My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Check it out.
There is a primary election Feb. 17, that will have long-term implications for the citizens of West Bend and all of Wisconsin.
Wisconsin’s 20th Senate District is strongly conservative and has been represented by a Republican since before most of its residents were born. Because the senator from the 20th hails from the epicenter of the Republican Party in Wisconsin, he or she has necessarily been looked to as natural, and often designated, leader of the party.
For the previous 10 years, Sen. Glenn Grothman represented the 20th District as a staunch conservative conscience of the state Senate and the Republicans’ assistant majority leader since 2011. Grothman’s election to the federal government to represent the 6th Congressional District is what has prompted the spring election to replace him.
Prior to Grothman, the 20th District was represented by Mary Panzer for 12 years, rising to serve as the majority leader. Residents will remember the unprecedented event of Grothman unseating Panzer in a rare primary challenge because Panzer’s policies had moved too far to the left for the citizens of the district.
Before Panzer was Donald Stitt (eight years), David Opitz (four years), and Ernest Keppler (18 years) — all Republicans.
If there are two things that can be said about the 20th Senate District, they are that it is a safe district for conservative Republicans and that once elected, Republicans who remain conservative will have no trouble hanging on to the seat for as long as they want to serve.
With that history in mind, the citizens of the 20th District head to the polls to select their next senator. It is only the primary election, but given that there are no candidates from any other parties, the winner of the Republican primary will be elected in the general election in April. It is also with this history in mind that the rest of the state looks to the results of this election.
The new state senator from the 20th will take his or her seat in April in the midst of the state budget debate and all of the contentious issues incumbent in that debate. There are also numerous other important issues being debated in the Legislature from right-to-work legislation to taxpayer financing for a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks.
With the Republican Party in the majority in both houses of the legislature, they are looking to the results of the election in the 20th as a bellwether for the wishes of the Republican base and another solid conservative vote in the Senate to ward off those Republican senators who have a tendency to go wobbly.
There are three Republicans vying to be the next representative of the citizens of the 20th Senate District. Once again, the voters of the district are privileged to choose between three conservatives who agree on the vast majority of the issues and differ only in background, style and electoral record.
Tiffany Koehler has been on the ballot recently as a candidate for the 58th Assembly District where she lost in the primary to the current representative, Bob Gannon. Hailing from Richfield, Koehler is a military veteran who has worked in the mental health field and promises to oppose tax increases, fight Wisconsin’s heroin epidemic, fix Wisconsin’s foster care system and fight for veterans.
Lee Schlenvogt is a fourth-generation dairy farmer who has served in local elected office for the last 25 years. Schlenvogt has most recently served on the Ozaukee County Board since 2007 and as its chairman since 2013. He touts his record on taxes in local government and promises to bring that same perspective to the state Senate, if he is elected.
Duey Stroebel was also recently on the ballot challenging Grothman in the race for the 6th Congressional District. He had represented the 60th Assembly District since 2011 before having to give up that seat to run for Congress. Prior to serving in the Assembly, Stroebel served in a number of local elected and appointed offices in his hometown of Cedarburg. Stroebel is a longtime real estate business owner and father of eight.
Of these three candidates, I will cast my vote for Stroebel. His long private-sector experience is a necessary perspective in the state senate sorely needs as it strives for ways to help the private sector create jobs in Wisconsin. Stroebel’s four years in the Assembly demonstrate a record of achievement in advancing conservative ideals. Also, Stroebel has already spoken out forcefully in favor of conservative initiatives facing the Legislature, like enacting right-to-work in Wisconsin.
I have no doubt that, if elected, Stroebel will have an immediate and long-lasting positive impact on advancing the conservative wishes of the citizens of the 20th Senate District.
(Owen Robinson is a West Bend resident. His column runs Tuesdays in the Daily News.)