This election season has been unlike most others. There is a world pandemic, businesses are struggling and high unemployment rates are gripping the nation. There are many questions for lawmakers leading up to Nov. 3 as Wisconsin residents try to deal with all that is going on.
One race that Jefferson and Waukesha county residents will be voting on has Republican incumbent state Rep. Cody Horlacher facing Democratic challenger Mason Becker for the state’s 33rd Assembly District seat.
Horlacher, R-Mukwonago, is seeking his fourth term and is being challenged by Becker, of Fort Atkinson, who is a restaurant owner and president of the Fort Atkinson City Council for the third year.
With many issues facing this district, the candidates were asked about the coronavirus and a summer of protests that have hit cities across the state.
They also speak on education, with subjects like open enrollment, and talk about the Palmyra-Eagle Area School District and how that situation affects other districts. The election is on Nov. 3; the term is for two years. Here are their responses.
Do you favor a state or federal mask mandate during the COVID-19 pandemic and why?
HORLACHER: I believe in local control, so a regional approach makes more sense when dealing with a pandemic that affects different parts of the state differently. Urban Milwaukee is very different than rural Palmyra. Local governments, businesses and individuals are best suited to deal with the unique circumstances that face them.
BECKER: I value public health. Experts agree, the science is clear: masks are the best way to curb the spread and return our economy to normal. Leaders should be setting the example by wearing masks and I support Gov. Evers’ mandate.
With Wisconsin having some of the highest numbers of COVID cases each week in the nation, are there any additional measures the state should take?
BECKER: We should return to the “Badger Bounceback Plan,” which would allow our children to stay in school and our economy to fully re-open. That plan followed CDC guidelines, but was upended because partisanship in Madison is valued over human life.
HORLACHER: We must continue to encourage people to take measures to keep themselves safe, and we must especially protect our most vulnerable citizens. We also need to make sure our hospitals are not overrun. Overall, we need to take a holistic approach, so we don’t make the cure worse than the disease.
Are you in favor of colleges and schools being open during the pandemic, or should students be learning virtually during this time?
HORLACHER: Students should be in the classroom. Virtual learning works for some, but it does not for a very large number of kids. Virtual learning leaves disadvantaged kids, and kids with poor or no Internet access at a significant disadvantage. If parents and children don’t feel comfortable attending in person they should have the option to stay home, but classes need to get back to normal. I have heard from educators, parents and students about the harmful effects and obstacles to learning that comes from being remote for so long.
BECKER: Every student should be learning in-person if possible. The state should be providing support in order to keep children and teachers safe. The current disaster is a direct result of the state legislature’s inaction to fund broadband and provide needed resources.
With Palmyra-Eagle nearly-dissolving as a district this year, are there any steps the state legislature or governor should take to make sure this problem does not hit other districts?
BECKER: Yes — we need to return to properly funding public education. It is patently unfair that districts are expected to repeatedly go to referendum just to stay open. No district should face such uncertainty. Strong schools are integral to our future.
HORLACHER: We should change state law to allow for consolidation of more than two districts and make the process incentivized for districts to find ways to work together. We also should streamline the process to allow for a quicker resolution. Most importantly, the Department of Public Instruction should also not be allowed to usurp the will of the voters.
Are you in favor of open enrollment in schools, and do you see this as an issue hurting some districts like Palmyra-Eagle in the state?
HORLACHER: I am in favor of open enrollment. Students and parents should have the chance to provide their kids with the best educational opportunity possible. We have many great schools in the 33rd that I know can compete and make the entire system stronger as a result.
BECKER: We can’t keep putting our school districts at such a disadvantage. A business could never operate under the parameters the state has imposed on our public schools. We should be helping them thrive, not continually placing unfunded mandates on them.
During a time when the nation is sharply divided between two parties, what would you do to help represent all voters in your district and bring people together?
BECKER: On the Fort Atkinson City Council, we put people before partisanship to get things done — and that’s exactly what I’ll do in Madison. I won’t just show up for photo ops, I will be present throughout the district, and actually listen to constituents.
HORLACHER: If people check out my legislative record they can see the vast majority of bills I have authored and had signed into law are bipartisan. I proactively seek input from my colleagues on the other side of the aisle in Madison. I always look for the common ground. At the end of the day we are all Americans; we are all Wisconsinites; we are all neighbors.
With protests and looting this summer in Wisconsin, do you think there needs to be some reform on how police handle these situations?
HORLACHER: The premise of the question suggests it’s a police problem. I do not agree with that. I have worked with the men and women who wear the uniform and protect our communities. While negative feelings towards police exist, I do not believe they are actively abusing power. We need to get back to respecting people in uniform, our Country, our laws, and the faith that guides their lives.
BECKER: Looting and violence are wrong. Black lives matter. Police officers and first responders shouldn’t be social workers, and they deserve adequate resources to do their jobs. Like a majority of Wisconsinites, I believe we must make changes to address systemic racism.
What is the most important issue facing Wisconsin and what legislation would you propose to address the issue?
BECKER: Gerrymandering is the biggest threat to a functional democracy. Representatives shouldn’t pick their voters, voters should pick their representatives. We need to put the power of drawing maps back in the hands of the people, similar to the Iowa model.
HORLACHER: Dealing with Governor Evers’ continuing attacks on businesses, especially small businesses. Between threatening to put out blacklists of businesses with two-plus positive COVID cases, to the shutdown, and now a 25% capacity limit on our small businesses, we cannot continue this trajectory. The Restaurant Association believes 50% of restaurants will fail. These orders are not helping keep places afloat, people employed, and families strong.
Why are you the best candidate for the 33rd Assembly District?
HORLACHER: I fight for my district every day. While some may not agree with my policy, I am a zealous advocate for individuals and families that make up the 33rd. I am fighting for all of us.
BECKER: I’m a father, small business owner, and lifelong member of a local church. You don’t have to guess what I’ll do in Madison because it’s what I’ve done on City Council: work across the aisle to fix roads and foster economic development.