Art Shrader wants to change the state’s political climate.
Shrader, a Democratic candidate for the 50th Assembly District, lamented political polarization last week during a Tomah Journal interview. He said “there’s room for more than one opinion at the table” and that lawmakers need to work together across party lines.
“I don’t get to represent just Democrats or just Republicans,” Shrader said. “I have no concerns about crossing party lines if it’s in the best interests of the 50th District. Let’s work together to find reasonable solutions.”
Shrader is running for the seat held by Reedsburg Republican Ed Brooks, who is a seeking a fifth term.
Shrader criticized the tone of Wisconsin politics. He said political discourse took a turn for the worse when majority Republicans passed Act 10, which eliminated collective bargaining for public employees except police officers and firefighters. He said the tenor of the debate turned many people away from politics.
“People dismiss the process, and then they don’t become involved,” he said. “That’s not the way democracies are supposed to work.”
Shrader is native of the 50th District. He graduated from Ithaca High School and married a high school classmate, Mindy. The couple has two children. He served in the Marines during Operation Desert Storm, attended the University of Wisconsin-Richland for two years and earned degrees at Winona State and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has worked at WCCU Credit Union for the past 14 years.
He said growing up in the 50th District and working with small businesses help him understand local residents and how they’re impacted by state policies.
“People are resilient,” he said. “They are incredibly hard-working, and they keep coming back ... so many people are working multiple jobs to make ends meet.”
He said the state needs policies aimed to benefit small businesses and working people. He criticized the priorities of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, which he said favors large corporations and is inefficient with public dollars. He said WEDC spends $72,000 for every job created.
Instead, Shrader said, the money would be better spent on training and assisting small, locally based enterprises.
“Small businesses are great community members ... they’re vested in the communities that they live in,” Shrader said. “You don’t have to worry about them leaving the state.”
Shrader criticized cuts in the public education and the University of Wisconsin system. He said vouchers are draining money from public school districts that already are financially strapped and having to rely on referendums to override state-imposed revenue caps
“I have superintendents tell me, ‘we’ve cut what we can − there’s no more room left to cut,’” Shrader said. “We need to say education is a priority.”
He called Act 10 a “horrible decision” and defended the unions that represent teachers and other public employees.
“The money wasn’t the largest driver for why they were upset with Act 10; it was the disrespect shown to them by the majority party,” he said.
Shrader said Republicans created an unnecessary budget hole by rejecting federal money for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
“We should take the money,” he said. “This was an ideological decision by the governor. We can opt out any year.”
Shrader touts numerous endorsements, including those of U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse; state Rep. Dave Considine, D-Baraboo; Mauston mayor Brian McGuire; Reedsburg mayor Dave Estes and numerous labor unions.
Endorsements were a contentious issue two years ago in the 17th state District, and Shrader’s primary challenger, Tom Crofton, has criticized Democrats from outside the district for getting involved in the race (the 50th Assembly District encompasses one-third of the 17th state Senate District). Shrader said he took no part in the 2014 state Senate primary.
The 50th Assembly District includes all of Juneau County and the towns of Clifton and Glendale and village of Kendall in Monroe County.
The primary is Aug. 9, and the general election is Nov. 8.