Assembly Leader Neubauer says the defense and restoration of democracy is on the ballot in 2024

FILE - Wisconsin Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer, along with fellow lawmakers and state Democratic Party Chair Ben Wikler, speak outside the Wisconsin state Capitol on Sept. 6, 2023, in Madison. (AP Photo/Scott Bauer)

By Bonnie Fuller

April 8, 2024

One of the Legislature’s top Democrats rips into former President Trump for continuing to spew the Big Lie about winning Wisconsin in 2020. He did not.

For State Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer, it’s an exciting time for democracy in Wisconsin, as 2024 will be the first year without heavily gerrymandered maps that badly distorted Wisconsin voters’ choices for over a decade. But that’s also why defeating Donald Trump and his attacks on democracy are so crucial in this presidential election year.

Trump’s potential return to power is an “incredibly frightening prospect,” Neubauer (D-Racine) told UpNorthNews in an exclusive interview last week following Trump’s visit to Green Bay.

“We have seen Donald Trump’s complete disregard for our democracy and for the needs of the people of Wisconsin and this country,” she said. “It is very clear that Donald Trump puts himself first and is not focused on making life better for the people of Wisconsin.”

Neubauer said Trump’s performance at the rally proved her point when he lied about the results of the 2020 election in Wisconsin.

“You know we won this state [in the 2020 election],” Trump falsely claimed with no evidence. “We won this state by a lot. It came out that we won this.”

In reality, Trump lost Wisconsin to Joe Biden by 20,600 votes.

The former president also used the rally to endorse multimillionaire real estate and banking mogul Eric Hovde as the Republican challenger for Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin in the US Senate race.

Hovde—like Trump—claims to support banning abortion with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother. He also wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act (a record 266,327 Wisconsinites signed up for it in 2024), has talked for years about cutting Social Security, and supports Trump’s extreme anti-immigration policies.

Neubauer, who has represented the 66th District since January 2018 and was elected Assembly Democratic Leader in December 2021, urged the voters of Wisconsin to recognize that they have a huge role in protecting democracy, and not just for president.

“[If Trump] has support in Congress, which could run through the state of Wisconsin, we could once again be the deciding factor in federal elections, in House seats or Senate seats,” she explained.

Neubauer said she has confidence that Wisconsinites will see the threat of Trump, who she noted “has a complete disregard for democratic norms,” in part because people here have “already experienced the frustration of an undemocratic government.” For the past decade, voters here have lived in a “democracy desert,” thanks to highly gerrymandered state maps that guaranteed Republicans would maintain large legislative majorities, no matter how the majority of Wisconsin voters felt or voted.

“People understood that their vote was often not contributing to a competitive legislative election like it should. And that very popular policies like marijuana legalization, gun safety reform and investing in our public schools were getting little to no discussion in the state capitol because Republicans were simply not able to be held accountable under the gerrymandered maps,” she said.

“I think a lot of people were quite disillusioned because they saw how rigged the maps were in Republicans’ favor.”

Nuebauer believes that because the Republican majority knew that they couldn’t be voted out of office, “they were completely out of control and ignoring the will of the people” and “they undermined the rights of working people and unions and took away voting rights.”

But now that Wisconsin voters finally have non-gerrymandered maps, she believes that it’s possible for the Democrats to win a majority in the Assembly even though they will have to flip 15 seats.

“These maps are going to result in a lot of competitive elections,” she said. “We’re running competitive races all across Wisconsin.”

At the top of the leader’s list of priorities for a Democratic majority is to enshrine reproductive rights into state law and then the state Constitution.

“We know that Republicans will do everything in their power to attack our reproductive healthcare and we will do everything to defend it,” she vows.

In January Republicans approved a bill calling for a binding statewide referendum banning abortion after 14 weeks, instead of the current 20 weeks. Governor Tony Evers has vowed to veto it.

During floor debate on the measure, Rep. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay) claimed to be an expert on abortion because he is a veterinarian—and then pronounced that abortion is not health care because “in my veterinary career, I did thousands of ultrasounds on animals. So I think I know mammalian fetal development better than probably anyone here. And in my mind, there’s absolutely no question that’s a life.”

Neubauer, accustomed to out-there claims, was shocked even by that one.

“We were all kind of looking around at one another and saying, ‘is he really comparing our healthcare to animals that he has worked with?’ And the answer was, yes, he was,” she said. “I think he genuinely thought that was a reasonable comparison to make and it really does speak to his and his party’s respect for women and our agency and our healthcare decisions.”

If more competitive maps and continued voter blowback to the assault on abortion rights result in Democratic majorities in the Legislature, Neubauer said another top priority will be a more meaningful investment in public education.

Democrats would attempt a significant rollback of the Republican-supported policy of allowing taxpayer dollars to be used for vouchers to private, usually religious schools. Neubauer said under the current system she anticipates a 10% budget deficit for Racine’s public school district because state education dollars are first sent to the voucher schools, with public education getting what remains.

“We are currently asking taxpayers to fund two school systems, one of which is entirely unaccountable to them,” Neubauer said. “I have had parents reach out to me in Racine and talk to me about issues with the private schools that are getting public money. And I have to say to them, there’s not a lot that I can do about that.”

Assembly Democrats have authored a number of bill packages that support public schools, their teachers, and adequate funding for students to have access to arts classes, sports, and the specialized attention that they need to have a strong start to their lives.

First elected at age 26, Neubauer responded to her young adult peers who are telling her that they are upset about the war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas.

“I understand that when young people look at conflicts happening around the world, particularly in Israel and Gaza, it is painful. It is painful for all of us to see what is going on, and we all want things to go differently in the future,” she said.

“I hope that young people will understand that the best way to make their voices heard in this process is not to sit at home, but it’s to show up and to be clear with their elected officials about what they need. Because that’s how young people’s perspectives will be part of governance in the future.”

It’s a path that has led her to the leadership role she has today.

Author

  • Bonnie Fuller

    Bonnie Fuller is the former CEO & Editor-in-Chief of HollywoodLife.com, and the former Editor-in-Chief of Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, USWeekly and YM. She now writes about politics and reproductive rights.

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