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Fall General Election: Senate District 10 candidate profiles

Republican incumbent Sheila Harsdorf (left) and Democrat challenger Diane Odeen (right).

With the 2016 Fall Election slated for Tuesday, Nov. 8, we here at the New Richmond News are providing profiles of the candidates running for office.

To see the profiles for the 29th Assembly district, click here ...

To see the profiles for the 28th Assembly District, click here ...

To watch the video from the 29th Assembly District candidate forum, click here ...

To watch the video from the St. Croix County District Attorny candidate forum, click here ...

Today we bring you the Senate District 10 candidates, incumbent Republican Sheila Harsdorf and Democrat challenger Diane Odeen.

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Sen Sheila HarsdorfSheila Harsdorf

Age: 60

Address: Town of River Falls

Job: Legislator, former dairy farmer

Education: River Falls High School graduate; bachelor of science in Animal Science from the University of Minnesota-St. Paul Campus

Family: One son

Civic involvement: Pierce County Farm Bureau; Luther Memorial Church; commissioner for Midwestern Higher Education Compact; graduate of Rural Leadership Program

Q. As a long-time incumbent in the state Legislature, explain what specific experiences you bring to the table as a candidate again.

A. My background and experience as a dairy farmer gives me a good understanding of the importance of small businesses and the challenges and risks they take as job creators. I have a record of results and reform that we need to continue in order to keep Wisconsin moving forward. I believe my values and work ethic are similar to those shared by working families throughout our communities. Being responsive and accessible to area residents is a top priority of mine. I greatly value constituent input, and most of the bills I introduce have come as ideas from people in the district.

Q. If re-elected, what are your immediate top two or three priorities and specify why?

A. One of my top priorities is to continue efforts to address the skills gap in order to meet our workforce needs and to provide opportunities for our citizens. The skills gap is a common concern from small business owners and employers in our region. I look forward to continuing to work with stakeholders to ensure student success and economic prosperity. Another priority is addressing heroin, meth, and other drug addictions that continue to deeply affect individuals, families, and communities in western Wisconsin. We must continue to work together with community leaders, treatment providers, and law enforcement to build upon the initiatives we have passed that save lives, address prevention and awareness and provide treatment options.

Q. What is working well in Wisconsin that state government can do to encourage and support?

A. We have seen significant improvements in Wisconsin’s ranking of the best states to create and grow jobs. We are hearing from local economic development officials that businesses are looking to expand and relocate here. We are also seeing strength and improvement in key metrics, including cutting the unemployment rate nearly in half, ranking sixth in the nation for our labor participation rate, and progress in wage growth. Additionally, we are working to combat drug addiction through legislation such as the HOPE Agenda and the Crackdown on Meth Act by partnering with law enforcement, healthcare providers and community leaders. I am also pleased that we are seeing action on the new St. Croix Crossing due to our efforts at the state level and appreciate the key bipartisan congressional support that provided final approval of this important project.

Q. What is not working well in Wisconsin that state government should take steps to correct?

A. Given the challenging issues and polarizing environment we currently live in, I believe it is critical to work with members of both parties to find commonsense solutions to our challenges. I am proud of my record in working across the aisle with colleagues on legislation relating to illegal drugs, sex trafficking, and cooperative agreements.

Q. Evaluate your opponent in this race and what makes you the better candidate?

A. Rather than focusing on my opponent, the core message of my campaign has been on the issues and talking about the progress we have made in the past six years lowering the unemployment rate, growing businesses, improving our business climate, and returning fiscal responsibility to state government. I want to continue our efforts to build strong communities and opportunities for our citizens.

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Diane OdeenDiane Odeen

Age: 56

Address: 811 Oak Knoll Ave., River Falls

Job: Attorney, Hammarback Law Offices

Education: Lawrence University, University of Minnesota, Hamline University School of Law

Family: Husband Michael Kahlow, two daughters

Background: Alderperson at Large, River Falls City Council (elected 2013); Emerge Wisconsin (Chair, board of directors); Rotary Club of River Falls (past president); FORWARD: the River Falls Public Schools Education Foundation (past vice-chair); River Falls Community Theatre (co-founder).

Q. As the challenger, explain your decision to run as a candidate. Give specific reasons.

A. Growing up on a dairy farm, I learned the values of hard work, honesty and perseverance. I was taught to take care of the land and respect our neighbors. I learned the value of working with others to solve problems. And I learned to leave things better than when I found them. I think these are core Wisconsin values that are no longer being reflected in Madison. I’m committed to fighting for our shared values and standing up to the entrenched special interests that are calling the shots in our Legislature.

Q. If elected, what are your immediate top two or three priorities and specify why?

A. In the state Senate, I’ll work with both Democrats and Republicans to improve high-speed Internet access and reduce the economic burden on students seeking higher education.

The lack of broadband access is preventing business growth and limiting opportunities for local families. By investing in broadband infrastructure, we can create jobs and expand economic development opportunities in rural communities.

Excessive cuts to our UW schools and a lack of state financial aid has shifted more costs onto students. I’ll work to make college more affordable by restoring funding for our schools and passing legislation so families can refinance their student loans at lower interest rates — just like they can in Minnesota.

Q. What is working well in Wisconsin that state government can encourage and support?

A. Local control has always been a core value of ours, with local government making decisions to reflect the needs of the community. Wisconsin has a rich history of people banding together to solve problems, but we’ve seen an increase in regulations from Madison which ties the hands of local communities. Since 2011, there have been more than 120 measures limiting local control. I want to put local citizens back in control over local decisions rather than politicians and bureaucrats in Madison.

Q. What is not working well in Wisconsin that state government should take steps to correct?

A. Wisconsin has a shrinking middle class and continues to lag our neighbors in terms of job creation and family wages. We need to focus on solutions that will help working families more than the wealthy. We also need to make sure that state policy prioritizes protecting the quality of our lakes, rivers and aquifers.

Q. Evaluate your opponent in this race and what makes you the better candidate?

A. Sen. Harsdorf has changed since she was first elected to state office more than 26 years ago. She used to advocate for our natural resources, and now she votes to make it easier to pollute our lakes and streams. In the past, she sponsored legislation that would prevent adding non-fiscal items to the budget, but now she votes to add special-interest amendments to the budget at the last minute. She’s voted to give massive tax breaks to individuals who make over $35 million a year while cutting state aid to local schools and universities. Sen. Harsdorf has lost touch with local families and it’s time for a change.

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