By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker, seeking to become only the second governor in Wisconsin history elected to a third term, and the Democrat Tony Evers, the state superintendent, meet on Friday night for the first of two debates. Walker and Evers are locked in a tight battle for governor with the election just over two weeks away.
Here are five things to watch for in the debate hosted by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association:
Neither Walker nor Evers is known for his charisma. Walker likes to talk about his fondness for vanilla ice cream and ham sandwiches. But he’s a proven winner who rarely gets rattled on the debate stage or the campaign trail. He’s also far more experienced at it than Evers — having debated in three previous runs for governor and during his run for president.
Evers, who favors Egg McMuffins and the card game euchre, has won three statewide races for state superintendent. Although he took part in debates before the Democratic primary election, his debate with Walker will be his first in the general election for governor. The debate gives both Evers and Walker a chance to sway the tiny number of independent or undecided voters who are likely to decide the race in 18 days.
Walker’s support for President Donald Trump, who is coming to Wisconsin on Wednesday to campaign with Walker, also could become a point of contention.
Evers will also probably have to respond to charges of plagiarism lodged by Walker just hours before the debate. Evers acknowledged that his schools budget hasn’t got citations to previously published material and that changes to protocol will be made.
Walker’s been making taxes a central part of his argument against Evers in the days leading up to the debate. Television broadcasts are being filled with ads from Walker and his allies alleging that, with Evers as governor, taxes would skyrocket and families wouldn’t be able to afford to live in the state.
Evers said he just wants to pass tax cuts that benefit the middle class, rather than the wealthy and corporations.
Walker argues that a manufacturing tax credit that Evers wants to eliminate has contributed greatly to the state’s economic growth and unemployment rate that’s been at or near record lows for months.
Evers is taking a page out of the playbook of almost every Democrat running for office across the country this year in going after Walker on where he stands on guaranteeing people with pre-existing medical conditions have access to insurance.
Evers supports the Affordable Care Act, which has a coverage guarantee for pre-existing conditions, and Walker is a longtime opponent of the law. Walker this year authorized the state to join a federal lawsuit seeking repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Walker has separately called on the Legislature to pass a bill providing state protections for people with pre-existing conditions. A proposal of that sort passed in the Assembly but not the Senate. Walker has also promised during the campaign that as long as he’s governor, people with pre-existing conditions will be covered.
Look to Evers to refer to potholes as “Scottholes.” Walker, in response, will almost certainly allege that Evers might raise the gas tax by as much as $1 a gallon — more than double the highest gas tax in the country.
Evers has said that “everything’s on the table ” when it comes to paying for roads, including increasing the gas tax, but has said it’s ridiculous to claim he’d raise it by as much as a dollar. Evers hasn’t said how much of an increase he’d support. He’s also been open to toll roads but hasn’t released a specific transportation plan.
Walker also hasn’t released a transportation plan or said how he would meet his campaign promise to spend more than $100 million a year more on local roads than is being spent now.
Evers in September proposed a 10 percent spending increase for schools and called on the state to pay for two-thirds of the cost of schools’ budgets. His proposal, made as a budget request for the education department he heads, did not say where the money for the $1.4 billion increase would come from. Walker this week also said he is committed to having the state pay for two-thirds of schools’ budgets, something that hasn’t happened in 15 years. Walker has similarly not said where the roughly $130 million a year to pay for that proposal would come from.