For the second election year in a row, Republican incumbent Dave Murphy will face Democrat Diana Lawrence to represent Wisconsin’s 56th Assembly District.
Murphy, 65, of Greenville, was first elected to the Assembly in 2012. Lawrence, 58, of Appleton first launched a bid for the office in 2012, but didn’t make it out of the primaries. She lost to Murphy in 2018.
The 56th Assembly District represents portions of Outagamie and Winnebago counties, including Grand Chute, Greenville, Winneconne and parts of Appleton.
As part of The Post-Crescent’s election coverage, we asked both candidates to answer the following questions, limiting their responses to 100 words. Here is what they said.
Name: Diana Lawrence
Address: 153 Northbreeze Drive, Appleton
Highest education level: Bachelor of science degree
Relevant experience: Volunteer on the Fox Valley Sierra Group Executive Committee since 2007, past volunteer lobbyist with League of Conservation Voters Lobby Days and the Southern Utah Wilderness Association Lobby Days in Washington D.C., March 2007.
Name: Dave Murphy
Address: N1777 Ivy Lane, Greenville
Occupation: Full-time legislator. Former realtor, agri-business owner and fitness center owner
Highest education level: University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley
Relevant experience: Chairman of Colleges and Universities committee for six years. Authored and passed legislation to speed UW research projects to the public market and to protect the Outagamie County Library. Took the lead to get I-41 and Highway 15 funding in the recent state budget.
Why are you running for office?
Lawrence: I haven’t seen forward progress for the state and my district. I ran for the first time in 2012 partly because I knew the Republican agenda at the time would be regressive for people in the long term. We’ve been given tax breaks, lax environmental regulation and told it was great while stripping education funding and not updating critical systems. Now, we see that people cannot get their worker’s compensation checks timely and our schools were totally unprepared for this pandemic. We have made no forward progress as promised. Bigger, bolder, and more proactive choices for our future are necessary.
Murphy: When I first ran for office, I was motivated by the desire to protect my children and grandchildren from the terrible fiscal crisis in Madison. Our unemployment fund was bankrupt, and we were paying millions of dollars to the federal government to keep it afloat. We had no rainy-day fund to speak of and our state budget was in a precarious position. Today, through no one’s fault, we are going to have some of the same challenges because of the pandemic, but today we have surpluses in our rainy day, unemployment and budget funds.
What makes you the better candidate in this race?
Lawrence: My vision is to be proactive about everything the state does. Being proactive and anticipating needs helped me be more efficient and made me a better negotiator in my professional life. We need more people like me in the state Legislature. Someone expert at anticipating what problems may arise, in this case, with a bill and how to engage legislators who may not initially agree. We must strive to reach bipartisan agreement. The best laws are written with bipartisan support. The incumbent has been a yes-man for his party and not the people. I will not do that.
Murphy: Eight years of experience dealing with the kind of budget problems we will face has prepared me for this challenge. I worked for and listen to the people of the 56th District and I know the problems they’re facing. Uncertainty is a big part of the stress everyone feels during this pandemic. Day care, jobs, schools, and businesses are all at risk and voters want the steady hand on their government that I can supply.
What are residents telling you are their most important issues, and how would you address them?
Lawrence: For years I have heard the same sentiment from far too many people. Many people do not trust politicians to keep their word. Campaign promises are viewed as just something that is said to get elected. Those same people are least likely to vote. They are an angry bunch. Get them talking and they are vehement and no longer want to entertain the idea that a new candidate may be different. Too many promises not kept have hurt these people and our democracy as such has suffered without their participation. Legislators must work to end partisan politics.
Murphy: Everyone is concerned about their health and the health of their families. The mask mandate seems to have had very little effect, but I believe medical treatments are rapidly improving. Folks are also worried about their jobs and their businesses. Our office has worked with hundreds of people to help them expedite their unemployment claims with the state and to resolve issues with health insurance coverage.
What are the top two issues the Legislature should address?
Lawrence: At this moment in time the only issue the Legislature should be working on is getting COVID-19 under control. But they are not. I am including here fixing the worker’s compensation system to get people their checks timely. How can we move forward with the usual business of the Legislature if we do not know the outcome of this virus? How can you plan a state budget when you have no clue on revenues because things are still in flux? Any other issue such as poverty, healthcare or infrastructure that are not complete emergencies should wait.
Murphy: Getting our economy rolling again so people feel secure in their jobs and businesses feel that they can start hiring again. We also need to open our schools to students. The state budget will be tough to balance but it’s important to our citizens that we don’t raise taxes when we’re in the middle of an economic crunch. That will make for some hard choices and we must prioritize our working families. Our kids are missing out on far too much, and their educational opportunity is being wasted. Quality education is the most important racial issue of our time and families need choices.
What should the Legislature be doing to help address the COVID-19 pandemic?
Lawrence: Two important pieces that need simultaneous work is to get the virus under control and fix the broken worker’s compensation system. By system I do mean actually sending the checks to the recipients. People are still waiting for money that they were promised in March and April. Several Legislatures in recent memory have known the worker’s compensation system was stressed and they were warned it would not handle a real emergency. However, it was decided to kick the can down the road. Here we are, the can has stopped rolling. Real people are being hurt by that action years ago.
Murphy: There were plenty of mistakes made along the way in dealing with the COVID-19 problem. The Safer at Home order was far too arbitrary in dealing with which businesses and organizations would be allowed to open. A large Menard’s store was open, but a small paint store was closed. These unfair rules left people with a bad taste in their mouth for government emergency orders and led to more noncompliance. We need to remember this was a new virus and because there was little expertise available, common sense and fairness were very important.
What can the Legislature do to help those affected by the pandemic?
Lawrence: Getting COVID-19 under control is the biggest way to help. Mandatory mask wearing in public and proper widespread testing. Allowing people to assume they are not carriers is backwards. One should assume you may be a carrier and act accordingly. Again, fixing the worker’s compensation system. Getting money into people’s hands should be of paramount importance. If not, in the next year we will see massive foreclosures and homeless people who never in their wildest dreams expected to be in that position.
Murphy: During the pandemic, it became more apparent what were riskier behaviors and which weren’t. Churches that handle larger groups with a high level of responsibility are much safer than fraternity parties, although we treated them the same. Outdoor activities are much safer than being indoors, however we closed our state parks and playgrounds. Going forward, we need to fix our unemployment system so we can deal with the backlog of claims and we may need to extend benefits and provide job training for those workers whose jobs are displaced.
In your view, how big of a problem is racial injustice and discrimination and what should be done about it?
Lawrence: I do believe racial injustice and discrimination are a big problem. I do not believe in defunding police departments. I do believe that reorganization is required. There is a role for police in our society, just not as we have been envisioning it for many years. The justice system is broken. We seem to have reached a boiling point and now we need to examine all the ways in which the system can be changed. This is not just an isolated issue. We need to examine all the tentacles of the octopus called racial discrimination and injustice.
Murphy: First off, we should all feel immense pride to be citizens of the United States of America. America is the greatest country in the history of the world and our capitalist economic system has raised more people of every race and creed out of poverty than any other system on Earth. We are a free people and this freedom allows people to like or dislike anyone they want for any reason. When you treat someone differently just because of their skin color, that’s a sin. The government must be constantly vigilant to make sure that this type of discrimination doesn’t infiltrate our institutions.
Contact Natalie Brophy at (715) 216-5452 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @brophy_natalie.