Updated Wed., 6/6 – Longtime Nicolet College professor Paul Ehlers announced his intentions late last week to run as a Libertarian for Wisconsin’s 12th District Senate seat. He joins a race that includes current 35th Assembly District Rep. Tom Tiffany, (R-Little Rice), Lisa Theo (D-Tomahawk) and Susan Sommer (D-Phelps).
Ehlers is a 33-year resident of Rhinelander who is originally from Bayfield County. Ehlers came to Rhinelander because of a position with the Forest Service as a lab technician. Following that, he owned a music store in Rhinelander for 15 years and for the last 10 years has taught geography and geology at Nicolet College.
We recently sat down with Ehlers to ask why he decided to throw his hat into the political arena now, and what he hopes to accomplish during his campaign.
Star Journal-First thing’s first…why did you decide to run for this seat?
Paul Ehlers-Basically I’m fed up. This state has turned into an ideological mess. Most people are Independent. They agree with some of the positions held by each party but are unhappy with the polarization and the hostile political environment. Both sides are lying and giving half-truths. My neighbors are not being represented by the current two-party system.
SJ-Why did you decide to run as a Libertarian?
PE-It’s what I am. A Libertarian, in the truest sense, is a fiscal conservative and social liberal. We believe in minding our own business, taking social responsibility and truly believe that the government that governs best is the one that governs least. I believe there is a role for government in our society, but I strongly disagree with what our government currently encompasses.
SJ-What issues do you hope to bring to the table during your candidacy?
PE-I’m going to try to shift the debate a little. It’s obvious that state legislators don’t care about the school districts up here in northern Wisconsin. Every student should be funded equally in this state. We need to have a conversation if this state’s government is going to continue to dictate public education. Somebody has to make some noise about that. Balancing the state budget is the absolute minimum we should expect from our state government, and that’s where all the focus seems to be.
SJ-So what do you believe the government’s role should be at the state and municipal level?
PE-Minimal. Government’s focus should be on infrastructure and emergency services. We have too many layers that we need to go through to do anything…too much bureaucracy and too many handouts to those who don’t want to help themselves. We should have a system that rewards responsibility, not one that encourages people to coast and not take responsibility for their actions. If you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day; but if you teach that man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime.
SJ-Where do you stand on the need for job creation?
PE-We obviously need to create jobs, but not just for the sake of jobs. Instead, we need to foster economic development that focuses on small businesses and entrepreneurs. Giving large industry the right to pollute our environment needs to be looked at as corporate welfare. It’s important to remember that we can really do anything in northern Wisconsin now thanks to the web. It’s time that people and lawmakers in the southern part of this state see northern Wisconsin as an equal, and not just as their park and playground.
SJ-Do you believe you can win this election?
PE-Realistically, no. That’s why I’m not asking for any money for my campaign. Even the top Libertarians only garner 10 percent of the vote if their lucky. I always tell people never to waste their money by giving it to a politician for their campaign. You might as well flush it down the toilet. If you want to give money to a cause, give it to your church or the local food pantry. At least you know then that your money is being turned around and used for good.
SJ-In the end, what is this election going to be about?
PE-The question everyone is trying to answer is how to create wealth. In my opinion, what creates it is man’s imagination.
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