The media has reported that there are not many differences between Wisconsin US Senate candidates Dave Westlake and Ron Johnson…however there is a CLEAR distinction between the two that is becoming more and more evident as the race goes on. In the upcoming general election against Feingold it is absolutely vital that whoever wins the primary is the right person to replace him – and the right person should be a strong conservative who can provide leadership in Washington. In the past two months that Ron Johnson has been in the race I have developed many concerns about his ability to lead for the people and maintain the level of consistent conservatism that our country so desperately needs.
Wisconsin Right to Life recently endorsed Ron Johnson, citing that he is the candidate who can best defeat Feingold, rather than stating that he is the candidate that best matches their organizations views – because he clearly doesn’t. Johnson allows exceptions (rape, incest, life of the mother in danger) while Westlake has advocated that he is 100% pro-life with no exceptions. Allowing exceptions calls into question the reason why we don’t allow abortions in the first place. Westlake’s views on abortion are much more on par with conservative values.
Another key issue that Westlake and Johnson don’t have the same perspective on is the 2nd Amendment. When asked about the 2nd Amendment Johnson’s answers have continued to be disturbingly out of touch with what the founding fathers meant when they wrote the Bill of Rights. Johnson, who has made it clear that he “has never hunted” and is not a gun owner, said he had not given the issue “a lot of thought.” He has also said that while he supports the 2nd Amendment, he also supports licensing. Johnson stated, “Like we license cars and stuff, I don’t have a problem with minimal licensing and stuff.” This is dangerous territory – licensing does not impact crime rates and makes it significantly easier for the government to collect firearms should they ever wish to disarm the American public. The 2nd Amendment was included to allow for citizens to keep their government in check – and that is something that Johnson doesn’t appear to understand. Not to mention I would really like to hear what the “and stuff” is referring to. Westlake has repeatedly said that the right to bear arms is about liberty (not hunting), his website states, “if the government disarms the public through unconstitutional regulations, it does more than just leave innocent, law-abiding citizens exposed to criminals–it takes the first dangerous step towards justifying infringement upon any number of our other rights.” Westlake also does not support the ban on assault rifles. When Johnson was asked if he supported the assault rifle ban he said he had no position, as he was not a gun owner. Johnson’s lack of comprehension of the 2nd Amendment is discouraging and uncharacteristic of a strong conservative.
The Constitution is by far the most important document – not just to any elected official – but to ALL Americans. It is our responsibility to know our rights and we should expect our government to understand and value the constitution. Johnson said, “I will say, prior to doing this, I sat down and read the Constitution thoroughly, probably five, six times. It is not an easy document to read. Unless you study it in detail, it’s hard to study. “ Johnson was unable to name the Federal agencies he would consider unconstitutional – perhaps because he doesn’t really understand the Constitution – and that is frightening when you consider the fact that he is asking us to send him to Washington, to give him the responsibility of upholding the Constitution. Once again, Westlake is shown to be the true conservative in this race – as not only does he consistently push for constitutionally-based leadership but refers to the constitution as a “straightforward document.” He can easily name the institutions he considers unconstitutional, (Department of Energy, Department of Education, most of the EPA to name a few).
The Patriot Act is another issue that Westlake and Johnson disagree on. Johnson believes that the Patriot Act is a necessary tool that is being used to keep America safe from terrorism. Westlake believes that while the Patriot Act was necessary after 9/11, it has failed to keep us safe and is a threat to civil liberties.
There is nothing more infuriating to conservatives than illegal immigration. Westlake has stated that immigration reform has failed because of a lack of leadership in Washington – that we need to start taking it seriously and document and deport those who are here illegally. In regards to illegal immigration, it can be assumed that Johnson and Westlake share similar views with one major exception – Johnson has stated that he backs REAL ID, which infringes on the rights of Americans and imposes unnecessary financial burden, without improving national security.
Recently Feingold and Johnson have been trading insults back and forth about Great Lakes drilling. While it appears that Johnson supported drilling in the Great Lakes originally, his campaign released a statement saying he has never been for it. If Johnson is in fact, against Great Lakes drilling, it is alarming that he was unable to clearly address the issue from the start. This has obviously given Feingold a major opportunity to discredit him, and has made Johnson look like he is inconsistent.
Above all – the biggest difference between these candidates is the way they run their campaigns. Johnson appeared on the scene a week before the convention and received the party’s endorsement. He was thrust into the political limelight without having “given thought” to many important issues. His focus is on the party elite – the private meet and greets, the meetings at The Madison Club, the GOP sponsored events…he is ignoring the every day Wisconsinites that don’t have $2400 to donate to his campaign. He prefers to run television ads instead of shaking hands. When asked why he is running for Senate his answer straight out of the gate was – “I was watching FOX News and, uh, Dick Morris came on. He was talking about, uh, hey Russ Feingold is really, really vulnerable. Hey, if you’re a rich guy in the state of Wisconsin maybe you ought to decide to run.” Of course his consultants have altered that quite a bit since he first entered the race. Johnson is also known for rudely walking away from people who he feels won’t vote for him – even republicans! With over 50% of voters undecided, it is impossible that Johnson will get enough votes to defeat Feingold if he doesn’t start spending time with Independents and Democrats – and even Republicans – who will challenge him with tough questions. A Senator is supposed to represent the people – not the party.
Which brings me to Dave Westlake. Westlake is clearly the underdog in this race- but not because he lacks passion, or principles or a clear understanding of the issues and how to fix them. In fact, Westlake is extremely qualified as a West Point graduate and army veteran with an impressive MBA from the University of Chicago. The reason Westlake is considered an underdog is because he is not a millionaire and he is not raising and spending millions on getting his message out there – instead he is relying mostly on face-to-face interaction with ALL voters. At a time when our country is facing such economic hardship, it is revolting and irresponsible for candidates to be dumping money into political campaigns. Westlake runs his campaign like I believe he would run Washington – without excess and unnecessary spending. He also has the ability to get an overwhelming amount of support from Democrats and Independents – because he takes the time to speak to everyone, regardless of what political party they identify with. The independent vote is absolutely vital to defeating Feingold – and Westlake can get it. He is genuinely running because he wants to serve his country – and the people, ALL the people, of Wisconsin, not just the Republicans.
Money will NOT defeat Feingold. He has a clear advantage against Johnson because he is able to run as the “every man’s” candidate because he is not “wealthy.” Johnson lacks substance and knowledge – the only things he has going for him is a negative ad campaign and money. Westlake is a true conservative who actually GETS it. Now is the time to change the way we run our campaigns – now is the time to change Washington – and it all starts with ONE candidate – ONE candidate who is brave enough to stand up to the establishment and refuse to back down. We cannot expect things to change when we elect the same type of people year after year… millionaires and career politicians are not the people I want representing me anymore. It is time that we stop complaining about not being able to trust politicians in Washington and start taking ACTION – and elect people based on what they stand for – not whether they have millions to spend on a campaign. If we don’t change the way we campaign and change the way we vote – we will NEVER fix this country.