Tranel's potential bests incumbency

Telegraph Herald – Monday, October 25, 2010

BY THE TH EDITORIAL BOARD

The contest for Wisconsin’s Assembly District 49 seat is a rematch of the race two years ago pitting Republican Travis Tranel against incumbent Democrat Phil Garthwaite. Just like two years ago, we find Tranel to be the stronger candidate.

A rural Cuba City dairy farmer, Tranel has observed the Madison political system with a critical eye. At 25, he may lack the life experience his opponent has, but he makes up for it with keen observation and boundless energy. Tranel takes issue with what he considers reckless spending in Wisconsin state government. He backs up his concerns with documentation. In school spending, for instance, Tranel notes that rural schools — like virtually all of the schools in southwest Wisconsin — were hit hard by school aid formula cuts while Milwaukee area schools endured cuts far less severe. While some candidates complain about government with no specific suggestions on how to fix it, Tranel has ideas. He would take tax increases off the table until the economy recovers. He would expedite permits and hold off on new regulations that could be an impediment to new business endeavors or economic development projects. He suggests a dose of preventive medicine for the state: An amendment requiring state government to build up reserves in good times that could be dipped into during recessionary times. He’d rather see the state spend transportation dollars on roads than on passenger train projects. He sees opportunities for cost savings in shared services and embraces a more regional approach to economic development.

Garthwaite has proven to be a lawmaker who is not afraid to speak his mind. But much of the time, his opinion is in lockstep with Madison leadership. Garthwaite offers no argument to Tranel’s claim that the incumbent votes with Democratic Party leaders 96 percent of the time. On the partisanship question, Tranel has no track record to compare that to, and it should be noted his priorities largely dovetail with those of his party.

Garthwaite has some ideas worth further review: encouraging governmental entities (such as colleges and corrections facilities) to buy locally and offering tax breaks to those who invest in southwest Wisconsin start-up companies. In his four years in the Assembly, Garthwaite has learned how to work within the system and has done his share of negotiating. But Garthwaite fails to make the case that he is consistently voting with the priorities of southwest in mind.

In Tranel we see a young man with a vibrant political future. Is he a bit idealistic about what he can accomplish? Yes. But it’s refreshing to see someone who still believes that individuals can make a difference in politics. Given Tranel’s energy, enthusiasm and the diligence with which he has scrutinized the issues, he has made believers of us, too.

Editorials reflect the consensus of the Telegraph Herald Editorial Board.

Telegraph Herald >>