There are a lot of Democratic candidates for the 2018 Wisconsin race for governor, and most are in their 50s, 60s and 70s. Some Republicans think that benefits Gov. Scott Walker, a member of Generation X.
“Lacking young candidates with energy and ideas to reinvigorate their party, Wisconsin Democrats find themselves struggling to reach younger voters with older, out-of-touch gubernatorial candidates, causing a ‘generational divide’ that weakens the party,” a release from the Republican Governor’s Association said on Tuesday.
At 38, Kelda Roys is one of the youngest Democratic candidates. But in an interview on Sunday political talk show “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” she didn’t highlight her age to set herself apart. Instead, she pointed to family issues like paid paternity leave and abortion rights.
Roys served as a state representative for four years and is the CEO and founder of OpenHomes, a real estate tech company. She ran for Congress in 2012, but lost to Rep. Mark Pocan in the Democratic primary.
She called the wide field of Democratic candidates “wonderful” and said it was evidence of the “energy that we have as Democrats and how vulnerable our current governor is.”
She said that she believes there are a lot of shared values among the candidates, like supporting public schools and providing health care for everyone.
But she said she’s also “very much in touch with issues that face voters that I think don’t get a lot of play,” listing paid family leave and affordable child care as examples. As a parent of young children, she said she believes “every single parent deserves time to bond with a new baby.”
“I happen to be the only pro-choice woman in the race … our (Democratic) electorate does tend towards women and we’re a party of reproductive rights,” she said.
State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout is also running for governor and has said she is pro-choice, although she has a tricky history with abortion rights.
In the past, Vinehout worked with Democrats for Life, an anti-abortion group, and seemed to move toward a more pro-life stance. But earlier this year, Vinehout staff told Rewire that she worked with Democrats for Life “on issues of common interest — women’s access to health care, family planning and contraceptives,” and that she “has always been pro-choice since her younger years.”
There are two other women in the Democratic primary: Ramona Whiteaker, a photographer from Stoughton and Michelle Doolan, a hair salon owner and PTO president from Cross Plains. Whiteaker could not be reached immediately for comment about her stance on abortion. Doolan responded, saying she is "absolutely pro-choice."
"I simply recognize that leading my campaign with typical party talking points will overshadow my desire to see democracy restored by giving voters as much insight into what they could expect from me as their governor should I have the privilege of being their choice," she wrote in an email. "And as abortion is still legal, that is a matter for courts and not the very first thing that would need my attention as Governor."
Along with her parenting experience, Roys pointed to her experience starting a small business, saying it proves that she knows "how hard it is to be successful,” and said that among states, Wisconsin has been “dead last in new startups.”
“I would like to see Wisconsin become much more focused on the needs of small businesses rather than the biggest corporations that already have billions of dollars of capital,” she said.
She called the deal to bring Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn to the state Walker’s “Hail Mary pass,” saying the $3 billion incentive package could have been better spent in areas like public schools or improving the state’s roads.
“(Walker said) ‘I’m desperate, I’ve got to have something to talk about if I want to get re-elected,'” she said. “He didn’t have anything else he could point to.”
She said that over Walker’s eight-year tenure as governor, the state has seen “massive giveaways to his political donors” and “biggest corporations and the wealthiest getting an ever- larger share of not just the benefits of the economy but also our public resources.”
"Madison extremist Kelda Roys was rejected for her far-left views by Madison voters in 2012," Republican Party of Wisconsin spokesman Alec Zimmerman said in December. "While Governor Scott Walker has fought to return power to hard-working Wisconsin taxpayers, Roys’ positions on taxing small businesses and other issues are too liberal even for Madison — and too extreme for Wisconsin."