Eau Claire hosted several gubernatorial candidates Saturday, so voters could get to know the people hoping to be Wisconsin's next governor.
Seven candidates were welcomed by the Citizen Action Organizing Cooperative of Western Wisconsin to the Eau Claire Children's Theater. They all had one major goal: to become Wisconsin's next governor, a position that has been occupied by Republican Scott Walker since 2010.
"We have, which is a great thing, many candidates on the [Democratic} side. So, hopefully we can distinguish ourselves from other candidates, but more importantly just to convey our message and what we want to do for the state," said candidate Mahlon Mitchell.
Locals asked questions about major state-wide issues like the environment, economy and employment rates.
"If Wisconsin was just doing as well as our neighboring states here in the Great Lakes region and producing green energy jobs, more than 30,000 additional people would be employed in that sector," said candidate Mike McCabe. "That is what we can do for our environment and our economy."
Mitchell emphasized fully funding the DNR to protect natural resources. Candidate Dana Wachs agreed that renewable energy, like wind, solar and bio-digesters, should be incentivized to protect and improve the environment.
"It's time that we move into this century," said Wachs. "I don't know what these guys are thinking about with this constant fossil fuel fixation. But, we are going to incentivize these practices and we're moving forward."
Lack of funding for education was also addressed at the forum.
"We are going to get people back into our communities," said candidate Paul Soglin. "We are going to put it into the university system. And we are going to raise taxes to pay for public schools."
Another hot topic included health care reform, more specifically, the reformation of Medicare and BadgerCare.
"Right now it is for people with limited means, but the fact is, that with a fair premium paid in, it should be opened to everybody," said candidate Matt Flynn. "It is a short-term fix to the public option. The long-term fix is a strong governor, advocating for Medicare to cover everybody from birth."
Candidate Kelda Roys said if she's governor, she hopes to expand BadgerCare to over 80,000 Wisconsinites. And Mitchell said it's not just a political issue to him.
"My mother's a diabetic. There should never be a time where a senior has to choose between paying prescription drugs or paying rent on a mortgage," said Mitchell. "We need to make sure that there's never a time where a child cannot go to the hospital because their parents can't afford it."
For more than two hours, the candidates made statements and answered the public's questions as to why they are the best fit for governor.
"We need real plans, like I tried to articulate before, real plans that create those jobs; real plans that get us back to great education," said candidate Andy Gronik. "That's what we need, because we have 30 seconds, folks, to connect with people all over the state of Wisconsin. That's it. And if we can't convince them that we have the best plan to make their lives better, bet used to more of the same from Governor Walker."
Governor Walker's team responded to the forum, saying in a statement -
"The democrat primary for Governor continues to hit new lows as their candidates demonstrate how truly out of touch they are with Wisconsin families - look no further than a candidate having to call into today's forum while fundraising in California. While Democrats struggle to sell voters on more of the same failed polices of yesterday, the governor is focused on real results and getting positive things done for Wisconsin, with more people working than ever before, unemployment at an all-time low, Wisconsin businesses expanding, and historic investments in our classrooms."
But before any of the candidates who were in Eau Claire on Saturday will have a chance against Governor Walker, they will have to face each other in the Democratic Party primary on August, 14. The general election will be on November, 6.