By Ariele Vaccaro
Milwaukee protesters’ requests for a minimum wage hike up to $15 fell on deaf ears on Tuesday evening.
The group Fight for 15 picketed outside the Milwaukee Theater — the site of the fourth Republican debate — calling for a higher minimum wage.
However, every Republican responded negatively when asked if they would increase the current $7.25, which has stood at Wisconsin since Jan. 2014. Fight for 15 was one of many organizations protesting downtown during the Republican debate Tuesday night at Milwaukee Theatre.
Youth Empowered in the Struggle, the activist group founded by Dontre Hamilton’s family, Coalition for Justice, and others took to the streets as well.
Inside the Milwaukee Theater, however, was a far different picture.
Fox Business personality and moderator Neil Cavuto made note of the protesters right away, asking if the candidates would concede to their request for increased minimum wage if elected president.
Neurosurgeon and front runner Ben Carson claimed that increasing wages increases unemployment, and that is “particularly a problem for the Black community.”
Businessman and frontrunner Donald Trump put it even blunter: “We have to leave it the way it is.”
Trump’s position somewhat aligned with presidential campaign drop-out Governor Scott Walker’s stance on minimum wage. Walker has suggested that the minimum wage need not exist.
TJ Helmstetter, Midwest press secretary of the Democratic National Committee, argued that similar approaches have been a detriment to Wisconsin households.
He said the setting of the fourth Republican debate was interesting, “given that Wisconsin is ground zero for failed Republican policies.”
“I think Republicans have some nerve coming into Milwaukee, where their policies have hurt American families and Wisconsin families and Milwaukee families,” Helmstetter continued.
Immigration took the forefront of the debate from the beginning, with Trump insisting that a wall and mass deportation of the United States’ some 11 million illegal immigrants is the answer. Ohio Governor John Kasich challenged the idea, calling it “a silly argument.”
Helmstetter noted that a number of high-profile issues went completely unmentioned during the economics-focused debate, including women’s equal pay and college affordability.
On Tuesday, NBC News reported Carson polling at 24 percent, Trump at 23, Sen. Marco Rubio at 12, both Sen. Ted Cruz and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at eight, Sen. Rand Paul at fi ve, Ohio Gov. John Kasich at four, and former HP CEO Carly Fiorina at three percent.
The first debate consisted of lower-polling candidates New Jersey Chris Christie, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former Senator Rick Santorum, and former Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee.
Jindal took a number of shots at Christie, accusing him of taking on Obamacare and expanding Medicaid in New Jersey.
He sarcastically congratulated Christie for what Jindal considered weak attempts to cut spending: “I’ll give you a ribbon for participation, and a juice box.”
Some argue that Jindal’s attacks failed to garner the support he hoped for, though.
“He came into this trying to attack anybody and everybody to stay in the story… I don’t think it’s going to help him,” said political strategist to Christie’s campaign Mike Duhaime.
Christie stayed mostly out of the Republican-to- Republican fray by turning attention to leading Democratic candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, mentioning her numerous times throughout the debate.
The next debate to take place in Milwaukee will be among Democratic candidates in February.