Gov. Evers sat down with us to discuss his vetoes, the importance of voting, and what a Democratic victory would mean for you.
Politicians are known for making promises to voters, but it’s often anyone’s guess if they’ll actually follow through. That’s not the case in the race for Wisconsin governor: Voters have been given more than 120 examples of what they can expect.
They’re all bills–passed through the Republican-controlled state legislature only to be vetoed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. According to Wisconsin Public Radio’s thorough analysis, no governor has vetoed more bills in a single session than him.
The bills would’ve expanded gun access, shielded gun makers from lawsuits, cut unemployment benefits by up to 12 weeks, reshaped Wisconsin’s nationally-ranked public schools to prioritize private education, and made it harder to vote, among other radical, extreme transformations.
But the first-term governor has also gotten a lot done, signing 267 new laws in the most recent legislative session, for a total of 453 since he took office. Most sailed through with bipartisan support.
Just days from the midterms, Gov. Evers sat down with us to discuss what electing him to a second term would mean for you.
Christina Lorey, UpNorthNews Editor: The subject of vetoes has frequently come up in this final stretch of your campaign. [Evers vetoed 126 bills during the most recent two-year legislative session.] Your opponent has promised to sign all of those bills into law if elected. Which do you believe would be most damaging to the people of Wisconsin?
Governor Tony Evers (D): There are several bills, but the ones I recall that were most egregious were essentially picking on certain people and making it more difficult for them to vote even though they’re eligible.
I vetoed several that would make it more difficult for people with physical disabilities to vote or people that live in nursing homes to vote. That’s a basic right around our democracy that would suddenly be put at risk.
Another topic area is public education and having loaded guns on school grounds. [Michels] has promised several times that he’d sign that bill into law.
How quickly could this happen?
[Republicans] will make it a top priority to do it right away. I’m sure those bills are teed up and ready to go. It could happen as soon as mid-January. They can call themselves into session anytime. Obviously, they’re not going to do it when I’m around.
You’ve also signed into law more than twice the number of bills you’ve vetoed. Which do you believe has done the most good for the people in our state?
The one I’m going to bring up is a bill that changed a lot of laws when it comes to businesses in Wisconsin. They’ve been working on this for 20 years, I think.
It’s one of those things where bipartisanship does work. In this case, it did. It helps clarify all kinds of things businesses were bumped up against. It wasn’t a tax break. It just clarified a whole bunch of laws that weren’t making any sense any longer. It won’t impact me, but it will impact a lot of people moving forward.
The closer we’re getting to Election Day, the closer the race is getting between you and your opponent. [October’s Marquette Law School Poll had the governor’s race in a statistical tie.] One poll you are winning is likability. Why do you think that is?
‘Cause I am likable! [laughs]
I think people appreciate my low-key demeanor. Every once in a while, I’ll get a little frustrated out loud. At the end of the day, I think people appreciate my demeanor.
We’ve gone through a lot in the state of Wisconsin since I’ve been governor. Most importantly, the pandemic. I’ve been really proud of the way the state overall handled it. Of course, the politics got dicey at times for some people, but at the end of the day, we got shots in arms and saved lives. I think people appreciate that.
So why isn’t that translating to other polls?
That’s not translating into a 20-point lead, or even a small lead, because we’re a purple state. At the end of the day, chickens go home to roost, and that’s what’s happening here.
This is an exact reminder of what happened in the last election that I won. We tend to go back to our roots at the end of a campaign.
Finish the sentence: The past four years as governor have taught me…
The resiliency of the people of Wisconsin is so strong. It was shown during this pandemic where, even during political turmoil, people did respond well. That was amplified for me to a whole different level.
The best part of being Wisconsin’s governor is…
Meeting with people. It’s one thing to stay in the bubble of the Capitol. That can get depressing from time to time. Getting out, talking to people, hearing what they’re concerned about, what they’re happy about–that’s what being governor’s all about.
Most people don’t realize it’s also the governor’s job to…
Work 24/7. This is a 24/7 job. Most people don’t know what you do during your off-work time, or that you don’t have off-work time.
It’s 24/7 for everybody involved in my immediate family, which for me, is my wife. [Evers has three adult children and nine grandchildren.]
Kathy’s been working on issues like making sure kids are strong mentally and also dementia issues for elderly people. She’s enjoying that work, and I’m enjoying my work, but it’s definitely a 24/7 job.
If elected to a second term, my first priority will be passing a bill that…
Increases shared revenue for our municipalities. Cities, counties, and townships have been absolutely starved for the last couple of decades. I’m looking forward to changing that.
I’ve asked for increases over the last couple of budgets, and Republicans have zeroed that out. Shared revenue for our municipalities is very important: they do almost all the public safety work as far as police, EMTs, firefighters. We need to help them do their good work.
On November 9th, or after all the votes are counted, the headlines will say…
“Evers Won His Second Term in a Close Race.” Anything above 1.1% will be a landslide.