Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug LaFollette is one of the most recognized and educated environmental advocates not only in Wisconsin, but the nation. Born in Des Moines, Iowa; LaFollette received his BA from Marietta College, his Master’s Degree in chemistry from Stanford, and his PhD in organic chemistry from Columbia. He began a teaching career at UW-Parkside, and was a key organizer (with Gaylord Nelson) of the first Earth Day in 1970 prior to entering politics. LaFollette also started Wisconsin’s Environmental Decade with Peter Anderson, now known as Clean Wisconsin. LaFollette served as Secretary of State from 1975-1979, and from 1983 to the present. His great-grandfather and Robert M. LaFollette were brothers.
Doug LaFollette is energized and passionate about the recovery of progressive values in Wisconsin, having lived those values his entire life. In this writer’s opinion, LaFollette and Kathleen Vinehout have occupied periphery treatment in this brief campaign by the majority corporate media. That is a tragedy. Both of these candidates will be intimately involved in the recovery of a progressive Wisconsin through their expertise and experience. They have a great deal to offer the grassroots and the political landscape shift occurring. Our interview was conducted on April 7, 2012 as LaFollette was busy in downtown Madison collecting the signatures necessary to be placed on the primary ballot.
BD – What does this movement mean to you not only as a politician, but as a citizen of the state?
LaFollette – As I’ve been elected many times and served Wisconsin for a long time as Secretary of State, I have the opportunity to travel around the world on behalf of the people of Wisconsin. I was always told “Wisconsin is such a wonderful progressive state” by people from all over. When this past year, for the first time, people started asking me “what is wrong with Wisconsin – what happened?” I couldn’t sit back and let it just happen. This is all about people politics…taking back democracy for the people over powerful money and corporations. To support that, I’ve promised to take no out-of-state PAC money for my campaign.
BD – What would be your first act as Governor?
LaFollette – I would sit with key personnel to appoint new agency heads. That is the first step to repairing the damage done, because the budgeting process doesn’t happen for some time after the election, and we may not control the legislature going into the next session. Top priority is a new DOA Secretary (replacing Mike Huebsch), and DNR (Cathy Stepp). In addition, I would return administration of the DNR to the DNR board, where it belongs. The constitutional authority of the Secretary of State also needs to be restored as a balance of power against an authoritarian Governor or Legislature. I will make sure we get back to Wisconsin Ideas, not these ALEC, out-of-state ideas. We have to get back to supporting the University of Wisconsin, so it can contribute to finding Wisconsin ways to deal with our economic problems.
BD – How does your experience as Secretary of State make you uniquely qualified to be Governor?
LaFollette – It is my years of experience and maturity primarily. I have nothing to prove politically – I would not be the Governor of any one group. I have support from independents, progressives, Democrats – I’ve even gotten great response from Republicans who do not like how Scott Walker has torn apart this state. I would govern for all the people of Wisconsin.
BD – How would you dispense with Act 10 as Governor?
LaFollette – I would take a two-step approach. First, I would work through the summer to elect a state legislature that believes in the right to organize. The Governor can’t accomplish this alone. Scott Walker could not have single-handedly passed Act 10 – he had a complicit legislature. We have to elect a legislature that will support the Governor in repealing Act 10. In the immediate term, I would order the DOA to sit down and re-negotiate with all the public unions, examine the contracts, and work out agreements that benefit both parties. No more of this shutting-out the public employees who serve this state so well.
BD – In its annual report dated January 31, 2011 to Joint Finance Committee Chairs Senator Alberta Darling and Rep. Robin Vos, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau indicated a net balance at fiscal year-end of $56.4 million (before Scott Walker assumed office). In the same report one year later, dated February 9, 2012, the LFB indicates a fund balance deficit of $208.2 million – primarily due to decreased revenue as a result of Acts passed by the current Governor and Legislature. In this fiscal and political climate, how do you repair the damage done to public education, healthcare, and jobs?
LaFollette – It is important to understand again, that the Governor cannot do this immediately. However, I would work on plans and solutions to propose to the Legislature that would repair the damage. For example, I would examine every corporate tax cut Scott Walker put in his budget, and look at which we could repeal and rollback to fund our Technical, University, and public education system. We have to collect a fair share of revenue being lost to wealthy, giant corporations that have been lost during this administration.
BD – What substantive difference is there between you and the other candidates in this primary?
LaFollette – My style and approach is completely different. I’ve been a progressive all my life. My fight is the progressive fight of this grassroots movement – we have to stop these big money and special interest approaches here and now. We have to prove Wisconsin can do it better.
BD – How would you govern after this year of unprecedented single-party power grabs and partisan legislation?
LaFollette – First, let me say it has been a mistake for Labor to endorse and take sides. This election has to be about bringing people together again, and that is how I would govern. That’s why I took no special interest interviews, and did not seek endorsements. I will not be a special interest candidate or Governor – I will truly represent the people.
If there is a longshot candidate, Doug LaFollette is it. No matter the outcome of the primary, he is a true original, and has at heart the true interests of the people of Wisconsin. He gets it. We must hope if LaFollette doesn’t win the primary, that the winner of the primary to take on Scott Walker listens to Doug LaFollette. There is progressive wisdom in his ideals that can resonate throughout the state.
Badger Democracy is scheduling interviews with Tom Barrett for next week, and will post as soon as completed. Share, engage, and discuss. In the words of Robert M. LaFollette said, “…the only cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy.”