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Frank Lasee: Conservative Seeks to Bring Wisconsin Reform Message to U.S. Senate

Posted on | October 24, 2011 | 7 Comments

“Let’s Get Wisconsin Working Again” was the winning message that helped elect Frank Lasee to a state senate seat in Wisconsin last fall, and he was part of the conservative Republican majority that pushed through reform legislation and balanced the budget under Gov. Scott Walker. A veteran legislator with a business background, first elected to the state assembly in 1994, Lasee describes himself as a limited-government, constitutional, fiscal conservative.

Two weeks ago, Lasee announced that he will seek to bring that kind of message to the U.S. Senate, forming an exploratory committee to enter the GOP primary for 2012. With Democrat Sen. Herb Kohl retiring, and liberal Rep. Tammy Baldwin likely to be the Democratic nominee for the open seat, Lasee is one of four Republicans who have already declared for the race. Backed by many Tea Party activists, Lasee will be taking on big money and powerful influence, as former Gov. Tommy Thompson is one of the other GOP candidates for the race. Despite the formidable odds, however, Lasee says his message is resonating with voters in Wisconsin.

“I keep hearing, when I’m out talking to people … they know me already and they’re really very supportive because they know I’m a consistent conservative,” Lasee told me in a telephone interview two weeks ago. “I’ve fought big government and fought for fiscal control and fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets in Madison, even against my own party when they weren’t doing it. … I’ve worked very diligently to do that in Wisconsin, have a voting record to support it – even voting against my own party and leadership and fighting the governor when we were heading in the wrong direction as a state. And I think that message will resonate with our voters.”

Lasee is extremely articulate in discussing the limited-government message and has a proven record, both of fighting for key reforms and winning crucial elections. After interviewing him (see the full transcript below), I feel confident that Frank Lasee is exactly the kind of candidate that conservatives can rally behind as we work to carry the momentum of last year’s historic mid-term victories into 2012. — RSM

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A Proven Record of Conservative Reform

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Q. Give me the rundown, Frank – tell me about your campaign.
LASEE: We’re just at the beginning stages of it. We’ve been organizing over the last couple of months. We had the recalls here in Wisconin that put a lot of things on hold. I helped out with my colleagues there, particularly trying to help Kim Simac trying to take out a Democrat up in the northern part of the state. That didn’t  happen. We lost a couple of seats there, but it was really kind of somewhat expected and the seats that we lost — one of them went 61 percent for Obama [in 2008] and the other one [Obama won in 2008] … Otherwise, the same vote turnout or better came through in all of that. … But that took my attention after the budget was over. Now we’ve been organizing and moving forward. … We’re going to be doing it as an exploratory committee process. … So we’re right at the cusp of starting out.

I’ve been in the state legislature. I was elected to the state senate last fall, running on a “Let’s Get Wisconsin Working Again” platform, and I see running for the U.S. Senate as an extension of that. Because I think, really and truly, to get Wisconsin working and to get families back and our economy headed in the right direction – we’ve done a lot of good work here in Wisconsin, but we need to do the same things in the federal government to help make it happen.

Q. So you’re aiming to extend sort of the momentum that has been going for reform Wisconsin, to get away from the “Rust Belt,” union-riddled kind of politics of the past?
LASEE: Well, we balanced our state budget with the leadership of our governor and Republican majorities. The Democrats were in complete control two years ago, and their answer was to raise taxes and fees by $4.5 billion, leave us with a $3.6 billion deficit and a few hundred million dollars of unpaid bills we had to  clean up as well. And we balanced our budget, cleared up the budget without raising any taxes or fees, and that sort of thing is exactly what needs to go on in Washington.
We made some tort reform changes here to cut down on frivolous lawsuits. We really have moved the ball forward in making it easier for people to do business here. Business and manufacturing has been picking up in our state. We lead the country in new manufacturing jobs and as a percentage of our state economy, manufacturing, we lead the country. Our economy is moving forward here, but we’re being held back by what’s going on in Washington and the world. I’d like to see the same things go on in Washington that we’re doing here – balance the federal budget and get the heck out of businesses, stop raising the cost of electricity and gasoline and go the opposite directions, to ease the burden on families and businesses, get ‘em back to work.

Q. The field, that we know of, includes [former Gov. Tommy] Thompson, who obviously has some statewide name recognition, and then there’s some other guy … [former Rep. Mark] Neumann. How do you see your entry into the field? How do you see the field shaping up and the choices facing Republican primary voters?
LASEE: I think we may even see some more entrants into this race, as well, interestingly enough.  Thompson has name recognition. He’s going to be 70 shortly. He’s of the old school, big-government type. I see this Republican primary — and we’ve been having them, both in our state and across the country — between large-government  types and constitutional fiscal conservatives, small-government types like myself. And Tommy Thompson was the governor — when I served in the Assembly, from ’94 to 2008, he was our governor until 2000, for 14 years, a very long time – but he was definitely a big government-type Republican, and our nation really can’t afford that right now.
I keep hearing, when I’m out talking to people … they know me already and they’re really very supportive because they know I’m a consistent conservative. I’ve fought big government and fought for fiscal control and fiscal responsibility and balance budgets in Madison, even against my own party when they weren’t doing it. And they know that I’ve done this and … a large portion of the people [react with] a sigh and ‘Great, there’s somebody else to choose from. And you’re a conservative, right?’
So that gives me my opening. I’m going to have to get out and introduce myself to the voters of the state, of course. I have a good record on what I’d like to do. I’ve worked very diligently to do that in Wisconsin, have a voting record to support it — even voting against my own party and leadership and fighting the governor when we were heading in the wrong direction as a state. And I think that message will resonate with our voters.

