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Andy Mitchell feels so strongly about the recently passed voting laws that he is naming it his top reason for challenging Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) in the 63rd Assembly District.
Mitchell filed his paperwork to run as the Democratic candidate this week, and will participate in a signing event hosted by the Racine County Democratic Party from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Infusino’s Banquet Hall, 3201 Rapids Drive.
“When you deliberately make it harder for people to vote, you know you’re not doing the right thing,” he said. “We need to fix this before we move onto other issues.”
Mitchell, 57, lives in the Town of Rochester. He works as a special education teacher at Horlick High School and is married with two grown children.
Limiting early voting, Mitchell said, is proof the Republican-controlled Legislature is aware that they are not acting in the best interests of the majority of people.
“Dictating shorter hours to take the burden off more rural communities is fine for them, but a blanket solution is not the answer,” he added. “What works in East Troy or Union Grove definitely does not work in Milwaukee or Racine.”
Republicans are very selective about applying their concept of smaller government, Mitchell thinks, and he pointed to what he thinks is overreaching by Madison Republicans when it comes to telling Milwaukee what to do with excess classroom space.
“They don’t want to impose any common-sense regulations on business, but it’s okay to tell Milwaukee to sell their excess classroom space,” he continued. “It’s not okay to raise the minimum wage, but it’s okay to butt into the patient-doctor relationship for some people or to tell two consenting adults who they can marry.”
Three additional issues – the move to amend, involving teachers in decisions about education, and stimulating the local economy – are also part of Mitchell’s reasons for running for office.
Move to Amend
Mitchell said taking corporate and union money out of elections is imperative to giving the process back to the people. He cited 13 communities across the state that featured non-binding referendums where residents voted overwhelmingly against recent decisions by the Supreme Court.
“Across the board, most people both liberal and conversative support move to amend measures,” he said. “Voters in Waukesha and Wauwatosa, for example, by decent majorities passed the referendums. Only the 1% and the Supreme Court think these decisions are good ideas.”
Teachers at the Table
Mitchell is concerned that too many decisions about education are being made at the state level without including teachers, and he isn’t talking about collective bargaining.
“We need to put teachers back at the table when decisions are being made,” he said. “The legislative committee for education has maybe one teacher, but we need to have more.”
Educators have at least a four-year degree, a good number also have Master’s Degrees, and their years of experience make them qualified to participate in conversations.
“Legislators should be embarrassed about the lack of teacher involvement,” Mitchell added.
When it comes to Common Core, Mitchell said he is currently taking a supportive stance and says that elected officials who want to do away with it are just out to hurt teachers more, but that’s not who really pays.
“I know there are legislators who want to do away with it, but I feel those are people who feel teachers haven’t been hurt enough,” he said. “But you know who pays for these decisions being made without teachers? Kids at both ends of the extreme; special ed and the gifted and talented.”
Special ed and gifted/talented students feel the struggles the most as electives get cut because of lack of funds or too few students sign up to justify the cost of the teacher.
“It just keeps filtering down and we need to fix it by restoring funding and being sure that teachers and educators are respected and valuing their input about programs being considered or already in play.”
Trickle Up Economics
Mitchell supports raising the minimum wage, and he dismisses claims from business owners that job growth and/or retention will be negatively impacted. He points to the failure of years of trickle-down economics and said it’s time to turn to a trickle-up model.
“If you pay workers more, they put more money back into the economy and take less from it,” he said in a veiled reference to some major companies with employees who receive food stamps and subsidized healthcare.
“More money in a paycheck means more money goes back into the local economy because those parents will spend more at the grocery store or maybe they’ll go to the movies,” Mitchell stated. “Going out means paying a babysitter who then takes that money to a fast food restaurant where another teenager works. You see where I’m going? The money stays in the community.”
Wisconsin has a history of highly paid, well-skilled labor, he continued, but he’s not seeing that tradition continue and as a taxpayer, he wants to know why he should want a company like Walmart to set up shop in his community.
“Their employees qualify for benefits so there is a net loss,” Mitchell said. “Sure, (employees) have somewhere to go, and that’s good, but it’s not good enough.”
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