Wisconsinites may not have heard of Bob Harlow, but he’s got big plans for the state: he wants to create 35,000 new jobs, build a 200 mph rail system, give 1 gigabyte internet to every home and reverse Act 10.
Harlow, a 25-year-old with a physics degree, is the only declared Democratic contender for the 2018 governor’s race. He appeared on a recent episode of Capital City Sunday, where host Greg Neumann challenged him to back up his sweeping campaign promises.
“I think to a lot of people, they would seem like they might be far-fetched ideas, and they might be ideas that would be hard to accomplish,” Neumann said.
Harlow said that in his travels, he’s seen businesses, jobs and people leaving Wisconsin because of lack of opportunity, and wants to focus on building a strong economic future for the state. He’s created an eight-point plan to accomplish this.
The first point of that plan is to build a 200 mph rail system that Harlow said will bring 35,000 jobs to the state.
“Businesses invest, and people come to invest and live in states where you have good infrastructure, fast communications, fast transportations,” Harlow said. “That’s what sets up your economy to be strong.”
The railway would be a partnership between Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois, he said.
“All of Wisconsin’s cities will be connected to Chicago and Minneapolis and you’ll be able to get anywhere in that network in three hours,” Harlow said.
Neumann said that the project sounded expensive.
“You might think that,” Harlow said, but went on to explain that the cost of construction could be paid off over 30 years based on ridership projections.
He said the rail system would make money for Wisconsin by encouraging economic growth, creating jobs and by helping people save their personal finances by providing cheaper transportation.
He also had confidence in the willingness of Illinois and Minnesota to cooperate with the plan.
“Those states have the interest of making their states’ economies strong,” he said, and will want to give their residents easy access to neighboring states.
“I think it will be clear that there is a huge benefit for our states making a shared investment and sharing in the economic rewards,” he said.
Harlow’s eight-point plan also calls for full health care coverage for everyone in Wisconsin. It would cost individuals no more than 9 percent of their income, with the ability to choose any specialist or doctor.
Harlow said he aims to do this by requiring every health insurance company to provide coverage all over the state, creating more competition.
“Companies can’t just cut out zip codes that aren’t profitable to them, and that way sort of discriminate discreetly against preexisting conditions,” he said. “If you sell insurance in the state of Wisconsin, you need to offer that insurance to every zip code for the same cost.”
The plan would also offer a public insurance program to compete in the marketplace, and will “keep private insurance honest,” he said.
Asked how he would create jobs in the state, Harlow said he would set up citizens for success through educational opportunities and make Wisconsin attractive for businesses and professionals.
Harlow said he’s eager to work with everyone on the political spectrum and get to know them as people to create a “collaborative political environment.”
“I think that I would like to create a new culture in Madison. I will sit down and have coffee with everybody and anybody, more or less,” he said.
At the end of the interview, Neumann asked Harlow about why he is motivated to run for governor.
“Why take this on? I’m very curious,” Neumann said. “You’re going to be going against people who are probably going to have more funding, who have a lot of political experience.”
Harlow took issue with the comment on funding, saying, “I wouldn’t bet that they would have more funding at this point.”
He explained that he’s built strong relationships with a number of political and grassroots organizations across the state.
“What kind of groups are you talking to?” Neumann asked.
Harlow hesitated, and then said that there are many progressive groups throughout Wisconsin, and restated that he will talk to anybody on the political spectrum.
When Harlow opened the segment, he said, “I’m a third generation Wisconsinite ... I think that’s really the most important fact why I want to, why I’m running for governor.”