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Democrats Vying for Wisconsin's 25th Senate District Talk Mining

Updated: 07/23/2014 10:38 PM
Created: 07/23/2014 10:04 PM WDIO.com
By: Maarja Anderson

State Senator Bob Jauch will retire this year, putting the 25th Senate District up for grabs. Three democrats vying for the seat participated in a debate Wednesday to share their views.

The 25th Senate District covers all of Douglas, Ashland, Bayfield, Iron, Price, Washburn, and Barron counties, and parts of Sawyer, Burnett, Polk, Dunn, Pierce, St. Croix and Vilas counties.

Covering nearly all of northwestern Wisconsin, mining was a hot issue at Wednesday's debate.

And the panel of journalists didn't take long to jump right into the issue. Mining made up the first three questions.

Gary Kauther is a business man from Poplar. He said the current mining legislation is smothered with over regulation, delaying putting people to work.

"We have a perfect example in Minnesota, there's many mines up there still going and there aren't these problems that people say are going to be there and I think we really need to progress with this," he said.

The panel mostly asked questions concerning the EPA's involvement and the current mining legislation.

Representative Janet Bewley of Ashland currently represents the 74th Assembly District, but is now running state senate. She used her experience in the legislature helping try to craft a sound bill, but she said that state hasn't reached the needed balance yet.

"It was clear the intention was not to merely make it more efficient. They wanted to rewrite the entire mining bill to include weakening environmental standards, weakening local participation, and denying local communities access to the revenues they deserve," said the representative.

Bewley said she maintains zero tolerance for environmental degradation.

Tom Ratzlaff is the mayor of Park Falls, Wisconsin. He said mining can be done within the confines of the current mining bill.

"I mean, we've gone to the moon and you're telling me we can't mine today, in this day in age, really? Are people going to stop driving their cars? Are you going to stop cooking on your stoves? Are we going to stop building buildings like this? It all requires iron. We just need to figure out how to do it and do it right," said Ratzlaff.

Mining may have opened the show, but school funding and support of the arts also came up. All three candidates opposed privatization of positions at UW-Superior. As for funding for broadband in the north, Bewley and Ratzlaff were for state help, while Kauther said it should be up to the private sector.

The winner of the August 12 primary election will face Republican Dane Deutsch of Rice Lake in the November general election.

Eyewitness News will share coverage from the 74th Assembly seat debate Thursday.

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