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Strong opinions shown in Wis. state elections

October 25, 2012

Sheila Harsdorf, Dan Olson, Dean Knudson and Diane Odeen are four names that will appear on the ballot on Election Day in River Falls.

They are the candidates running for Wisconsin State Senate and State Assembly and they all have strong views about what the key issues are in this area and how they can best represent their constituents at the state level in Madison.

All four candidates said that local government is very important and that many people may not realize its importance and, therefore, be less educated about the local issues, the candidates and their platforms going into the elections.

“The local and the state elections have the most immediate impact on people and yet the national races get all the press. People really need to be aware of what the issues are and how the local level is where the most immediate effect is,” said Olson.

Olson, a Democrat, is running for state senate in District 10.

Although he has no experience in a government position, he has been teaching world history and government at St. Croix Falls High School for 12 years.

He has also been in the Wisconsin Army National Guard since 1989 and has been deployed twice since 2004, once to Iraq and one time stateside.

As a teacher he states that he is aware of the process of government and many of the issues that students and other people in the school district feel strongly about, but he really just researches and pays attention to what people want and the issues they bring forward.

Olson said that he believes the big ticket issues for this area are job creation, education funding, the environment and women’s rights.

“People in our area are struggling. We are very impoverished, having one of the highest poverty rates, and right now emphasis has been put on some of the major metro areas and that doesn’t really help the rural areas.”

Senator Harsdorf, a Republican, is running as the incumbent for state senate in District 10. She has served a total of three terms as senator for the 10th District and five terms as a representative for the 30th Assembly District before that. She hopes that name recognition will be to her benefit as she fights to be re-elected.

“Because I’ve served, people are more apt to know who I am and that name identification could potentially benefit me greatly.”

She states that every issue is important and affects us at some point in time, but the big issues for this election are the economy and jobs, as well as the cost of education for students. Harsdorf argues that local elections are very important in District 10 as it includes both the UW-River Falls and UW-Stout campuses and therefore students have the ability to vote for someone who can fight for their needs in Madison.

“When we hear that 50 percent of college graduates are having a hard time finding a job, that is something that has to be a concern,” said Harsdorf. “The focus has to be on creating jobs so that when students are graduating they have a place for employment.”
Representative Knudson, a Republican, is running as the incumbent representative for Assembly District 30.

He has a history of positions held in government serving as the mayor of Hudson from 2008 to 2010 and as the state representative for District 30 since 2010.

He said that name recognition and his knowledge of the area will be beneficial to him in this election.

Knudson said he believes that the No. 1 issue in this election is the economy. He argues that we have got to create a more improved business climate in this area so that businesses will want to grow, invest, expand and move here and entrepreneurs will want to start businesses here.

Knudson has two children in college and he understands that the burden put on students with the cost of tuition is one of the big issues for students.

“Education is a passion of mine. I served on the assembly education committee and as the vice chair of the college and universities committee. We work hard to try to improve educational opportunities in a very challenging budgetary environment.”

Odeen, a Democrat, is running as Knudson’s opponent in the 30th Assembly District.

While Odeen has not held a previous position in government, she is a lawyer and hopes that her experience as a litigator will help her to bring civility and cooperation to Madison.
Odeen’s opinion of what the big issues are for this election are similar to those of the other candidates: the economy, job creation, women’s equality and cost of education.

Her husband is a professor at UWRF and she said that while it is important for him to be neutral, it definitely gives her an advantage.

“I really have an indoor window to students’ views on issues. Through some of the things my husband tells me I can better understand what life is like for students so that I can determine what they need.”

She believes that we have a really great, strong, University of Wisconsin System and that as the education system has taken a huge hit. She will fight for better funding for public education.

All four candidates have been campaigning all over their districts by knocking on doors, attending events, participating in forums, etc. The local candidates focus on meeting as many people as possible as they know that every vote matters.

Ben Plunkett, a local political activist, said that the local elections are close this year.

He said that he believes student registration and interest are high and, with the student support, it is quite possible that UWRF students could be the deciding voters in more than one of these elections if they do get out and vote.

Knudson explained that it is crucial to the system that people are being active citizens in the election process.

“It isn’t enough to just vote. The system relies on citizens being actively involved in the process.

You might go to open hearings, talk with neighbors about issues, research, write letters to the editor, call and talk to your elected officials or maybe you can even run for office yourself.”

For more information on the candidates, visit their websites at www.deanknudson.com, www.dianeodeen.org, www.harsdorf.com and www.olsonforsenate.com.