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Democrats Vie for Pasch’s Former Assembly Seat

Bowen, Grant, Johann and Torhorst are on the Aug. 12 ballot

Jul. 23, 2014
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Democratic state Rep. Sandy Pasch announced earlier this year that she would not seek another term in office, which presents a huge opportunity for up-and-coming leaders. Four Democrats will be on the Aug. 12 primary ballot to represent Assembly District 10, which encompasses Shorewood, the North Side of Milwaukee and parts of Glendale. No Republican is running for this seat. Here’s what David Bowen, Bria Grant, Sara Lee Johann and Tia Torhorst had to say:


David Bowen

David Bowen has represented Milwaukee County’s District 10 for more than two years and is the lead author of the county’s new living wage ordinance, which requires employees of companies doing business with the county to be paid $11.32 an hour. County Executive Chris Abele vetoed the measure, but the board overrode it 12-6. Abele then lobbied the Legislature to prevent communities from enacting living wage ordinances, Bowen noted, but no bill came up for a vote.

“The policy focuses on economic inequality and ensures that Milwaukee County is not perpetuating poverty-wage jobs, but that we are working with companies and our own employees and ensuring that they are above the level of poverty,” Bowen said.

Bowen also helped to ensure that funding was maintained for the Biddle-Lipscomb Ready to Work Initiative because it has provided training for an estimated 500 workers who are now employed in jobs averaging $18 an hour.

“It’s a great piece of policy and I wanted to make it accountable and renewed,” Bowen said. “It was actually placed on the chopping block by the county executive. I wanted to make sure—especially with Milwaukee and our region being known for manufacturing and construction—that we continue training individuals in these fields.”

If elected to the Assembly, Bowen said he would focus on providing access to affordable health care, investing in public education and ensuring that metropolitan areas have tools to grow economically, such as public transit.

“We have to come together on commonsense policies and decisions,” Bowen said. “And not make decisions because we want to make a political point.”

Bowen said he opposes voucher schools and wants to provide adequate funding for public education and job training.

“A number of people on the other side—and I guess some Democrats too—are in favor of privatizing education,” Bowen said. “That is not my position. I will not take insight from the same individuals who have sought to take the resources from education, then point the finger and say it’s failed, and turn over control to those same private, wealthy special interests.”

Bowen is pro-choice, wants to ensure that state investments in Milwaukee include the city’s poorest residents, and says that the state needs to do more for incarcerated individuals and ex-offenders returning to the community.

“We must be bolder for this community when you have individuals engaging in violence and putting their lives on the line for crimes to make money,” Bowen said.

To learn more about David Bowen, go to bowen4action.com.

Bria Grant

Bria Grant is a substance abuse counselor who has worked with local social service agencies and community and faith-based organizations to develop programming and serve those with addictions. She has also served as a community outreach coordinator for the fourth state Senate District. She said she is running for Assembly District 10 because she isn’t a typical politician.

“We don’t need more politicians,” Grant said. “We need people who reflect public service. I am a public servant. My resume reflects that. My relationships in the community reflect that. We are in such a dire straits. When I am doing doors in Shorewood the concerns of just about every resident that I touch are Milwaukee and the crime and the unemployment and the educational gap. We need a legislator that is going to be able to address all of those issues, in addition to being able to work with our government system and colleagues on both sides of the aisle, being able to be innovative in developing revenue streams for our state. I believe I am that candidate and that is why I am running.”

Her top priorities are education, justice reinvestment and economic development.

She said she wants all schools in the state to adhere to the same standards and testing requirements. She said it would be irresponsible to end the voucher program without a strong transition plan for its students.

“There are eight [educational] options in the state,” Grant said. “I believe that an option that works for a family is an option that we need to ensure has quality standards so that we can ensure that our children can compete globally. A voucher is one of many options. Because the system has been in place for 25 years it would be irresponsible to go in with the thought of dismantling it. In addition, we do not have the ability to absorb [in MPS] the 23,000 students in the voucher system currently.”

She said she would like to cut funding for the Department of Corrections and reallocate those funds for supportive programs and easy access for job training. She also questioned the state’s investment in freeways. She’d also like to decriminalize cannabis because those arrests disproportionately impact African Americans.

“We want to make sure that they are not being unnecessarily incarcerated due to these types of coping mechanisms,” Grant said.

