Much to my delight, State Rep. Mark Honadel (R-South Milwaukee) has a viable Democratic challenger in the 21st Assembly District, in the form of Oak Creek Common Council President Tom Michalski. I recently had a chance to sit down and talk with Michalski about his campaign, and our conversation started with the one question all candidates for elected office need to be able to answer – why did he decide to run against Rep. Honadel?
Michalski’s answer to that question was simple: he believes it’s the next normal step to take in his life. Having just recently retired from Rockwell Automation, where he was extremely active in his union, Michalski noted that he’s always tried to be proactive in finding solutions to problems. Michalski, who had been a member of the St. Francis school board for seven years prior to moving to Oak Creek, is also a member of the MATC Board of Directors, added that he wants to continue to serve the public in a greater role, hence his decision to run for the State Assembly.
As we began to discuss Michalski’s campaign, Michalski noted his campaign has been well-received by voters, adding that he has not encountered many citizens of the 21st District who weren’t receptive to his campaign. Michalski also made a point to note that since announcing his candidacy, his campaign has been very busy knocking on doors and making phone calls to voters throughout the district, adding that the campaign has knocked on over 3,400 doors since July 1st, in addition to over 2,000 phone calls made to voters within the 21st Assembly District. Michalski added he believes the whole campaign boils down to getting his name and face known by voters, a good number of whom have indicated they haven’t made up their minds yet on who they’ll vote for. Shannon Powell, Michalski’s campaign manager, went on to add that the campaign will be opening up a campaign office at the UAW hall in Oak Creek, an office that will be shared with the Democratic coordinated campaign. Powell pointed out that Rep. Honadel’s opponent in 2008 didn’t open up a campaign office at all, so he views the opening of a campaign office as a sign of how seriously they’re taking this campaign.
Asked to cite the issued he’s been focusing on during his campaign, Michalski said jobs, taxes, and health care would be his primary areas of focus if he’s elected to the State Assembly. Discussing the issue of jobs, Michalski said the primary focus of legislators should be not only keeping jobs in Wisconsin, but attracting new jobs as well, but he was quick to point out that the types of jobs he’d work to attract to Wisconsin would be family-supporting jobs, not simply minimum wage service jobs. Michalski cited his work to help bring some office operations of mining equipment maker Bucyrus to Oak Creek through the implementation of a tax incremental financing district as an example of the work he’d do as a member of the State Assembly to bring jobs to Wisconsin. As our discussion about jobs continued, I asked Michalski if he would have voted for the Clean Energy Jobs Act as a member of the State Assembly, and Michalski was adamant that he supports the Clean Energy Jobs Act, not only because it would have created jobs in Wisconsin, but also because “clean air and renewable energy is long-sighted.” Michalski noted that MATC is using a lot of renewable energy, in addition to teaching students how to build, install, and repair renewable energy equipment such as solar panels.
As our discussion turned to taxes, Michalski was quick to point out that he realizes no one wants higher taxes, including himself, and he cited his experience as a member of the Oak Creek Common Council as an example of how government can help grow and improve the community without raising taxes. Michalski noted that last year’s budget in Oak Creek included no increase in the mill rate for taxes, a fact that he believes demonstrates his experience in working within a budget.
My conversation with Tom Michalski drew to a close with a discussion about his chances of beating an entrenched incumbent in the form of Rep. Mark Honadel. Michalski acknowledged he faces an uphill battle if he’s going to beat Rep. Honadel, but he was quick to point out that he’s run and won as an underdog in prior races. Michalski was adamant that he believes he can beat Rep. Honadel simply by outworking Honadel in this election. He reiterated that he will be working hard over the next few months to make his name and face known to voters in the 21st District, and that he can beat Rep. Honadel by “getting out and pounding the sidewalks.”
There’s no denying Tom Michalski has his work cut out for him if he wants to beat Rep. Mark Honadel, and while it remains to be seen if he can pull out a victory, one thing is certain – Tom Michalski won’t lose to Mark Honadel because of a lack of effort on Michalski’s part.