Small business, farmers group plan forums for Senate, 3rd CD candidates


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Groups representing family farmers and small businesses in Wisconsin plan to stage a pair of candidate forums in the races for U.S. Senate and for the 3rd Congressional District. 

The forums are sponsored by Main Street Alliance and the Wisconsin Farmers Union. 

The Senate race forum is scheduled for Monday, Oct 24, in Oshkosh. Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, the Democratic nominee, has accepted the invitation to take part, according to the organizers. Sen. Ron Johnson, the Republican incumbent seeking a third term, has been invited but has not yet confirmed whether he will attend.

The 3rd Congressional District forum will be Tuesday, Oct. 25, in La Crosse. State Sen. Brad Pfaff, the Democratic candidate for the seat, has confirmed plans to take part. Republican Derrick Van Orden has been invited but not yet confirmed whether he will participate. 

The format calls for members of the two sponsoring organizations to question each of the candidates on issues that include health care, the caring economy, access to capital, the tax system, antitrust enforcement and support for rural communities and residents.

Both organizations set themselves apart from other trade and lobbying groups in their advocacy for progressive policy agendas. Main Street Alliance advocates for policies such as the Affordable Care Act, making health insurance more accessible for smaller businesses; making quality child care affordable so that workers have more flexibility in choosing where to take a job; and changing the tax system, which the organization argues subsidizes large, wealthy businesses at the expense of small, local businesses.

“We could enable more people to have success if we did a better job of recognizing the plights of both small business owners and farmers,” said Julie Keown-Bomar, executive director of the farmers union.

Corrine Hendrickson, a  Main Street Alliance leader, said her role as a child care provider in New Glarus gives her a distinctive perspective on policy issues important both to her business and to her customers. “I can have conversations without endorsing a specific candidate, but on how to connect to candidates directly and ask about their policy positions, or how to find that information, and finally what steps they need to take in order to cast their vote,” she said. 

The two organizations previously collaborated on a series of forums for candidates running in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary.

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