By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Gov. Tony Evers has been the governor of Wisconsin for the last three years. And he’s hoping to continue in that role in the next four years to come. While the gubernatorial election is still a year away, Wisconsin Democrats are getting an early start.
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin launched its new campaign, WisDems One Year to Win, stylized as 1Y2W, during its Weekend of Action canvass kickoff. During the event, Evers made an appearance at the MKE Democratic Action, Peace Action, 1001 E. Keefe Ave., on Saturday, Nov. 6.
Following Evers’ remarks, participants were planning to canvass the surrounding neighborhood. Canvassing is how elections are won, Evers said, but it’s also an opportunity to listen to people’s concerns.
“I know most or many or all of you have worked knocking on doors,” Evers said. “Doing that helped me get here. I’m here because you put me here.”
He continued, “I’m frankly really proud of some of things we accomplished. Because you got behind me last time and knocked on doors and called people and got people out to vote, I won. And because of that, we have been able to respond to a pandemic, even in the face of significant opposition.”
The administration’s response to the pandemic included getting PPE for small businesses, getting shots in arms, enforcing masks and contact tracing.
Evers also discussed his other accomplishments including funding for public schools, broadband access, investment in mental and behavioral health and voting rights.
During his initial campaign, Evers promised public school funding so that the state paid for two-thirds of the cost. According to PolitiFact, this was a standard practice in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Evers said, the marker is set at two-thirds funding. He noted that more can be done but having that marker in place is important.
Jilly Gokalgandhi, a Milwaukee School Board director, who introduced Evers during the event, said she is proud to keep fighting for a governor who believes in public education.
“It is so important that we have a governor who has the guts to say to people that we need to do better for our students in Wisconsin, we need to do better for our special ed students and students with disabilities,” Gokalgandhi said.
Evers noted that Wisconsin has expanded broadband success to rural Wisconsin. Almost 300,000 households and almost 19,000 businesses in rural Wisconsin now have access to broadband, he said.
Another piece of infrastructure that Evers focused on was the roads.
“I ran on fixing the damn roads,” Evers said. “And I know that there will be people in the room saying, ‘not mine,’ but we have fixed over a thousand miles of roads here in the State of Wisconsin.”
He later noted that with the passing of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, Wisconsin will be able to fix roads in a significant way, increase broadband and replace lead pipes.
“It’s a huge win for the people,” he said. “Infrastructure is one of those topics that frankly transcends Republicans and Democrats.”
Under his leadership, there have been major investments in mental and behavioral health in Milwaukee, Minocqua and the Oneida Nation.
There’s more work to be done in regards of criminal justice reform, he said. Pardoning people is only a small part of it, he said. It’s important to have a good criminal justice system, he said, and building more prisons isn’t the solution.
“I feel proud of what we have accomplished, but what concerns me most going forward, is what we like to call democracy,” Evers said.
As governor, Evers has vetoed bills that would make it more difficult for people in nursing homes or people with disabilities to vote.
“My goal also is to keep our vote as accessible as possible instead of trying to surpass the vote, we want to encourage people to vote,” he said. “I think democracy is being threatened across our country including right here in Wisconsin and I’ll do whatever I can to veto bills that are going to make it more difficult for people to participate in democracy.”
As he prepares for his next campaign, Evers said his main concern is having the people of Wisconsin understand how much Democrats have accomplished in the last three years.
It’ll be a matter of getting out and talking to people, he said.
“This is a real important race for various reasons,” Evers said. “Do I have a lot of unfinished business that I know you’re expecting, and that I’m expecting? Hell yes! But at the end of the day, having me in office is going to prevent democracy from kind of getting frittered away in the State of Wisconsin.”