SHEBOYGAN – Voters in the 26th Assembly District will choose between incumbent Terry Katsma and challenger Mary Lynne Donohue to represent them in November.
The 26th Assembly District encompasses parts of Sheboygan County, including the city of Sheboygan, Sheboygan Falls, Adell, Oostburg, Cedar Grove and Random Lake.
Donohue, a retired attorney, will face Katsma, who has held the seat since January 2015.
Name: Mary Lynne Donohue
Address: 418 St. Clair Ave., Sheboygan WI 53081
Occupation and highest education level: Retired attorney; Juris Doctor, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Relevant experience: Alderperson, Sheboygan Common Council, 2012-present; currently serving as vice president of council, chairwoman of Finance and Personnel Committee; Sheboygan Area School District Board of Education, 1996-2002, president of board, 2001-2002; Sheboygan Police and Fire Commission, 1999-2003, president, 2002-2003; Sheboygan Civil Service Commission, 2005-2009; service on multiple statewide and local boards of directors, including the State Bar of Wisconsin; Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters; Wisconsin Humanities; John Michael Kohler Arts Center; Sheboygan Public Education Foundation; Sheboygan Head Start; moderator, First Congregational Church; and others.
Name: Terry Katsma
Address: 705 Erie Ave., Oostburg WI 53070
Occupation and highest education level: Current representative for Wisconsin’s 26th Assembly District since 2015. I was born and raised in Sheboygan County and am a graduate of Sheboygan County Christian High School, Dordt College (bachelor’s degree in business administration) and Marquette University (master’s degree in business administration)
Relevant experience: I am a former president and chief executive officer of Oostburg State Bank, where I worked for 33 years.
On more than 20 occasions, I have been the lead author of ideas that have been enacted into state law — including three bills signed into law by Gov. Tony Evers during 2019-20. I serve as a member of the legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee and in the past have been a member of the Assembly Financial Institutions Committee (of which I was chairman during 2017-18), Ways and Means Committee, Housing and Real Estate Committee, Workforce Development Committee and Consumer Protection Committee.
I have served as an Oostburg village trustee; on the boards of several area Christian schools; as a member of the Sheboygan County Local Emergency Planning Committee; as a member of Sheboygan, Oostburg and Random Lake chambers of commerce; as an elder in the Oostburg Christian Reformed Church.
We asked both candidates to answer the following questions, limiting their responses to 100 words. Here is what they told us.
Why are you running for office?
Donohue: Back in 2011, the Republicans severely gerrymandered the 26th District, cutting the city in half to make sure that Republicans would retain control. So having a strong Democratic voice in an electoral race is particularly important. In mid-May this year, when it looked like no one was going to run against the incumbent, I jumped in, collected 550 signatures in 10 COVID-19-restricted days and started to speak up on issues that matter to residents of the district. I’ve lived here for many years, love this district and the people who live here, and will be a strong voice for them.
Katsma: I am running for office to have an influence in Madison that will make Sheboygan County a better place to live, work, play and get an education.
What makes you the better candidate in this race?
Donohue: I am experienced, I am smart and I’m not afraid to stand up to power. I learned a lot in my 33 years practicing law. I learned how to be a problem-solver and how to work with other people to get things done, even if I didn’t particularly like them or what they stood for. And I learned how to stand up for what was right and just for my clients. I mean no disrespect to Rep. Katsma, but his silence and inaction on issues confronting us now does not serve the residents of the 26th District.
Katsma: I am the better candidate in this race because I share the values of the majority of people in Sheboygan County. I stand for the sanctity of human life, from conception to final breath. I stand with our brave police officers and first responders; I’ll resist efforts to de-fund them; and I share their opposition to legalizing recreational drug use. I support the Second Amendment and will resist efforts to diminish the right of self defense. I support a strong K-12 educational program by providing choices to parents who know how to decide what is best for their children.
What are residents telling you are their most important issues, and how would you address them?
Donohue: People that I am hearing from are afraid and angry. They are afraid of not making their rent or utility payments. Parents are afraid to send their children back to school, but afraid if they stay home any longer, their education will suffer. They’re afraid of getting sick at work or losing their health insurance. They are angry about not being heard in Madison. People are appalled at the inaction in the state legislature, and angry about the way the district maps are drawn, which takes their voice away. We need to fix this now.
