Final Wisconsin senate debate held at MU Law School


Republican Sen. Ron Johnson and former senator, Democrat Russ Feingold, met in their second and final Wisconsin senatorial debate Oct. 18 at Marquette University Law School.

WISN-12 anchor and law school fellow Mike Gousha moderated the event. With the goal of allowing each candidate to fully communicate his point, the rules were simple: each candidate was given the opportunity to respond, but none of their answers were timed. Gousha wanted the debate to be a “discussion.”

Throughout the night, Johnson and Feingold discussed issues of economic security, college affordability, trade, foreign policy, immigration, medical coverage, opioid and heroin addiction and the current presidential election.

The candidates disagreed on all accounts, holding opposite views especially regarding minimum wage and student loans. Feingold expressed his hope to ultimately raise the minimum wage to $15, but Johnson argued the raise would trigger job loss. Feingold spoke of using government funding to eliminate student debt, while Johnson said he wants to utilize technology to lower the cost of tuition.

The debate remained mostly civil, in stark contrast with recent presidential debates, but discussion became more pointed when each candidate accused the other of false claims. Feingold also called out Johnson for not responding directly to the topics at hand and for lacking specific plans for change. Johnson, a strong proponent of limited government, criticized Feingold for responding to problems with more government programs.

Two other major points of contention were Johnson’s backing of Trump and his refusal to consider President Obama’s Supreme Court nominations.

“We know he is going to vote for a man that should clearly not be president,” Feingold said.  He also added Johnson’s politicizing of the Supreme Court should “disqualify” him from the senate position.