. Improving our economy in number one. Government doesn't create jobs. I'm going to get the government out of the way so the private sector can create growth on its own.”
- Reducing cost of government: "We need to take a top-down approach and assess every agency. There are 71 agencies in this state. I think we should have a database online where anyone can look line by line to see how the government is spending your money. We need to bring complete transparency into the process."
- Voter ID: "I absolutely support voter ID. Voting is a privilege and a right. I mean, you have to present an ID when you check out a book from the library."
- Working with the district: "I have a great relationship with a lot of elected officials in the county through working in politics the last 6 years. My working relationship with them is excellent and I'll continue that in the state Assembly."
- Mental health database: "Confidentiality is important, but the safety of the community is the most important. The fact is, we need to protect our 2nd Amendment right. At the same time we need to protect innocent people from these mass shootings. It's not an issue with guns. It's an issue with mental health. We will see casualties go down once we address those issues."
- Top priority: "The most important thing is to create jobs. I want to get out there and eliminate bureaucracy, as well. I think we need to cut the red tape and make things streamlined and smoother and bring companies here."
- Reducing cost of government: "Cuts are definitely in order. A line-by-line analysis is in needed. Fraud is quite rampant throughout government programs, and we need to fight that fraud, eliminate that fraud, and use that money productively."
- Voter ID: "I also firmly support voter ID."
- Working with the district: "I'll work with the officials the same way I work with residents. I want to ask what they need, and why they want it."
- Mental health database: “You can't over generalize what a mental health issue is, and determine what is right for certain people to own arms."
- Top priority: “The budget will be the number one priority. My background in finance will put me in a great spot to jump in and start working on things. I have the experience with Scottrade looking at balance sheets and seeing what works and doesn’t work.”
- Reducing cost of government: "Zero-based budgeting, and use that to help state budget work more efficiently. Zero-based budgeting will help us view the whole picture and make government more efficient."
- Voter ID: “I believe it should be required every time you vote.”
- Working with the district: “My main goal is to stay as local as possible when I'm elected. I plan on working closely with Dan Vrakas and ensure that I am as available as possible."
- Mental health database: “I believe in doctor/patient confidentiality. I'm not a fan of releasing private information between a doctor and a patient."