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This is here now. The mid-term elections are less than 50 days away and Senate Democrats are playing defense and offense at the same time , more than half of the 49-member caucus is up for re-election this year . Democrats have to hold on to all of those seats plus pick up 2 more in order to win control of the Senate this week for a Senate tracker series . We’re taking a look at Wisconsin‘s Senate race where Democrat incumbent Tammy Baldwin is facing Republican challenger Lee evoke Mayor Laura White covers state politics for Wisconsin Public Radio , in Madison , Laura . Thanks for being here .
Hi there , thanks for having me.
Well , thanks for being here. And let’s start with Senator Baldwin . She is a first-term senator , trying to make it 2-2 terms right now , she is the most liberal of the 10 Democrats up for re-election in states that Trump one but tell us more about her .
So Baldwin has been a political figure in Wisconsin for quite a long time now. She served 3 terms in the state legislature before she was elected to the House in 1998 and then of course as you mentioned to the Senate in 2012 , and that other thing that you mentioned about her voting record and and how people perceive her , as it is a Liberal senator is something that has really been picked up on in this campaign . Her opponent the Evoque Mary’s trying to paint her as sort of a far-left liberal who’s out of Thai chicken unrealistic .
He Ellis isn’t no one of her ads. This is from August , when the Republican primary was still going .
This message Gul stand up for Wisconsin jobs Tammy Baldwin has worked to make sure our government buys American and hires American but legal career and Kevin Nicholson disagree Brooke mayor says buying American it’s too expensive. A new route .
So that’s interesting to hear that he made if you didn’t know you might think that that person doing that as a Republican because by American sounds like something President Trump would say.
That’s right , that’s been a really interesting dynamic in this race as well so Baldwin has really played up that particular area of agreement that she has with President Trump. So he came to Wisconsin . Several months ago and said that he completely 100% backed her by America legislation which would require Americans to purchase American-made steel for certain infrastructure projects in certain water projects and so she has said , hey look , look at me , I can be bipartisan . I can work with the President on things . I’m not just going to blindly push back on him , and she and Wisconsin reporters honestly have tried to get her Republican opponents , whether that was the 2 opponents that faced each other in the primary Orville career now to say where they stand on this by America legislation and they hadn’t been exactly forthcoming about their opinions on it .
We will tell us about Lee Khmer she is a former nurse and has emerged as a formidable contender. What should we know about her .
So who can hear is a really interesting candidate I think even for people outside of Wisconsin because people I think outside of Wisconsin. It’s safe to say , if you’re tuned into politics . You know who’s Scott Walker is our Governor , he had his short-lived presidential bid and Lee evoke is kind of the product of Scott Walker‘s Wisconsin Republican political machine and a lot of ways .
Let’s listen to one of her ads this one opens in a darkened house says the answering machine plays menacing voice mails in the background. Viognier is sitting at the table with a handgun on it , I know .
They’re going to die. Having to the one who does it .
If someone threaten your life for what you believe.
Well , Scott Walker and I beat the union bosses cut billions in taxes and a funded Planned Parenthood the left couldn’t take it with President Trump. We can do the same in Washington . Standing on principle takes guts . I know what it takes . I leave .
Tell us about what she’s talking about in this ad.
So I believe she is referencing voice mails that she received when our act 10 legislation which those from outside Wisconsin who aren’t necessarily familiar with that vernacular here. Those are the collective bargaining changes that Scott Walker Bush shortly after taking office that rolled back a lot of the collective bargaining rights of state employees in Wisconsin and so Khmer received some of those voice mails I believe during the process of that legislation moving through the Legislature , which was of course incredibly polarizing . There are a lot of protesters at the Capitol particularly teachers that was a big population that was there for the protests . And you’re saying that you know they were , they were using violent language . But she says that she wasn’t intimidated by it in a way that would deter her or derail her from her political goals and she’s hoping that really resonates with voters . I think .
So when we hear this 2 ads and we’re talking about unions and we’re talking about buying American. It sounds like the economy is the big issue in Wisconsin is that the case or one of the big issues voters are carrying about this year .
Well the economy is certainly a big issue. But I think in this particular Senate race . It’s been interesting to see health care really rise to the forefront most political reporters that you talk to in Wisconsin would agree that health care is really the main thing that these candidates are tangling over right now and I think that’s for 2 reasons , one vote . Mary’s a nurse and so she’s sort of talked about her experience and how that informed her legislating and of course the Affordable Care Act was something that Senator Baldwin worked on in the US Senate , she was part of drafting the Affordable Care Act was you know active in that and she has also talked about her personal experiences with health care . She had a childhood illness that was fairly serious . So both of these women bring a personal perspective to the health care debate and combine that with the fact that you know a possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act , or keeping the Affordable Care Act in changing it up a little bit is really at the forefront of a national debate on politics . I think that kind of creates a perfect storm for it to be really the central issue in their salaries .
What about the cabin I hearings for the Supreme Court in that nomination is that playing into this race Baldwin has already said she plans to vote no. Could that be a problem for her come November .
You know , I think that that’s something that has certainly come up Baldwin at first said she was going to meet with Kevin I she was going to evaluate his record and then she would make a decision. Pretty shortly after that , she said , I’m going to vote no . I know enough now and now with these recent allegations vocal mirror has come to cabinet defense . So there’s . There’s certainly a a dynamic there at play , but I wouldn’t say that it is an issue that has risen to the level of their sparring over health care , or even their sparring over the opioid crisis and and how Baldwin handled and a particular incident with opioids at state veterans hospitals a few years ago . What was that . So what happened there was in 2015 . There was a scandal about aid , a doctor at the VA over-prescribing opioids Baldwin has acknowledged that things didn’t go as they should she disciplined , a member of her staff but look saying look Baldwin didn’t do enough to stand up for Wisconsin veterans and so she says that kind of leadership is really inexcusable and and now what we need right now , what do the polls say . The polls are really interesting because we had a new poll come out this week that has Baldwin with an 11 point lead , which is a major shift from the last poll . We got which I had her just out by 2 last month . So these issues and in this debate over the past month at least in this survey have have worked in Baldwin‘s favor .
You know you mentioned the governor Scott Walker , who is definitely a conservative Republican in Wisconsin. We also think of Wisconsin as the state that produced Russ Feingold , who was a very liberal Democrat . Why do you think Wisconsin has these 2 opposite sides of the political spectrum that managed to get elected .
It’s just that’s the million dollar question , there are these incredibly strong incredibly different political forces at work here. Wisconsin has that progressive history whisk .