Katsma: As I am out talking to people, I am hearing about the importance of in-person school attendance. Parents, teachers and health professionals have come to realize the shortcomings of virtual learning and many other unintended consequences of shutting down our state. Residents are also concerned with the lack of civility among the major political parties as well as the violence that has engulfed neighborhoods that are very close to home. Throughout my career and in my six years in the state legislature, I have demonstrated the ability and willingness to work with opposing sides to reach compromise and progress.
What are the top two issues the Legislature should address?
Donohue: First, until redistricting is done in a fair, non-partisan manner, the Legislature will not truly represent the people. We need an independent, non-political redistricting commission — like Iowa’s model. Second, voting must be a simple, easily accessible and safe process. The Legislature must make the voter registration process user-friendly, provide resources to communities to help voters get picture IDs, make absentee voting more accessible, and expand early voting opportunities. Fair districts and non-burdensome voting make democracy strong. Then, the Legislature can get busy and do the people’s work — education, roads, health care — the things that make Wisconsin a great state.
Katsma: The top issues the Legislature should address are in the budget. As a member of the Joint Finance Committee, I have a seat at the table and participate in the debate, discussion and decision-making for the direction of our state. This next budget will be particularly challenging because we expect higher costs to continue services at the same time when we expect lower revenues as a result of the economic downturn. It is urgent that the legislative and executive branches work together like we did in the 2019-21 budget to get the Wisconsin economy open and strong again.
What should the Legislature be doing to help address the COVID-19 pandemic?
Donohue: To its credit, the Legislature, in a truly bipartisan process, passed a bill in mid-April that was helpful in addressing the extraordinary challenges of the pandemic. But that’s where it stopped. Its next substantive step was to sue the Department of Health Services to overturn the effective safer-at-home order. The Legislature had no plan of its own, and seemed surprised when the Supreme Court refused to give it time to develop one. In the end, the Republicans gave up, turned it over to our 72 county governments, with each having its own plan. In my world, that’s malpractice.
Katsma: We took several very important steps right away, like waiving the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits, enabling the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) to staff up as needed, expanding SeniorCare to cover vaccinations and giving people more time to pay their taxes. I think one of the next things the legislature will do is to limit liability. This will help businesses, non-profits, senior care facilities, schools, etc., to reopen with confidence and without the threat of frivolous lawsuits. This will also help to lower unemployment.
What can it do to help those affected by the pandemic?
Donohue: The Legislature needs to expand, as necessary, unemployment compensation benefits. It absolutely must fund the replacement of the 50-year-old computer system that distributes those benefits. It must provide health care coverage for those now uninsured. It must stop the flood of evictions and provide more rental assistance. At the end of July, nearly 60% of Sheboygan County’s daycare providers had closed. Parents who are able to work need a solution for this. Schools are re-opening and struggling to find adequate PPE. A fully functioning, effective legislature could be on this, instead of suing to make things worse.
Katsma: Thankfully, our responsible budgeting built up a rainy day fund that is far healthier than what existed during the last downturn, and so far, the economy seems to be bouncing back better than anyone anticipated. So I expect that we’ll be able to fund important safety net services such as medical assistance, for example, without slashing services, without hiking taxes, and without growing government or expanding welfare. It’s so important that we promptly return to the pro-growth policies of the past 10 years that put us in a position to weather the storm.
In your view, how big of a problem is racial injustice and discrimination and what should be done about it?
Donohue: Sheboygan County has changed since I was a little kid. In 2000, people of color were 15% of our population. In 2018, it was 28%. In this school year, there will be more students of color than white students in the Sheboygan Area School District. We need to understand that systemic racism — benefits we take for granted as white people — is a truly significant issue. I am encouraged that, in city government, we will begin work to look deeply into our policies and practices to provide real opportunities to our wonderfully diverse community.
Katsma: Racial injustice, discrimination, educational injustice, lack of respect for human life, economic injustice, child abuse, spouse abuse, elder abuse, the list goes on, are all problems that government has tried and is trying to fix. A lot of ideas for change are emerging from Democrats and Republicans, from police and civilians, from public and private sectors, and I’m eager to consider them all in a process that is bipartisan and inclusive. But we live in a broken world. The elected officials we select to serve in Sheboygan, Madison and Washington, D.C., must be worthy of our respect.
Contact Diana Dombrowski at 920-242-7079 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @domdomdiana