One of the senatorial races in this midterm election that has not been highlighted much is the Wisconsin contest between Republican state Senator Leah Vukmir and first-term Democrat Tammy Baldwin. Vukmir, the daughter of Greek immigrants and a pediatric nurse practitioner by training, first became interested in politics when she noticed that her daughter was struggling with the reading program in the local public school she attended. When Vukmir challenged her teacher to produce the research to back up the failing curriculum being used, it led to a long period in which she attended all the school board meetings, wrote numerous letters to the editor, and generally made herself a gadfly on issues of public education.
When Scott Walker, then the state assemblyman in Vukmir’s district, decided to run for Milwaukee County executive in the wake of a massive financial scandal that saw several county supervisors recalled and the previous executive resign, Vukmir was encouraged to run in his place. After four terms in the state assembly, where she was one of the most conservative members, she ran for the state senate in 2010 — the year that Walker was elected governor. She was thus part of the “Walker revolution,” which began with the state facing an unconstitutional $3.6B deficit and an unemployment rate of 9.3%.
The budget was repaired by some deft cost-cutting and the passage of Act 10; the bill limits public employee unions’ collective bargaining rights to wages only, requires that they be certified annually, and ends the practice of deducting union dues from employees’ paychecks.
As a result of Act 10’s passage, the Wisconsin Democratic Party went berserk in a precursor to the current phenomenon of the Antifa mobs. They rioted in the capital and issued death threats against numerous Republican politicians.
Despite the fact that Wisconsin has been a solidly Republican state ever since (Walker has been reelected twice in regular elections and once in an historic recall election), Wisconsin’s electorate remains almost evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. This is reflected in the generally respected Marquette University Law School poll, taken monthly. The most recent poll (just released in October) shows Walker ahead of his Democratic opponent 46% to 45%. Anomalously, though, it shows Baldwin leading Vukmir by 10 points, 53% to 43%.
Asked about this, Vukmir responded by noting that the usually reliable poll has been all over the map since the beginning of the senatorial campaign, showing her at one point trailing by 30 points and at another two points behind, well within the margin of error. Vukmir also noted that the polling was done before the recent debate at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee campus, in which she clearly dominated an uncomfortable and often flustered Baldwin.
Vukmir cites her nursing training as a course in problem-solving, a skill which she has found most useful during her legislative career. She considers her strongest and most passionate issue to be, understandably, health care — she favors full repeal of the disastrous Affordable Care Act, noting wryly that any government plan labeled “affordable” isn’t. On education, she favors parental choice, noting that each child in a family may have different needs — one may do perfectly well in a conventional school while another needs home-schooling, virtual schooling, or parochial schooling. Based on her personal experiences, she trusts parents to make the right decision for each child. On tax reform — and concomitant shrinkage of the size of government and spending — she is a firm believer in federalism. She believes that the success in Wisconsin, one of the fifty “laboratories of democracy,” should be brought to Washington, and that the Senate must be made to admit that they, and we, have a spending problem.
Vukmir has found immigration reform to be the top national issue on the minds of people across Wisconsin. She says she is the daughter of legal Greek immigrants who became passionate American patriots. They forbade her and her siblings from speaking their native Greek in public, insisting that they preserve it for family and church.
As Reince Priebus, former chairman of the Wisconsin GOP and former chief of staff for President Trump has said, it is almost inconceivable that anyone would vote for Walker for governor and fail to vote for Vukmir for the Senate. For that reason, she has an excellent chance of unseating Baldwin, and joining Ron Johnson in bringing Wisconsin values and common sense to Washington.