Competition for the 32nd District seat in the Wisconsin State Senate is heating up, with a challenger to incumbent Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, filing papers and an independent candidate also announcing his run.
Democrat Jared Landry of La Farge filed papers to run in an Aug. 9 primary for the district, which covers La Crosse, Crawford and Vernon counties, as well as parts of Monroe and Richland counties. Winning the seat would be his launching pad toward the presidency, he said.
Tossing his hat into the ring as an independent is Chip DeNure of La Crosse, a retired probation agent who lost a 2006 primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, as well as a mayoral run in 2001.
The primary winner and DeNure would square off in the Nov. 8 general election against Republican candidate Dan Kapanke, whom Shilling unseated in a 2011 recall election and who announced his quest to reclaim the seat on April 18.
Landry, 37, a former private investigator who said he plans to campaign full time, balked at criticizing Shilling, saying, “I don’t believe that’s the direction to go, so I wouldn’t criticize anybody.”
Landry argued against property taxes, saying instead that land should be taxed when it is bought and sold.
He cited the case of Robert Bayliss of rural Viola, on the line between Vernon and Richland counties, who became engaged in a firefight with authorities in April 2008 when they tried to serve eviction papers against him for owing $5,000 in back taxes after not paying property taxes for several years.
Officers from La Crosse, Vernon and Richland counties launched a tactical attack in which the 61-year-old Bayliss fired a high-powered rifle at them, damaging a La Crosse County armored vehicle, according to news reports at the time.
Bayliss surrendered after his house caught fire, and he was convicted of 13 of 17 charges, including attempted first-degree intentional homicide, in February 2009. He was sentenced to 48 years in prison in April 2009.
The La Crosse County Emergency Response Team’s involvement in the fracas earned it the state Association of SWAT Personnel’s award as Team of the Year.
Landry, who has faced misdemeanors in several court cases — including four OWI charges, resisting an officer and criminal damage to property, among others — blamed unfair property taxes and law enforcement for the standoff and its results.
Among other issues, Landry said he supports equal opportunities to education and opposes frac sand mining and pollution.
“I value humanity more than money,” he said.
Long-term, Landry said, “I have a lot to offer society and I will work hard. I will run for governor, become governor and become president and show how the country should be run.”
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DeNure, who announced his independent bid Thursday, said, “It appears to me that my two opponents, Dan Kapanke and Senator Shilling, have done nothing in regards to the No. 1 issue facing the city of La Crosse. I’m talking about the north/south corridor.”
Denouncing proposals for such a road and the $140 million set aside, DeNure said La Crosse residents, public officials and environmentalists don’t want it.
“I will lead the opposition to it if I’m elected, and we will put a stake through the heart of this vampire road project and kill it for good,” he said.
DeNure criticized Shilling’s support for $250 million in public subsidies for a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, which Shilling had described as a wise economic investment for the state.
He described the professional basketball team’s request for the subsidy, couched in a threat to leave the state otherwise, as “blatant extortion” and said Shilling “caved in to that extortion.”
DeNure also reiterated his strong opposition to the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, in the debate over whether the MMR vaccine causes autism.
“I am not anti-vaccine. But I am a fierce opponent of the specific MMR vaccine, which was linked to autism in a 2002 study by the Centers for Disease Control,” he said. “The scientists involved in that study then criminally deleted data from that study to make it appear the MMR vaccine was safe, when it is not.”
Several other studies have found any such connection to be unfounded.
DeNure urged consideration of legalizing marijuana.
“There are some positive results coming out of Colorado, where marijuana is legal — especially increased revenue to the state from legalization,” he said.
“To those who say marijuana is a gateway drug to methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin, I respectfully disagree,” DeNure said. “The true gateway drug is alcohol, something we tried to ban with Prohibition — that was a failure.”
Shilling, who was elected to a full term in 2012, represented the 95th Assembly District from 2001 to 2010. She announced her re-election bid for the Senate on April 20.
Although the senator was not available for comment Thursday, she has criticized Republican tax breaks for propelling cuts to local schools, road repairs and worker training.
The La Crosse Democrat also has cited the need to increase job creation and access to health care, improve retirement security and lower student debt.