Green gears up for November

The November 7 election for Wisconsin's next governor may be seven months away, but Republican Rep. Mark Green already smells blood in the water.

During a 45-minute speech last night, which was also the informal kickoff for the nascent political group Students for Green, Green's laid-back demeanor and soft-spoken attitude belied his plan of attack on incumbent Democratic Governor Jim Doyle. Speaking without notes and adopting a relaxed position standing to the left of the podium, Green made retaining educated residents, reforming state education at all levels and immigration issues the coals across which he almost gently raked Doyle.

While softly focused, Green's speech made it clear he has the governor's office in his sights.

"Jim Doyle is considered one of the most vulnerable democratic governorships in the country," Green said. "We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I'm excited about it."

Echoing a message often trumpeted by other politicians such as Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Green warned that Wisconsin must retain the 25- to 30-year-olds he said are leaving if the state is to become the economic and cultural engine of the Midwest.

"We are losing our best and brightest and they're taking their ideas and dreams and energy with them," Green said. "That can't go on."

A key element in creating and keeping these residents, according to Green, is to shore up the Wisconsin's crumbling education platform.

"We have to make sure that every family has a crack at a world-class education at all levels," he said.

Green said he supports school choice as a means to improve public schools, but higher education dominated most of the discussion. He criticized Wisconsin's state universities as overly bureaucratic and redundant and said he'd "squeeze" the multiple administrations and redirect the funds skimmed from trimming their ranks toward research and student services.

"I want to be the governor who rescues the UW System, and I sincerely mean that," Green said. "The UW System was created so almost everybody could have a crack at higher education, and we're losing that. We're losing access."

In response to an audience member's question, Green paraphrased "The World is Flat" author Thomas Friedman in stating his immigration policy: "What we need is a tall fence and a big gate."

The son of immigrants from South Africa and England and a first-generation American, Green said he's prepared to tackle the nation's current immigration crisis.

"Immigration reform is difficult and we're trying to find the right answer. I don't know if anyone (has it), but we're working on it," Green said. He added that he supports "some kind of guest worker program," but doesn't know "what it will look like."

The speech, held in the Alumni Memorial Union, attracted about 35 people.

Samantha Toigo, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences and co-chairman of Students for Green, said her group's status as a student organization is pending approval from Marquette Student Government.