A candidate for governor attracted about a dozen people Thursday when he visited Driftless Café – to talk with potential constituents.

Political newcomer Andy Gronik, a Milwaukee businessman, announced his intentions in July to run as a Democrat in the 2018 election. He has been touring the state over the past year, leading many to expect the announcement to come.

It’s widely considered Gronik is a leading Democratic contender.

Gronik describes his agenda as “progressive,” and is a political newcomer, but became concerned by Gov. Scott Walker’s policies and was prompted to toss his hat into the ring. The discussion at the café centered on some of his main themes: health care, education and job growth.

Wisconsin has among the lowest unemployment rates, but Gronik said those numbers are misleading because many people have to work multiple jobs.

While supportive of the upcoming expansion of Foxconn – an electronics manufacturer – into Wisconsin, Gronik criticized Walker for supporting environmental waivers to speed the factory’s construction.

Walker unveiled a bill that would waive permitting requirements for Foxconn to engage in activities including discharging dredged materials, building on lakebeds and riverbeds, and altering the course of streams.

The Foxconn complex is expected to open in 2020, be 20 million square feet and cost about $10 billion to build.

Thousands of jobs are expected to be generated, but Gronik said Wisconsin’s environmental standards should not be bent to expedite the sizeable investment.

“When you dial back on certain reuglations ... it’s no longer in the interest of the people,” Gronik said. “It’s about the interests of Foxconn.”

Higher-education institutions rank among Wisconsin’s strengths, but Gronik said graduates are leaving the state for higher-paying jobs elsewhere. Reformed tax policy could help retain college graduates by exempting them from income taxes, Gronik said, instead applying that money to directly levy their student debts.

By bolstering an educated and qualified workforce, Gronik said such tax reforms could help solve staffing issues statewide, leading to overall business growth. Agriculture, tourism and the energy industry could provide additional benefits in Vernon County, he said.

Gronik, a suburban Milwaukee resident, said Vernon County wouldn’t be underrepresented if he takes office.

“A plan has to look at all of Wisconsin holistically,” Gronik said.

Robin Hoseman is a former teacher now living in Viroqua. At the Driftless Café, Hoseman voiced her concerns of partisan divide in the health care debate, an area Gronik said he is focused on.

A sufferer of Crohn’s Disease, Gronik said he and his family are enrolled in the Affordable Care Act, also known at Obama Care. Over the past months, the ACA withstood multiple Republican efforts to repeal and replace the bill.

While not offering specifics on alterations he’d like to see to the health care exchange. “It’s about looking into the system,” Gronik said.

“We should be considering whatever is necessary to deliver affordable health care,” he said.

Another resident questioned whether Gronik, a wealthy entrepreneur, would accept corporate donations for his campaign. Gronik said he would accept donations and contribute his own funds.


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