Incumbent, challenger stake their positions in race for 6th District in Congress

October 26, 2016 GMT

Wisconsin Dells-area dairy farmer Sarah Lloyd is challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman on Nov. 8 for the right to represent Wisconsin’s 6th Congressional District.

The district includes Columbia, Green Lake, Marquette, Manitowoc, Fond du Lac, Ozaukee, Sheboygan and Waushara counties and parts of Dodge and Winnebago counties. The population of the district is about 709,000.

Grothman, 59, has represented the 6th District since his election in 2014. Before serving in Congress, Grothman was the assistant majority leader in the Wisconsin State Senate. Grothman, a Republican, faced no challenger in the primary election.

“I have pushed to cut federal spending, reform the welfare system, by requiring drug testing and work requirements for able-bodied adults and to rein in excessive regulation that hurts employers,” Grothman said in a statement.

He sits on four congressional committees — the House Budget, Education and Workforce, and Oversight and Government Reform committees, along with the Joint House and Senate Economic Committee. Grothman has been advocating for manufacturing, tax reform, welfare reform, education reform and pro-life causes.

The rancor and controversy that has characterized the presidential race doesn’t seem to have made its way into the campaigns of Grothman or Lloyd, and each supports his and her party’s nominee.

The candidates agree on one issue: student debt. Both say that allowing refinancing of outstanding student loans would help ease the more than $1 trillion in debt weighing down millions of college graduates across the U.S.

“I do think we should allow refinancing of college loans, and I know that’s more of a Democrat thing,” Grothman said.

“We have to be able to refinance student loans,” Lloyd said.

But the two differ on how best to help the people of the 6th District — which stretches from Wisconsin Dells to Lake Michigan and has the highest concentration of manufacturing of any congressional district in the U.S.

Put simply, Lloyd believes more federal dollars should be spent, on economic development and market-building programs that raise the economic water level for everyone, while Grothman champions more of a free-market approach, with austerity on the part of the federal government.

“We should be investing — you gotta spend money to make money,” Lloyd said. “Let’s bring (federal) resources back to the district.”

“Wait a minute, the time has come not to propose more spending but to cut spending,” Grothman said, referring specifically to the idea of a free college education. “We don’t need expensive new programs like free college.”

A good example of their differences is their opinion of what steps the federal government should take to address issues with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Lloyd thinks the program needs to be tweaked and built upon; Grothman says a different approach to addressing the nation’s health care needs should be pursued.

“Don’t repeal it, we need to work on making it better and fix the issues that it has,” Lloyd said. “People have to be assured health care — it’s a basic right.”

“The problems (with the ACA) are predictable, to have one size fits all regulations coming out of Washington never ends good,” Grothman said. “We’ve gotta work our way back to market-based insurance that some companies were using (before the ACA) with success.”

Grothman worked as an attorney in the areas of estate planning and probate and was a tax preparer before serving in the Assembly and State Senate.

“I’ve fought all my life to return power to local communities and to cut the size of government. I have a proven track record of standing up and taking on the tough issues and am not afraid to tell it like it is.”

Grothman earned a bachelor of business administration degree in accounting and a law degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He graduated from Homestead High School in his home town of Thiensville.

Lloyd defeated Michael Slattery in the Democratic primary election on Aug. 9 for the right to take on Grothman.

“Too many people are working harder than ever and still not making ends meet,” Lloyd said in a statement. “Powerful and wealthy special interests have stolen our democracy and rigged our economy. We need a government that will close tax loopholes and make sure everyone is paying their fair share in taxes.”

Lloyd, 44, farms with her husband, Nels Nelson, and his family on the Nelson dairy farm outside of Wisconsin Dells in Columbia County. Lloyd works off-farm for the Wisconsin Farmers Union and the Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative.

In 2013, Lloyd was appointed by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to represent the dairy farmers of Wisconsin on the National Dairy Board. Lloyd served on the Columbia County Board from 2004 to 2007. Lloyd has a doctorate degree in rural sociology from UW-Madison and teaches the rural social and economic issues course in the UW Farm Industry Short Course.

In Congress, Lloyd said she would work to bring resources to the district to support families and communities. She plans to support investment in infrastructure, including more money for roads and bridges, rail, broadband internet and renewable energy.

Lloyd supports plans to allow refinancing of student loans and a debt-free option for public colleges and universities as a way to stimulate our economy.

“Investment in public education from pre-K to technical colleges and universities is also a cornerstone of a strong economy that supports everyone,” she said.

Lloyd said that she would work to protect Social Security to ensure a dignified retirement for seniors.

“Social Security is an agreement between the government and the people which needs to be honored,” she said. “During a time when pensions are being slashed and millions of seniors are entering retirement age with no savings, we need to be talking about how to strengthen social security, not cut it. This can be done by lifting the cap on taxable income that goes into the Social Security system.”

Another important economic issue for Lloyd is global trade. She said that NAFTA, CAFTA, TPP, and TTIP is not supporting families and communities. Lloyd said that she and her husband see the impacts on their own farm.

Lloyd said she will fight for trade deals designed and negotiated that put workers, farmers, and communities first.

The candidates’ positions on the issues can be found at their respective websites: Grothman at www.grothman.house.gov and Lloyd at www.lloydforwisconsin.com.

Jeff Dehlke from the Independent Party will also be on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Capital Newspapers reporter Ed Legge contributed to this report.