Tom Nelson – Wisconsin – US Senate
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I grew up in the Fox Valley in the small town of Little Chute. I lived on Carol Lynn Drive, where all the dads worked at paper mills, except for my dad, who wore the white collar, since he was a Lutheran pastor.
My first campaign, for the Wisconsin Assembly in 2004 in my Fox Valley hometown, was considered by everyone to be a longshot, but I didn’t back down and didn’t quit. I knocked on 22,000 doors and was the only Democrat that year to beat a Republican incumbent.
I was reelected to the Assembly in 2006 and 2008, and served as the Majority Leader in the 2009 – 2010 session. After my career in the legislature, I was elected Outagamie County Executive in 2011, emerging from a crowded field that included a former Republican state treasurer, and have served as the county executive ever since.
Why are you running for Office?
I’m running for the U.S. Senate so that the families like those I grew up with on Carol Lynn Drive in Little Chute have a real voice in this rigged economy — and a senator who will listen to them. As U.S. Senator, I’ll relentlessly fight a corrupt system to promote Main Street solutions for workers, farmers, small businesses and confront the existential threat of climate change.
As my book “One Day Stronger” laid out, I was able to take on the big banks who wanted to shut down a century-old paper mill, and we were able to save over 300 union jobs. We need to revive the American labor movement, bring manufacturing jobs back, save our family farms and make sure we are investing in small businesses — not Foxconn-like scams.
What are the 3 biggest issues facing your community?
1.) Corporate Consolidation
2.) Lack of Adequate Healthcare
3.) Climate Crisis
How do you propose to solve those problems?
1.) We need economic security for working families which means breaking up corporations through strong antitrust enforcement, a $15 minimum wage, the PRO Act so all workers have the right to organize and repealing the bad trade deals that have shipped Wisconsin jobs overseas.
2.) I’m running to advance Medicare for All and ensure that every Wisconsinite — not just those who can afford it — has quality healthcare. In February of 2019, my wife and mother of my two young children was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was terrifying, but we have good health insurance and she was able to recover.
3.) I’m running to place climate change at the top of the agenda and help forge a Blue-Green New Deal to make sure we create and protect jobs while we’re protecting our common home.
What is your stance on environmental and climate concerns that are facing your community?
We must institute an ambitious Blue-Green New Deal to reverse the destructive effects of man-made climate change and create millions of family-supporting union jobs to create a clean energy economy. We also have to focus on rebuilding local food economies that prioritize family farms and regenerative practices over industrial corporate agriculture
While in the state Assembly, I pushed for the Clean Energy Jobs Act, a precursor to today’s Green New Deal that included emissions standards and job creation goals. And as County Executive, I’ve helped Outagamie County construct one of the first net-zero general aviation facilities in the country, led the operation of an award-winning recycling facility that processes about 100,000 tons of material each year, led partnerships with area farmers on a cover-cropping program that keeps dangerous methane gas in the ground; and soon will be unveiling a $25 million methane recovery facility at the county landfill.
What commonsense gun safety measures would have the most impact on your community?
I advocate for the following:
Passing red flag laws to allow a family member or justice officer to petition for temporary removal of access to firearms from someone who is deemed to be a threat to themselves or those around them.
Passing comprehensive background check legislation that applies to unlicensed sellers.
Supporting effective community based violence intervention and prevention programs. We need to help prevent day-to-day gun violence.
Banning high-capacity magazines, commonly defined as ammunition feeding devices capable of holding more than 10 rounds.
How would criminal justice reforms impact your community?
I am proud of the creation and development of the Criminal Justice Treatment Services department in Outagamie County during my tenure. Among other programs, the department houses the mental health, veterans and drug treatment courts, alternatives to incarceration that go to the root causes of crime and addresses those factors. The alternative courts keep people out of the system and return them to our community where they lead safe, prosperous lives, raising families and contributing to the wellbeing of our county. This is one of several planks of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Most politicians talk about how they support the legislation; few can point to concrete examples of how they have put into affect such reforms. We also use evidence-based decision practices that identifies low risk from high risk offenders and does not mix the two in the system. The latter are kept out of the system where they may work a program in the alternative courts or have supervised release. This is another plank of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
One of our largest challenges is in the selection of officers and the training programs across the nation. Police officers throughout the country need to go through more rigorous selection programs, be better trained to interact with the public and be better paid to attract the best and the brightest. As a model, I favor a public safety officer approach coupled with the development and or expansion of programs that separate policing from responses requiring mental health or social welfare responses. In addition, we must decriminalize marijuana and end the war on drugs that disproportionately affects BIPOC Americans. Instead of over-policing these communities, we need to invest in them. The Senate also needs to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act that holds reckless officers accountable and bans the use of chokeholds and no-knock warrants.
How would you work to protect a woman’s reproductive health?
We must codify Roe v. Wade in Congress. That means passing the Women’s Health Protection Act so the Republican-controlled Supreme Court can’t roll back the right to choose.
What measures would you advocate to ensure that your constituents have the right to vote?
I advocate for the following:
Abolishing the filibuster.
Passing the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
Overturning Citizens United and get dark, unregulated money out of politics.
Supporting public financing of campaigns so working-class candidates have a fair shot at office.
Instituting Instant Runoff Voting to open up our political system to more voices.
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