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Evers leans on experience in challenge to Walker

Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers speaks last week to members of the St. Croix County Democrats. He is one of several Democrats seeking to challenge Gov. Scott Walker in the November elections. Mike Longaecker / RiverTown Multimedia

NEW RICHMOND — Education is central to Tony Evers, a gubernatorial candidate who last week touted his ability to win statewide elections.

The thrice-elected state superintendent of public instruction called on St. Croix County Democrats to back him during a Thursday, Jan. 11 visit to New Richmond.

“I believe my experience as state superintendent … that differentiates me,” he said.

Evers and Matt Flynn, two of about 10 major Democratic candidates seeking to challenge Walker in the general election, appeared at the event.

The Madison resident who served as a teacher and district official during his career in education, said Gov. Scott Walker’s policies have undermined Wisconsin’s schools.

“I just couldn’t believe what Scott Walker has done to our education system,” Evers said.

He said those frustrations include the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, which he criticized for changes to free-speech policies and the merging of some two-year colleges with universities.

“It’s all directed by the politics of the state of Wisconsin,” Evers told the group.

He slammed Walker for turning down a $1 billion Medicaid expansion for Wisconsin. He said the repercussions have meant watching Minnesotans paying about half as much under the Affordable Care Act as Wisconsinites do.

“Because this idiot didn’t take the money when he could,” Evers said.

Evers also pointed to environmental issues, highlighting water-related problems in Kewaunee and Buffalo counties.

During a question-and-answer period with Flynn, Evers addressed transportation funding in Wisconsin, calling the issue one of Walker’s worst failures. He said the state’s system of roads, bridges, mass transit and high-speed rail needs a funding injection, leaving open the possibility of options like toll roads and a gas tax increase.

“We have to get more revenue in the system,” Evers said.

On rural issues, Evers touted his small-town roots and said strong schools are at the heart of those communities.  

“We have to make agriculture profitable,” he said.

Candidates were also asked about the dismantling of the Government Accountability Board in 2016. After the GAB was dissolved, the state established the Wisconsin Elections Commission and the Wisconsin Ethics Commission.

“What they have now sucks,” Evers said.

He lauded the effectiveness of the GAB, explaining how he was once held to the panel’s scrutiny “and it worked.”

“Put those retired judges back to work,” he said.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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