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Windy questions at Assembly, Senate candidates forum

TWO RIVERS – With the wind howling outside the council chambers, perhaps it was fitting that several questions asked at Wednesday night’s candidates forum were about wind energy and where towers could or should be erected.

“My major concern with wind energy is that it cannot compete in the marketplace … it needs heavy subsidization to survive,” said Andre Jacque, running as a Republican against incumbent Democrat Ted Zigmunt in the 2nd Assembly District.

“I believe in local control, and if wind turbines will interfere with the valuation of your home, I have great concerns with that,” said Zigmunt, who is completing his first two-year term representing citizens in the city of Two Rivers, north half of Manitowoc County and portions of Brown County.

“We need to broaden the portfolio of energy we have and look at ‘clean’ energy … we need to produce more wind farms and sell them to Iowa and other places,” said Dr. Montgomery “Monk” Elmer, the Democratic candidate for the 1st Senate seat.

Alan Lasee has retired after more than 30 years representing citizens in six Northeastern Wisconsin counties, including those in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Assembly districts.

His distant cousin and former seven-term 2nd Assembly District representative, Frank Lasee, is the GOP opponent to Elmer.

“The wind may be free, but there are a lot of side issues,” including potentially harmful effects on the health of humans and animals, Lasee said. He said property values near some wind farms have fallen by more than 30 percent.

Other perspectives expressed by the candidates included:

# All four oppose unfunded state mandates and understand concerns of local civic officials who have seen declining state shared revenue payments to municipalities.

# They oppose construction of the federally funded, $850 million high speed rail system from Milwaukee to Madison … at least, during tight economic times.

# Three of the candidates support lifting a state moratorium on building new nuclear plants, while Elmer believes it merits further study.

# All four said the next state budget, to be crafted in 2011, will be extremely challenging with a structural deficit of some $3 billion.

Some differences did emerge in the forum, sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Manitowoc County.

Zigmunt said the last budget made $3.2 billion in cuts while protecting health care programs and education, while imposing no new taxes on middle-class families.

Jacque disagreed with Zigmunt’s budget characterization, stating the budget actually increased by about 10 percent and imposed tax increases on businesses, which are job creators.