Democratic gubernatorial debate

The eight Democrats running for governor met for the first time in a televised debate Thursday night and mostly went after Republican Gov. Scott Walker. PHOTO BY MATTHEW DEFOUR/STATE JOURNAL

We won’t pick a winner in the first televised debate between the eight remaining contenders for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, but we will say that the candidates who said they would work to undo the flawed Foxconn deal made vital points.

The scheme to trade away billions of tax dollars as well as environmental protections and precious fresh water to the Taiwanese corporation — in return for fluctuating commitments to develop a factory complex in southeastern Wisconsin — is fundamentally flawed. Former state Rep. Kelda Roys explained the problem well when she said: “There are a lot of politicians that want to give our money away in big, corporate deals like Foxconn, but ultimately we can’t pay companies to create jobs.” Roys called for smart economic development strategies that invest in the creation of circumstances where all sorts of companies can grow and “create family-sustaining jobs.”

She got that right, just as Madison Mayor Paul Soglin was right to rip into Walker for making a very bad deal. "The governor doesn't know what he's doing,” said Soglin. “We'd like to know what he was smoking when he negotiated this deal. In China, they're laughing at us."

Former state Democratic Party Chair Matt Flynn, a prominent attorney, decried the massive giveaway of taxpayer funds to a foreign corporation as an example of "criminal negligence" on the part of Gov. Scott Walker and his cronies. Flynn promised to mount a lawsuit to nullify the contract.

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We were disappointed that another candidate, state Superintendent Tony Evers, distanced himself from proposals to get our billions back. Evers is wrong to adopt a weak negotiating stance. That does not mean Foxconn should be chased away. But it does mean that the governor who replaces Walker should be ready to demand that Foxconn and other firms pay their taxes, respect our laws, and recognize that Wisconsin is a great place to do business — not a state that should be hustled for a multibillion-dollar government handout.

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