Rep. Kind talks politics ‘On the Issues,’ will not run for governor

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The economy, bipartisanship and questions about his rumored run for governor were at the forefront of conversation this Thursday when State Representative Ron Kind went “On the Issues” with Mike Gousha, distinguished fellow in law and public policy at Marquette.

Kind, a self-described “centrist” Democrat representing Wisconsin’s third congressional district, which includes much of western Wisconsin, discussed both state and national political issues with Gousha at Eckstein Hall. After pressing questions from Gousha, Kind stated that he would not, in fact, run for governor against Scott Walker in the likely recall election.

“I’ve always had an interest in serving as governor of this great state,” Kind said. “But I’ve got a full plate right now. I care deeply about the future of my home state, and nothing concerns me more than what I’ve seen happen here in the past year.”

While Kind does not intend to run for governor, he talked about the importance of bipartisanship in Wisconsin’s politically polarized climate. He stated that compromise was needed, especially to revitalize Wisconsin’s economy and create health care reform.

“Families are going to suffer because of rising health care costs,” Kind said. “There are solutions to all of this that we need to explore.”

While Wisconsin has had a hyper-partisan political atmosphere in recent years, political partisanship is not unique to the state or this particular time period, Kind said. He described the atmosphere in Washington, both now and during his first term in 1997, as polarized.

“Its no secret that politics is a contact sport,” Kind said. “I was a little surprised by how hyper-partisan the atmosphere in Washington was in 1997, during Speaker (Newt) Gingrich’s reign.”

Kind, who said he is the “fifth most independent voter in the House,” claimed that he was proud being a moderate Democrat despite working in an environment that favors partisanship.

“I’ve seen many of my colleagues across the aisle who did not get re-elected because they were not extreme enough for their district,” Kind said. “Moderate(s) in both parties are getting wiped out. And then there is very little incentive for them to be bipartisan when they are elected.”

Despite a painful year for Wisconsin Democrats after the 2010 elections, Kind said that it is “not a lost year” for the party. He said it is likely that President Obama will take Wisconsin in the 2012 presidential race.

Given the rise of political action committees (PACs) and Super PACs being used to fund campaigns in this election cycle, Kind announced that he will introduce legislation next week to reform campaign spending. He said the legislation would require presidential candidates to campaign “without money changing hands.”

“I think at the very least we should have transparency,” Kind said. “I fear that it will take some kind of scandal for real campaign spending reform to finally happen.”

Audience questioning included a query from Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, and members of the crowd asked Kind his position on issues ranging from tax reform to foreign policy, particularly concerning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Barrett asked Kind about the cuts made to Wisconsin public education given the importance of public and private universities in Wisconsin.

“I’m very proud to represent a region that has so much emphasis and focus on education,” Kind said. “There are several universities in my district. We need to make sure that those doors remain open.”

Tom Pokorney, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said that Kind’s remarks were refreshingly nonpartisan and clear.

“He stated that he was more concerned with the needs of the American public rather than the wants of his party leadership, and I think his voting record proves that,” Pokorney said. “He seemed like he was pretty fed up with how Congress is working these days and is determined to break the mold, which is very encouraging to see as someone who is also fed up with it.”