When it comes to people that I genuinely enjoy running into, Rep. Jerry Petrowski has always been one of them. We’ve had occasion to run into each other from time to time over his time in the legislature, which began in 1998 – the same year that I was first elected to the Wausau City Council. He was a good person to know, since beyond the issues of local government, I was also working on energy issues. He served on and chaired the Assembly Transportation committee while I served on the Marathon County Infrastructure Committee and the Central Wisconsin Airport board. All of that stuff gave us things to talk about and he was very helpful in those areas. I even went to a few of his fundraisers. We shared first pitch honors at a Woodchucks game once. The very last person that I had lunch with before leaving Madison in December 2010 was Jerry Petrowski.
Of course, that was before all hell broke loose in early 2011 in Madison and prior to the resignation of Pam Galloway from the Senate after more than enough signatures were gathered to force her into a recall election after little more than a year in office. Enter Jerry Petrowski, on cue from Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.
It appears that Jerry will be passing nomination papers for his 86th District Assembly seat prior to the Senate recall election, in which he is running against Rep. Donna Seidel of the 85th. The Senate recall election is June 5 and with signatures due to the Government Accountability Office by June 1 for the regular fall election, I can’t blame him for wanting to hedge his bet. And speaking of hedging bets, I need to mention here that I while I have generally not joined my friends in the Democratic Party as they worked to run candidates against Petrowski, Jerry has never been my own representative in the Assembly, since I don’t live in his district.
All of that would change with his candidacy for the Wisconsin Senate. He would then be my Senator, if he wins, and I have to tell you that while I’ve always liked Jerry, there is no way that I can support any extension or expansion of the GOP’s my-way-or-the-highway philosophy and policy positions by way of another all-Republican legislative session. That is exactly and all that electing Petrowski would accomplish. As much as I may like him as a person, this election is about policy.
And I have to say that after getting to know a person’s style over a dozen years in the legislature and learning to agree on the things we could agree on, I was surprised at what he was willing to support, with no objection, in this legislative session. He stood lockstep with Scott Walker and the most extreme elements of the Republican Party at every turn. There were draconian cuts to education. There was “dropping the bomb” with Walker on public employee unions long after the money part had been resolved – and some of which has now been reversed in court. We had the gerrymandering of the state and the secrecy agreements. Jerry helped repeal the rights of women to make their cases against pay discrimination and to limit access of consumers to fair recompense in the courts. Then there was turning back the clock on sex education, making it more of a hassle for people to exercise their right to vote while making it less of hassle to carry concealed weapons — and passing a bevy of non-jobs related social legislation during so-called “jobs sessions” of the legislature. Jerry Petrowski can share the credit with Scott Walker for helping Wisconsin to lead the nation in job losses last year and for sucking tens of millions of dollars annually out of our local economy to support corporate tax cuts.
I don’t want to see any more. I don’t want to give a guy a promotion for advancing an extremist, divisive agenda. I think it is really important to put some checks and balances back into Wisconsin government. If you don’t like what Scott Walker has been doing to divide the state with his no-compromise approach to ruling instead of leading, then there is no reason to support Petrowski because he has supported and enabled the Walker agenda at every opportunity. I’m not standing with that. I’m standing with women, workers, poor people, gays, students, teachers, minorities and the middle class. So is Rep. Donna Seidel.
Petrowski never campaigned as an extremist, but that is exactly what he has become, nice guy or not. There were a few Republicans in the legislature who didn’t vote for all of that stuff, but Petrowski wasn’t one of them. You can’t slide a sheet of paper between him and Sen. Glenn Grothman — the fellow who chose to argue that ‘money is more important for men’ to rationalize reversing the Equal Pay Enforcement Act — when you look at their voting records. Petrowski just doesn’t talk about it as much because he knows how that kind of commentary plays around here. But extremist is as extremist does, momma always said.
So be sure to take a look at those disclaimers when the ad blitz begins and all of the usual folks – mostly from elsewhere and a lot of them not even from Wisconsin – start trying to buy that senate seat again, just like they did for Pam Galloway.