When: Tuesday, November 8th, 2022; polls open 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Find your voting location at myvote.wi. All absentee ballots must be requested by November 3rd and turned in no later than 8:00 p.m. on November 8th either by mail or dropped off in-person. In-Person absentee voting will start Tuesday, October 25th and end Friday, November 4th. You can vote early Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. If you plan to vote by mail, voters are strongly encouraged to mail their ballots as soon as possible to ensure their ballot is received by the deadline.
What it’s about: The Wisconsin State Assembly is made up of 99 representatives, each of which are up for election every two years and are elected for two year terms. Incumbent Jesse James will not be seeking reelection for this office. The candidates for District 68 Assembly are:
• Karen Hurd (R-Fall Creek) Website
• Nate Otto (D-Altoona) Website
Who can vote: The election is open to residents of the 68th Assembly District. Click on the image to pull up a more detailed and interactive map.
Where you vote and who is on your ballot:
• Go to myvote.wi.gov
• Enter your voting address to learn which races are on your ballot and where you vote.
Why this questionnaire: The Good Government Council (GGC) is a committee of the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce dedicated to encouraging voter participation and providing members of the business community with non-biased information about candidates’ positions on important issues. Although the Chamber is active in policy issues, it is non-partisan and does not endorse political candidates.
1.) Why are you running for this office, and what are the top three priorities you will emphasize if elected to the next session of the legislature?
Karen Hurd: When a person sees things going on in the world around them that they know are in the wrong direction, then it is incumbent upon that person to do something about it. What can be done depends on the person’s current responsibilities, talent, and time restrictions. For many, it is the duty to vote for leaders that will help rectify the situations that will be the only action they may be able to take; for others, it is to be that leader; for others it might be to work in organizing groups to correct the issues, etc. I am at a place in my life that I have the time, energy, experience, and knowledge that I can devote to serving my country by being a public servant, helping to shape and lead our district and state to be free to seek life, liberty, and happiness. Priorities in the 68th district are a healthy economy, infrastructure, and public safety services.
Nate Otto: I am running for 68th Assembly District Representative because the Chippewa Valley and northern Wisconsin are underrepresented in Madison. And across the state, extremists on both sides are taking hold of the public agenda. As a software developer and educator by trade, I will be a voice for the people from all viewpoints in the 68th. My top three priorities are expanding rural broadband, conserving our local waterways and wetlands, and funding mental health and substance abuse programs. Rural broadband opens new opportunities for rural communities to attract new business and new families. I will push to expand rural broadband. The 68th is rich in waterways and wetlands. I will work to protect our valuable natural resources.
2.) What role should state government take in supporting a vibrant business economy in Wisconsin? What specific actions or policies would you propose to accomplish it?
Karen Hurd: The state government needs to support a vibrant business economy by not making onerous requirements that inhibit business growth, investment in product lines (be it physical products or information products), or employment opportunities. The larger the government, the less businesses can flourish. Capitalism and free enterprise are essential to the health of businesses, as well as the health of our economy. Policies and actions that I would support as a legislator would be to lift unnecessary restrictions on businesses, reduce “red tape,” and promote policies that would encourage businesses to invest and expand.
Nate Otto: I see the need for this first-hand. My wife employs about ten people in her legal business. Together we own rental property and invest in real estate. State government has a key role in building the best environment to support small business owners like ourselves. What does this environment look like? For starters it looks like safe, well-maintained roadways. I currently serve as Vice Chair of the Eau Claire County Highway Commission. Maintaining high-quality roads enables business to grow, enables families to join our community. This environment also looks like we have invested in public health, education, and recreation. My home city, Altoona, is one of the fasted growing cities in the state. Our excellent parks, venues and schools attract families. These families join our economy. Such investment in public works is not just good for business, it is also a source of future tax revenue.
3.) Businesses today face several significant workforce challenges, with more jobs open than individuals available to fill them. Among these issues are demographics related to the size of the workforce; state support to recruit and retain employees to the area; housing supply and affordability; and a crisis in childcare availability for working parents. What is the legislature’s role in addressing these issues?
