Sheila Harsdorf and Shelly Moore debate for Senate seat
State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, left, and Shelly Moore faced off in their first debate at the Public Access Cable studio in Hudson on Monday night.
The first round of public debate featuring incumbent Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, a Republican, and her democratic challenger Shelly Moore occurred Monday night at the Public Access Cable Studio in Hudson. The debate was organized by Hudson Patch, an on-line news service owned by AOL.
The purpose of the debate was to allow the audience, made up of an even number of St. Croix County Democrats and Republicans, local elected officials, media and individuals from the respective campaigns, an opportunity to learn about the two candidates prior to the Aug. 9 election.
As the two candidates took their seats, they shook hands and reviewed their notes. The moderator of the event, local Patch editor Micheal Foley, started the debate by asking the candidates to tell the audience who they are as individuals.
Harsdorf, who won the coin toss, described herself as a farmer and outdoor enthusiast at heart, who has been a member of the State Assembly and Senate for more than two decades.
Moore began by briefly telling the audience that she is a third-generation Wisconsin public school teacher and was raised by a family dedicated to state service. Moore then said that the values that she was raised on and that she currently holds -- protecting senior citizens, promoting a fair and transparent tax structure and building a future for the states' children -- are being neglected by current office holders.
"Unfortunately, we find ourselves in this situation because our current office holders have ignored these values and I could not stand idly by as my opponent chose to align herself with Gov. Walker, moving our state in a way that the public clearly questioned and ignoring public input, compromise and civil discourse," she said.
When the candidates were asked if current recall effort was a valid use of the state's recall provision, Moore said that constituents have a right to contest their elected officials and speak out because, after all, "government was created of the people, by the people and for the people."
"Regardless of the outcome, it has forced elected officials to think twice about their actions and to make sure they are putting the true needs of their constituents first," she said.
Harsdorf responded by saying that she was not recalled because she did anything wrong.
"I am being recalled because I stood up to the special interests," she said. Harsdorf's opinion on how special interests are involved in Moore's campaign for the State Senate seat of the 10th district was brought up several more times throughout the night, just as Moore said time and again that she is attempting to protect education and children in the state.
Harsdorf said that special interests are not interested in the state's unique issues but only "care about having someone that will do what they want, maintain the status quo, which means more spending, more taxes, more debt on our kids and, quite frankly, a state government that is not sustainable for the taxpayers of this state."
When Foley asked the candidates what their priorities are for the state of Wisconsin and their vision for the future, Harsdorf mentioned several things that were also repeated throughout the debate.
"Balance the state budget, get spending in line with what taxpayers have the ability to pay, get our fiscal house in order and create jobs," she said.
Moore responded by saying that her priority is to create family sustaining jobs in the district, "not in Milwaukee or Madison which currently employs 50 percent of our manufacturing jobs," she said.
When the moderator asked the candidates whether they think collective bargaining is linked to the state budget, Moore made a clarification to the audience that although she belongs to the teachers union, she was not compelled to run for the state Senate seat because of the collective bargaining issue.
"To try and simplify the reason why I am running down to one issue is downright offensive to the thousands that begged for their voices to be heard in February at the Capitol and to the 23,000 that signed the recall petition," she said.
Moore also said that she does not believe collective bargaining is linked to the state budget, bringing up the point that Gov. Walker admitted in front of the federal government that there was absolutely no budget impact.
Harsdorf responded by saying that "her opponent's credibility has been questioned," because of her denial that she is in the race for other reasons besides the elimination of collective bargaining rights. She then gave three examples of how collective bargaining rights do affect the state budget and the audience made audible chuckles when she stated the third example. "Then there is the Milwaukee Public Schools System where the teachers bargained for access to Viagra, costing the district over $800,000," she said.
Toward the conclusion of the debate, the candidates were allowed the opportunity to ask their opponent a question. Harsdorf asked Moore, "Why did you claim the Government Accountability Board and the Ellsworth School district cleared you of using school resources for political purposes when they have not yet issued their decision?"
Moore responded by saying that the Ellsworth School District complied with the request by the Republican party and found that she had done nothing in violation of her contract in regards to the work e-mail policy. It was only when more requests were filed, including requests to look at her colleagues' e-mails, Moore said, that the district became overwhelmed causing it to remain an open investigation.
In the closing statements, when the candidates made their plea to the audience and those watching, both candidates' statements encapsulated their motives for running.
Harsdorf said that in order to "balance the state budget, get our fiscal house in order and create jobs," the special interests must not be involved for they will thwart growth and will revert back to the policies what were in place when the state lost 160,000 jobs over the past two years, she said.
Moore concluded that she has a determination and passion to "challenge people to think differently and make sure we are doing the best thing for education."
In response to Harsdorf's comment that children are a priority and cannot be compromised, Moore asked a rhetorical question.
"Where is the $1.6 billion that you cut from our classrooms going to go?
"I want you to look at that second-grader and tell that child that the money that you gave to M&I Bank or to other corporations was worth compromising their futures," she said. "We need to save that second-grader."