For the past year, I have been traveling throughout Wisconsin, meeting with everyone who would talk to me, and listening to their concerns and their hopes for a better future. Over and over, I hear about disappointment. Disappointment about the political system here, about the changes that have taken place in recent years, and about the anxieties those changes have produced. But I also hear about their optimism, and faith in their neighbors. The hardworking people of Wisconsin know that it is not too late for change if we come together.
We do not have to cede our state or our future to career politicians, corporations, special interest groups, or rich ideologues. We are Wisconsin. This state is ours. We will take it back.
We will take back the democratic process, pushing to restore voter registration to healthy levels. We will take back our infrastructure; increasing investment in our roads, bridges and public transportation, and in the people who build and maintain them. We will take back our schools, supporting the children who are the future of Wisconsin. We will take back our rights; including workers’ rights like the right to collective bargaining, and the rights of career civil servants to support the state without fear of political reprisal for telling our citizens the truth. We will take back our right to think, embracing science and expertise, and not condemning progress. We will take back our environment, because there is no point to unencumbered economic freedom if it means living without the freedom to breathe clean air or drink clean water. And we will take back our bodies, because your body is your own business, not the state’s.
Everything I will fight for as your Governor was shaped by my own story. I was born and raised in Kenosha to a happy middle-class family. My father was a computer programmer and high school principal, and my mother stayed home to take care of me and my younger siblings.
But when I was only 14, my father passed away from a sudden heart attack. He had been our sole breadwinner. So I went to work to help support my family, as so many other Wisconsinites must do each year. And as is the case for too many families in our state, we lived paycheck to paycheck. I’ll never forget our whole family taken down with the flu and unable to afford basic healthcare, watching my mom crying and imploring our family doctor for access to generic antibiotics.
I was 20 years old, my brother and sister still in high school, when my father’s Social Security death benefits ran out. I put off my dreams of college and law school, and drove my red Ford Ranger to the Onalaska support office for Festival Foods, where I had been working part-time, to beg for full-time hours. Soon I was in a management position supporting store expansion, among other responsibilities, which moved me around the state. As devastating as this time was for me and for our family, it was then that I fell deeply in love with every corner of Wisconsin. It’s a state in which individual towns and communities might be different, but which all are tied together by shared core values of community, families and hard work.
It was only a few years later that my family was challenged once more when we lost my mom to cancer. In one of our last conversations, she held my hand and made me promise her that if I made it to law school, I would dedicate my life to helping families like ours who had fallen through the cracks. I’m running now to fulfill that promise.
After my mom’s passing, I attended the University of Wisconsin — Eau Claire, and then Suffolk Law School in Boston. Graduating in the aftermath of the financial crisis, I went straight to work on Capitol Hill, helping protect homeowners and working families. After that, I took a job in the private sector working for a global company, but always remained active in public service and politics.
I have lived in Wisconsin in good times and bad, and while I wouldn’t wish the bad times on anyone, I have to admit that I learned a lot more from them. They gave me the empathy and commitment to helping others that have informed my choices and have now led me to run for Governor. We are lucky to live in a land that allows me -a person you’re only just beginning to know — to run for office. I’m running because our state deserves a leader who will empower people to pursue their dreams and support their neighbors.
In the coming days, I will announce my listening tour, a formal roll-out of the conversations I’ve had with so many of you in the past year. I will be visiting every one of Wisconsin’s 72 counties to hear your concerns. We must use our government to support all Wisconsin residents.
I’m also creating a business advisory board to produce a pro-growth, progressive agenda that will aim to inspire entrepreneurship and attract high-paying jobs to the state while retaining the great talent that is already here.
Throughout the course of the campaign, we will present a new vision instead of re-litigating old fights. I hope to make the case throughout Wisconsin that I am the right leader to serve the people of this state. It’s why my slogan and my campaign put the people front and center. Because we should remember what the ‘pol’ in politics stands for, and for whom our government is meant to provide.
We are Wisconsin, and I look forward to us working together.
This blog post was originally published April 26, 2018 on Medium.