Monday, August 14, 2006

Health Care Reform and the 23rd District: Democrat or Bust

When Rep. Curt Gielow (R-Mequon) announced he was not seeking reelection back in April, I wrote that the Assembly was losing one of its few Republican legislators concerned with comprehensive health care reform.

Gielow co-sponsored the Wisconsin Health Plan (AB 1140) with Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee), which I discuss in more detail here. I was critical of the plan, but the fact that Gielow was interested in comprehensive health care reform was admirable and something I hope to see continue in the 23rd Assembly District.

When Gielow announced his decision not to run again, some conservatives in the blogosphere celebrated the decision. Here’s what Owen at Boots and Sabers had to say at the time: “This would be great. Surely his district, which is centered around Mequon, can produce a better conservative than Gielow.”

The far right had other reasons to dislike Gielow aside from his emphasis on health care reform. Less than one month after his decision not to seek reelection, Gielow voted against the original “Taxpayer Protection Amendment” (although he did support the less extreme “bar-time” version).

It appears if the 23rd District votes Republican again this November, they’ll get a legislator who will champion writing restrictive fiscal policy into the state constitution. And they certainly won’t need to worry about having a representative who’s focused on addressing the growing health care crisis in the state.

The two right-wingers up for the job are Jim Ott (of WTMJ-TV meteorology fame) and John Wirth.

According to a Journal-Sentinel article this morning, both strongly back the TP Amendment and any other children that may come from the TABOR family this coming legislative session. In fact, Ott even makes the assertion that the TP Amendment wasn’t restrictive enough.

(Side-Note: Although, in fairness, it’s not clear that Ott truly understands what the TP Amendment was proposing – he says it was aimed at limiting government spending, when it actually would’ve restricted public revenue.)

Wirth, for his part, has this to say about public finance: “We ought to have some constitutional limits on taxes and spending at all levels that only could be overridden by referendum.”

Considering Wirth enters the Assembly race as an alderman in Mequon, support for the TP Amendment really makes him the rarest of local officials in the state – although I suppose priorities can change when you become a state rep.

In the end, if constituents in the 23rd District are interested in electing a representative who is concerned with health care reform like Gielow, they’ll need to look to one of the Dem candidates. All three of them – Bill Elliott, Toni Ihler, and Stan Teplin – cite health care reform as their primary focus.

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