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Much of the public comment surrounding Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker's bold decision to clear the way for Mark Green in the race for governor has focused on the financial and campaign implications leading up to the November general election. Still, there remains an undercurrent of muttering among Southeast Wisconsin grassroots fiscal conservatives as to whether we should be as enthusiastic in our support of Green as we likely would have been for Walker. The answer is an unqualified, "Yes!" (Note the exclamation point). Now, let's put some of those nagging concerns to rest.
What about ethanol?
Hey, we won! The ethanol mandate is yesterday's news. And if it raises its ugly head again grassroots conservatives will slap it back down.
After extensive debate with Green on the issue, I find his support anything but dogmatic. While many conservatives focus on the inappropriateness of mandates (and rightfully so), Green's position seems born of a visceral desire to promote homeland security and energy independence. These are all bedrock conservative issues. The only true disagreement is how to get there.
When dealing with a proven fiscal conservative like Mark Green, obsessing over one position out of hundreds is counterproductive.
On an optimistic note, what I found most endearing and "Walker-esque," if you will, about Green is his willingness to engage in respectful debate and weigh new information. I am not talking about the "handshake, smile, and 30-second sound bite" you get from some politicians. Mark Green cares about what people think.
Taxes, taxes, and more taxes
With the possible exception of those who may have just awakened from a four-year coma, everyone knows the number one political issue within Milwaukee-area governance and perhaps all of southeastern Wisconsin is taxation. If you live in the city of Milwaukee you pay city taxes, county taxes, public school taxes, MMSD taxes, technical college taxes, stadium taxes, convention center taxes, and airport taxes among others -- don't even get me started about fees.
Area politicians such as Walker, Sen. Glenn Grothman and Rep. Mark Honadel have all won improbable yet convincing races riding the tax horse. All have had extensive grassroots support. We know, love, and, at times, beatify these leaders not only for their work, but for the way they empower the grassroots movement and provide a refreshing oasis of accomplishment in what was formerly a desert of apathy and despair.
While these victories were happening with great fanfare in southeastern Wisconsin, our neighbors to the north elected a public servant to the state Legislature and then Congress who was quietly doing much of the same work: Mark Green. Among his many quality wins are a plethora of state and national bills and budgets that provide billions in tax relief.
I have heard some Milwaukee-area grassroots faithful refer to Green as "Walker Lite" in deference to their hometown hero. Make no mistake; Mark Green is a robust and unique conservative brew, but every bit as "less taxing" and "legislatively great."
But give us a grassroots hero
Scott Walker has become the stuff of legend among grassroots fiscal conservatives in the metro Milwaukee area. We know him, shared the joy of victory, and made many new friends as part of that experience.
However, in the process of building a statewide grassroots network, I have had the pleasure of meeting a great cross-section of Wisconsinites. The notion that there is some sort of palpable difference between folks in different parts of Wisconsin is largely a myth fabricated by those bent on maintaining the political status quo. Yes, there was trepidation upon first meeting, but that slowly and surely dissolved as we learned the truth about each other.
For many of our fellow Wisconsinites, Mark Green is a grassroots hero as well, and they stand with him much as we stood with Walker. Now that we are down to a single hero in the race for governor, their experience and fervor should be reassuring and a constant reminder we are all in this together. Get to know Mark Green. Reach out to him and his supporters as they reach back. All I can promise is you will make new friends and share in the pride and joy of another victory much as we have done in the past.
Chris Kliesmet is the executive administrator of CRG Network, the statewide organizing unit of Citizens for Responsible Government.
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