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GOP candidate Jacque facing backlash over prevailing-wage repeal

A Republican lawmaker who defied state party leaders by pushing for prevailing-wage repeal faces a cash disadvantage in a race to best a GOP challenger in Tuesday’s primary election for a state Senate seat.

Although Rep. Andre Jacque, of De Pere, enjoys support from a trade group backing non-union companies, his challenger, the 24-year-old Alex Renard, has attracted thousands of dollars worth of in-kind contributions from the state GOP and various employees of Neenah-based Miron Construction. The winner of Tuesday’s primary will face Caleb Frostman, a Democrat, in a special election on June 12 for Wisconsin’s Senate District 1.

Many Republicans turned their backs on Jacque after he bucked party leaders by holding a committee hearing in 2015 on legislation to repeal Wisconsin’s prevailing-wage laws. The effort undermined a reform proposal that would have rolled the state’s prevailing-wage laws but still kept the requirements intact.

Jacque’s decision to hold the committee hearing has led various prominent Republicans to endorse Jacque’s opponent in the race. Renard’s supporters include Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke and Rep. John Nygren, co-chairman of the powerful Joint Finance Committee.

Of the money Jacque has raised, $2,000 has come from the Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin, a trade group that largely represents non-union contractors. John Schulze, director of legal and government relations at ABC, said Jacque is running an old-school, shoe-leather campaign to win the state senate seat. Schulze said Jacque’s work to repeal Wisconsin’s prevailing-wage laws are a big reason why he has the ABC’s support.

“ABC members appreciate everything Andre did to get prevailing wage repealed in Wisconsin,” Schulze said.

But Jacque’s challenger, in addition to receiving endorsements from Republican lawmakers, has picked up $34,400 in in-kind contributions from the Wisconsin GOP. Those have in large part gone to pay for pro-Renard mailers.

In an interview after press time Monday, Jacque said that although the debate about prevailing wages may have cost him support, he has never been “beholden to the Madison crowd.”

“I’m certainly very pleased to have ABC’s support. I’ve worked to encourage competitive, free-market opportunities,” Jacque said. “My opponent has drawn contributions from folks who were opposed to the repeal of prevailing wage.”

Renard did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Renard, who is a manager at his family’s business, Green Bay’s Renco Machine, has also received support from eight employees at the union-affiliated general contractor Miron Construction. Those workers have given him $5,000 in total.

Renard has also spent more than four times as much as Jacque ahead of the primary. Renard raised $146,560 between late February and the end of April, spending $112,770. Jacque, meanwhile, has raised $50,184 and spent $28,261. Frostman, the Democrat who is running unopposed in the primary, raised $63,896 and has spent $5,735.

Three union groups, meanwhile, have thrown in for Frostman, who was once executive director of the Door County Economic Development Corp. He resigned from that post in late April to campaign full time.

Steve Steve Kwaterski, communications director for the Wisconsin Laborers’ District Council, said he and his colleagues have been so impressed with Frostman’s campaign that they decided to give it $2,000. He declined, however, to comment further on the union’s spending strategy in the race.

“(Frostman) has a long track record of economic development in northeastern Wisconsin,” Kwaterski said. “In our conversations with him, he was a strong record and good positions as it pertains to infrastructure.”

About Nate Beck, nbeck@dailyreporter.com

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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