Karen Hurd: It is important through legislative action to encourage people that are able to work to do so. The old adage holds true in considering our workforce: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” Giving free handouts may seem kind and benevolent, but in reality they don’t contribute to the well-being of the recipients in the long run. Instead, it would be better to encourage those individuals to work a job to earn the money needed to support themselves and their family. The prevalent push that all graduating high school students should attend a 4-year college should be revamped. The trades need to be emphasized. The trades provide ample income and more for individuals to support themselves and their families. An emphasis on the trades would also assist businesses as the trades are at the heart of a thriving business community. Housing supply and affordability are part of the need for a thriving economy which the businesses drive if they are not burdened with excessive governmental regulations and taxes.
Nate Otto: The reality of a 21st Century economy is that states are in competition with each other for skilled employees. Our part of Wisconsin is rich in agriculture, has an educated workforce and is a desirable place to live. Yet, we face a brain drain. People who grow up here seek to start their careers elsewhere. Housing is a major factor. One of the best ways to achieve affordable housing is for the state legislature to promote responsible zoning practices among city and county governments. Irresponsible zoning pits the interests of developers against the interests of the community. We should encourage planning for mixed, dense neighborhoods with ample green space. This increases available lots in good locations. Also, we must attract remote workers. Post-COVID, many companies see the benefit of remote work for certain occupations. I will work with local organizations to highlight the quality of life in our part of Wisconsin and seek workers in telecommute occupations. This first requires expanding rural broadband access.
4.) The 2019-21 State Budget included funding for the first phase of the new Science and Health Sciences Building at UW-Eau Claire to replace aging and obsolete Phillips Hall. The University is now awaiting the second phase funding so that it can begin construction. What level of priority will you put on ensuring that funding is included in the state’s 2023-25 budget, and what steps will you take to make that happen?
Karen Hurd: The state has already invested 93.25 million into this project in phase one. It would make no sense to not approve or not pursue the second phase of funding as the state has invested so much already. To allow the project to fail or stagnate due to the lack of inclusion of funds in the 2023-25 biennial budget does not make fiscal sense.
Nate Otto: Being an Adjunct Instructor at CVTC, education is a high priority for me. Higher education STEM programs at CVTC, UW-Eau Claire and regional high schools are a key reason companies like JAMF, UnitedHealth Group and Hutchinson Technology build business centers in our area. There is a tug of war in Western Wisconsin. Twin Cities businesses are fighting to pull in Wisconsin college graduates. Western Wisconsin businesses are fighting to pull them back. Here is where Madison can help us. Let’s remind Madison of the brain drain running along I-94. Let’s remind them that these graduates are Wisconsin’s future employers, customers, and job creators. Let’s work with educators and with the Board of Regents. Remind the legislature that our part of the state is not in competition with other parts of the state, and that what is good for the Chippewa Valley is good for all of Wisconsin.
5.) Why should a business person in the Chippewa Valley vote for you to represent them in the state legislature?
Karen Hurd: I am a small business owner in Eau Claire County (Fall Creek). Businesses are what provide jobs for our citizens. These jobs provide income for our citizens. The better the business community, the better the income for individuals who work in our businesses. The strength of our economy is dependent upon the strength of our businesses. Therefore, it is of extreme importance for the government to support the business community so that all of us can have better lives.
Nate Otto: My wife and I own a rental business. As a member of the business community myself, I understand the needs of the business community. And I have solid footing in the public sector to match. Besides service on the Eau Claire County Board, I bring to the State Assembly my years of community leadership experience, as a leader in Cub Scouts, as president of my church congregation and my involvement in organizations from United Way to Lions Club. I believe good leader listens. I believe in respecting different perspectives, especially ones with which I disagree. And I am running to represent all the people of 68th Assembly District. Thank you for reading my positions. I look forward to hearing your thoughts as well. Please visit www.ottoforwisconsin.com and we can start the dialogue.
Election 2022: Guide to the Fall General Election (Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce)
Posted by Danya Morman, Governmental Affairs Intern