MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican Gov. Scott Walker, seeking to become only the second governor in Wisconsin history elected to a third term, and Democrat Tony Evers, the state superintendent, meet Friday night for the first of two debates. Walker and Evers are locked in a tight battle for governor with the election just over two weeks away.
Five things to watch for in the debate hosted by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association:
Neither Walker nor Evers is known for their charisma. Walker likes to talk about his fondness for vanilla ice cream and ham sandwiches. But he’s a proven winner who rarely gets rattled on the debate stage or the campaign trail. He’s also far more experienced at it than Evers — having debated in three previous runs for governor and during his run for president.
Evers, who favors Egg McMuffins and the card game euchre, has won three statewide races for state superintendent. While he debated in the Democratic primary, the debate will be his first in a general election for governor. The debate gives both Evers and Walker a chance to sway the tiny number of independent or undecided voters who likely will decide the race in 18 days.
Walker’s support for President Donald Trump, who is coming to Wisconsin on Wednesday to campaign with Walker, also could become a point of contention as well.
Walker’s been making taxes a central part of his argument against Evers in the days leading up to the debate. Television broadcasts are filled with ads from Walker and his allies alleging that with Evers as governor, taxes would skyrocket and families wouldn’t be able to afford to live in the state.
Evers says he just wants to make tax cuts that benefit the middle class, rather than the wealthy and corporations.
Walker argues that a manufacturing tax credit program Evers wants to eliminate is a vital part of the state’s economic growth and unemployment that’s been at or near record lows for months.
Evers is taking a page out of the playbook of almost every Democrat running for office across the country this year in going after Walker on where he stands on guaranteeing people with pre-existing medical conditions have access to insurance.
Evers supports the Affordable Care Act, which has a pre-existing condition coverage guarantee, while Walker is a longtime opponent of the law. Walker this year authorized the state to join a federal lawsuit seeking repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Walker has called for the Legislature to pass a bill providing state protections for people with pre-existing conditions, but it didn’t pass in the Senate. Walker has promised during the campaign that as long as he’s governor, people with pre-existing conditions will be covered even though prospects of the measure passing are murky.
Look to Evers to refer to potholes as “Scottholes” and Walker will certainly allege that Evers might raise the gas tax by as much as $1 per gallon — more than double the highest gas tax in the country.
Evers has said that “everything’s on the table” when it comes to paying for roads, including increasing the gas tax, but he’s said it’s ridiculous to claim he’d raise it as much as a dollar. Evers hasn’t said how much of an increase he’d support. He’s also been open to toll roads but hasn’t released a specific transportation plan.
Walker also hasn’t released a transportation plan or said how he would meet his campaign promise to spend more than $100 million a year additional on local roads.
Evers in September proposed a 10 percent funding increase for schools, with the state paying for two-thirds of costs. His proposal, made as a budget request for the education department he heads, did not say how the $1.4 billion increase would be paid for. Walker this week also said he is committed to two-thirds state funding for schools, something that hasn’t happened in 15 years. Walker has similarly not said where the roughly $130 million a year to pay for it would come from.
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