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Is he the last of the GOP moderates?


Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:Oct 15, 2009; Section:Opinion; Page Number:10A    

Republican seeks to take Capitol step

 Davis has ideas for lt. gov. office

 (James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.) 

    We don’t often think of the lieutenant governor in Wisconsin. Let’s face it. In our current form of government, the lieutenant governor has two jobs: pray the governor gets appointed to the Cabinet or to an ambassadorship, and attend fundraisers. It is not exactly a glamorous job.

    State Rep. Brett Davis, R-Oregon, would like to see the lieutenant governor have more responsibility than just being the designated successor in case something happens to the governor. While he has not formally declared his candidacy, Davis is already traveling the state campaigning for the job, and he has given the role of the lieutenant governor a great deal of thought.

    In an interview Tuesday night, Davis said he would like the lieutenant governor to be a more effective position than it is now. He sees the position as one that can help ferret out waste and fraud, such as in the Wisconsin Shares program and the computerization of the UW System payroll.

    “The governor should have the confidence in the lieutenant governor to appoint him or her to those kinds of responsibilities,” Davis said.

    Davis also believes the lieutenant governor should be able to act as a liaison between constituents and the state government. When businesses and citizens try to deal with the government, they often find that government agencies don’t talk with each other.

    “The lieutenant governor should get state agencies out of the silos and working with each other. The Department of Administration should be that role, but they’re too busy doing other things.”

    Finally, the lieutenant governor should be able to fill in for the governor when needed to and effectively articulate the governor’s message.

    “We don’t want to train a lieutenant governor,” Davis said, adding that his experience and abilities make him a natural for the job he describes.

    Davis will be running in the Republican primary, where he will have to overcome the suspicion of some conservatives. It does not help when Madison’s “progressive newspaper,” the Capital Times, just stops short of endorsing his candidacy.

    “He’s a relatively moderate, hard-working legislator who knows state government well and knows how to cross partisan lines in order to get things done.

    “As such, Davis, who has formed an exploratory committee to consider a statewide bid, has the makings of a sound lieutenant governor.”

    Davis laughed at the Capital Times’ kind words. “They never had anything nice to say about me in my Assembly campaigns,” he said.

    The moderate tag was given to Davis when he crossed party lines to vote for Governor Doyle’s budget in 2007. The charge at the time was that Davis traded his vote for a soybean crusher for his district.

    Davis said his vote for the budget was solely on the issue of property taxes, the No. 1 issue of his constituents at the time. He points out that he voted for the earlier conservative Republican bill that passed the Assembly before eventually voting for Doyle’s budget.

    “I would never sell my soul for a soybean crusher,” he said.

    The politician that ultimately claimed credit for getting the soybean crusher was Democratic State Sen. Jon Erpenbach, who even posed with a person dressed in a soybean costume for his constituent newsletter.

    Davis asks Republican voters to look at the scope of his record, saying, “I’m a conservative.”

    Davis claims a 100 percent voting record from Wisconsin Right to Life, the National Rifle Association and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. Davis also came to some prominence for the lead role he took in creating the legislation that saved Wisconsin’s virtual schools.

    Still, the “moderate” charge has stuck – with Milwaukee radio personality Charlie Sykes using it as a reason why Davis should not run for lieutenant governor.

    Davis is not bitter about Sykes’ opposition to his candidacy. “I have a ton of respect for Charlie Sykes,” he said. “He has done so much for the conservative movement.”

    Davis would like to sit down and talk with Sykes about his record, thinking, “Maybe he is just not getting the full picture.”

    Davis believes that when he is given the time to explain his vision for jobs, the budget, taxes, and education in Wisconsin, conservatives will support him.

    If they give him the chance.

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