Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels and attorney general candidate Eric Toney spoke to University of Wisconsin-Madison College Republicans on Wednesday evening with two weeks to go before the Nov. 8 midterm elections.
Michels addressed his plans for education, abortion and economic policy if elected as Wisconsin’s next governor.
“We're going to have better economic opportunities in Wisconsin, better education opportunities in Wisconsin, we're going to have more money in people’s pockets in Wisconsin,” Michels said, without giving specifics.
When asked about his plans for higher education, Michels said he would place a greater focus on “low-tech training,” including career and technical education. He also promised to support the University of Wisconsin System but did not mention specific policy initiatives directly related to higher education.
“We need more nurses, we need more law enforcement people and we need more people who can build things with their hands,” Michels said.
Michels was also asked about UW-Madison’s ethnic studies requirement but said he “hadn’t looked specifically” at the requisite.
The policy requires each undergraduate student to complete three credits of approved ethnic studies coursework to foster an understanding and appreciation of campus diversity. Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature attempted but failed to make courses on the U.S. Constitution an alternative for ethnic studies coursework earlier this year.
Instead, Michels placed heavy emphasis on parental involvement in K-12 education policy. He said he plans to increase public funding for private schools to promote school choice but gave vague details about how these policies would be carried out.
Michels currently supports adding rape and incest exceptions to Wisconsin’s 1849 near-total abortion ban. However, Michels supported abortion bans on cases including rape and incest exceptions as recently as June, when he told WISN Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion ban was an “exact mirror” of his position.
When asked to comment on his oscillating abortion stances Tuesday, Michels said he “just disagrees with the system of abortion.” He added he was against “born-alive” bills and condemned opponent Gov. Tony Evers for vetoing similar bills during his term.
Evers said he vetoed the bill because such protections are already guaranteed under federal law at the gubernatorial debate on Oct. 14.
Though Michels opposed the “system” of abortion, he previously supported contraceptives, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. However, Michels also told the Journal Sentinel he is against abortion pills “being passed off as contraception” and would keep them illegal in Wisconsin.
Fond du Lac County district attorney Eric Toney took a similar position on abortion policy. Toney pledged to “enforce the rule of law,” which he said included Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion ban.
“We don’t pick and choose when to enforce the law — the lawmaking belongs to the Legislature,” Toney said. “I will defend any additional exceptions the Legislature passes because that is the job of our attorney general, and I trust our great prosecutors in our states.”
Toney added that additional abortion issues could be handled on a “case-by-case basis.”
On crime, Toney promised to “enforce the rule of law, prosecute crime and stand up with our law enforcement."
Toney said he was adamant about tackling the drug epidemic.
“I’ve brought together an opioid coalition which is harm reduction, education treatment and enforcement,“ Toney said, adding that he would “aggressively prosecute those who peddle that dangerous poison into our communities.”
Toney also promised to partner with the Legislature to add additional prosecutors and special agents to Wisconsin’s Department of Justice.
“As the son of a police officer, I want to make sure that our law enforcement will have all the available resources and tools they need to keep us safe here in Wisconsin,” Toney said.
College Republicans president Joe Krantz said he organized Tuesday’s event because the club “understands the importance” of the upcoming Nov. 8 election. Krantz added he was “thankful for the space to share ideas” with the candidates and was excited to see what Michels “can do for Wisconsin” if elected as governor.
Ava Menkes is the state news editor at The Daily Cardinal. She has covered multiple stories about Wisconsin politics and written in-depth about nurses unions and youth voter turnout. Follow her on Twitter at @AvaMenkes.