Grant said she wants to spur job growth by implementing an urban forestry manufacturing program and boost the freshwater industry in Milwaukee. But, she said, a strong education system is key to ensuring that Wisconsin has robust job growth.

“We want to make sure that we have appropriate job-readiness programs, programs that aren’t constrained with a lot of barriers for individuals who need them from being able to participate in those programs,” Grant said. “I believe education is the key, starting with elementary school and exposing our young people to career options to instill in them a work ethic.”

Grant opposes voter ID and supports a women’s right to choose an abortion.

To learn more about Bria Grant, go to grant4assembly.com.

Sara Lee Johann

Sara Lee Johann is an attorney and author. Johann has been involved in Democratic Party politics for 40 years and was active in recent Assembly races and the recall campaigns. 

“I’ve always been committed to public service and I feel that at this point in my life it’s really, really important that people like me get elected because we have a long tradition and history in progressive causes and the Democratic Party,” Johann said.

Johann’s top priority is fighting poverty so that those who use the public safety net can become independent wage earners and stimulate the economy.

“Part of the reason for poverty is that so many people are earning minimum wage or very little more than that,” Johann said. “I would raise the minimum wage immediately to $10.10 an hour and then look at a living wage of $15 an hour as soon as possible.”

She said she’d like the state to provide more support to small businesses in the form of loans for start-ups.

Johann said she’s a strong supporter of public schools and would like to restore the funding that had been cut during Walker’s tenure and then adjust those funds for inflation.

“I don’t oppose voucher schools but I think they should be heavily regulated,” Johann said. “They should meet the same standards as the public schools.”

Johann said that she opposes taking away a woman’s right to choose an abortion and supports access to birth control, but that she, personally, is pro-life.

“I am very strongly pro-life,” Johann said. “As a national expert on the abuse of women and children who has written four law books on the topic of domestic abuse, I see abortion primarily as the abuse of the woman and abuse of the child. However, I am not for taking away a woman’s right to choose.”

Johann called Act 10, Walker’s collective bargaining bill, “a disaster.” She said she’d like to change the tax structure to reduce taxes for low-income earners and ensure that wealthier people are paying their fair share. She said she’d like to draw down more federal funding for public services, such as fully expanding Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act.

“I think we need adjustments to who is paying for some of these public costs,” Johann said.

For more information about Sara Lee Johann, go to saraleejohannforassembly.com.


Tia Torhorst

Tia Torhorst is the political director for Abele’s campaign and served as his director of legislative affairs from May 2011 to January 2013. As his political director, Torhorst is setting up Abele’s 2016 re-election bid.

Torhorst said she is running for Assembly because she would like to see more women in office, a cause she has advocated for 15 years.

“I believe women, when at tables—whether it’s public, private or elective office tables—change the conversation,” Torhorst said. “We often collaborate differently and work differently and we care about issues that are more kitchen-table issues.”

Torhorst’s top priorities are a strong public education system, jobs and job training and safer neighborhoods.

She said she wants to restore the money Walker cut from public education and invest additional funds to ensure that art, music and languages are taught.

“We need to train small brains so that they can think creatively when they get out in the workforce and are able to adapt when jobs change and when they find themselves in circumstances that they couldn’t predict,” Torhorst said. “We need to create creative thinkers.”

Torhorst said the state needs to do a better job of connecting trained workers to companies that are hiring.

“And if they have access to those jobs, we need to make sure they have the skills for them, both the hard skills and the soft skills,” Torhorst said.

She said the state needs to ensure adequate funding for law enforcement, the criminal justice system, the courts and district attorneys, and support systems for offenders and ex-offenders.

Torhorst said that she’d like to invite outstate Republican legislators to the district so that they can understand the needs facing Milwaukeeans.

“So that when they’re making decisions that they are going to continue to cut Milwaukee, I can remind them of the people they have met so that they have a personal face to put with their cuts,” Torhorst said. “I think it’s easy to make a cut when you don’t know the person.”

Torhorst opposes vouchers and says the state needs to oversee them so that voucher schools are transparent and accountable.

Torhorst is a board member of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and opposes the cuts the state has made to its cancer screenings and pregnancy care programs.

She said Act 10 has created a tremendous burden on the finances and morale of public employees.

“We need to restore collective bargaining so that employees feel valued and have a place at the table,” she said.

To learn more about Tia Torhorst, go to votefortia.com.


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