One unfortunate element of the night was that Guy Johnson had a "big meeting" in Shorewood, and could not attend. This was extraordinarily disappointing on many levels. Tonight's forum was important, and you can draw your own conclusions about a candidate who has another priority.
I was excited to see Dr. Enrique Figueroa as the moderator for the forum. He is one of the hosts for the wonderful series "4th Street Forum" on Milwaukee's public TV. I was hopeful that a forum moderated by Figueroa would have some substance beyond what the last forum, in Shorewood, provided.
Big swing and a miss.
I thought the Shorewood forum, with its 90 second limit on answers was bad. Tonight's forum, with 60 second answers, was abysmal. The 1-minute limit allowed each candidate enough time to recite the company line sound-bite. For an individual like myself, who was interested in trying to compare and contrast each candidate and pick one, this forum's Jeopardy Lightning Round format was a complete waste of time.
Not to mention some of the questions. "What skills do you have to work with rural legislators? .. What skills do you have to work with legislators who do not share your views?" Each candidate answered "Well, I'd like to bridge divides, stand by my principles, reach across the aisle and collaborate. Oh, and I'm really friendly." Are you kidding me? What kind of answer did they expect out of the candidates? Think one of them has a secret super-power that enables them to make everyone magically cooperate?
"What are the critical Great Lakes issues?" Each candidate answered that one as if they were reading off of wikipedia.
Now, at the last forum, I graded each candidate on each question. Because of tonight's format, and the incredible similarity of the answers from each candidate, I gave up the grading pen. I decided early in the forum that I could only give some general impressions.
What's your #1 priority?
- Kohl - Education, and education funding
- Pasch - Health Care
- Wadhwa - Didn't answer the question. He recited his principles, which cover everything from taxes to education to health care.
- Feldman - Health Care, with a tie-in to the goal of reducing state budget expenditures on Health Care, through reforming the system.
What would you like your first piece of legislation to be?
- Wadhwa - Again, didn't really answer the question.
- Feldman - Health Care legislation, like Healthy Wisconsin / Dane County
- Kohl - Change the way we fund government in Wisconsin. Spoke specifically about a proposal he liked that bumped the State Sales Tax up 1% to fund education and reduce the property tax burden.
- Pasch - Mental Health Parity
First, let's deal with Yash Wadhwa. Yash, I love you, man. You're a fine gentleman with a nice family. You got a lot of great laughs tonight, and if we wanted a comic for the state assembly, you would win in a landslide. But your answers were completely mushy. With a different slate of candidates, you may have a shot. Your command of the issues paled in comparison with your three competitors. Sorry.
The other three, Pasch, Feldman, and Kohl .. were really outstanding in their 60 second soundbites. The 22nd district is very lucky to have these guys to pick from. Each could be a winner.
Feldman wasn't as commanding as he was at the Shorewood forum. He continues to be great at public speaking, taking bad questions and weaving them with good thoughts. But doing that, often takes more than 60 seconds, so he never quite got his talkative-groove on.
Kohl did a great job as well. He's definitely the business man of the lot. He's got the right answers, and has a certain smooth delivery. I thought he had a few unique answers tonight, that differentiated him from the bunch. Examples. While talking about $4 gas prices, the other candidates bemoaned, in unison, the lack of mass transit. Kohl brought up Gov. Doyle's Global Warming Commission's report, and Wisconsin's egregious Minimum Markup Law which he hoped to repeal. -- On the Drinking/Driving laws, the other candidates sung about increasing penalties, increasing treatment .. Kohl was the only one to mention the new idea of lowering the drinking age from 21, which he strongly opposed. Nicely done, Dan Kohl.
Pasch, I think, made great headway since the last forum. She had decent answers at the Shorewood forum .. but tonight, she showed a greater command of issues .. and more importantly, had a certain swagger, as if she knew she was the front-runner. Getting the Journal-Sentinel's endorsement is a huge feather in her cap, and perhaps that's what has generated her additional confidence.
Humorously, in Pasch's very first answer tonight, she mentioned she'd been told she "emphasizes health care issues too much". (cough) .. I wonder where she got that idea? I have this feeling that come next Tuesday night, and November 4th, I'll be watching her prove she's far more than a one-issue candidate.
UPDATE: VIDEO - Opening Statements
Later this week, I will conclude this series with some final thoughts to help you try to choose the candidate who will best represent you in Wisconsin.
The primary is 6 days away!
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