Q. Have you been active in the Tea Party movement? Have you spoken at rallies and things like that?
LASEE: I have. I spoke at the Oshkosh rally they had {in September] … I’ve been talking with them. During my [state] senate campaign, I networked with many of the Patriot groups and Tea Party-type groups – groups that are interested in limited government. I kind of frame it to them that we need those folks to go out and market to the people in the middle, to get them to understand that, hey, if you think our government is too big, too expensive, borrows too much, controls too much, does too much and is headed in the wrong direction, and you want to roll it back — you’re really one of us. That’s some of the message I bring to them.
So my history and what I’m about — limited government, constitutional government — often resonates very well with those folks.

Q. Do you have any specific allies in the state? Are there other officials planning to endorse you?
LASEE: There are some. I’ve never put a lot of stock in endorsements. I didn’t pursue a lot of them in the last election cycle. Some people do. … There’s also a tradition in this state of elected people not taking sides in primaries — that’s just sort of the policy. So I’ll get some of my colleagues, some of the most conservative, a handful [to endorse me], but I won’t spend a lot of time pursuing those various endorsements. I’d rather get my message with regular voters, regular people, and work on doing that as opposed to spending a lot of time trying to get a name or two to say I’m a good guy.

Q. The political climate in Wisconsin — this very bruising battle over the budget, the unions descending on the Capitol — how do you think that will affect us going into 2012?
LASEE: You know, we’ve always been a divided state and, I believe, in our state the center-right is really the majority, but it has to be packaged properly. I always tell people that you can’t beat somebody with no one — you need a good candidate, as well. I think that we have a very vocal minority, about 30 percent that are  truly liberal, big government or work for the government, and they’re very riled up, but they’re always riled up. They’re always out there. We gave them some new ammunition by changing really the way our government employee contracts work here and giving more control to government officials.
We treat our government employees really well in Wisconsin and they’ve taken it for granted for a very long time. I think making our case, and as more of it comes out, recent polls are starting to show things are shifting with Scott Walker. As they’ve seen our government continue to provide services, our taxes aren’t going up, all these dire predictions that were put out there by the Left and government workers — really, more accurately, the government union bosses – have not come to be. And I think as more people learn that, and we cut through some of the clutter and give them our message of savings and no tax increases and preserve government services, I think things will be fine.

Q. Speaking of 2012, one of the concerns that I’ve  talked about … this past year, we just had tremendous gains for the Republican Party in the mid-term election, and a lot of credit for that has to go to the revival of the conservative through the Tea Party activists. It’s gotten the
grassroots involved, it’s made them energized and out to volunteer and determined to vote. Do you see your election coming up there in Wisconsin — which is kind of a purple state, it’s a swing state – do you see having a strong Republican Senate candidate there as crucial to the Republican hopes of taking back the White House?

LASEE: Well, I have some familiarity with changing tides, and when I was elected to the Assembly in 1994, we gained a majority, 51 to 48, out of a body of 99 — first time in 20 years, Republican majority. I helped gain the majority again in 2010 for the state senate, and I’m hoping to gain the majority in the U.S. Senate in 2012.  I think it’s really important [to make] that happen. I think Wisconsin is one of the key states to make that happen. And I think that if we’re able, Republicans and conservatives, to win the presidency, retain the House and gain a majority in the U.S. Senate, I think we can make some real significant movements in balancing our budget without raising taxes, cutting back the red tape and putting a block on some of this never-ending rules and administrative things coming from Washington that are driving up the cost of doing business and our energy and our electricity and gasoline and all of these things, and start working in the opposite direction. And that will get our economy working again. I think good things will flow when our economy our economy is working again.

Q. So you ran [in 2010] on a message of ‘Get Wisconsin Working’ and now your message is, ‘Hey, let’s get American working’?
LASEE: Let’s get Wisconsin and America working. They’re very much tied together, and we have to change the direction in Washington, I believe, in order for us to move our economy forward and let people who want to work hard get ahead, find a job, take care of their family.


7 Responses to “Frank Lasee: Conservative Seeks to Bring Wisconsin Reform Message to U.S. Senate”

  1. Bob Belvedere
    October 24th, 2011 @ 8:22 am

    Stacy, is there a way that you can add a special and unique category for your posts like this on candidates for the Congress that we need to get the word out on?  I’d like to direct my readers to a single link that brings them all up.  ‘Election 2012’ won’t do because you cover so many things underneath it.  [FYI: At TCOTS, I’ve created a ‘Elections 2012 / Congressional Races’ category / subcategory.]

    This would be very helpful.

  2. Steve Burri
    October 24th, 2011 @ 9:04 am

    I do believe that Senator Lasee was under the quiet, behind-the-scenes tutelage of The TroglogPundit for a time.

  3. Steve Burri
    October 24th, 2011 @ 9:05 am

    And The TrogloPundit as well!

  4. disneyr
    October 24th, 2011 @ 1:22 pm

    Great article. Nice to see detailed interviews of up and coming candidates.

  5. The New Economic Illiteracy
    October 24th, 2011 @ 1:22 pm

    […] I’m on the subject of Wisconsin, Stacy has an interview with Frank Lasee, who is vying for the Senate seat that Herb Kohl is vacating. Interestingly, he answers […]

  6. navnek
    October 25th, 2011 @ 12:55 am

    Steved, maybe others would like to know that your cuz, Troglo, was  Lasee aide for years?

    BTW, Frank is a friend and HANDS DOWN, my pick for Senator this election cycle.  Been doing what I can to promo.

  7. Bob Belvedere
    October 25th, 2011 @ 2:35 pm

    Sorry…can’t support him then – shows really bad judgment.