My name is Travis Bille from Kaukauna, and I’m running as a Democrat to unseat Rob Cowles for Wisconsin Senate District 2.
I’ve always had a deep interest in serving the public, but my politics have shifted over the years, and I was never able to find a place in that world. I grew up an unabashed Republican, which was the norm when you grow up on a farm outside a town with a population of less than 1,000. But in college, I started to see the complexity of many issues that I previously had viewed through overly-simplistic explanations and solutions. As an example, I once thought ending abortion was as easy as banning it. Over the years, I realized that my Republicans were only talking about it, but Democrats were the ones actually doing things that drastically lowered abortion rates, such as providing sex education and affordable and available contraception.
I found myself disagreeing on some parts of the platform in each party, but the Republican Party doesn’t allow dissent, so that was never an option for me. Instead, I found a place where my dissent is welcome and provides for open discussion rather than open ridicule, as Republicans are known to do to each other these days.
I graduated in 2007 with degrees in both Religious Studies and Music, met my wife and got married in 2009, and bought a house in Kaukauna in 2012. I had firmly planted my roots, and I knew it was time to go to work.
I quickly got involved with the Outagamie County Democrats and started helping with campaigns for the ’14 cycle, working on the Jeff McCabe for Assembly campaign and as treasurer for Gruett for Congress. I was also re-elected this past April to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin Administrative Committee as the elected representative of the 8th Congressional district.
I had read up on my elected officials when we first moved here and was relieved to learn that Senator Cowles was someone many considered to be a reasonable, moderate Republican. It didn’t take long to see past the mirage.
I’ve been watching the actions of my state representatives throughout this time with great interest, and over time, the reasonable, moderate Republican idea of Senator Cowles was clouded with a bit of doubt. In 2011, he made statements concerned about the reach of Act 10, yet still voted for it. Add to that the rumors that he had been threatened with a primary if he caused trouble on that vote, and I found myself questioning the point of his moderate views if his strings were being pulled by Republican leadership.
So I started paying close attention, and my concern grew. With every controversial piece of legislation put forth by Wisconsin Republicans, he seemed to follow the same general pattern. School voucher expansion, and most recently with Right-to-Work legislation, he stuck to this same template.
1). Put out statement attacking the legislation as an overreach or fiscally irresponsible
3). Vote in favor of legislation
The more it happened, the more I wanted to know the source of those question marks. Recently, he made a big show about how he was the only Republican Senator to vote against the budget, due to the non-fiscal policy items in it. It was awfully convenient to do so during this budget, when his vote wouldn’t make a difference. But in the ’13-’15 budget, when his vote was the difference (final vote was 17-16), he voted in favor of a budget that also included non-fiscal policy items. To make matters worse, he voted against Senate Amendment 8, which was an amendment introduced by Democrats that would have removed major portions of a non-fiscal policy item regarding 7-day work weeks. So he voted against removing a policy item, then voted against the full budget due to the policy items. In other words, he once again got to pretend that he’s a moderate making his own decisions.
I’m running because I want this district to have an engaged leader that wants to keep them informed about their government. I want them to know that even if we disagree on the best solution to a problem, I am listening to their ideas and taking into account the needs of my constituents. That may sound like something any politician would say, but anyone that has sat down to a conversation with me knows that my goal is to find the best solution, not to advance my own solution. Most importantly, I want to stop our legislators from playing games with the people. The citizens of Wisconsin are smart enough to know when they’re being played, so it’s time their government stopped treating them like children.
My primary focus and what I am building my campaign around is campaign finance reform and election laws. At the national level, I don’t foresee much of a campaign finance change for quite awhile, but when it does get addressed, the federal government will need state templates to show what works. I plan to build a comprehensive plan for the state of Wisconsin that will create a robust public financing system, so that lower-middle class citizens such as myself have more opportunities to compete in elections without getting crushed by self-financing wealthy candidates. It will also actively engage voters, requiring the candidate to garner enough invested support to get on the ballot. Most importantly, it will challenge the current campaign climate which allows the wealthiest donors to have the loudest voice, even to the extent of a single donor having a direct impact on legislation.
The broader task of my campaign is simply to start having conversations again. This is evident in our campaign slogan, “The Conversation Starts Here.” The last five years have been full of family members not speaking to each other over political differences and ridiculous, childish social media name-calling that does nothing to further any conversation. Our electorate is ready to have civil, adult conversations about issues that really matter, but they haven’t been engaged by the crop of Wisconsin Republicans that currently lead both state houses.
Frankly, I get bored when everyone agrees with me on everything.
Travis Bille (D)
Wisconsin 2nd Senate District